One of the questions I get asked all the time is, “How can I travel more without spending all of my savings?”
I always respond by saying, “A little bit of this and a little bit of that.” I‘m fortunate to travel a lot, and while not everyone’s career or background affords that opportunity, there are several ways to travel more — for work or play!
Have you heard of Travel Hacking? It sounds like a fun and interesting buzzword, but it’s really just industry speak for traveling smart.
Most people think traveling smart means getting points and rewards, which is true to some extent. However, to really figure out how to get to where you want to go, you must learn how to book smarter — you must no longer think like a consumer. For that, education is key.
Now, before you tell me you do not have the time, I know … you don’t have time to join travel forums and sign up for every newsletter. But, don’t fear! You don’t need to turn into the extreme couponer we see on TV.
Let’s take all the information out there and dissect it quickly.
Start with People in the Know
These are people who spend their time traveling and trying out all the bells and whistles. They won’t book your travel, but they will show you how. If you really want to dig into the world of points and more, here are a few travel bloggers you should know:
- Clint Johnston, Triphackr
- Brian Kelly, The Points Guy
- Matthew Kepnes, Nomadic Matt
Talk about teaching someone how to fish — they do just that.
Quick Tips to Make Your Travel Easier
For those of you who aren’t looking to turn your next trip into a full-time lifestyle, here are some of the basics to help save YOU money:
Let’s start with packing. This might shock you, but most people don’t stick to one very basic principle: only take one carry-on for everything (yes, you too, ladies). Roll your clothes.
Quick Tip #1: Place a dryer sheet in your suitcase to keep clothes smelling fresh and reduce static.
Take Advantage of Security Programs
Sign up for CLEAR, Global Entry or TSA Precheck.
We all hate going through airport security — there’s no getting around that fact. And while you may have checked out the people who cruise on by in the TSA Precheck line before, who’s to say that can’t be you?
If you travel through major airports more than a couple times a year, any one of these programs really are game changers.
There are plenty of ways you can avoid buying or re-buying expensive items while traveling — you just need to be a little resourceful.
For example: Keep ziplock bags with you! They’re good for storing messy stuff (food, stinky socks, delicates, makeup, etc.). I even put instant oatmeal in a bag for an easy airport breakfast. Ziplock bags are the ultimate tools for travel!
Take Advantage of Technology
(I am just going to assume you are already using Uber.)
Apps You Must Have
- WhatsApp – This is a great free app for messaging friends and family anywhere (in more than 180 countries, in fact).
- Venmo – Link this app to one of your cards for points and use it to pay friends for anything. (In case you haven’t heard, no one write checks or sends payments anymore…there are fancy new apps for that!)
Apps Made Specifically for Airports and Flights
- Skyscanner – This is my go-to app for finding cheap flights.
- KAYAK – Keep this app on your phone to compare several travel sites all at once.
- Hopper – This app analyzes flight options and prices so you know the best times to fly and buy.
- SeatGuru – If you keep getting stuck in the middle seat, this app will be your new best friend.
- LoungeBuddy – This app will help you travel like a celebrity (and hang out in VIP lounges).
Quick Tip #2: Buying two one-way tickets is sometimes cheaper than round-trip flights. Also, always try to avoid weekends when booking
Flying for Free
If you are looking to fly free, here are four things to think about next time you book:
- Sign up for frequent flyer miles. By using my miles, I have been on several free flights on JetBlue and Delta — let me tell you, that flight is much more enjoyable when you don’t have to pay a dime.
- Rewards (non-specific travel). This includes rewards from credit cards like Chase Sapphire and programs like Marriott Rewards. There are tons of credit cards that have travel benefits you can use. You might think, “That’s great if you travel, but what if I don’t get to a status each year?” No worries — most points come from activities other than travel. Do you eat and drink? Buy groceries? You can earn miles. Just use your card for everyday purchases.
- Get bumped perks (I know, sounds crazy, right?). You can get a free flight voucher or even cash right in your pocket. Sometimes, it’s worth it to give up your seat.
- Companion tickets. Many airlines have companion tickets, in which you fly with a friend or family for reduced rates or even free, based on your points/rewards/loyalty with a credit card company or airline, so .you should look into how to get one. For this, it’s great to know somebody who knows somebody.
Check out these websites to get great deals on your stay:
- Hostelworld. Forget what you think you know about hostels.
- Oasis. (Basically the new Airbnb.) This is where home meets hotel.
Quick Tip #3: When booking flights and hotels online, enable private browsing. Otherwise, travel sites often track your visits and will raise prices simply because you’ve visited before.
Figure Out Transportation
Do I need to mention it again? Obviously, Uber is an app you need to have for travel.
Why pay for a rental when you can get around the city faster without the hassle of paying for parking? One caveat: If your car rental partners with airlines, then in that case it makes more sense to rent a car because you can earn miles and free rentals.
Not So Bad?
Using points and miles to book free flights and accommodations seems daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. And while flights are usually the most expensive part of travel, with a little extra planning, you can find ways to save money and make your next trip more enjoyable.
Keep at it, and if you find an incredible deal, grab it! Traveling should be something we all make time for, and the more you’re able to make fun trips accessible, the more of this beautiful world you’ll see.
Don’t be afraid to hunt for the deals, I’ll be right there with you!
Eat, Drink and Happy Hacking!