Travel Hacking 101: It’s Probably Cheaper Than You Think
It is a truth universally acknowledged that most people want to travel more—or, at least they say they do.
In my conversations centering on anything travel-related, a consistent statement I’ve encountered across a broad spectrum of people is “I’d love to travel, I just don’t have the money for it.”
To be perfectly fair, travel isn’t cheap, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be affordable. Most people will suddenly have the idea that they want to go to Paris, or Maui, or Tokyo, and search for flights and hotels on Google or someone well-known travel website like Expedia.
That’s usually when the disappointment comes.
I’ve experienced the same sinking feeling—I have dreams of traveling the world and experiencing different cultures and wonders, but anytime I’d search for some far-flung location I’d seen on the Travel Channel, the price tag would instantly dash all my hopes. So, to satiate my wanderlust, I began following dozens of travel bloggers, YouTubers, and Instagrammers.
And that’s when my newfound hobby of so-called “travel hacking” began.
By loose definition, travel-hacking is the art of using tips, tricks, and lesser-known methods to travel for incredibly cheap—and not just “this is a pretty good deal” cheap, but “wow, I can actually afford this” cheap.
Although I am by no means an expert or experienced traveler, I’ve researched, experimented, and picked up a few tips and tricks during my year-long journey of being interested in travel hacking. While these tips, by no means, even come close to everything there is to know about traveling for super cheap, I’d like to share a few with you as we edge toward spring break.
- Always utilize a comprehensive comparison site when booking flights and hotels.
I’m not just talking about the popular ones you see on television (Priceline, Expedia, etc.). Those can be good for a quick initial check, but don’t always show you all the options there are. I’ve found that sites like Airfare Watchdog, Skyscanner, and Hipmunk do a much better job of showing you a larger (and often cheaper) set of results.
Sites like these also have an awesome price alert option, which will notify you by e-mail or text message when the price of your desired flight goes up or down.
- Consider booking your trip by date, not by destination.
This one can be a little surprising or even scary to some people. Often, the cheapest way to travel is to initially research flights by approximate day or month, not by the actual location you want to go to.
Many travel comparison website you come across will have a search option where you can search for flights from your home airport to “anywhere” with a date or time of year. The site will show you the cheapest flights from your airport to hundreds of locations across the world. This is the perfect way to save your wallet and go on an adventure that you might have never expected!
- Know the best times to search for flights.
Yes, the time of day, weekday, and season that you book your ticket can hugely affect the price you pay. As a general rule, Monday evening through Tuesday afternoon is the cheapest time to book, as many airlines are try to get rid of their last-minute weekend deals. Thursday and Friday can time to be the worst times to look, as many airlines have inflated their flights for the impending weekend.
It’s best to book an international flight anywhere from five months to four weeks before a trip, and domestic anywhere from seven to two weeks ahead.
Additionally, it is usually best to book flights that aren’t during peak seasons (summer and the holidays) as those are typically much more expensive than tickets purchased during the off-season.
- Be aware of flash sales…and be flexible!
Signing up for e-mails from several travel comparison websites can be worthwhile. Often, these sites will send daily “flash sale” e-mails to your inbox. Here, they will show the daily lineup of cheap, last-minute deals from airlines trying to get rid of seats that still haven’t be filled.
Usually these sales will be for flight dates coming up very quickly, so it can pay to be spontaneous!
- Think about joining an airline mileage program or credit card, but do your research first.
This tip could be another article in itself, but it still worth mentioning so you can do your own further research. It’s no secret that traveling bloggers often extensively use mileage programs and credit cards to travel. A credit card, however, is still a credit card, and getting one will have an effect on your credit score.
The best advice I can give you on this one is do your research before getting one, choose your “alliance”, and stick with it.
In the world of air travel, there are three major airline alliances: Oneworld, Star Alliance, and SkyTeam. Each has its various partner airlines which you can earn and redeem miles across the board with.
After you have chosen an alliance and a related credit card, stick to the airlines on those as much as possible in order to redeem the most mileage as you can for future travel.
I hope these tips have sparked a little bit of the “travel bug” in you, or at least given you some helpful information the next time you need to book a flight or hotel.
So, until next time, bon voyage and safe travels!