Discount Diva usually does a deep dive on one major way to save money on travel. Prior topics have included when to travel, where to travel, where to find your travel… and a bunch of other ways to save along the way (hotels, sightseeing, packages). I totally encourage you to peruse them on some random workday morning when you’re standing in line for your Starbucks, of course.
Today, however… today, my fellow wanderlusters, you have hit the mother load. Global Debauchery’s Discount Diva reveals 30 real—and easy—ways to save money on travel. All in one awesome post! So, sit back, relax, and start planning your itinerary… because that next destination could be a lot less expensive than you think!
1. Ask For Airline Gift Cards
Instead of asking for random stuff that will just take up space and get no use after three months, pick an airline and ask for gift cards for your next birthday or holiday. Someone recently suggested this to me and I felt so stupid that, after all this time, I’d never thought of it. This will be happening. Definitely one of the tops ways to save money on travel.
2. Sign Up For Email Notifications
Yes, yes—to get the best deals, you must endure those pesky emails for at least a short period of time. My favorites include Travelzoo, Groupon, and Gate 1. Trust me when I tell you, though, that you really will be the first to hear as soon as a nice sale crops up. And you can always unsubscribe later.
3. Weigh Your Options
I’m just going to be straight with you—if you’re on a budget, maybe a hut over the crystal clear waters of Bali won’t be your next vacation destination. It’s this kind of logic that [jokingly] gets me called “The Dream Killer” by my #AdventurePartnerForLife. But you can do things like travel to a pricier destination and offset costs by staying at Airbnb’s or hostels, or travel to a cheap destination and live like a queen (king, whatever). Or travel to a cheap destination and stay cheap and pocket all the savings!
Get creative with your ways to save money on travel. It’s really up to you. But don’t say that you can’t afford a vacation. You can. Just weigh your options. You might have to think outside the box a little.
4. Reconsider Your Travel Agency
Travel agencies can be very helpful, but unless you’re a 1%er, forgo them. There are so many simple package options out there, there’s really no need to pay extra for concierge-type services. Even if you want to customize portions of a trip, you can totes do this through these package companies on your own. A little effort equal big savings.
5. Book Vacation Packages
I just did a whole article on this one. Check it out!
6. Shop around
I said it before, and I’ll say it again: a little effort equals big savings. Do not purchase the first thing from the first site that you find. I don’t care of it’s Orbitz or Expedia. (A lot of those sites don’t include discount airlines, FYI.) Maybe sign up for some flight alerts with Skyscanner or Hopper. The point is to get an idea of what’s a rip-off, what’s reasonable, and what’s too good to be true. And to make a well-educated decision that you’re comfortable with. One of the best ways to save money on travel.
Think you’ve found a good deal, but are still unsure? Check the Better Business Bureau site.
7. Check prices against source sites
…Which leads me to #7. Sometimes, you’ll find what you think is a cheap hotel price on Orbitz or Expedia, but if you go to the hotel itself, the cost is actually cheaper. Same goes for flights. Always double-check this. And if you already clicked and booked, know most hotels and airlines have a policy that, despite their non-refundable, no-cancellation language, you can cancel within the first 24 hours of booking free of charge. Don’t be shy. It’s your money. It’s their customer service policy. Just call.
8. Start Your Trip Before Friday
It’s so much cheaper. Both airfare and hotels.
9. End Your Trip After Sunday
Same goes here. Do both. Or do one or the other. Just do what works for you.
10. Travel The Shoulder Season
I will preach shoulder season travel ’til the day I die. You can literally save hundreds by traveling a single week outside peak season for your travel destination. Don’t know when peak season is? Google it. (Look! I even linked Google for you.) Also, Lonely Planet and Rough Guides has this info readily available. For more on me preaching shoulder season travel ’til the day I die, click here.
11. Travel The Off-Season
Don’t knock the off-season. There are a lot of upsides. No tourists, no lines, cheaper prices… Really, you just have to deal with weather in the off-season, but as long as you’re not flying into a monsoon, you’re pretty set. Maybe just a little nippy. But you’re on vacation! Do your research beforehand and stay up-to-date with a local weather app.
12. Get There Before Everyone Else Does
Fifteen years ago, it was Costa Rica. A decade ago, Croatia. Five years ago, Iceland. Don’t wait to go somewhere after everyone else is going there; you’ll just break your bank. Yep, this means you’re going to a place with unverified stories from your friends. And yep, this means you’re the one verifying the stories.
Isn’t that what travel is sort of all about, though? Experiencing something foreign? Indeed it is, my friends. But, wait! Where are these places? They change every year, but the usual trusty travel sites regularly release articles on what’s next. This is one of my absolute top ways to save money on travel. I recently found this beauty. Enjoy!
13. Use Rewards Programs
If you’re like me, you’re overwhelmed by the bagillion rewards programs out there, really have no idea what you’re doing, and don’t have the time to research them (or want to spend the time researching them). Just pick something and go with it. That’s probably the first step here. It doesn’t have to be the best one. Just start saving something somewhere, okay? Orbitz has Orbucks and Hotels.com gives you every 10th night free. All hotels and airlines have rewards programs, so sign up for those; once you do, try to stick with the same network to start seeing the bennies.
