Have you ever wondered how your friend can afford to be a globe-trotter? One month you see photos of her in front of the Taj Mahal and the next she’s posing at the Eiffel Tower. Four years ago, I decided to make traveling a priority. Since then I’ve been to over 25 countries. Trust me, rolling in money isn’t a prerequisite for either of those memorable photos. Here’s how to satisfy your wanderlust without going broke this year.
1. Keep your travel days flexible.
According to FareCompare, the cheapest days to purchase airfare are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Flexibility with your departure and return date can save you hundreds. If your job doesn’t allow you to be flexible, the second best thing you can do is shop for flights when prices are most affordable. FareCompare suggests Tuesday at 3 p.m. is the best time to look for a deal.
2. Subscribe for airfare alerts.
The good people at sites such as Airfarewatchdog, The Flight Deal and Fare Deal Alert are always on the hunt for flight specials and price glitches to share with consumers. Some flight deals they find are short notice and perfect for an impromptu trip. Other deals are far enough in advance to give you a decent amount of time to plan. Fares sell out quickly, and you’ll miss out if you don’t act fast. Subscribe to each mailing list, or set up Twitter notifications to get an alert when they share a deal.
3. Embrace the layover.
Flights with layovers are inconvenient, which is partly why they cost less money. There are two ways you can use a layover to your advantage. Choose a flight that has a long layover at a place you want to visit to turn a pit stop into another quick trip.
You can also choose flights with a layover at your destination. It may be cheaper than taking a regular flight to the same location. The site SkipLagged can help you compare flights with layovers where you need to go. If you do choose to get off during a layover, make sure to carry your luggage onto the flight. Otherwise, your bag will stay on the trip and end up at the flight’s final destination.
4. Travel as a guest.
Aside from airfare, accommodations can make a trip pricey. Use hotel alternatives like Airbnb or search for hostels. Sleeping in a bunk bed with strangers may be out of your comfort zone, but some hostels offer single rooms. You can also travel to locations where you have family or friends, and grab a spot on their couch. If you’re up for an adventure, you can even use a site like Couchsurfing to find a local to stay with for free.
5. Hunt for travel packages.
Instead of booking each part of travel separately, including airfare, lodging, rental cars and excursions, look for packages on sites such as Groupon or LivingSocial. Each site is like a virtual travel agent negotiating deals for us travelers.
Taking a DIY approach to planning isn’t the only affordable way to take a trip. Travel agents have experience looking for the lowest fares and hotel rates. Even if you find a good deal online, you can take it to a travel agent and ask him to find a better one to earn your business.
6. Plan out your meals.
Be careful with food. If you dine out throughout an entire trip you’ll spend loads of money. Head to a local market to pick up food you can prepare yourself. Look for travel packages that include food or, at least, breakfast. If you want to enjoy international dining, do it during lunch when meals are less expensive.
7. Use affiliations for discounts.
Check your employee benefits and other club or group memberships to see if they include travel perks for airfare, accommodation or car rentals. If you’re a student, use your student ID for transportation discounts. STA Travel is a travel agency specifically for students where you can find great deals.
8. Cash in on credit card rewards points.
Some credit card introductory promotions include points you can cash in for travel. Of course, you should avoid going into debt for the sake of traveling, but if you use a credit card responsibly, points are an opportunity to save.
If your goal is to travel more this year, always keep your eyes open for deals, travel minimalist and use your connections to see more of the world in 2016.
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