Join the Project!
Everything you need to be smarter with your money, delivered weekly.
While I love to travel, we’ve already established that I am not a seasoned travel hacker. But aside from not getting free flights, Jordan and I have done well finding our own ways to stretch our travel dollars. We’ve each visited nearly 50 countries (tbh, I’ve lost count at this point) and we haven’t let our love of travel break the bank.
And, as it turns out, The Worth Project community also loves a travel deal. Here are some of my best travel tips as well as amazing tips from our community members. I’m planning to use these tips when booking our next trip.
Here are a few of my tips:
Use Citymapper for public transportation.
When I get to a new city, I like to jump right into using public transportation because the trip from the airport is usually the most expensive. A great thing about Europe is that most of the cities we visit have excellent public transportation. When we travel around the US, public transportation can be hit or miss depending on where we’ve landed (looking at you LA). As soon as I land somewhere, I’ll open up the Citymapper app to help me figure out the best way to get to my hotel or Airbnb. I love the options, the ease, and how accurate it is.
Travel in the shoulder season or offseason.
Last March we had a happy accident of visiting Lake Como in Italy during the offseason. Jordan was traveling to Milan for work and we tacked on a few extra days to the trip to drive up to the lake. At first, I was a little bummed we wouldn’t be visiting during the height of the summer, but I soon changed my tune. We stayed in the most beautiful lakefront hotel for less than half of the summer rate. We rented a boat last minute very inexpensively. We didn’t need a reservation to get into any restaurant. And the town wasn’t overrun with tourists like it is during the summer. It was a perfect break and I don’t think I would enjoy it as much now in the summer.
Be location flexible, if possible.
This was taught to me by one of my travel-savvy friends, though I have yet to really put it into practice. She’ll pick a date that she wants to go away and then use Skyscanner to find her destination. Yep, she lets deals dictate where she flies and she gets some insane airfares. She’ll go to Skyscanner and instead of inputting a destination, she’ll put “Everywhere” as the destination. What pops back is a list of destinations – and prices – to choose from.
Find accommodation that isn’t city center.
One of the best ways that I discovered to save has also turned out to be one of my favorite ways to travel. Jordan and I were heading to Santorini for a long weekend (it’s an easy flight from London) and I couldn’t find anywhere to stay that wasn’t ridiculously overpriced. Finally, I broadened my search to look outside of the main towns on the island and came across the cutest and most reasonably priced hotel. I booked it immediately but had reservations about staying so far away from the action in the town. This ended up being the best decision. Not only did we have an insane room overlooking the sea for a fraction of the cost, we really enjoyed being away from the extremely busy restaurants and streets filled with other tourists. The town was cute, filled with locals, and it was all around the best experience. I realize now that I don’t have to always stay right in the heart of the action.
Know your priorities.
I wanted to go to South Africa for years. I saved ruthlessly for the trip and was undeterred by the expense of the flights and the safari. Because we wanted to spend at least two weeks there, we ended up having to travel during the peak (and most expensive time) over Christmas and New Years. While I was mostly OK with the costs, when our hotel that we were staying in for New Year’s Eve informed us that the only dining option with them would be a very overpriced dinner, Jordan and I decided to make other plans. We’re not huge foodies and our priority for the trip wasn’t to eat at amazing restaurants – it was to spend our money on a safari and enjoying other experiences during our visit. We ended up going to a local market to buy wine, sandwiches, and nibbles which cost less than $20 total. We spent the evening eating our little picnic on our balcony and it was the perfect way to ring in the New Year. When we travel we remind ourselves of our priorities for the trip and find cheaper alternatives to the things we care very little about.
From the community
“Choose the best hotel online but then call the hotel or B&B directly to see if you can get a better rate. Usually, the rate will be cheaper or have a special bonus because they don’t have to pay a fee to the booking agent/website.
Also, if you have the time flexibility: the same way you move your dates around to find a cheaper airfare, you should be doing the same for hotels. I once found a huge difference between a Fri-Sun stay and a Sat-Mon stay. Both are technically weekend stays but the latter was much cheaper.”
“My travel tips come from my days working in the hotel industry. Whenever possible, book directly with the hotel. Third party sites take a huge cut that they hate to give upgrades or perks to guests who booked through something like hotels.com or booking.com. Most of the time if you ask them to match the rate, they will. Then ask for things like an early check-in and late checkout. Being really nice to the staff can also land you perks, as it’s a rare experience for them. I used to make sure my favorite guests got the best rooms and service.”
“Besides the obvious of having an airline credit card, always shop online through a portal to get additional points/miles for each purchase. I visit evreward.com to look up the retailer to see which portal has the highest number of points! For instance, Sephora offers 5 points/dollar through the Avios/British Airways portal so I earn that through the shopping portal plus the 1 point/dollar by using my Southwest credit card.”
“Use sites and apps like Skyscanner and Hopper to compare and monitor pricing. Skyscanner provides pricing for different dates if your travel plans are flexible, and Hopper tells you if prices are likely to change before you book your trip.
Clear your cookies, or use an incognito browser or a different computer altogether (preferably even on a different network) to research vs. book your flights. In the past I’ve seen the price jump on a page refresh for no apparent reason, only to see that on a friend’s computer it mysteriously hadn’t changed at all…better to take some measures to be sure that you’re getting the best price at the time of booking.
For accommodation, particularly with smaller bnbs or airbnbs, the price is often up for negotiation. It might not always be possible for the host, but it’s always worth inquiring about your dream place to see if they can lower the price a bit. Having a nice story as to why it would mean a lot to you can help as well (in town for an already expensive wedding, first time visitor to the city and fell in love with your pictures even though the price is out of budget, staying for an extended period of time, etc.).”
“Pack snacks for the flight!”
Lisa (Erica’s note: need some snack inspiration? Here’s how one food editor does it).
Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments!
THE LATEST & GREATEST
Join the Project! Everything you need to be smarter with your money, delivered weekly. Back in 2009, I was pretty unhappy in my career and wanted to make a change. I had just passed the CPA exam and instead of celebrating this milestone, I realized that I didn’t...read more
Join the Project! Everything you need to be smarter with your money, delivered weekly. Yesterday was my 35th birthday and while I don’t hate getting older, I still feel like I’m 25. Sometimes I look at little six-month-old Henry and think, “whose baby is this? I’m...read more
Join the Project! Everything you need to be smarter with your money, delivered weekly. We hear about a lot of things that you should do with your money: Budget! Invest! Negotiate! But there are also some sneaky things that you should avoid doing. Things that are...read more
HAPPY HOUR FOR YOUR INBOX
smart reads + self-care + inspiring interviews all sent to your inbox every Friday. So you can say "see ya" to those Sunday scaries.