How to Travel Cheap (and More Often) in 2019
Did traveling more top your list of resolutions for 2019? Join the club.
But don’t let the New Year pass you by without fulfilling this one. We’re here to help with some of the best tips and tricks we know to help you travel cheap and travel more.
Make Travel a Priority
This is really what it all comes down to: having the right mindset. If you make travel a priority, you’ll travel more. If you don’t, you probably won’t.
Traveling takes time and energy to plan. And whether you’re an expert travel hacker or a newbie to points and miles, it costs money. We’ve all got limited time and limited resources, after all. Start your year by building part of your life around travel, and you’ll find yourself traveling more.
Set aside part of each paycheck into a dedicated travel fund. Even if it’s just $50 or $100 each month, that can build up fast and allow you to take an extra trip or two this year. Contact your bank to create a new savings account, or open up a special, travel-only checking account.
And be strategic about using your time off from work. You could take random Fridays off throughout the year and enjoy some extra sleep and more long weekends at home. Or you could save that PTO for a handful of long weekends across the U.S., a few weeklong trips abroad or an incredible, two-to-three-week vacation across Europe, Asia, or South America.
The power to travel more is yours. Set the pieces in motion to start 2019. Just remember: Life is short, travel now.
It might seem contradictory, but keeping your options open – and not setting your plans in stone – is the true key to traveling more.
Think of it this way: If you decide you’re going to London over the second week in July, you’re locked in. You’ve given all the power to airlines to charge whatever they want because you’ve decided that’s when and where you’re going. You might be able to save some money by booking the flight at the right time or monitoring fares, but
But if you make your travel plans based on a great fare, you’re certain to save money – extra cash you can use for your next trip. Instead of picking the dates you want to travel in advance, zero in on a location and wait for the best deal you can find on airfare. If you can make the dates work, you can save hundreds of dollars depending on where you’re headed.
Or better yet: Be a frequent traveling free agent. Go explore wherever the next cheap ticket will take you. Maybe Morocco, Belize, or Vietnam weren’t in your top 10. But when a bargain fare pops up, you can capitalize if you’re not rigid in where and when you want to go.
No matter which approach you take, staying flexible is crucial to save money and travel more. And luckily, we’ve got just the tool for you.
Get Thrifty Traveler Premium
Maybe you’ve seen the domestic flight deals we post every single day. Take it a step farther with a Thrifty Traveler Premium membership.
Thrifty Traveler Premium is our international flight deal subscription service. Sign up, and you’ll get 1-3 incredible flight deals to your inbox every day for international flights, along with Alaska and Hawaii. You can set your preferences to receive alerts for all airports, or just your home hub.
Sign up, and you’ll be instantly notified of the cheapest flights to get to Europe, Asia, South America, Africa, and Australia. Check out the rundown of some of the best fares we found in 2018, including a $238 round-trip ticket to Croatia! This list still blows our mind.
For just $35 a year, you’ll get instant flight deal alerts sent directly to your inbox. That’s less than a cup of coffee a month, and you’ll easily make that money back (and then some) by saving hundreds on your first flight deal.
Of course, we’re a tad biased. But we think there’s no better way to see the world on the cheap than Thrifty Traveler Premium.
Book Now, Ask Questions Later
It might sound foolhardy, but it’s true. If you see a great fare but aren’t sure you can make it work, book it anyway.
The reason? The federal government requires airlines to fully refund any fare touching U.S. soil within 24 hours of purchase. Domestic or international, it doesn’t matter. You’ve got 24 hours to decide whether you want to actually take the trip or dump it.
That’s enough time to scope out your lodging options, OK things with your boss or spouse, and recruit a buddy to join you.
Give yourself more time to decide, and you’ll probably find excuses. Maybe the timing isn’t perfect. Or you’ll convince yourself you’d rather go to another destination. It’s always far easier to say no than yes.
As frequent travelers, the entire Thrifty Traveler team can count on one hand the number of trips we’ve regretted taking (hint: it’s zero.)
Get Started with Points and Miles
If you’ve written off points and miles as some credit card scam or too difficult to use, it’s time to change that in 2019.
Whether you simply want to travel more or want to fly in style in first class, points and miles can be a gamechanger. We’ve flown $6,000-plus flights and taken bucket-list trips for nearly free thanks to points and miles. And we’re here to show you that you can, too. If you want to take one or two more trips in 2019, there’s no better way than using travel rewards.
Read our guide to getting started with travel rewards cards. You’ll learn how to take it slow as you get started, study which of the dozens of credit cards out there might be a right fit, and get a few recommendations.
