Welcome back to this two-part series on money-saving tips for travel! If you haven’t read the first half of this guest post you are not going to want to miss it; you can read it here.
In this second half, Wes lays out some mindsets you must adopt in order to travel affordably. Travel is and can be affordable but there are some things you must be willing to do in order to achieve those travel goals at a great discount.
I’ll let Wes take it from here:
The Approach- Informed, Organized, Flexible
When it comes to reaching travel goals, you will save yourself much time, worry, and money by ensuring that you are informed, organized, and flexible.
What is your dream vacation destination? How much does a hotel in this area usually cost per night? What does the average roundtrip ticket cost? Do they charge any tourism fees/taxes? What is the airline, hotel, or rental car chain’s cancellation/delay policy? Does that amazing cruise fare include the taxes and fees of both the cruise line AND every single port of call? (hint: Most of those published “amazing” cruise fare deals look so good because they conveniently leave out hidden surcharges.)
Having all of these answers can be the difference between saving $20 or $200. (Or forking over an extra couple hundred.) Being informed is the most important part of affordable travel.
Because my job involves regular travel, I do my best to stay up to date on current costs, deals, and upcoming changes. Very often, this helps save money on an already planned trip or gives me the confidence to pull the trigger on one in the works all because I am confident I can do so and take advantage of significant savings.
Just that one little tool I mentioned in the last post (The Flight Deal twitter account) has allowed me to observe trends in air travel over the past couple of years.
Three years ago, you could routinely find roundtrip airfare from the US to southern South America for $500 dollars. Huge savings! Now? You’re lucky to find it for less than $850. Yet, three years ago, airfare to Europe would routinely run you $700 or more per person roundtrip. Now? It can be had all day, every day for less than $500. So if I had always dreamed of that European getaway….now’s the time.
People that can’t develop a budget and stick to it are going to miss out on a lot of great opportunities…or go horribly into debt. If I take the time to figure out what the cost is to achieve some of my goals, then I can develop a plan to reach them.
How many of us are going? For how long? What is that going to cost us? Am I going to pay straight cash for everything, or do I have some hotel points and frequent flyer miles I can use? How much will that offset the cost? Should I pursue a way to earn more points or miles before I book the trip so as to use less “hard currency”?
With proper advance searching, you can almost always find a good deal on any vacation. With proper tracking and prior budgeting, you can jump on a super cheap fare if the opportunity presents itself. But there have been several times where my bacon was saved when I needed to book a flight last-minute, and because I had some points or miles available, I didn’t have to pay the exorbitant last-minute cost of a ticket. So figure out what’s in your wheelhouse and get organized to take advantage of some great opportunities.
In my own limited opinion, this is the most surefire way to save a lot of money traveling. It has been my experience that the degree of flexibility of the traveler is directly related to the amount of savings he or she can find.
I have some heartbreaking news: if you are hoping to find a way to pay 40% of the normal cost for a trip during Christmas break….ain’t gonna happen. Just like trying to do Disney on the cheap in July is a bad idea. If, however, I am able to travel during “shoulder season” (not peak season, not the low season), my chances of finding better deals will greatly increase.
Let’s use the example I gave a few paragraphs ago about airfare costs compared between South America and Europe from the US. If I were willing and able to build an itinerary based off of where I could get the most bang for my buck, then three years ago, I would’ve done a trip to South America. But if I were planning for this year or next, I’d be heading to Europe. And both have some great places to visit, so I wouldn’t even be “settling.”
The guy who is trying to find the best deal to spend a week in Hawaii only during the second week of June is going to have a much harder time-saving money than the guy who is willing to go anytime in June, or October, or January-March. Why? Because he has many more options.
And (not to beat a dead horse, but) the more informed I am, the better idea I’ll have of how to make my hard-earned dollar go further. That’s one reason I heavily use airfare search engines that allow me to peruse a calendar of dates that will show me which ones are the cheapest. The more flexible I am, the more I can take advantage of big discounts.
It didn’t fit my travel schedule (and definitely not my travel budget), but during the month of July, the Conrad hotel chain had an insane deal for their resort in Bali, Indonesia. You could stay in an overwater bungalow at a 5-star resort for $60 a night. That’s about 90% off in some cases. Obviously, Bali isn’t exactly around the corner, but I only use that example to illustrate that if I am informed about what a good deal is, where to find those good deals, and I have budgeted some funds or reward currencies to take advantage of said deals when they pop up, then the world is my oyster.