One of our goals in creating this blog is to inspire more people to travel and to get past the excuses and barriers we come up with that hold us back. One of the main barriers to travel is the cost and perceived cost. Here are six ways to reduce the cost of travel:
- Switch Seasons
Instead of traveling somewhere during peak season, look into the off-season or shoulder season. Pros: everything costs less and there are less crowds to compete with. Cons: you may have to deal with less-than-ideal weather conditions. As a self-professed museum nerd, I loved visiting The Hermitage in St. Petersburg and seeing the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London in low season (November and December, respectively) with minimal crowds at both sites. Key West over Christmas was also surprisingly low key and affordable – it gets way busier after Christmas, leading up to New Year’s Eve.
2. Travel Hack
The basic concept of travel hacking is putting all or a large portion of your monthly spending on credit cards that rewards you with travel points and miles, so that you’re regularly accruing enough points for free flights and hotel nights, while paying the bill off in full every month. There are entire blogs and online communities devoted to next-level travel hacking. Many of these cards have sign-up bonuses you can take advantage of if you make a minimum spend within a certain time frame of opening the card. When I went to Russia, I opened the Delta Gold Skymiles credit card (Affiliate Link) to get a point bonus after spending $2,000. I also got a small credit applied to my flight. If it’s not worthwhile to have the card, I’ll downgrade or close it before the annual fee kicks in. On the same trip, we stayed in Marriott collection hotels that Kara booked using points she accrued through various trips during the year. I recently put the downpayment for my car on a credit card to get the points, and I’ll pay it off in full. Say hello to my little friend, the JetBlue Mastercard. If you’re not already doing it, now is a great time to stash travel points for future trips. If you have recurring reimbursable work expenses you can put on a personal card, that’s another way to accrue points.
3. Search Travel Sites
If you want the ease, luxuries and conveniences of a hotel without paying full retail price, check out discount hotel sites. There are many out there, but two of my favorites are HotelTonight and Priceline. HotelTonight is an app you can visit and instantly book for the same day. Priceline allows you to book several months out, and if you’re flexible, you can book their express deals and get a certain star and amenity level within a set geographic area. The hotel is revealed after you book. I’ve had success getting great hotels with Express Deals. You can also save by booking through sites that bundle flights, hotel and rental cars, like JetBlue Vacations (yes, I’m a JetBlue superfan in case you couldn’t tell), Priceline and Orbitz.
4. Try a Vacation Rental
Check the prices of AirBnBs and other vacation rental sites like VRBO before booking a hotel. On international solo trips, I’ve stayed in guest room AirBnBs in people’s apartments in Dublin, Paris and Barcelona, while the people were home. It felt a lot like visiting a friend. My Mom and I also stayed at a nice finished basement apartment AirBnB in Asheville, N.C. They were all great experiences, and all of the hosts had excellent reviews. I’ve also stayed in vacation rentals where you have the whole place to yourself – great for traveling with groups of friends or family, and pandemic-travel friendly. An added bonus of staying in a vacation rental is that you can save money on food by bringing groceries and leftovers, or even cooking at the vacation rental. My sister made the most delicious Christmas roast while we were in Key West for a fraction of what it would have cost to eat out. It was really nice to relax and enjoy a home-cooked meal for the holiday, even though we were traveling.
5. Stay With Friends and Family
The ultimate low-cost way to travel is to stay with friends or family. It can be way more fun than a hotel and a much better way to get in quality time, but it can also be a tricky proposition. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “Fish and visitors stink after three days,” so be mindful of overstaying your welcome and what kind of relationship you have with your host(s). Make sure it’s a good time for you to be there, and not a burden to your hosts. Be a good guest and pay for something and chip in while you’re there. Help with chores around the house, take their dog for a walk or pay for a meal or groceries, and invite them along on your adventures. Be willing to return the favor when they come to your neck of the woods.
6. Make a Substitution
Another way to cut your travel costs is to be flexible about your destination. Maybe you really want to take a beach vacation, but all of the places to stay in that area are out of your budget. If the important thing is being at the beach and you’re going to rent a house anyway, look at other beach towns where you can get a better deal. You can substitute just about anything by figuring out what is most important to you and looking at other options that meet the main criteria.
How do you cut costs on travel?