The first big vacation I ever took was to Europe when I was in high school. I completely fell in love with travel at that point and have since made it my mission to travel as much as I possibly can. I called 2014 my year of travel as I managed to visit 7 countries on a total of 6 vacations. One of the questions I get asked a lot is: “How do I do it?” No, I’m not independently wealthy or an international spy. Nor am I a travel expert but I have definitely learned some tricks & tips along the way to save money on travel. Lucky for you, I’m willing to share my knowledge.
1. Travel non-peak times
One of the easiest ways to save money is to travel during non-peak times. There are a couple of ways to accomplish this.
Anytime you travel over a holiday period, prices are inflated. It’s simple economics. More demand for flights/hotels/etc drives up prices. Asking how to find a cheap vacation to New York over New Years is like asking to how to find a unicorn. It doesn’t exist. If it’s possible to avoid these popular times of the year, do it!
Most of the population has weekends off, therefore, booking a weekend trip from Friday to Sunday means again you are going to pay a lot more. Switching your travel plans to a Thursday or a Monday instead can save you hundreds of dollars on flights.
Travel in shoulder season
Most places you visit will have their high season and low season. High season is high for a reason. It’s usually the best time to visit the location in terms of weather, activities, etc. But if you’re willing to travel just off high season into shoulder season you can get significant savings on flights, accommodations and activities. I almost always travel in the shoulder season. It has saved me a lot of money and honestly I prefer it. I’m not one for swarms of tourists. Shoulder season means you will have a less crowded holiday with more options available while still enjoying the best a country has to offer.
2. Get a travel credit card
I cannot express enough how much benefits I have gotten from my travel credit card. I have the TD First Class Travel Visa Infinite, which I love because you earn points that convert to cash and are redeemed on any travel purchases. That means no blackouts or restrictions on the points. But there are lots of different travel credit cards out there so find the one that works for you. I use my Visa to pay for everything and then pay off the balance. That way I am earning travel points all the time. It’s basically free money, so why not take advantage!
3. Be flexible with location
If you don’t get your heart set on one destination you can stand to save a lot of money. Keep your options open and search multiple destinations for the time you are wanting to go. A great tool for this is google flights. You put in your departure airport and dates and see flight prices across the world.
4. Set up alerts
If you’ve decided when and where you want to go, use travel websites like Kayak to search multiple sites for you at once. Then set up an alert to your email so you are alerted if that route changes in prices. You can also find a history of prices to get an idea if you are getting a good deal or should expect a drop anytime soon. I also sign up to regular email alerts from companies like Kayak & Expedia for travel deals. Last minute deals can come up and if you’re alerted you can take advantage. Also, if you’re Canadian I HIGHLY recommend checking out Chris Myden’s website. He has sites from most major departing Canadian cities and I have found a lot of great deals from his alerts.
5. Look for alternative accommodations
Accommodations on holiday don’t always have to be a hotel. If you are willing to consider alternatives to hotels, you might be able to find great deals. I almost exclusively travel using VRBO or Air BnB. Accommodations are almost always cheaper than hotels and you can save money when you are there by cooking your own meals if you choose. B&Bs are another option you can look into that don’t show up when you are doing traditional Expedia/Kayak searches. If you’re set on a hotel but flexible on the location you can use Priceline. You can choose your area, star rating and bid for a room. You might end up with a 5-starr hotel for dirt cheap. This option is also great for car rentals. I scored a car rental in Hawaii for around $12/day.
6. Look for route options
When searching for flight deals sometimes you need to think outside the box. Although your route might be point A to B, there may be a cheaper way to get there. What do I mean? Let’s say you want to go to Barcelona, Spain. The price from Calgary to Barcelona is $1600. But the flight from Calgary to London is $800. You can take that London flight and then find a local cheap European flight to get you to Barcelona. Additionally, if you live near other airports check out flights using that departure airport. Sometimes travel to another city can be worth the cost savings. Please note: I am not affiliated with the companies I have listed in any way. I just wanted to provide my honest tips and tricks that I use to book cheap travel. I hope it works for you.