I imagine if you’ve followed this blog for any amount of time you’ve noticed that we like adventure. We love to travel, and we love finding any excuse for a getaway! The sad thing about adventure is that it’s often expensive. I have a ludicrous passion for bargain hunting, however, and I’ve learned a few ways to cut down travel costs. Here are some travel tricks to help you plan for more vacations and less overdraft protection. ;)
1. Track your flights.
If you have any flexibility whatsoever when buying plane tickets, you really should track your flights on Google Flights. Kayak and Yapta are also great for tracking. You can pull up an itinerary and save it so you’ll be able to watch how the price moves over the next few days or weeks. It comes in handy, especially when you’re booking far-away flights. The flights we booked for Australia + New Zealand have fluctuated more than $500 since we booked them, and thankfully we were watching like hawks and booked them when they dropped to the lowest price. Airlines will randomly do one-day sales, and tracking those flights is a great way to be able to pounce once the price drops!
2. If you can handle credit cards, take advantage of them.
I’m a big believer in staying out of credit card debt, but I’m also a sucker for a great deal. One of the easiest ways we get great deals is through our credit cards. We get “bonus” miles and points when we use them, and it’s incredibly convenient. We are very cautious and make sure we always pay off our balances though, and we try to keep our purchases well below the credit limit to keep our credit scores nice and shiny. ;) The deals are really awesome if you know how to take advantage of them.
I recommend the Capital One VentureOne card, which has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees. You get “miles” on every single purchase you make, and they also give you 20,000 bonus miles if you spend $1000 in the first three months. Their travel benefits are pretty stellar – you can use your miles to book flights directly through their site, or you can use their “purchase eraser” to get a credit back for any travel-related expenses you put on your credit card. They also have a variety of gift card options if you’d rather spend your points on food/merchandise. (And if annual fees don’t bother you, you might check out the regular Venture card too – they reward you with more miles per dollar.) Another card that has some pretty good deals is the Spirit MasterCard, which gives you 15,000 bonus miles when you apply, enough for 3 roundtrip flights right off the bat (email me if you’re interested, and I’ll send you a referral link). The pros to this card are a bunch of free points and great deals if your schedule is flexible. The cons are not every city has a Spirit airline (we have to drive to and fly out of Dallas), the card has an annual fee after the first year, and you really can only make the most of your miles on “off-peak” days. Spirit has quite a few enemies because they charge extra for bags and choosing your seats, but it’s still quite a bargain, especially for quick trips. I wouldn’t recommend them as much for intricate or really long flights with multiple stops, but we’ve gotten some awesome deals by reading all the rules, being flexible, and working the system. ;) Make sure you read all the ins and outs of credit card rewards, because they vary from card to card.
3. Always get a bargain on your hotel.
One of the easiest ways to make sure you’re getting a good deal on a hotel is to use something Expedia offers called a “scratchpad.” It’s similar to tracking your flights via Google Flights. Expedia’s scratchpad shows you when your recently viewed hotels go up or down in price, and it makes it easy to make sure you’re getting the best deal. Expedia usually is the one that gives me the best deal when I’m shopping for hotels and car rentals. (Orbitz is another that sometimes beats Expedia, but I’ve noticed they don’t offer as many hotels.) Expedia has a rewards program (though it’s not nearly as impressive as the previously mentioned credit card programs), and they also have a promotion for their Expedia+ members called “Best Price Guarantee” that will refund you the difference if you find a better price, even after you book. I got a refund on our New Zealand hotel within a month of booking because I kept watching the price. If it goes down, I send them a screenshot, and they send me a refund. Holla.
4. Make the most of off-peak times.
If off-peak times are an option for you, take advantage of the lower prices. September, October, and early November are great times to travel and not break the bank. (They’re also typically less crowded in most places.) Several companies like Carnival and Disney World do a lot of promotional sales for the fall, and flights are often cheaper. It’s a good idea to start checking prices early so you can make sure you’re getting the best deal. Consider taking a smaller vacation in the summer and saving up your vacation days for the fall when things will be more affordable and less crowded!
5. Plan Plan Plan.
It’s a little obvious, but the more research you do, the better deals you’re going to get. Google is obviously great, but also check out RoadTrippers, TripAdvisor, and even Pinterest. Always search for promo codes and special discounts before you book anything. Give yourself plenty of time to plan, and if possible, remain as flexible as you can. One of our favorite things to do is turn research and planning into a date night. Head to Barnes and Noble and drink Starbucks while you peruse the travel aisle. Or order a pizza, pull out your notebooks, laptops, and calendars, and Google your little hearts out. ;)
Happy Adventuring! :)