I will tell you right now, I am no expert traveler. But after my husband got a job at the airline, we didn’t waste much time. In two years we have been able to travel to Thailand, New York, California, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Costa Rica and Canada, and both of us have, well, not so awesomely lucrative jobs. So here are some rules we stick to make it all possible!
1. Avoid Weekend Travel
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, because they are the slowest travel days of the week, will be your best bet for cheap flights. Avoid the weekend rush and book mid-week flights.
2. Pack Light
So many airlines these days are charging $15 dollars or MORE for checked bags. Avoid these extra fees by packing light, is possible, don’t check a bag at all. I have become a believer of the carry on. Skip the checked back line and baggage claim. And never EVER pack more than 50 lbs. Your costs will skyrocket adding an additional $50-$60 to your trip!
3. VRBO, HomeAway, & AIRBNB
Stay away from hotels altogether if possible. They are usually way overpriced and for what?! A bed, bathroom, and if you’re lucky, a kitchenette, the same old scenery. Staying in a hotel will only add expense to your trip. Mix it up by opting for a home or apartment rented out by the owner. This way you can get a full home/apartment, choose how many bedrooms you’d like, and have a full kitchen (which I am suggesting you use J). Most of these owners treat their home as their business. You will not lack any of the amenities you would get from a hotel. www.vrbo.com, www.homeaway.com and www.airbnb.com are a few great websites to get started. And if you want to go REALLY cheap, airbnb offers room rentals where the owner will rent a room in the home/apartment for a fraction of the cost. Step out of the box!
On our last vacation to Costa Rica, we stayed in a beautiful 2 bedroom home, close to the beach, with all the amenities for dirt cheap! The price started at DOUBLE what we got it for because we were straight forward with the owner. We knew our budget and told him right away what we were looking for. He wrote back saying, “we love when people make us offers and are willing to work with you!” I have found that you should never take the listing price. Negotiation can save you hundreds of dollars. Owners will almost always choose to rent out their home at a fraction of their asking price than not at all.
5. Live Like a Local
When traveling, most people think that they need to eat out for every meal. And when staying in a hotel, do you have any other option?! Grocery Shopping will save you TONS of money, especially when splitting the bill. And don’t forget to buy SNACKS! Granola Bars, drinks, fruit, and veggies will curb the cravings when you are on the go. Pack little lunches and keep your bag stocked. This will help you deter from eating out while out n about.
6. Bring Friends
I know how hard it is to get a group of friends on a vacation. I have tried several times. But if you can swing it, do it. Splitting the car rental, house rental, and food will bring your costs down significantly. The more the merrier!
7. Tour Independently
Skip the tours. Especially if it is something you can see on your own. They are usually wayyy overpriced. (Yes, there are cases where tours are necessary. Ex: Riding elephants in Thailand, horses in Puerto Rico. I can see where tours could come in handy here.) But most tours are taking you to things you could do on your own. Be creative. Is it a jungle tour? Find neat off-the-beaten-path hikes and tour yourself. Museum? Read up on facts before you leave and share as you go. Be independent and don’t give in to the “this is the only way to see” scam.
8. Off Season
Most places you travel will have a time that is less busy. This is usually because the weather isn’t “ideal”. By traveling off-season, you will save hundreds of dollars. Your accommodations, car rental, admission fees, even souvenirs will be cheaper in the off-season.
9. Rural Travel
Stay away from the “tourist trap” cities. If you choose accommodations that are a little out of the way you are sure to save a bundle! And this way, you are able to see how people really live and get the full experience.
10. Car Rental Insurance
In a few countries, car rental insurance is required, but not all. Make sure to check if it is required, because many car rental companies will tack it on to your bill when it is neither required, nor needed. In many cases, your credit card company provides car insurance just by having their card. Call your credit card company and avoid paying for unnecessary coverage.