Travel makes me feel alive. I am a natural wanderer and travel feeds my soul in a way nothing else does. I must have some serious nomadic blood left in me from ancient ancestors. The need for travel stems from curiosity and discovery. Both things I want to continue to foster without breaking the budget. I am fortunate enough to be able to leave the country at least once a year, and do so for uber cheap. In addition to this HisFI and I take “Mini-vacations” and schedule an adventure every weekend. Here are our top tips for cheap travel and feeding your inner wanderlust.
1. Travel Locally
This is really the best tip for cheap travel. When we made it a goal to have an adventure every weekend we tarted to explore our own city and surrounding forests even more. We looked up Trip Adviser’s Top 10 things To-Do lists and decided to be a tourist in our own city.
Don’t limit yourself to what is close either. Find things that are within driving distance for a day trip. The beach and some incredible hikes in the Gorge all make our lists for traveling locally in our own area. You do not have to get on a plane to be transported to a new destination with new experiences.
Bring your own snacks and download some awesome podcasts, plus a rad playlist of music. Roll down your windows and hit the road.
2. Take Alternative Transportation
While a plane and car are traditional ways to travel they can also be expensive. I suggest making a weekend trip using alternative transportation. Some types of alternative transportation include:
- Busses (Tour Busses)
- By Foot
I recently took the train to Seattle for a work conference and was so impressed with how leisurely the travel was. Plenty of space and time to work even. The tickets were cheap and not putting more miles on my car is even better.
I would also research busses and bus tours. In the Pacific Northwest we have some awesome brewery tours that will bus you all around the area. There is even one that goes from Portland all the way to Bend! You could also use the bus to get from city to city in a Bolt or Greyhound bus. These tickets are even cheaper than a train, although it is certainly not as leisurely.
You can rent an RV. We have not yet done this, although I have looked into it. The affordability seems to be based on where you are traveling. Some areas are much more expensive than others.
A bike tour may be a bit much if your bike has sat in the garage collecting dust, but consider finding a nearby trail where you can ride for hours and pack a picnic. HisFI rides everyday for work, so the bike does not seem like a alternative transport anymore. If this is the case for you, consider a bike tour!
Lastly, get on your feet and let them take you where you want to go. If you are into nature and the outdoors doing a backpacking trip can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life.
3. Always Call
For any literally anything, if you can, call. I know you may have a phone phobia or dread having to punch a million numbers before getting to a person, but I promise you it will be worth it.
Call to book hotels or any sort of tickets for events. Do your research first and check out what prices are online. Mention this if the price sounds higher at first. They tend to come back down in price often even lower if you book right with a human.
4. Travel Hack It
Hopefully by now you have heard of travel hacking, if not your mind is going to be blown. Travel hacking is using credit card points and any kind of free travel rewards to your advantage. Meaning you can potentially book your next trip for free or close to it. To find out how to do this and what the best credit cards are read the following posts by HisFI:
- The Best Chase Travel Credit Cards Explained: Travel Hacking 101
- Redeeming Chase Ultimate Rewards for Airlines and Hotels Using Transfer Points
This year, we now are booking our trips to Peru and FinCon using travel hacking. We plan to continue to do this into 2019 for our next vacation.
When booking a trip, especially if you are going to use travel rewards, make sure to plan out everything before booking. Answer these questions first:
- Where do we want to go?
- What do we want to do? (Everything-make a list)
After this, double check Trip Advisors Top 10 things to do in the area of your destination. We have used this many times and it rarely steers us wrong. Sure, it may be a bit touristy, but you have to do those things and discover the local stuff too right? A more specific travel planning post with a free printable is in my near future. (I kinda live for planning).
Also, remember when you are planning to go Incognito in your browser. If Google thinks you are looking at the same flight multiple times they will up the price and so will other website. So when planning and searching use this function so they cannot track your future plans and bump the prices closer to the date.
6. Use What You Have & Pack Light
It is as simple as that. In the past EVERY time we travel I feel this need to purchase a new this or that for the trip. Only a few of these purchases are actually warranted. With my recent shopping ban, I have had to adhere to this for our upcoming trips and only purchase what is on the approved list. (Ok, I totally have broken the ban once or twice-but I am human)
Why can’t you use the flip-flops you already have? (That is literally what I have to ask myself).
In addition to using what we have, we also started packing light. VERY light. We each only pack one carry on for our trips now. Most trips are about 2 weeks sometimes a few days longer and it has become pretty easy to pack minimally for this. This saves us time in the airports and means that we again are not filling out bags with things…speaking of which….
7. Avoid the Souvenirs
A keychain and magnet with the name of your destination were most likely not made by the local area. Make sure you avoid the cheesy and probably made in China souvenirs (unless you are in China).
For example when we went to Ireland the number of tourist shops with mugs and shot glasses that said the exact same thing were exhausting. We set out ahead of time to make two intentional purchases: Wool sweater and tweed jacket from the sheep in the hills of Ireland. Even the dye used for my jacket was from the Heather that grows on Ireland.
Bonus! Not buying a bunch of kitchy souvenirs will keep you packing minimal and light.
While we love to use our points, however the occasional weekend trip or group trip with friends has led us to AirBnB. Air BnB’s are perfect for cheap travel. Plus they help out another human who is working this as a semi-passive income source.
The best homes are the ones with hot tubs and a view! Our large group trips with friends using an AirBnB have always been memorable and fun.
You can use this link and get $40 off your next stay if you do not have an account.
9. Group Trips
On the note of the AirBnB as the perfect destination for group trips, consider planning one. It will be cheaper to split the bill for a home AND the food. Often we will each volunteer to take on the making of a meal and everyone does BYOB. A great solution for cheap travel. Plus, who doesn’t love hanging out and playing games with friends by the beach?
10. Use your Costco or Union Perks
If you are a member of Costco they offer great deals on all kinds of travel. We found the best money saver was when we had to rent a car for Colorado trip. It was several hundred dollars cheaper for a nicer car with Costco instead of the other online options. Go online and see what your Costco member options are when booking anything for travel.
Your Union also offers perks for travel including discounts with travel agents and for tours. While these tend not to be cheap travel, if you need the accommodation it could be worth checking out to find cheap travel.
What have I missed? What are some of your cheap travel tricks? Let us know below in the comments.
FAQ’s about cheap travel
Which travel site is the cheapest?
Each site aggregates different prices, so be sure to do your research. Also, be aware that booking through a third party like Orbitz or Expedia can sometimes complicate things if your travels go awry.
Which days are the least expensive to fly?
Tuesday and Saturdays are typically the cheapest as those are the least flown days by travelers.
What is the cheapest month to travel in?
January, February and September are the cheapest as kids are in school.