1. When you vacation is vital.
This seems obvious on the surface, yet there’s more to it than off season traveling. To begin, yes, you should try to travel to places during the off season or the edge season to save money. To add to that, don’t travel on holidays and try not to do the actual traveling on the high days.
Traveling by Plane
The best days to travel by plan within the US are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays. Always try to avoid Fridays and Sundays and those are when the prices will for sure be higher. International flights can be more complex, but a good rule of thumb is to avoid the weekends, mid-week flights will always be cheaper than prime travel days. Though, now that you know what day you will travel, when should you buy the ticket for what time of year?
Always travel in the spring and fall if you are looking to save money. The exact dates can vary by country and location; however, it is obvious that weekend travel and holiday travel during any time of the years will make everything more expensive. If you are in the US, Thanksgiving, July 4th, Christmas, New Years, Easter, and similarly major holidays are dates to stay at home. If traveling abroad, take a look into their national holidays, that will help you pick you date.
Lastly, when you buy a plane ticket you should begin looking for good deals 10 to 12 weeks from the date you are looking to fly out. This is when the deals will start to roll out and prices will start to come down. Last minute flights are possible, but rare us usually not as good of a deal. Day of flights that are leaving in the next two hours are another option I’ve been told about. They say you can go to the airport and ask what plane has an empty seat leaving soon and get a super cheap ticket, though I don’t know how true that is. Also, don’t forget group discounts!
Travel by Car:
Most of the same things that will apply to plane travel will apply to car travel for the same reason. During holidays, gas prices go up and traffic increases. During the summer, there will be higher gas prices and higher hotel prices. One difference to note is that Ca is always better for large groups in terms of pricing.
Think about it this way, if you have two people, traveling across the country could cost 600 by car and 400 by plane. If you have 3 people, it’s 600 and 600, if you have 4 people, its 800 by plane and 400 by car, it just became cheaper by a good amount. If you can fill up a car rather than buy multiple plane tickets, it might be your cheaper bet.
2. Hotel alternatives are better (to me) anyway.
While there is something nice about a hotel, you have many cheaper options. From hostels abroad to Airbnb here. There’s even free options like Couch Crashers! It’s my belief that unless it’s a once in a lifetime hotel with amazing benefits, cheap is the better way to go, after all your hotel is for sleep, it’s not (usually) part of the adventure.
Airbnb / Hostels / Camping
These are your cheap options, they can cost $10 to $50 on average, greatly depending on the location. You can reserve a couch, a bed, a room, or even a home depending on the needs you have. We have used Airbnb for years and love staying at people’s homes over hostels that would have costed much more. The best option here is to stay with someone in the area you are looking to walk around. That way you don’t have to drive or catch a ride to the place you are actually interested in.
When it comes to camping, you might have to like the outdoors for these trips. However, going camping can be more relaxing and affordable than a weekend in a city. State parks can charge anywhere from $5 to $15 depending on the lot. You can also reserve Yurts and RV spots but those will cost more. If you do the Appalachian Trail, camping is free, just find somewhere to park and them backpack right on in if you’re lucky you might met some people along the way, like a hostel.
With hostels, they are about the same. You will be paying for the bed and a locker. It will be public (vs a hotel) but still secure. Here its more about the vibe and community feel. You will get to know the people are around versus just coming in and going to sleep.
Couch Crashers / Friends
Your other option is free. Couch Crashers is a free Airbnb where you can stay on someone’s couch. You are expected to talk to them, that’s the exchange, free place for a conversation and friendship. Which comes to the last free option, talk to friends.
Going to visit New York? Do you know someone there? Do you have a friend that knows someone there? See if you network can hook you up with a place to crash. You might have to stay further away from your “real” destination and catch a train or tube, but this will enable you to stay for free when you otherwise would have had to pay hundreds.
Times when you should pay…
There aren’t many reasons why you should pay the full price for a hotel (even when it’s on sale) but there are a few. When we go on our honeymoon, we will be staying in Sandal’s on St. Lucia for a week. This place offers every meal, drink, and many activities for free in a location where Airbnb wouldn’t offer quite the same safety or amenities. While we might be spending much more than we could have elsewhere, it’s the only honeymoon we get. I’d rather pay for memories than save the money for more stuff and that’s how I think we should all look at our decisions in traveling and buying.