Check out the Chase Sapphire Preferred, our #1 starter card. It’s a great option for beginners because you can easily get $625 in free travel – or even more if you utilize some of Chase’s airline transfer partners. This card offers a 50,000-point welcome bonus after spending $4,000 in the first three months with the card. Its $95 annual fee is waived in the first year, so you could book some free travel before paying the fee.
Click Here to get more information about the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.
Or learn how you can save $500 on your next flight with the Capital One Venture card. There’s no easier way to use points and miles to unlock free travel. You can simply purchase a flight, hotel, cruise or more, then log in and erase the purchase from your statement using those points. This card also has some incredible perks to improve your travels, including a free Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application. And the $95 annual fee is also waived in the first year.
Click Here to learn more about current offers for the Capital One Venture card.
If you’re a loyal Delta flyer and want to get a better grasp on using SkyMiles, read our guide on understanding SkyMiles. And read up on the best ways to earn them. And also the best ways to use them!
Airlines don’t make it easy to understand how to use your points and miles. That’s where we come in. Stay tuned to Thrifty Traveler, and we’ll help you out. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll see just how much points and miles can change your life and your travels.
Travel at the Right Time
Want to save money on airfare while also avoiding the crowds? Say hello to the shoulder season.
Traveling during the thick of the summer will never be cheap. If you can, avoid flying between June 20 and Aug. 20, when you might pay double or more for a plane ticket. Instead, aim for shoulder season – the late spring and late summer/early fall periods that straddle the summer. Depending on where you’re heading, you’ll find the perfect mix of good weather, fewer crowds, and some major savings.
And when it comes time to book a flight, forget that old myth that the best day to book airfare is on Tuesday. The reality is that airlines are constantly tweaking their prices, and it’s almost impossible to single out any major patterns.
What is true, however, is that there are cheaper days to fly. Search for flights on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays to score the best deals. Read our guide to finding the cheapest flights possible.
Go Where it’s Cheaper
Maybe you’ve got your heart set on Hawaii or Paris for 2019. And we can’t blame you – they’re incredible destinations.
But you can have a dreamy vacation without going to that dream destination. Save some money by going where your dollar goes farther.
Want a feel for western Europe without breaking the bank? Head to Portugal, one of the cheapest countries in Europe with incredible cities like Lisbon and Porto – both are on my list for 2019. Or check out some gems in eastern Europe with our guide to five of the best, under-the-radar cities.
Need a beach escape but Hawaii is too pricey? Head to Thailand, Bali or the Philippines! Sure, the flights are much longer. But we’re constantly finding seeing cheap fares to Southeast Asia with Thrifty Traveler Premium. And once you’re there, you can stay and eat for a fraction of the price, enjoying some marvelous beaches.
I bet I can sell you on a trip to Hanoi, Vietnam in just four words: Beer is a quarter. And everything in this incredible city is cheap.
Of course, there are ways to make any destination more affordable. Check our guide on camping on Kauai if you want a fun way to save some big bucks on lodging in Hawaii. Even notoriously spendy places like Switzerland don’t have to be so expensive.
Save on Lodging with Airbnb
Big box hotels and major resorts can be expensive. Especially if you’re eating every meal on site.
Give Airbnb a shot if you haven’t already. No matter where you’re headed, there are bound to be some great options – whether you’re OK with sharing a house with the owner or want the whole place to yourself.
The potential cost savings go beyond the nightly rate. Spend less dining by buying some groceries and whipping up a meal or two during your stay. Save on laundry – or checked bag fees – by doing your laundry inside your rental.
Not sold on Airbnb just yet? Check out Airbnb Plus. Think of it as a specially curated subset of the home-sharing site, with properties inspected and photographed by Airbnb. They’re the best of the best.
Thrifty Tip: New To Airbnb? Sign up using our link and you will receive $40 towards your first stay (we will get $20 as well).
Stop Paying ATM or Currency Exchange Fees
Paying money to get your own money should be a sin. So should exchanging money at a poor rate at those horrible airport kiosks.
Luckily, a debit card out there that can allow you to take out your money for anywhere in the world without any fees. It’s from Charles Schwab, and it’s a must-have for any traveler. And there’s no charge to open a checking account with the bank, so there’s no reason not to.
Opening a Charles Schwab account is easy and straightforward. You’ll be required to open a brokerage account to get the account and a debit card, but you don’t need to put in any money or trade stocks to use the checking account.
My wife and I have made our Schwab account our dedicated travel fund, constantly depositing money to fund our trips. So when it comes time to hit the road, we get to use that money without paying any ATM of foreign transaction fees.
It may seem small, but the savings add up fast whether you’re traveling in the U.S. or abroad.
It’s time to travel more in 2019. If seeing the world was among your resolutions, follow our tips to do it cheaper and more often.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.
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