The biggest excuse people make for not traveling is that it costs too much money. And, sure, spending hundreds of dollars to fly to a place only to then spend even moremoney on a bed and food isn’t always in everyone’s budget. But travel doesn’t have to be expensive, and we don’t want that to be your excuse.
So to help you plan your next trip on the cheap, we compiled a list of our best money-saving travel tips. From rental car steals and airfare hacks, to cruise secrets and the cheapest Caribbean paradises, here are 100 ways to navigate the globe for pennies on the dollar.
1. Don’t use US-based search engines exclusively to book flights
US-based search engines, like all search engines, have blind spots — they miss budget, foreign, and smaller regional airlines. To get a better picture of who flies where and for what price, be sure to search multiple airfare websites. Two of the best are momondo.com and Skyscanner.com.
2. Don’t book your flight too early
The best time to book an international flight is four to six months before you fly, as that’s when the airlines have a better idea of how quickly (or slowly) a flight will start selling out — and they raise or lower fares accordingly. For domestic tickets, it’s between one to two months.
3. Use our step-by-step guide to hack cheap airfares using foreign websites and currency
Going straight to a foreign airline’s website, pretending you’re in that country, and booking with the local currency can sometimes save you hundreds of dollars. And the best part: all of the currency conversions are done by the credit card company. Here’s how you do it. (Note: Make sure the foreign airline site you’re using accepts US credit cards before you hit “Buy” — or whatever “Buy” is in that language.)
4. Use hidden-route ticketing when booking your flight
We explain it in more detail here, but essentially, search engines rarely check every combination of connecting flights to a destination, and you can often get there much cheaper by flying through a “hidden,” less popular airport. Tripdelta is one site that puts together hidden-route tickets, and on international flights, it can make a huge difference.
5. Fly off-peak hours and days
And that’s not just flying between 5-7am or after 8pm, but also on days when people don’t traditionally travel. Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays are typically the best days for cheaper fares.
6. Buy two one-ways on different airlines
When flying domestically, it can often be cheaper to mix-and-match airlines or buy two one-way flights instead of a single round-trip ticket on the same airline. Look for one-way deals on Airfarewatchdog.com or TheFlightDeal.com and use the American Express travel site to combine one-way flights on airlines.
7. Clear your browser’s cookies before buying a flight
According to Min-Jee Hwang of Wiser, a firm that analyzes pricing strategies, airlines use browser cookies to help track your flight search; it’s called “dynamic pricing,” and it means that prices change based on demand and conditions. While no airline has ever fessed up to doing this, best to play it safe and clear your search history and your cookies before each flight search. Or better still, use an incognito window.
8. Use a credit card that covers checked-bag fees
You can avoid an airline’s baggage fees by simply applying for that airline’s branded credit card! Though these cards come with annual fees ranging from $65-$95, if you fly even just a few times a year (or as a large family) on that airline, the money you save more than pays for the card. Plus: bonus miles, priority check-in, security, boarding, and even lounge access! Or, if you want a more general travel card with similar benefits, check out our rundown of the best five here.
9. Fly budget airlines
While we have only a few budget airlines in the United States, the rest of the world is awash in low-cost carriers selling tickets at rock-bottom prices (though be sure to follow their ticketing rules exactly so you don’t get hit with a ton of fees). From WOW, Norwegian, and Ryanair in Europe, to Air Asia, to Tiger Airways in Australia, and GOL and Sky in South America, you have lots of options. In fact, Air Asia once ran a 10 countries in 30 days for just $160 deal.
10. Use these tips to score cheaper tickets on Kayak
From fare forecast and three-day flex search to scoping out the Travel Hacker for popular destinations, here are six ways to turn Kayak into your new flight-booking bestie.
11. Sign up for email alerts and use last-minute deals
If you don’t mind traveling last minute, The Flight Deal, Airfarewatchdog, and TravelPirates.com are three of the best sites to sign up for to score immediate flight deals. Careful though: they may end up in your “Promotions” folder so be sure to check that regularly.
12. Join this all-you-can-fly airline service
Sure, you gotta fly a lot to make it worth it, but if you find yourself traversing coasts (or within your region) multiple times a month, OneGo offers unlimited flights on major airlines for as little as $1,500 per month.
13. Fly into cheaper, alternate US airports
As long as the cost of getting from the airport to where you’re going doesn’t negate the airfare savings, flying into places like Oakland (SF), Ft Lauderdale (Miami), Burbank (LA), and Baltimore (DC) can be a lot cheaper. Here’s a good list of alternate airports.
14. Or into one of these cheaper European airports
Europe is hip to the off-airport discount game too. If you’re planning to visit multiple countries on your big Euro vacation, chances are one of these 12 airports will be somewhere on your itinerary.
15. Use our step-by-step guide to finding deals on Google Flights
Between the lowest-fare graph, tips on alternate flight dates/airports, and the “I’m Feeling Lucky” function, this guide to Google Flights should tilt things in your favor.
16. Visit Panama, Fiji, or another country where you can get by on less than $25 a day
Did you know you can stay in Medellin for $6 a night? Or eat in Uganda for $3 a day? You can. Getting there may cost a bit, but once you arrive, you won’t be spending much. Here’s our full list of under-$25-a-day destinations.
17. Or one of these 12 countries for less than $50 a day
Yeah, if you wanna go a little more upscale, Portugal, Cambodia, and much of Central America are calling.
18. Descend upon some of the world’s cheapest paradises
The Pearl Islands, Guanajuato, Ksamil Beach. Never heard of them? Exactly. That’s why they — along with the mountain paradise of Las Trancas in Chile or remote Avarua in the Cook Islands — don’t cost that much; there aren’t nearly as many tourists to gouge. Here are 12 spots that must be on your travel bucket list.
19. Or get a great deal staying on one of these Caribbean islands
Caribbean vacations don’t have to break the bank and/or involve sitting next to Jay and Bey on the beach in St. Barts. Hotel rooms in Barbados go for $50 a night and they sell beer in Grenada for 56 cents! Here is our shortlist of the cheapest destinations in the islands.
20. Hit Europe’s 10 cheapest countries
The Iron Curtain was pretty lousy, but there’s an upside to Eastern Europe being new to the tourism game — the countries are just as historic and beautiful, but much cheaper. Check out Romania, Poland, the Balkans, and other Eastern European spots for a Euro trip at a fraction of the cost.