Happy Monday, everyone! Today I’ve got a special treat for you–a post from my long-time fellow personal finance blogger Greg of Club Thrifty! Greg and his wife Holly are always impressing me with the amazing trips they take with the whole family, and I’m excited he’ll be sharing some of their travel tips with us today!
Spring is officially here! The sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and people are itching to get away after the drudgery of winter.
Most people would travel more if they could afford it, but alas, globe-trotting (or even interstate travel) isn’t always easy on the wallet. Even so, I believe that seeing the world is something worth building into your budget, if at all possible.
If you’re like a lot of people, that might be easier said than done. Even if you’re in a great place financially, it can be hard to find extra money to indulge your travel whims. Just thinking about the cost of airfare and accommodations can make that trip you’ve been daydreaming about feel out of reach.
The good news is, travel doesn’t always have to be as expensive as you think. I’ve been traveling the world since before anyone would think I could afford to, and let me tell you, there’s always a trick to save a few bucks. And if you know what you’re doing, “a few bucks” can translate into hundreds of dollars.
These five tips will help you cut your spring and summer travel expenses down to size.
Use Credit Card Rewards
I find people tend to be quite divided on the topic of credit card rewards. Either they’re obsessed with them or they couldn’t be bothered. Can you guess which one I am?
If you have the discipline to use credit responsibly, you should be using a rewards credit card for 95% of your purchases. Preauthorized bills like phone, power, and gym membership? Credit card! Expenses like gas, groceries, eating out, and clothing? Credit card! A $1 soft drink at the corner store? Yup, that goes on the credit card, too.
Essentially, you should be using a rewards card for absolutely everything you can. Why? Because you earn points or cash back (I prefer points) on every single dollar you spend, and that really adds up. After a year of using a credit card for all your purchases, you’ll probably have enough points to cover the cost of a domestic flight.
If you don’t currently have a credit card that offers travel rewards, you need to do something about that! The best cards come with generous signup bonuses you can unlock when you meet a minimum spending requirement. True, some have annual fees, but if you use your card for all your purchases, the value of the rewards will outweigh the cost.
Don’t believe me? My family and I have literally saved thousands on travel using credit card rewards like Chase Ultimate Rewards points. There’s no reason you can’t, too.
Look for a Sightseeing Pass
Just like some people don’t bother with credit card rewards, even savvy travelers overlook the value of sightseeing passes.
When you’re planning on hitting a lot of the major tourist attractions in a big city, two things are usually true: It’s probably going to be expensive, and there’s a way to do it for less. If used appropriately, some sightseeing passes can cut your expenses in half.
All-inclusive sightseeing passes charge a fixed fee for unlimited single entry to a bunch of attractions for a certain number of (usually consecutive) days. So basically, the more you do, the more you save. You can also get passes that grant you access to a set number of attractions for a discounted price.
No matter the type, many passes also offer fast track entry to certain attractions, saving you time on top of money. Who wouldn’t be into that?
If you want to save money on your sightseeing costs this spring and summer, I highly recommend checking out the sightseeing passes available for your destination. Again, I’ve got real-world experience to back up my claims: We’ve used several different passes over the years, including this attractions pass in London that helped us save well over $100 USD during our first visit.
Book Last Minute
It isn’t generally the case with flights, but you can score some sweet deals on hotels by booking at the last minute.
Obviously, if you’ve booked a flight and are heading to your destination regardless, you probably don’t want to risk not having a place to stay. So, here’s what you do: Book a hotel with free cancellation but keep your eyes open for cheaper last-minute deals. If luck is on your side, you can cancel your booking with no penalty and head to the cheaper digs.
Expedia, Booking.com, and hotel websites usually allow you to reserve a hotel with free cancellation, and Priceline and Hotel Tonight are good sites for scoping out last-minute bargains.
You can save a significant amount on travel if you’re a bit flexible with your dates and destination.
Maybe you know you want to visit Germany but would be equally excited to see Poland or Hungary. Perhaps you’re craving a beach getaway but aren’t picky where it’s located as long as there’s sunshine and sand. If you’re not married to a particular week, even better.
When you have flexibility, you can let price be the deciding factor. Use tools like Google Flights to search for the cheapest dates and destinations within a given time frame; then, choose the one that checks the most boxes for you. If you know you want to get away for a week in June, just plug that in and see where and when the deals are.
You’ll also want to make sure you subscribe to airline newsletters so you know when one of your many bucket list destinations goes on sale.
Consider Driving or Taking the Train
If you’re traveling relatively nearby, you might want to look into driving or taking the train instead of flying.
It might not work if time is limited, but if you can spare some extra travel time, a road trip can bring a whole new element of adventure to your plans. If you’re traveling with friends or family, it’s almost certainly cheaper to pile into one vehicle and make the drive than it is to buy multiple airline tickets.
Alternatively, taking a train can be more comfortable and less expensive than flying (but faster than driving). Plus, you get to take in the scenery along the way.
Travel is worth the money, but why spend more than you have to? I hope these tips gave you some ideas on how to do more for less this spring and summer.
Do you have any trips on the horizon? Let’s hear about your thrifty travel plans!
Greg Johnson is a personal finance and frugal travel expert who leveraged his online business to quit his 9-5 job, spend more time with his family, and travel the world. He is the co-owner of the popular blog Club Thrifty, where he teaches others how to spend less and travel more.