Before I quit my job to take my first trip to Europe, I had no idea what I was doing. The only traveling I had done before was the 'vacation' type of traveling -- booking when I had the money to spend or the days off, and I didn't take much time to investigate how to travel smarter, better and cheaper. When I started preparing for my trip, I did a lot of research on the planning process on the internet. There are a number of things I did to prepare, and I thought I'd share some tips on how to help you travel for less money.
1. Fly for free.
Yep, you read that correctly. You could score a free flight by signing up for an airline miles rewards card. There are a number of different options, but I ended up signing up for the Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card (VISA). I realized that all of the purchases that I had been making on my debit card could have been accruing points on a credit card that could help me get a discount or even a free flight.
When I signed up for the card, I had to spend $3,000 within 3 months and I received 50,000 bonus points. Most cards will give you a minimum spending amount to qualify and receive the bonus points. Those 50,000 bonus points are the equivalent of around a $600 flight.
So change the way you spend. Sign up for a credit card and make it so that every single dollar you spend comes back to you in some way.
2. Plan to take a trip when it's not the busiest time of year.
If you work full time in the U.S. (Europeans and Australians don't get to complain -- you guys get more than a month vacation every year so I've heard), you know that it's tough to get vacation days. Most of them are spent around the holidays, and if they don't "roll over" until the next year, you're forced to take them when everyone else is taking them.
That drives all the prices up - flights, hotels, tours, everything. When I went to Iceland in April, I avoided the crowds and higher prices. The biggest tourist season for the country is during the summer.
Research your destination beforehand - find out when their busiest months are, and plan to go there before or after those months. You might miss out on the 'perfect' weather, and have to wear a few extra layers, but in my mind - it's worth saving the money and getting to explore that destination during a less crowded time.
3. Fly when it's cheapest.
I think we all know by now that airline sites and third-party booking websites (Orbitz, Priceline, etc.) will increase flights right when you're getting ready to click 'Submit' on your payment information. Airline prices change at least three times per day.
One tip is to use 'incognito' tabs via Google Chrome when looking at flights. Another tip is to delete your cookies and browser history before comparing flights.
When looking for flights, I use Google Flights (flight price comparison over time) and Kayak (flight comparison + map tool).
Google Flights offers a way to look at the difference in flight prices throughout the year. Just click on the date after putting in your destination, and you'll see the prices of the same flight, each day of the calendar year.
They even put the lowest price of the month in green, so you can save almost $300 by flying on Thursday, instead of Friday. That's one day. (That's worth $300 in my book.)
Using this tool will allow you to plan ahead of time, find the best days to fly for the cheapest price, and eventually book the best flight deal.
4. Try the right package deal
Sometimes it is cheaper (and less of a headache) to book one trip with everything included in one price. No one likes spam, but it's a good idea to sign up for travel airline, booking and hotel newsletters. They'll send you deals and it's best to take advantage of them when they're available. In some cases, booking everything separately will end up costing you more.
5. Travel to Somewhere That's Not So Damn Expensive
London? Paris? Amsterdam? Chances are, you'll end up spending way more money when you get to bigger cities and popular tourist destinations. Remember that the flight is not the only expense you have when traveling. Think food, exchange rate, inter-country travel (trains, metro) and activity fees (i.e. museum entry, etc.).
When choosing a destination to travel to, don't cut out a place just because of the flight cost. It's expensive to fly New York to Thailand, but the expenses that I would incur during my trip would be a lot less money than what I'd spend in Europe. Cambodia, Thailand, Bulgaria, Hungary -- just some of the countries around the world that are a lot cheaper to visit.
What are some tips that you offer to save money when traveling? Leave your comments below!
This article was originally posted on GreaseandGlamour.com. Click through for more travel and inspiration.