We’ve been budget travelers since our 20s. In the beginning, we thought about budget travel in terms of hostels and taking public transportation. However, as we’ve become more experienced travelers, we’ve found a whole new side to traveling on the cheap, and one that doesn’t involve sacrificing comfort.
Beginner budget travelers
If you’re a beginner budget traveler you’ll:
– Stay in hostels or cheap hotels.
– Ditch travel agents in favor of booking flights yourself.
– Fly budget airlines.
– Where possible make your own coffee and use a coffee travel mug to enjoy it throughout the day while saving money on Starbucks and the like.
– Visit museums on free days/nights.
– Use public transport.
– Occasionally end up suckered into common, avoidable newbie travel mistakes.
– Use TripAdvisor for reviews.
Intermediate budget travelers
– Start using AirBnb.
– Use sites like Priceline to get 4 star hotels for 2 star prices.
– You no longer get suckered into extra charges and insurances you don’t really need.
– You’re usually over 25 at this point, and can now book rental cars at rates that rival public transportation for getting around longer distances.
– Start booking day tours locally rather than in advance.
– Start using sites like Yelp or Four Square for reviews written by locals.
– Become interested in doing more quirky and local events as part of your travel, rather than hitting well-trodden highlights. Learn how to find these events.
– Start being interesting in specific neighborhoods as well as cities as a whole.
– Start finding your own cool stuff as you go, rather than relying on reviews.
– Time your travel to get the best value e.g., you do 7 nights because you can get weekly rates on a car and accommodation.
– Sign up for airfare alerts and get some awesome deals.
– You know to avoid traveling at peak periods like Christmas or holiday weekends. Know the seasons for travel for different destinations that provide the best combination of weather and pricing.
Advanced budget travelers.
– You negotiate with owners on AirBnB or use alternatives like craigslist, house sitting, or house swapping.
– Use Best Rate Guarantees to get completely free hotel nights.
– Stack coupon codes with cashback portals. For example, if booking on Priceline, I might use a 10% off coupon, plus get 6% cashback through a cashback portal. My favorite portal is ShopAtHome. I find them more reliable and like their customer service better than some others I’ve tried. They have a cashback match feature that allows me to request a match to other portals offering better rates. I often end up using this for Priceline bookings via their site.
– Go for deals like the Southwest Companion Pass. If you acquire 110,000 Southwest points in a calendar year, you can get a companion pass allowing you to take a designated companion for free when you fly Southwest. The pass is good for the rest of the year you earn it, and all of the following year. The required amount of points is a lot, but most people achieve it by getting two Southwest credit cards when they each have 50K point sign up bonuses, plus a little bit of real or manufactured spend. We have this pass but, if you’re interested in this, please check the specific terms and conditions at the time rather than relying on my brief description.
– Add ita matrix to your flight search repertoire.
– Book mistake fares and get deals that are beyond awesome and full on crazy.
This post isn’t meant to shame people who are at the beginner stage. I tend to think you need to go through the stages in order to acquire the skills and experience you need to jump up to the next stage. Just reading isn’t necessarily going to allow you to jump up to advanced, without some actual travel experience. Also, we still make plenty of mistakes!
Other resources on this topic
– Flyertalk forums for advanced travel tips.
– Miles and points blogs like Frequent Miler and Doctor of Credit.
– BRG deals blogs (just google), for learning how to save big using Best Rate Guarantees.