- Daydreaming about traveling to a far off, exotic place?
- Staring longingly at a vacation poster or ad?
- Envying a friend when she regales you with tales from her latest adventure?
If you said yes to any of the above, I have good news for you: you are totally normal! I think we all desire more adventure in our lives. I know I do! Here are some affordable travel tips to help you achieve your adventures!
Travel is something all of us seem to desire but often feel is impossible due to budgetary restrictions. We think to ourselves, “Someday, I’ll go see the Eiffel Tower” (or The Alamo or wherever the trip of your dream will take you).
The good news: a life filled with travel IS possible!
As the old adage goes, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” This is true of any goal you have including breaking free from your everyday life and exploring new, interesting places, whether near or far.
If you are new to travel or have traveled before but feel like you still have a lot to learn, have no fear! I’ve come up with a list of simple, money-saving affordable travel tips to help you move closer to living the lifestyle you want.
Sign Up For Free Rewards Programs
Airlines, hotels, and rental car companies all offer rewards programs that allow customers to earn perks simply by using them. For each airline, hotel, and rental car agency you want to use, create your free account. Then, each time you book a trip, be sure to enter your reward program account number(s) so you get credit on your account. With each trip, you’ll earn points or miles toward upgrades or freebies. What could be better?
Tip: Keep track of all of your reward program points and miles (and itineraries) in one spot by using Award Wallet, TripIt, or a similar program.
Set up Travel Alerts
Create a free account on one (or more) of the travel sites like Travelocity.com, Expedia.com, and Orbtiz.com. Then, create alerts for the type of trip you are looking for and the guidelines for when you should be alerted (i.e., when the cost changes $25 or more, up or down). Once you set the alert9s), you will be notified via email when the price changes. If/when the price reaches something you are comfortable paying, you can book your trip and stay within your budget. Be sure to enter your airline and hotel rewards program information.
Book Your Airfare, Hotel Room and Rental Car Together
Package deals usually save you more money than booking each aspect part of your trip (airfare, hotel, rental car) separately. You can check this for yourself by pricing them all separately and adding them together.
Book a Direct Flight Whenever Possible
Aside from not having to change planes one or more times during your trip, direct flights offer many other benefits. It may seem a lot more expensive than a flight with one or more layovers, but when you factor in the amount of money you could potentially spend during your layover(s) eating, drinking, and/or shopping at the airport, the cost may end up being a wash. Ask yourself: do I really need that $50 bottle of cologne from the Duty Free store? Probably not.
Tip: In addition to the money-saving aspect, direct flights are less stressful since you won’t (1) have to rush to make a connecting flight, (2) have to worry about your luggage not making it to your final destination, or (3) waste so much of the day flying.
Get Additional Discounts With Your AAA Account
If you have a AAA membership, you know how valuable it is when you have car trouble. But did you know you could use your membership to get discounts on airfare, hotels, rental cars, and more? Simply enter your membership number in the appropriate box during the reservation process and if an additional discount is available, your rate will reflect it.
Save Money on Drinks by Carrying an Empty Bottle
If you’re like me, you like to have something to drink with you at all times. Prices at airports and restaurants can be expensive, often starting at a minimum of $4 for a 12 oz. bottle. Yikes! By bringing your own EMPTY bottle, you can fill up for free at a water fountain. If you bring a full bottle, the TSA officers will make you either dump out the bottle’s contents or throw it out. They will allow you to bring an empty bottle with you with no problem.
Avoid Racking Up Additional Airline Fees
With all of the additional fees airlines have tacked on to airfare in recent years, saving money is more important than ever. There are several simple ways you can do this:
1. Your luggage: Whenever possible, travel with just a carryon bag. Why? Because many airlines charge you have begun charging passengers for each checked bag, sometimes as much as $50 per suitcase. And if you tend to over pack, you’ll be charged an overweight baggage fee as well. Those fees can really add up!
Tip: Traveling with just a carryon also (1) saves time waiting at baggage claim and (2) eliminates the possibility of your luggage getting lost.
2. Accessories: If you like to listen to music or watch movies during the flight, bring your own ear buds or headphones. Otherwise, the flight attendant will charge you for them. Other additional items airlines charge for include blankets and travel pillows. (Plus, you wouldn’t want to use a blanket or pillow someone else could’ve used before you, would you? Yuck!)
