We all love vacations and traveling, but we all hate the expenses that come with it. Here is a list of 11 ways to help you save money on your next adventure. So pick a destination, pack a bag, and get ready to go.
1. The Rule of Tuesdays
Tuesday is an important day of the week in the travel world for a couple of reasons. One is the fact that if you can travel on a Tuesday or even Wednesday, you’re most likely going to have the cheapest flight of the week. Generally people do their traveling on Thursday or Friday and over the weekend, so if you’re able to travel mid-week, it would behoove you to do so.
"Airfare is usually cheaper on Tuesday and Wednesday, as airlines have a harder time filling seats since most people prefer to travel at the end of the week," says Southwest flight attendant Corey Pettit.
The second reason Tuesday is an important day is that it is typically the day airlines will announce and release a flight sale. So keep your eyes and ears open and check the airline websites on Tuesday for a better chance of finding a good deal.
2. Schedule vacations for slow seasons.
Of course this one is obvious, but people still don’t always take advantage of it. If you’re traveling for vacation and not for a specific holiday, then you should consider going during less busy times like January or September, depending on your destination.
Also, try to schedule your dates from Thursday to Monday during off-peak seasons, and you’ll not only find cheaper flights than flying on a Friday or returning on a Sunday, but hotels will be much cheaper during less busy times as well. You can also look for apps like Hotels Tonight that search open hotels for last-minute travel and find the best deal possible.
3. Last-Minute Travel
There are pros and cons to this one. If you have a flexible schedule and can work from anywhere, then this is something you should take advantage of. However, if you have to plan in advance, then it’s best to search the internet for the lowest deal and stick to it.
It’s a risky game to try to wait it out, and even if it does pay off and the prices drop, is it really worth the stress? Here is a link with some tips on how to find the best last-minute travel deals; as Pettit says, "In terms of saving money, flexibility is key."
4. Ditch the hotel for something like Airbnb or VRBO.
Hotels are great, but with a new generation of travelers they are becoming less popular. Just like Uber and Lyft are changing the world of ground transportation, new booking sites for places to stay are overtaking over the hotel world.
Especially if you are traveling in a large group, you can find great deals on short-term house rentals instead of booking a bunch of hotel rooms. There are also smaller sites in most every major city that will have a listing of units that are available for travelers to rent. Do your research and you’ll find the options are practically endless—and very affordable.
5. Take a gamble with your overhead bag.
These days most airlines charge you to check a bag (one reason why we love Southwest, which allows you to check two bags for free!), but there is a trick to getting around it. If you are allowed to take one carry-on bag and one overhead, then check in online and don’t pay a baggage fee.
Once you’re at the airport, make your way to the gate and measure your bag. If it fits, great. But if it doesn’t, they will make you check it, but they most likely won’t charge you, especially if you go up to them and say your bag may be too big. Airlines tend to make this announcement once the overhead bins fill up anyway, so it’s a great way to save at least $25 dollars.
"Nine times out of 10, you can gate check it for free. Agents usually make a 'check your bag for free' announcement before boarding," said one American Airlines flight attendant. Plus you won’t hold up the line when you're boarding the plane and trying to stuff your bag in the bin.
6. Volunteer your seat.
If you have some wiggle room for your travel plans, let the gate attendant know. That way you can be put on the short list if they need volunteers. Usually they’ll make an announcement, but you can jump the gun by getting there first and securing yourself a voucher and possible upgrade or hotel room.
"Never be afraid to volunteer for a later flight if you aren't busy," suggested the American Airlines attendant. "You can usually score a pretty decent voucher for a future flight. Or, sometimes, it even means they might put you in first or business class for your current flight."
In the moment there's often a panic-induced mindset of just wanting to get to your destination, but if you psych yourself up for the idea of sitting around the airport for a couple of hours to make some serious miles or money, then you’ll be good to go.
With everything going on after the United incident, you should know that airlines do have the right to remove any passenger (except for people with disabilities and unaccompanied minors). It’s a terrible situation, but this New York Post article explains the amount of money you can earn for volunteering. If you decide to refuse, just make sure you are recording the whole thing in case it goes to court.
7. Pack your own food.
We know a granola bar isn’t the same as that breakfast burrito, but it will save you a good chunk of change. Airport food tends to be more expensive than the already pricey food at professional sporting events and theme parks, so if you have some time to spare, make yourself a meal and bring it.
Some food is okay to pass through security, and if you have kids, you can always bring powdered milk and make them a drink in the airport instead of trying to buy some from Starbucks. If you don't have time to make something yourself, you can still pass over the expensive airport-specific restaurants: One of our favorite options is going to Subway and getting a foot-long sandwich, then eating half at the airport and half on the flight. You can save yourself some good money this way. Just don’t get the tuna because that is rude to the other travelers.
8. Bring an empty water bottle.
Everyone knows you can’t bring liquids through security, including water. But you can bring an empty water bottle and fill it at a water fountain or fill station. People tend to get really dehydrated when they travel because of the recycled air, the altitude, and the fact you don’t really drink a lot of liquids while you're in flight (no one likes asking people to get up so they can use the restroom).
This will keep you hydrated and save you some money over buying a $4 bottle of water.
9. Take public transportation.
Asking a friend to pick you up from the airport is almost as bad as asking them to help you move. Nobody wants to do it, but most people don't feel like they can say no. However, in most major cities, there is public transportation that can take you to/from the airport.
Pettit talks about the perks of public transportation: "It's cheap, you get to see a lot, and you get to truly live like a local. You'll also meet a ton of people who are more than willing to direct you to a secret, locals-only restaurant or bar. Heck, I've even been invited to dinners and parties while on the bus, though I haven't taken anyone up on those offers yet."
If you don't have ready access to public transportation, then you can try to take an Uber or Lyft, which will often save you some money compared with a taxi, which may overcharge and/or charge a large airport tax. Be aware, though, that in some cities, Uber and Lyft cannot pick up passengers from the airport.
Do some research before you go and use Google or your smartphone to find out your options. Cities like Denver and San Francisco have very affordable monorails or subways that can take you where you need to be, and then you can take a public bus or walk to your final destination.
10. Use coupons.
There are coupons for literally everything. If you know you’re going to be in a new city, take advantage of the ones that are for first-time customers only. Even apps like Groupon and LivingSocial have deals for activities and food that could cut your costs in half.
As Pettit comments, "Food is one of the highest costs when traveling. I like to search Groupon for deals in my overnight cities. I always find somewhere I haven't been that piques my interest."
Another way to go about saving money on food is searching hashtags on Instagram for specific locations. If you find food pics that look appetizing, get in touch with the restaurant and see if they have any special deals or happy hours.
11. Book directly.
A lot of websites will scour the internet for the best deals—which is great—but then you are usually stuck with few options and little flexibility because it’s through a third party. The best thing to do is use a search site like Skyscanner and find the cheapest flight, then head over to that airline's direct website and book through them.
They will often offer you more flexibility and cheaper fees. And although most airlines won’t let you change your flight for free, Southwest offers free changing of flights. And if you have to cancel a flight, the money goes in your Southwest account instead of becoming a lost cause.