I'm absolutely obsessed with traveling. I love it... BUT, it's hard to do often unless you are smart about saving. Lots of people I know say they want to travel but never make moves and actually do that. Why is this? 1) It's hard for some people to get out of their comfort zone and 2) travel takes a lot of planning and money. Finding out how to save for travel is the first step in commiting to leave your comfort zone and explore new cities and cultures. I guarantee once you start traveling, you'll get hooked and catch the travel bug like the rest of us. Then, it's about finding affordable ways to see as much of the world as you can and travel as often as possible. Here are a 10 of my favorite travel hacks that can save you money:
1. OPEN UP A SEPARATE TRAVEL SAVINGS ACCOUNT
What I do here is transfer a certain amount of money to this account automatically through Wells Fargo on the 1st each month when I get paid. That way, I don't even see the money in my checking account and whenever I need money for a trip it's in there. I have 7 weddings (including my own!) to go to this year, so instead of vacations, this year it will be my travel fund for weddings -- so excited! I definitely recommend some way of putting aside money for travel in some way. The amount can be whatever you can afford at the time. No matter the amount, the point is that it still adds up quickly and gives you the means to fill your travel addiction! Once it’s out of your checking account, you won’t even realize you missed it.
2. OPEN UP A CHECKING ACCOUNT AND CREDIT CARD THAT WAIVES INTERNATIONAL EXCHANGE RATES AND ATM FEES
I use my Chase Sapphire Preferred card for everything. It's by far the best credit card if you live in the city. You get double points for anything travel and food, which even includes things like Uber, grocery stores, and restaurants/bars! Outside of clothes, food and travel are basically what I spend my money on. This card is awesome to use when you are traveling internationally too because they will reimburse you for any international exchange rate fees. Awesome.
I also have a Fidelity Cash Management investment account. This is pretty much equivalent to a checking and savings account where I'll transfer in the money I've saved from my savings account listed in #1 above right before a trip. You can use your debit card to withdraw cash at any ATM and you will get reimbursed for any ATM or exchange rate fees. Not only is this awesome when traveling abroad, but also within San Francisco. How often are you at a bar or restaurant that ends up being cash only and only has one of those no-affiliate ATMs? Trust me, it comes in handy a lot!
3. REWARDS CREDIT CARDS
Joe and I just booked our flights to New Orleans for a wedding we have coming up this summer. We knew in advance that we'd need flights for this, so got a Southwest credit card. We used it for the first few months to hit the bonus limit and got enough points for two round trip flights from SF>NOLA, and then some. It's not good for your credit to open and close credit cards within the same year, so even if you don't use it after you reach that bonus limit, hold onto it for awhile before closing it out. Read more about that here. Tons of airlines and hotels have these types of credit cards and deals. I am looking into getting a Starwood credit card because they are affiliated with so many different hotels around the world.
I recently read a great book called "Travel the World for $50 a Day" by Matthew Kepnes, a famous travel blogger. It's mostly for people who are going to take off and travel for ~a year or longer periods of time. I usually travel for just a couple of weeks at a time, so I don't actually think $50/day is necessary for me with the shorter trips (or realistic with my foodie habits!), but there are a ton of credit card and other travel hacks in here that I'm so glad I learned. I know people who use credit card rewards points for their travel so frequently that they haven't paid for a flight or hotel in years. The book is a good, easy read -- if you love to travel, I'd definitely recommend it! Here's the link to his blog if you'd like to follow along: www.nomadicmatt.com.
I've used Airbnb all around the world and have had nothing but great experiences. Hotels are awesome to stay in, but sometimes it's fun (and much more affordable) to live like a local when you're there. I love to see the decor and lifestyles in apartments around the world. Don't you think the weird and hilarious attributes to old apartments in San Francisco is part of its charm? Same thing with other cities around the world. When you go somewhere with a great exchange rate to the USD, it's even better. For example, Joe and I stayed in a baller flat in Budapest through Airbnb for $20/person/night. Unreal. If you're traveling in groups of 4, you can get great prices on spots that comfortably sleep 4 too. When we traveled with my cousin and her boyfriend through Europe, we used Airbnbs everywhere and they were all about $25/person/night, even in expensive cities. Airbnbs are also great because they usually include kitchens. We like to eat a light breakfast and often make breakfast in our flat, which ends up saving a lot of money throughout the trip too.
5. BUY FLIGHT TICKETS AT THE RIGHT TIME
Kayak says that the lowest average domestic airfare is found 21 days prior to departure and the international airfare averages the lowest point at 34 days out.
6. LOW COST AIRLINES
Norwegian Air and WOW Air are two of the more popular budget airlines. I haven't flown WOW Air yet, but I took Norwegian to Stockholm last fall. We got flights for $300 one way on Norwegian and the plane was just as nice as a Virgin America plane with the touch screen in each seat and other amenities. Both have incredible deals from OAK. Here's a list of all the budget airlines in the world, broken out by country.
7. ENABLE PRIVATE VIEWING IN YOUR BROWSER WHEN BOOKING FLIGHTS AND HOTELS
Travel sites often raise prices because they can track your visits and raise prices if you’ve visited before. By enabling incognito mode, your visit won’t be able to be recognized as a return visitor
8. BOOK THE WINDOW AND AISLE SEATS IF YOU'RE TRAVELING WITH SOMEONE ELSE
Typically, if a flight is not full you have much higher odds that someone would pick a window or aisle over the middle seat, so you’ll potentially get the row to yourselves. Worst case, if someone does end up booking that middle seat, they’ll likely be thrilled to switch with one of you anyways.
9. VACATION IN THE "OFF SEASON"
In popular vacation places, like Europe, the most popular season to travel (summer) is by far the most expensive. If you go during the “off season,” you’ll find much better deals. In Europe, summer prices typically run from June through August, so it’s best to go in either May or September. I’ve been during both of these months and can attest that you’ll still find the warm weather but also reap the benefits of lower hotel and flight prices. Here's a list of summer seasons in countries around the globe.
If you have the flexibility, spontaneity and patience to wait and book your destinations last minute, check out www.theflightdeal.com for amazing travel deals. You can choose your departure airport (they have SFO and most other major cities available) and see all the deals out of that location. One of these days I'm going to request PTO for a random week and just spontaneously decide where I'm going a month before. This would save a ton of money on my flight too! I've seen prices like $400 RT to Paris or $600 RT to Thailand. There are plenty of domestic deals on here too!
What are your favorite travel hacks? I always love to learn more! Share them in the comments section below.