Hey there fellow wanderlusters! You probably know by now that we believe there’s nothing better that you can do than travel. I mean, maybe there is, but I haven’t discovered it yet, so I’ll stick with traveling! But, as we all know, it can be expensive. If you buy full priced flights, stay in 4 star hotels, and eat out at every meal, you can spend thousands of dollars easily in one week. For some people, that’s ok! That’s what vacation is all about! For others, like Shawn and I, we prefer to save where we can so that we have the ability to do more on vacation as well as travel more often. We have adopted a lifestyle of cheap travel that has given us the luxury of traveling more often. We’d love to share our top tips with you so that you can do the same!
We have taken a dozen trips all around the world without breaking the bank. Here’s the top 3 ways we save money and travel more:
If you haven’t checked out my post about how to get free flights, go check it out! I get it though, some people don’t feel comfortable opening credit cards for reward points. The good news is that there’s still tons of other ways to score cheap flights! A general rule of thumb for WHEN you should book your flights is about 2 months out for domestic and 3 months out for international. The best time of the week to browse flights is Tuesday and when choosing your departing/arrival days, try to avoid departing on Friday or Saturday and arriving on Sunday. If you’re using a search engine, I’d suggest google flights or skyscanner. Always browse these engines on Google Chrome’s incognito mode! Not sure how to do this? Google it! (Sorry, every browser is different and explaining it would be way off topic.) I’ve seen a lot of controversy about this on the web regarding whether or not it actually makes a difference, but I personally found a flight for $100 less on incognito mode than from my regular browsing screen. It doesn’t hurt, so why not try it? Anyways, I like both of those search engines because they give you the option to “search everywhere” if you’re just trying to find the cheapest place to fly, which is great if you’re flexible and just want to get away. They also provide a calendar with prices on each day so you can choose the cheapest day to depart and return. Finally, you can choose to “track” a specific flight or route and they will send you email updates on the current prices, so you don’t have to spend hours re-searching for flights during different times of the week.
There’s also 2 great websites that you can join and follow that will send you emails about really great flight deals. Scott’s Cheap Flights is a newer site that is getting a lot of publicity. I’ve never personally booked a flight through them (yet), but I know some people who have. I wake up every morning to see emails about flights to Asia, South America and Europe for $400 round trip. This site is only for international flights! They’re usually mistakes from the airlines standpoint or a very short crazy sale, so the flights need to be booked quickly, so it may be a little spontaneous for some people. Nevertheless, sign up and check it out! The other site is Airfare Watchdog. Here, you can set up alerts for specific flights, check out their top 50 flight deals for the day, and search and compare. This is a good site for domestic and international flights.
Accommodation is a tricky one to give advice on because everyone has different preferences. Keep in mind that this is a blog post about how you can save money and travel cheaply so that you can do it more often. At this time, I don’t have a whole lot of opinions about luxury resorts or hotels for a relaxing vacation, because that’s not typically how we travel. No matter where we go, we budget no more than $100/night for accommodation. Less is, of course, better!
Our #1 go to for accommodation is hostels. We book through www.hostelworld.com because they have a flexible deposit feature where you spend $2 and your 10% deposit is protected in the event you have to cancel your reservation. I get some funny reactions when I tell people we stay in hostels. Remarks like “aren’t you afraid to do that?,” “wow, really roughing it!,” and “ew, gross” are some of my favorites. But actually, some of the hostels we’ve stayed in are just as nice if not nicer than hotels. My dad and I went to Denmark several years ago and he was hesitant about hostels. We booked a hotel that was $200, had no free breakfast, had 2 twin beds that were hard as a rock, and about as much room as a college dorm. The next city we went to, I encouraged him to try a hostel. We got a private double room (2 beds) that included free breakfast, a common area downstairs with a restaurant and bar and free city tours included for $95. We stayed in hostels the rest of our trip.
Are there some rough hostels out there? Sure! But, if you’re not needing a luxurious place to sleep, they can save you some major money! There’s two types of rooms most hostels offer: dorm style and private. Dorm style is the cheapest, and it’s exactly as it sounds. You share a room with other people. Each person gets a twin bed and a locker and the bathroom is usually shared. Depending on where you go, these types of beds can be as cheap as $1/person/night (…seriously, it’s in Cambodia.) Shawn and I will stay in this type of room if the destination is expensive and we need to be cautious about our budget. Private rooms typically have a full size bed or 2 twin beds and they are completely private but the bathroom may or may not be shared. Prices are of course increased, but you still have all of the hostel amenities.
What do I mean by hostel amenities? Just like hotels, some hostels offer services that others don’t. Some don’t have many amenities at all. Just read the reviews of the hostel to get an idea about what you can get. Almost all hostels have a full kitchen, meaning you can store and cook your own food. They usually have a common area which is wonderful if you’re an outgoing traveler who likes to meet people. When I was solo-traveling Europe after college, I met a Canadian girl in my hostel in Switzerland who was also traveling solo. We hit it off and spent 2 weeks together in Italy after that! Some hostels are known to be “party hostels” because of this feature, but again, read reviews and you’ll get a general idea of what kind of vibe they have going on. Some hostels offer much more. The hostel we’re staying at in Maui has a hot tub, hammocks and daily free activities and tours, and it was one of the cheapest accommodations I could find on the island.
If hostels aren’t your thing and you want a wider variety, head to Booking.com. We use this over other sites such as Kayak and Expedia for several reasons:
- They have a huge variety of accommodation options, from budget hostels to luxury suites.
- Zero hidden fees. The price you see is what you pay.
- Free cancellation on nearly all rooms.
- No upfront payment. You pay when you stay.
- They have a great loyalty program after you book your 5th stay. You will get 10% off future bookings, as well as other perks such as free airport transfers and breakfast.
Another site we use when we travel is www.airbnb.com. This is a GREAT option if you’re traveling as more than 2 people but can still be a good option for a solo traveler or couple. You can either get an entire house/apartment to yourself, have a private room in which you share a common space, or share a common room altogether. The range of accommodation offered is amazing. You can find a penthouse apartment overlooking the beach, a treehouse in the jungle, or a cozy farmhouse in the countryside. Note though, that you will end up paying a service fee and a cleaning fee, so compare prices with hostels/hotels first.
This is a big one. Dining out while you’re traveling can be a HUGE part of your budget if you’re not careful. Especially if you’re going to more expensive destinations like Australia, Japan, Scandanavia and Costa Rica. When we’re overseas, we buy groceries and cook most of our meals. That’s why we stay in hostels and AirBnB’s– because they have kitchens. We will cook 2 out of our 3 meals for the day. We hardly ever eat breakfast at a restaurant. Usually hostels will have free breakfast but if not, we stock up on fruit, yogurt and eggs and then get a coffee to-go somewhere while we’re en route to our activity for the day. If we’re out and about during the day, we will eat lunch out and if we are waiting to go out to do something at night, we will eat dinner out. And even when we do eat out, it’s usually not at an expensive restaurant. We’ll find a cafe with sandwiches and wraps all over Europe; a noodle bar in countries like Thailand and Vietnam; and dine at the local sodas in Costa Rica, where you can get a plate of chicken, rice, beans and plantains for $4. Yum! There is, of course, exceptions to this. When we were in Bali, we splurged on a popular restaurant to get their famous crispy duck. It’s not something we normally eat, and it’s a cultural staple, and that’s when it’s good to make exceptions!
There’s tons of other ways to save money while traveling, but these three things are the majority of vacation budgets. If you can save in these areas, your dreams of traveling more can become a reality!
Do you have any vacation hacks and cheap travel tips? Comment below!