14. Double-Up Your Rewards
Use your rewards credit card or debit card to book your travel and double-up your rewards. For example, I book my hotels with Hotels.com using my Capital One card, so I get free hotel stays and I get a dollar-for-dollar “travel eraser” later. Make sense?
15. Triple-Up Your Rewards
Now, we’re talking. This is #nextlevel right here. (You heard it from the Discount Diva first. Remember that.) So, when you use sites like Orbitz to book flights or hotels, you’re getting Orbucks rewards and you’re using your rewards credit card or debit card and earning those rewards. You can also enter your rewards or loyalty program membership IDs when booking there. Triple. the. rewards.
Flights are the easiest way to do this, and there are really only two major airline alliances now—Oneworld and Star Alliance. I have miles accounts with American (Oneworld) and United (Star Alliance), and I use these two membership numbers to earn miles from just about any airline I fly since they all transfer over into these two alliances. Now you, too, are a rewards master, grasshopper.
16. Check One-Way Flights
Sometimes two one-way tickets are cheaper than one roundtrip ticket.
17. Pack Less
A former military brat and present-day frequent traveler, I am the Obi-Wan of minimalist packing. I can condense a 7-day international trip into a single bookbag without sacrificing my personal hygiene. It’s a skill and an art. I’m super low maintenance when I travel; it’s not for everyone. But I’m pretty sure you don’t need ten pairs of shoes for a weeklong trip. You probably don’t even need five. The less you pack, the less you spend on baggage fees. And, added bonus, the less you schlep. You can part with a few things for a week, right? They’ll be there when you get back.
18. Master the Art of Packing What You Do Pack
Buy packs or bags or luggage with lots of pockets (particularly on the outside) and strategically organize your things. Roll your clothes and/or use packing cubes. Buy travel-sized products of everything or bank on using hotel products, depending on where you’re staying. Load books and magazines on an iPad or Kindle. It all amounts to packing less and fewer baggage fees. I should probably do an entire post on packing…
19. Bring Your Own Flight Food
Don’t spend money at the airport or on the plane. Buy snacks at the local grocery store beforehand and just get some water once you’ve cleared security. Airport and flight food prices are exorbitant.
20. Book Hotels with Daily Breakfasts
A lot of places offer this at no additional cost. Just filter. You will save a boatload of cash.
21. Book Hotels with Free WiFi
If you can believe it, some places still don’t offer free WiFi, so make sure your hotel does. This saves you having to spend extra on your cell plan before you go. And don’t do that, anyway. So many places offer free WiFi, there’s no reason you can’t log on almost whenever you want these days (for free).
22. Travel Overnight
The #AdventurePartnerForLife and I do this periodically for a couple of reasons. One, because it helps us condense our power-tourist itineraries; and two, because it saves us a night’s lodging expenses.
23. Use Local Transportation
It’s fun, anyway. And one of the best ways to get to know your destination.
24. Consider alternate Transportation
Perhaps you have a really specific idea of how to get from Point A to Point B. Well, keep an open mind and research other travel methods. You might find some great travel savings. I like Rome2rio, personally. It outlines a bunch of ways to get between two places and gives you costs with purchase sites.
25. Free Museum Days
Most major cities with major museums have free museum days, just do the research. Why, yes, they are usually completely packed and on very inconvenient days, like the second Tuesday of every month. But I thought we were here to save you money, no? Suck it up, buttercup. If you go in the shoulder season or off-season like I told you before, it’ll be a more bearable experience, I promise.
26. Free Festivals
Look online beforehand or grab a copy of the metro paper when you arrive to see what sorts of free events are happening. Mingle with the locals a bit.
27. Free Markets
Markets are the hotbed of a country’s culture and they’re always free to roam. Get some samples, take some great photos, and talk to the people. Markets are the place to be!
28. While You’re At The Market, Buy Food
No, don’t buy tourist souvenirs. And don’t buy prepped food either. Buy fruits and vegetables and bread and cold cuts. Things you can make a meal out of later so you’re not paying to eat out at restaurants. The #AdventurePartner and I do this a lot on road trips and train trips and, actually, some sliced salami on a baguette with butter is so much tastier than overpriced, soggy train cart sandwiches. Yuck.
29. Use Credit Cards With No Conversion Fees
This adds up. Read the fine print. An additional tidbit that, once you’ve tracked down thee international know-it-all customer service person through your automated credit card phone system, they usually have all the answers for most things international. The international stuff is also usually all in one place online if you can find it. Like, my Capital One credit card has no conversion fees, covers international car insurance if I use it to book car rentals (so I don’t have to pay for that either), and I don’t have to report my international travel ahead of time anymore.
30. Use Debit Cards With No Withdrawal Fees
If you have access to a credit union, use them instead of a standard bank and avoid withdrawal fees. This, too, can save you a ton of cash, especially when traveling.
There you have it! A bevy of ways to save money on travel right before your eyes, direct from your favorite Global Debauchery Discount Diva. Any new ones on here for you? Any additional ideas? Comment, comment, comment!