3. Tourist Trap… no thanks.
Traveling is fun, especially when you get to check something off your bucket list (like going to Disney for the first time) but those trips can be expensive. This is why, to save money, we don’t go to the tourist cities usually. Rather than go to Orlando, Daytona, or St. Augustine when visiting Florida, go to Clearwater and Marathon. They are much cheaper and hotels don’t cost as much either.
4. Can you package that for me?
When MadMan booked our engagement, he got a package to Dollywood that came with a hotel for cheaper than we could have stayed and played through Airbnb and traditional Dollywood tickets. This can be done on sites like Kyack.com or even memberships to Costco and Sam’s clubs. We did the same thing when we stayed in New Orleans and will do the same thing on our honeymoon. It’s about looking around to know you go the best deal. If you can find a super cheap package, it might be better than piece milling everything with the cheapest options you can find.
5. Check you privilege… It might save you money!
My parents love getting discounts, yet they sometimes don’t tell their age… Why?! If you are privileged to be old, wise, and of discount age, why not use your wisdom to save money with the 50+,55+ discount. If you are a student, see if they get a discount. Most places give a discount to vets, cops, and other law enforcement. There is no reason not to use who you are to save money, and if you are worried about looking old, who cares when you’re out traveling and having fun?
6. Pets are no problem!
If you are bringing your pets along, the same rules as above apply, save for air. Know you air laws to see if you have to buy a separate ticket for him/her or if they need to be with the rest of the animals on the plane. It’s important to note that all the hotels alternatives have a button to press if you need to have a pet friendly location. What though, if you aren’t bringing a pet?
Friends are the best option, by far. If you have a friend that loves your pet and has the availability to either keep it or watch it, it will save you tons. Find a kid that’s always running around the neighborhood, ask him/her if they want to make extra money and ask them to bring a parent over (you’ll want the parents to know why their kid will be going into your house to keep them accountable and safe.) Again, networking, it’s all about talking.
If these options are not available, you can try rover for dogs and cats (though you have to have a dog first). Boarding your pet is an option too, but its stressful for them and expensive for you (might be better if they are on meds though).
7. Let’s take the tube today and walk tomorrow!
Under 25? You might not be able to rent a car… Lucky for us, cities have tubes (rail lines, MARTA, subways, ect.) that can be used for little to nothing when comparing it to renting your own car anyway. Lyft and Uber are also options for places that are too far away from the tube to bike or walk.
Bike & Walk
This is obviously the cheapest way of getting around. Though, if varies from person to person and city to city how feasible this is. As long as we are not in a crime ridden area MadMan and I are willing to walk a mile or two. My parents? Not so much. I would, however say that a walk to the tube isn’t too far when it comes to saving money.
The second cheapest option is the take the subway. In Atlanta its called MARTA, in Portland, MAX. Whatever the name, it’s often cheaper than renting a car, taking a lyft, or driving yourself. In Portland, we took the MAX everywhere starting at the bus next to the Airbnb we were staying at and transferring onto a rail line in the city. We paid $50 to travel for the 7 days, that’s like two rides on lyft!
This is my last option, the one I have never had to use. I love the idea, yet to me, it’s just too pricey. When in town, we always have a DD that doesn’t want to drink anyway. When traveling we would rather walk to take the rail line. It saves money. Yet, if you are somewhere where this is not an option, lyft and uber are sure to be around. Best tips here are to not travel during rush hour and ensure that you have the lowest price. Uber raises its rated during times of high traffic, so if you can wait until need falls, price will fall too.
8. Want to travel with me?
Traveling in a group can be fun. Traveling in a group can also be the cheaper option, especially when going to the mountains or staying in a house by the beach. You can save on gas money by piling in the car together, save on a rental by getting a whole Airbnb location then slipping it between as many people as they will let. Planes will give a group discount and theme parks will too on most occasions. If you are looking for a ski trip, get about 10 people together, get a rental and you will save more money (and have more fun) than if you would have just traveled alone or with your significant other.
9. Stay-Cation time…
Who said you need to go far to vacation? How many times have you gone to your local zoo, the local beach, the local park, or the local museum. When was the last time? If you can’t afford a traveling vacation, get to know your town. Go out and do the touristy things in your town or the town over. Take selfies, buy one overpriced meal, have a picnic, and bike around town. You might be surprised at how much you haven’t done. This is especially true if you live close to a metropolitan city (like Atlanta).