How I Save Money and Travel Cheaply-Not So Secret Strategies
It is no secret by now that I travel a lot. In fact last year, in 2010, I visited 16 countries. All this while having a full time job, an insane amount of school loans that I pay each month, and while saving money for retirement, emergencies (such as not having a job) and the inevitable death of my laptop. I like to eat every once in a while as well.
Recently someone challenged my lifestyle and said it must be made up for the internet, or I must be rich and have a trust fund.I know, I know you are either thinking “How could anyone be so mean to Todd?”; or you fall into the other (and probably larger section of my readers) and are yelling: “It’s about F**#(&g time. I’m surprised Todd doesn’t get more hate mail!”
Sorry to disappoint this naysayer, but the truth is that I’m just a normal guy, working my way around the world. I am in the enviable position of having my work pay for a lot of my travel. But whether I’m traveling with work, (writing or international development) or using my own hard earned cash, I LOVE to save money. It helps me travel longer, to more places, and it somehow makes me appreciate what I buy even more knowing that I got a great deal.
Secret to Traveling Cheap? It’s Just Takes Time and Research
The secrets of traveling for cheap, or at least not paying the most, are very simple and easy to put into practice by anyone. Over the past 11 years I have survived on $20, $30, $40 and when I want to splurge $50 a day. Of course it depends on where you are traveling to, yes, some places are more expensive than others, but for me it all comes down to INFORMATION. Do your planning early, get the right information, and you’ll be able to find the best deals for the money you have.
How to Find “Cheap” Flights
I don’t really know if there is such a thing as cheap flights anymore. But I am thrilled when I can find a 22 hour flight that costs less than $1,000. I fly a lot, and the first step is finding out when seats are least expensive. This means digging into the internet and using flight comparison search engines. I usually start with Kayak, as it aggregates the most flight search aggregators and typically I can find cheaper deals on it than on the homepages of the airlines themselves.
My Three Step Process includes. 1) Searching on Kayak 2) Checking the airline’s home page just to be sure I have the cheapest price 3) Search for all discount airlines (like EasyJet, or AirAisia) that fly out of my destination to see if I can find anything cheaper.
How to Find “Cheap” Hotels
After flights, accommodation can be the most expensive part of your journey. Personally, I have moved beyond staying in hostels and now enjoy medium priced hotels. But no matter what your budget is it pays to know prices BEFORE you land at your destination. Typically I will not book more than one night accommodation before I arrive as I know that I can usually find better deals in country than on the internet. But I do like the peace of mind of having a safe, clean and easy place to sleep the first night I arrive. I reviewed Hotel Calculator earlier and I have started using it as one of my information gathering methods.
After I have a list of the cheapest places, then I typically book one night and after I arrive I spend the next day or so looking around for cheaper options. There is usually always something around. Kayak also as a pretty decent hotel search function.
Use Miles to Get Free Tickets or Nights in Hotels
If you travel as often as I do you can rack up a lot of frequent flyer miles that help pay for more free travel. But even if you aren’t able to get up in the air as much as I am you still have an option. One of my blogging and travel heroes, Chirs Guillebeau, has just launched a new travel club called Travel Hacking Cartel.
Travel Hacking involves, among other things, finding “back-door” ways to earn reward points (usually Frequent Flyer Miles) for free or extremely cheap. You then redeem these points for ridiculously cheap airfare to pretty much wherever you want to go. Chris’s Travel Hacking Cartel aims to “democratize low-cost travel” by sending out alerts whenever there is an extraordinary opportunity for travel hacking. He is running a special until February first where you can test out the system for just $1 for a 14 day trial. I signed up and am finding it useful.
A World Guide to Traveling on Just $50 per Day
If you are looking for even greater detail on how you can travel the world for cheap, then I recommend Nomadic Matt’s newly released guide: How to Travel the World for 50 USD. The book details how Matt has saved money over his past 4 years of travel for everything from food, to accommodation, to flights, to group tours. It’s a nice starters guide to saving money on the road, making the most of your cash, and even gives $700 worth of travel discounts to help get you started.
I like Matt and his budget travel site is widely popular for a reason, this book is just one of them.
There you go, a few of my Not So Secret Strategies for saving money while I travel. They seem pretty normal right? Its because they are. There is no magic wand or silver bullet to traveling on the cheap. Everyone you need is right at your fingertips. You just have to be willing to put in a bit of time and energy to make sure you don’t get ripped off, or spend to much.
What are your money saving tips for travel? Let us know in the comments section.
(Note: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links, meaning that I get a few bucks if you use them or buy through them. With that in mind, I only recommend products on this blog that I have used myself and fully stand behind.)