20+ Tips to Travel Well for Cheap
Today’s post is written By Daniel Kao of Round The World Business Guides. He is sharing his tips on how to travel abroad or anywhere for cheap.
In the last 6 years, I’ve had to travel at least 2 times per month for work. In between, I’ve gone overseas to Asia over 12 times. I’ve booked travel regularly for 3 other staff members.
And I’ve traveled countless times with my family and a sister with disability.
In total, I’ve booked hundreds of trips. Considering an average trip is usually about $1000 for flight, accommodations, and transportation and every trip came out of my own pocket, I had to learn how to travel for less quickly.
Over the last half-decade of intense travels, here are some hacks and ways I learned how you can save a lot of money on your next trip.
1. Know Your 3 biggest travel expenses (F.A.T.)
Your biggest 3 travel expenses can be remembered by the acronym F.A.T.
Flight, Accommodation, & Transportation.
Find sweet spots and a harmony for all 3 and you’ll save a ton of money.
2. Generally, the more flexible you are, the more you’ll be able to save and get awesome deals.
3. Always have an idea of the approximate costs of each of the above before you book your travels.
I break down each in further detail below…
20+ Tips to Travel Well for Cheap
4. Flights: I typically start with flights.google.com just to get an idea of how much flights are on certain dates. I like Google flights because you can easily adjust dates/locations/ and it aggregates the best prices from all the different airlines (with the exception of a few).
Best Flight tips*:
5. Search Nearby Airports If you know how to search nearby airports, you can save a lot of money as well (e.g. a lot of times flying to Oakland Airport (OAK) instead of San Francisco Airport (SFO) or San Jose Airport (SJC) will save you up to $200 on flights alone.
6. Use Deal Sites Once you have an idea of cheap dates/locations, you can search other deal sites (like Orbitz or Cheap-O-Air) as a lot of times deal sites will be cheaper than Google Flights. Be sure to clear your cache/cookies or go incognito so those companies won’t up the prices in their remarketing efforts.
7. Be Careful of Airline Policies Always be acquainted with Baggage policies (e.g. budget airlines like Spirit & Frontier or budget seats like United’s Explorer seat have extremely strict limits and fees that can rack up a lot of costs you may not have expected).
Even American Airlines will charge for check-in luggage. I personally am a huge fan of budget airlines as they can save you a lot of money but only if you know how to navigate through their baggage policy.
Once you’ve found the best deal on a flight, next is finding the best deal for accommodations:
These days, hotel prices vary widely in different cities and in different seasons. I’ve seen hotels shoot up prices 50-100% due to large events.
But I’ve also seen hotels cut their prices by over 60%…
8. I usually start with priceline to get a gauge of approximate prices of hotels in the area.
Best Accommodation Tips*:
9. Express Deals Priceline’s Express Deals are quite awesome actually. Although they won’t tell you exactly which hotel you’ll get until you book, you can still know the guest rating, amenities, and general location before you book.
10. Hotel Modesty If you are budget conscious – 3.5 star hotels is usually the highest you should go. A lot of 4+ star hotels have a lot of extra costs such as parking fees, resort fees, maintenance fees, etc (since they cost per day, those expenses can really add up quick).
11. Hotel Location Always take into account the location of the hotel. Particularly overseas, some locations that are hard to get to will add significant costs.
12. Check Hotel Amenities Hotel Amenities actually make a big difference. If you normally eat breakfast, a free breakfast saves you money. Free parking saves you a lot of money as opposed to paying up to $20/day for parking. Gyms if you need to get some exercise in each day will save you time and money as opposed to finding guest passes elsewhere. Free wifi will save you money as opposed to paying for it.
13. Credit Card Rewards Use credit card rewards for hotel. Most hotels have great loyalty programs and nice bonuses and perks if you use their credit card. Perks include free anniversary night stays, free upgrades, and free nights.
14. Try Airbnb I’ve stayed in plenty of Airbnbs and they’ve all been very pleasant. Considering you can check reviews, it’s easier these days to find a great host at an excellent price. Often, you’ll also get a more “local” experience over staying at a hotel.
15. Stay a Night at the Airport This sounds a bit insane but if you’ve never slept at an airport, you need to try it just once. You can donate the $80 you save to me. Kidding aside, sleeping at airports is not the most comfortable but it’s quite adventurous. I just would NOT recommend doing it more than two days in a row.
When you have every night you’ll be traveling taken care of, you can move onto transportation and figuring out how you’ll get everywhere.
Getting around your destination is essential and often one of your biggest expenses. If you’re able to rent a car for cheap, that’s usually the better option over public transportation (unless you’re traveling to heavy traffic areas like NYC or Chicago.
But in most international destinations, you won’t be able to rent a car so public transportation is essential. Really the key to public transportation is just planning and research, particularly if you don’t have access to internet handy wherever you are.
Best Transportation Tips*:
16. Car deal aggregators For car rental, start with Priceline, Costco travel, or car rental aggregators for price comparison on dates/times.
17. Check insurance For car rental, check credit card and insurance policy. A lot of times, you may not need car rental company insurance.
18. Plan Public Transportation For public transportation, plan/route your travels as best as you can to avoid unnecessary taxi costs.
19. Learn from Others Check Tripadvisor forums or Wikitravel.org for travel tips local to wherever you are going. You’ll find out from experienced travelers whether or not to drive or take public transport.
20. International Cellular Data The best tool is having international data in case you get lost. But if you don’t have internet access, the next best thing is to ask for help.
21. Use Meters or Uber For cabs, always use the meter to avoid scams. Consider Uber over taxis.