Skip the Extra Insurance on Your Rental Car *
Usually, your personal car insurance will cover you no matter what vehicle you are driving. You can save a substantial amount of money by skipping the additional daily insurance the rental car companies charge. This can save you a substantial amount of money, especially if your trip is more than a few days.
* Before you reserve a car, check with your insurance company to find out whether or not your policy covers rental cars. More often than not, it does.
Skip the GPS Rental
If you are traveling somewhere that you get cell phone service, skip renting the GPS from the rental car agency and instead, use your own GPS. Surprisingly, when I asked for directions from a local in Costa Rica, she asked me if I had Waze on my phone (a GPS app). This can save you $10+ per day.
Return the Car with Gas in the Tank
When you rent a car, the rental agency notes the level of gas in the tank. If you don’t return the car with the gas at the same level, the rental car company will charge you a per gallon rate which is much higher than the normal price if you pump it yourself. For example, if gas prices cost $2/gallon but you return the car with the gas level below where is should be, you may be charged a $4/gallon refueling fee. Who wants to pay for that?
Find the Cheapest Gas Near You (in the U.S.)
To save money on gas, I use Gas Buddy (available online or as an app). This app shows you all of the gas stations near you and lists the prices for each. You can even get directions to the station you choose if you want. A savings of a few cents per gallon can add up to a lot of savings over time.
There are many ways you can save money on food and drinks when traveling:
1. Opt for Lunch Instead of Dinner: If you want to dine out, lunch prices are typically much cheaper than dinner prices.
2. Share Your Meal: If you DO dine out at dinner, you can save money by sharing your entrée with a companion (if you are traveling with another person).
3. Go to Happy Hour: Many restaurants offer great deals during happy hour, which typically starts between 4-5pm and lasts through 7pm. Happy hour specials typically include discounted appetizers and drinks.
4. Find and Use Restaurant Discounts: Who says you have to pay full price when you eat out? With the addition of new websites and mobile apps every day, there’s no reason dining out can’t be both fun and affordable. Groupon.com, Restaurant.com, and SlickDeals.com offer discounts for restaurants. Simply logon to the website (or use the app) and begin your search. You can look for deals geographically.
5. Book a Hotel Room with a Mini Fridge: Another simple way to save money on food is to book a room with a mini fridge. This gives you the freedom to buy food, snacks, and drinks at a grocery store and bring them to your hotel room. It also allows you to salvage your leftovers if you DO decide to dine out.
THINGS TO DO: Find and Use Discount Coupons
In addition to restaurant discounts, sites like Groupon also offer discounts for Things to Do. To search for discounts, just enter the city and state that you want to find discounts for in the search box on the top right and hit enter. Then, click on “Things To Do” and Groupon creates a list of all of the discounts Things To Do in that geographic area and nearby areas. The “Things to Do” category is broken down into: Activities, Classes, Tickets & Events, Nightlife, and Sightseeing. Choose the one you are interested in and the category is broken down even further into subcategories to help you find what you’re looking for.
For example, I’m going to be taking a road trip to Charleston, SC soon. I’ve never been there and I want to experience as much as possible but want to spend as little as possible. When I did a search for Charleston, SC on Groupon I learned that at the time of my search, Groupon features discounts on 229 “Things To Do.” Awesome! I’m definitely going to buy of the featured deals, such as one for “Up to 57% Off from Old Charleston Walking Tours” ($37 tour discounts to only $17).
PAYING FOR YOUR TRIP: Use a Credit Card Offering Cash Back
There’s nothing more satisfying than earning cash back when paying for things you were going to buy anyway. Using a credit card that offers cash back or points toward rewards combined with the other money-saving tips can result in huge savings.
I hope you found some tips that you can implement now. Seemingly small steps to save money can quickly add up when you put them all together.
Wishing you awesome (and affordable) travels!
Amy Stark, A Traveling Broad | April 14, 2016
Amy Stark, aka A Traveling Broad, is a world traveler and explorer; photographer; blogger; and food, wine and music lover. Whenever she travels, she learns something new that helps her on her next trip. Via her blog (www.travelingbroad.com), she shares travel advice, tips, lessons learned, and reviews so you can learn from her mistakes and have the best experiences possible.