Finding ways to travel cheaply without sacrificing on quality and actually enjoying your vacation without ending up feeling frustrated is really hard, but you’ll be so thankful years later for those beautiful memories that you took the time and effort to create. Planning a good trip takes time and some will say there’s never too much research that you can do. I agree. I believe it’s time well invested. In the end, you will not remember how long it took you to plan a nice trip that fully recharged your batteries, all you will be left with will be the wonderful times and memories. Just as well as a failed vacation will leave you with a bitter taste and regret over time and money wasted or badly spent. But let’s get to the point: here are some tips & tricks that I hope will make your travel planning much easier and enjoyable:
1. Hunt for a cheap flight. Ever get ripped off by buying a plane ticket too late? Well, just so you know, the same can happen when you buy a ticket too early. The sweet spot for buying tickets for international flights seems to be between 1 to 3 months prior to departure, while for domestic flights it is between 3 to 7 weeks prior to departure. This of course excludes holiday season, when it is advised you buy your ticket earlier, around 14 weeks prior to departure.
Another good way to get great deals is by setting fare alerts on websites such as kayak.com. Just go on the website, create a free account, choose your preferred destination and the exact dates for your trip (or you can choose to leave them flexible), as well as the price you’re willing to pay for your ticket and they will send you an e-mail alert when the specifics for your flight become available on any of the travel websites. Another website with similar functions to Kayak’s is airfarewatchdog.com. You can set fare alerts here as well.
Something else to keep in mind is to carefully pick which days you decide to travel on. Statistics show that tickets tend to be cheaper if you fly on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday. Also, if you plan to go away for a week, the following stands if you want to score the cheapest price: depart on Saturday and return on Monday in the case of domestic flights or depart on Tuesday and fly back on Wednesday in the case of international flights.
2. Score a cheap hotel room. When it comes to hotels, you want to save as much money as possible, but try not to sacrifice on quality too much. You don’t need an extra large room or supreme luxury, but at least two things are of ultimate importance: hygiene/cleanliness and distance from tourist attractions or means of transportation. You definitely don’t want cockroaches or getting a hotel room that is too far from everything important. You won’t want to be wasting too much precious time from your vacation. Just think of features that are the most important for you and start from there. Do your research thoroughly on websites like tripadvisor.com, even though it might seem overwhelming. There are hundreds and thousands of comments on various hotels and it can certainly get confusing, but if you keep your priorities in mind you won’t let yourself be influenced by all the negative reviews. So who cares if one reviewer complains the hotel room is too small? There are ten others who say the room is clean and that’s what matters. Reviews are subjective and everyone has different standards, so it is important to keep that in mind.
For cool hotel deals, there are a lot of websites you can check out, but these are the ones that seem more unique:
- tablethotels.com – although not the cheapest, hotels on this website are personally visited and evaluated by its team of experts and their focus is mainly on boutique hotels;
- kayak.com – they offer price comparison so that you can see what the best price is for the hotel you choose;
- priceline.com – go on the website, choose your destination and travel dates and bid a price you’re willing to pay for the hotel room; if they find you a room in the price you bid you will have to commit to pay, as they will only show you the hotel name after purchase;
- google.com/hotels – it is integrated with Google maps so you can easily locate your hotel and offers price comparison so you can choose the best price for your hotel;
- travelzoo.com – great last minute offers, package deals and more.
3. Do your research. On restaurants, culture, means of transportation, city passes and other tourist packages or offers. Don’t limit yourself to choosing a destination, buying plane tickets and booking a hotel room. Where and what you eat is just as important. Great culinary experiences will enrich your trip and your senses, but they don’t have to put a hole in your wallet. Check out reviews for local restaurants and make a list of your favorites, making sure you have a few for every area of the city you’re planning to visit. Also, make sure you check what special offers there are for transportation and find out what your options are to get from the airport to the hotel. Many travelers get ripped off at this stage of their journey. Information is power.
4. Choose your location and dates wisely. And be willing to change them if need be. I know, I know, it sounds kind of extreme. But deciding to go off-season to a certain location can make all the difference in the world budget-wise. It will be cheaper and less crowded, which is always good. You could also go at the beginning or end of peak season, as it will be cheaper than in full peak season.
5. Take incredibly advantageous deals with a grain of salt – you might think you’re saving a lot of money by going on a cheap cruise, but pay extra attention to details. The cost of the flight to the city of departure might throw the whole cheap thing out the window. The same goes with vacation packages: have an eye open for hidden traps. That package offering flight and accommodation to the Caribbean might seam like a steal, but if you start calculating the price of the services, tours, and other things you’d like to do there, you might end up realizing the whole vacation could end up way above your budget. Also, always check for hidden fees and taxes. There might be airport taxes that are not included in the package price or other fees, so always keep an eye on those.
6. Don’t be too cheap. You want your trip to be worthwhile and something you’ll daydream about for a long while. Don’t spend every minute of it calculating every cent and patting yourself on the back for how much money you saved or how good of a deal you scored. Your bank account will be happy, but you won’t.