It is said that there are two types of travelers in the world: those who look for a deal and those who don’t.
They could be on the same flight, staying at the same hotel, eating the same food, and taking the same excursions. But, they might be paying wildly different prices for the exact same experience because one chose to do a little research instead.
Being a frugal traveler doesn’t mean you need to miss out. In fact, it could mean you are able to experience even more because you cut costs along the way. Want to be a more frugal traveler? Consider some of these ideas to find some bargains on your next trip.
Choosing a Budget-Friendly Destination
One of the first steps in becoming a frugal traveler is deciding where you want to go. The good news? No location is off-limits, as long as you’re flexible on the timing of your vacation.
Listen, unless you are lucky, you’re probably not going to get a great deal on a flight or hotel to Cape Cod for Fourth of July weekend. And you’re likely not going to get a budget price on accommodations for a visit to the Caribbean over Christmas either. But, you may be able to score a sweet deal if you decide to go to either of those places during what is referred to as “shoulder season.”
The term shoulder season is used by professional travelers and agents around the world to denote the time between busy seasons in any given destination.
It’s typically viewed as a less desirable time to visit by layman travelers, but to the pros, it’s often seen as the ideal time to go. And that’s because it’s the time when guests will likely find better deals on flights, accommodations, and more.
Let’s take Mexico, the number one tourist destination for Americans, as an example. Mexico’s High season, according to the travel experts at Frommer’s , begins around December 20th and peaks over New Year’s.
It then comes to an end in April. If you plan a visit during this time you can expect to pay a premium on just about everything as you’re competing with other travelers for space.
But choose to visit just prior to this, say in November, or just after, in May or June, and you may be able to find better deals. As a bonus, there will likely be fewer people around, meaning you might be able to take excursions with fewer people, get restaurant reservations at highly sought after spots, and may even luck your way into a room upgrade at your hotel for free.
Finding Flight Deals
One of the most expensive parts about traveling is the actual act of travel itself. While driving can sometimes be a cheaper mode of transportation, it might not be an option depending on the destination you have in mind. But there are still ways you can save on flights too. Here are a few ways to save on airfare.
Stay tuned to your email inbox: Here’s a bit of good news for busy travelers: There are other people out there willing to look for a good deal for you. And they’ll do it for free so long as you subscribe to their email newsletter.
Do your research, and maybe sign up for a few key newsletters like Next Vacay , a website where users input their destination, then simply wait for the site to send them daily emails with flight deals. Or try Scott’s Cheap Flights , a newsletter that claims to find tickets up to 90% off.
These services will send you deals for both your destination and others in case you need a little inspiration. Another option is Skyscanner , which allows users to set alerts for price drops so you can strike when the iron is hot. Also you may try downloading a few travel apps that will send you price alerts as well.
Book on the right day: Speaking of others doing the job for you, Cheap Air, an airfare shopping search engine, says there is indeed one day that’s better to book flights than others.
According to their data , in 2018 the best time to book was 76 days before your intended departure date for domestic travel. Airfare, the site noted, tends to change dozens of times leading up to departure date. But, prices tend to fall at that 76-day mark. So, if you can think ahead and try to plan your purchase for that date.
Scoring Deals on Accommodations
Hotels base prices on supply and demand, so when there is less demand (say in shoulder season) prices tend to fall. Beyond the season, also try looking into checking in and out on less popular days.
If you can check in on a Monday and out on a Friday you may be able to save even more as mid-week pricing can be cheaper than weekends.
And, like staying tuned to the newsletters above, make sure to regularly check the hotel website you’re hoping to stay at. There, they may announce different deals and sales. At the very least, you may be able to spot a free room upgrade or free breakfast.
Entertaining Yourself on a Frugal Vacation
While you’re traveling, you’re likely going to want to participate in activities. And you can likely find ways to save on those also.
In a new place, try googling a few free walking tours, which can give you a wonderful sense of a new place without having to spend a dime (though it may be polite to tip your tour guide something small after).
For restaurants it can be a bit harder to save, but if there’s one fancy place you’ve simply been dying to try, go in for lunch or brunch service instead. Some restaurants run lunch specials or offer a specific lunch menu that might be a little cheaper.
For anything else ask your hotel front desk at check-in for tips and tricks on things you must do. Oftentimes they have partnerships with area attractions and could even provide you with a discount if they have it available.
Setting a Travel Budget
After you’ve decided on a destination you can then start building a vacation budget by keeping these five things in mind:
Transportation costs: When budgeting for a trip decide if you’re going to fly, drive, or take the train. For driving, consider costs like gas and maintenance on your car. For flying think about ticket price, baggage fees, airport parking, and destination car rental or taxi.
Lodging: Accommodation cost can seem clear, but make sure to ask about any resort fees and taxes so you can add it to your budget.
Food: Come up with a cost for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for everyone you’re traveling with. If your hotel offers free breakfasts you can put that cost towards another meal. And, don’t forget the cost of tips.
Activities: If you’re looking to spend less on activities and excursions, do a search for free options. For cheap or discounted activities consider checking out sites like Groupon, Airbnb Experiences, and local tourism board sites for discounts. Add in the cost of each participant here.
Extras: You never know when an emergency, a fun activity, or an unplanned happy hour will arise. Adding a buffer to your vacation budget can help you prepare for these extra expenses.
Set your budget and start saving: Once you add up all the costs, you can start saving for your vacation. This way when you’re on your trip you won’t be surprised by any expense. You could even create a secondary savings account titled “vacation fund” so you’ll be more excited to actually save.
Saving Even More Once You’re There
Wherever you go, bring your SoFi Money® card with you. By using SoFi Money, users gain access to free ATMs anywhere in the world and there are no foreign transaction fees.
Plus you’ll earn an annual percentage yield of 0.20% on your money and there is no minimum balance required, meaning you could be putting that vacation fund to work for you. That way you won’t feel bad about splurging a little bit more on the vacation of your dreams.
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