Besides real estate, my favorite thing is traveling. I love exploring new places, eating new foods, staying at cool hotels, and just taking a breather from my everyday life. Anybody else like me? And while I wish I was made of money, I’m not. So my travels are always on a budget, and over the course of many years, I’ve figured out some tips & money-savers on how to travel on a budget. Over a few blog posts, I’m sharing my tips. Part 1 focuses on finding affordable airfare- one of the most expensive parts of traveling. From car rentals to airline tickets, I’m sharing my favorite go-to budget friendly tips!
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How To Travel On A Budget
The biggest tip I have for how to travel on a budget is to do a lot of research. From reading travel blogs, talking to friends, reading Trip Advisor reviews, I do quite a bit of homework before I ever book a trip.
Tips For Affordable Airfare
I’m not a road trip person. I’d much rather fly to my destination, and in some cases, flying is cheaper than driving! While airfare can be notoriously expensive, there are ways to make it affordable. While discount airlines are certainly part of that equation, I don’t always fly on discounted airlines. In fact, I typically prefer to fly first class– and I can still do that on a budget!
- Budget Airlines– From Southwest to Allegiant, and a host of other discount airlines, these airlines offer more affordable airfares. With some of these, you can book round trip flights for less than $100! While these aren’t my favorite modes of travel, I’ve used them for last minute bookings that would otherwise be incredibly expensive due to the late notice.
- The Downside– These budget airlines notoriously nickle & dime you. They are mostly a “bare bones” method of travel. You will pay extra for a carry-on or a soda in flight. They also tend to charge extra if you opt to pick your seat, and depending on the seat location, those extra fees vary. If possible, I tend to fly with only a carry-on with these budget airlines as those fees are less than checked luggage.
- Join Frequent Flyer Programs– Each airline has its own frequent flyer program. While some of these programs are better than others, they all allow you to earn miles which equate to free or discounted flights. Many of these frequent flyer programs also allow you to earn miles through car rentals, Lyft, & other purchases. Joining these programs are free. My favorite frequent flyer program is Delta since miles do not expire with them, unlike with American Airlines.
- The Downside– With some of these programs, like American Airlines, the miles you accrue expire at the end of the year. Delta, however, does not set an expiration on miles which allows a traveler to keep & eventually redeem miles. Earning miles can be a slow process if you are not a frequent traveler. Optimizing additional ways to earn miles, apart from flying with the airline, helps to accrue miles faster.
Other Airfare Saving Hacks
- Join Ebates– Whether you’re flying budget airlines or first class, you definitely want to save as much money as possible! Ebates pays you for online shopping– including booking airline tickets! For each ticket or car rental (or even a random Amazon purchase!), you can get cash back for online purchases. You can sign up here & receive $10 which is spendable after your first online purchase. The cash back check you receive makes finding affordable airfare easier because of your online purchases!
- The Downside– The cash back amount is frequently a low percentage; however, every little bit helps. In addition, Ebates frequently runs cash-back specials to offer high percentage cash back options! And on days like Cyber Monday, you can really accrue a good amount of cash back!
- Get A Mileage Credit Card- Many airline companies have partnered with credit cards to offer cards that provide airline mile rewards. I currently have two, and I use one way more often than the other. My favorite go-to mileage credit card is the American Express Delta Card. Most of these credit cards offer a sign-on bonus. In fact, you can sign up here & get 60,000 miles after your initial purchases (enough miles for a trip or two!). I also have the Capital One Venture Card. My AE card is tied to my Delta mileage program, so for each gallon of milk or oil change I pay for with my card, I earn miles on Delta! The American Express card also gives me free checked luggage.
- The Downside– Some cards, like the American Express, do come with a small annual fee. Also, depending on which card you apply for, there may be blackout dates or expiration of miles or airline specific. So far, the American Express card has given me the most bang for my buck on miles.
- Book Your Ticket As Far In Advance As Possible– Obviously, it’s no secret that last minute plane tickets are expensive, and sometimes booking last minute can’t be avoided. If I know the dates of an event, I try to book my plane ticket at least 6 months in advance with trip insurance- this helps in finding affordable airfare. Here’s a recent example of why that’s beneficial: Like I mentioned, I prefer to fly first class. Each seat (in any cabin) has an “early bird” price. As more seats are booked, the price continues to rise- especially in first class. In a recent booking, I found a round trip first class ticket for less than $500. I was booking three of us for the flight. I booked the first two at the $500 price. By the time I went to book mine, the price had jumped almost $300 in three minutes. Why? I actually spoke with the airline and after the “early bird” incentive prices are taken, a different tier of pricing kicks in- raising the seat price. Good news though: I kept refreshing the page & it still showed the increased price, until on one refresh it showed the $500 price and I booked it! That same flight in flight class (which is still 3 months away) is now close to $900.
- The Downside– If your dates change and you didn’t purchase travel protection, you are stuck with your early bird ticket. Trip insurance is pretty affordable, but read the fine print if certain changes are covered under the plan.
- Use SkyScanner– Skyscanner is a website that evaluates every airline, seat, and ticket available for your destination. Basically, they’re doing the price scouring for you. It also allows you to search for hotels & cars.
- Downside– If you purchase your ticket through SkyScanner it may void any insurance coverage. Be sure to read the fine print if a 3rd party booking affects insurance coverage.
- Join Airline Email Lists– As with any other company, website, or store, airlines offer email lists. While probably 50% of the information in the email blasts are significant to saving money, they also include last minute deals which helps in finding affordable airfare. If you’re willing (or able) to book a last minute flight, airlines will advertise deals via their emails.
- The Downside– Yes, you get more junk emails in your inbox. But if it saves you $300 to Costa Rica, it’s worth it, right?
- Airline Vouchers– One of my favorite travel hacks for finding affordable airfare is to get the airline to give me free miles with a voucher. Whenever a flight is overbooked, airlines will offer booked passengers a voucher to fly on a different flight. The voucher is basically payment for the inconvenience of switching to another flight. The gate agent usually announces these opportunities, and depending on how overbooked the flight is, you can negotiate with the gate agent for more more than being offered. How it works: The gate agent might offer $500 for you to take the later flight to your destination. You can take that $500 and apply towards future travel on that airline– like if you were paying with a gift card to a store. Like I mentioned earlier, if they offer $500 you can certainly ask for them to compensate you even more! I’ve scored many “free” trips this way!
- The Downside– If your travel plans are tight, & you don’t have a lot of room in your travel schedule, then this option wouldn’t be ideal for you. Also, it may mean sitting in an airport for additional hours waiting on the alternate flight.
Stay tuned as this is Part 1 of a series of posts with my tips for saving money on airfare, hotels, car rentals, and all things travel!