Domestic and international travel is more financially accessible than ever before. Following the deregulation of the airline industry, prices for travel steadily dropped while countries around the world made their visa policies friendlier for international travelers. However, traveling on a budget is still a great way to see more of the world while saving money.
There are a number of tricks to traveling on a budget in 2020 that you should know about. As the industry moves almost exclusively online, you will need to ensure that you are getting the best deal in addition to saving money when you arrive at your destination.
Let’s take a look at the top five things to remember when traveling on a budget in 2020.
The age-old advice on booking flights online is to use an incognito browser window and clean out your browser cookies. Unfortunately, airlines and booking sites have caught on and adapted their methods, to the detriment of savers everywhere.
Travel sites used to rely on data stored on a user’s computer to determine where they were in the travel booking “funnel” so as to charge as much as they could. The closer you were to make a purchase, the higher the cost for the flight or hotel listed. An incognito browser was supposed to bypass the system by making the website believe that you were a brand new user and wipe the algorithm clean, so to speak.
However, today’s online travel companies use a number of other variables to determine how much to charge you including how many others are browsing the same flights. After all, more interest means more demand, which means a higher price can be reasonably achieved. Scarcity is a powerful thing!
Like surge-pricing on an Uber, these new tactics make it difficult to avoid paying a higher cost in any given moment, but not impossible! Use websites like skyscanner.com or Google Flights to track your preferred flights far in advance of travel. These sites use algorithms to predict when prices will be lowest, which means more money in your pocket. They will also let you know when off-peak travel times are for your destination which translates to even more savings.
If you can, try to be flexible and play with variables such as travel dates, neighboring airports, and adding layovers.
Now more than ever, savvy travelers are using rewards to get discounts or even free flights and accommodations. Name any airline or hotel chain and they likely have a travel rewards program. Signing up for travel rewards with a particular brand is almost always free and accruing points is a passive activity unless you are an expert at travel hacking.
Look into the top travel rewards programs with hotel chains like Marriott’s Bonvoy program and Hilton’s Honors program. Airlines also allow you to earn points and achieve status, typically silver, gold, platinum, etc. You can make use of your status by putting it towards class upgrades or use your points to do the same and even get free tickets.
Best of all, many airlines allow you to book with a partner airline in their network, making it easier to accrue points and achieve reward goals. For example, Delta Airlines points transfer to travel with KLM or Virgin Airlines and vice versa.
Getting a travel rewards credit card is another tool to keep in your arsenal. Shop around for the best rates and rewards to passively collect points. Many offer a generous welcome bonus that is equivalent to a roundtrip flight or week-long stay at a hotel. By the time vacation rolls around, you might have enough to pay for your entire trip without touching your bank account.
This is the most important piece of advice to get you on your way to saving money while traveling, and it is also the least followed. Sometimes, it’s as simple as creating and sticking to a strict budget.
Before you travel, decide how much money you want to put towards your journey and then allocate it between your transportation, accommodations, meals, activities, plus a 15% cushion in case of emergencies. It sounds simple, and it is if followed diligently.
It’s easy to splurge on meals, shopping, or upgrades when traveling, and foreigners often end up paying additional fees. Do your research on your destination and account for everything while you travel. The best way to keep track is to use a spreadsheet or download a travel budget app from your app store.
Remember to avoid exorbitant currency exchange rates and fees where possible. Many travel credit cards have “no foreign exchange fee” policies, and banks at home will be able to exchange your currency into that of your destination at a better rate than, say, airport kiosks.
An Uber for two is cheaper than an Uber for one if you split the costs. Traveling with a friend or family member will significantly decrease your spending.
Of course, you’ll need to be comfortable with sharing your space with others, but this is a great way to reduce costs and increase the fun. A hotel room with two beds is typically the same price as a room with one, taxis to the same spot will cost half as much, meals that are shared will be cheaper; the list goes on and on.
There’s also an added level of safety that comes along with traveling in pairs or groups. Travelers are less likely to be gouged or tricked if they look out for each other along the way.
Though most countries prevent you from working within their borders while you are on a tourist visa, you can leverage your travels to earn some cash when you return and offset the cost of travel.
If you are a creative individual, you can turn your travel memories into online blog posts and travel photos into stock images. Both can earn you cash through affiliate marketing, freelance writing, or stock photography sites. It will take a bit of effort to get started, but this is exactly how your favorite travel vloggers and bloggers fund their adventures around the world.
Keep track of your days in an informal diary so that you have notes to refer back to. Your budget will be able to inform all the costs of your trip, which will be valuable to others interested in traveling to the same destination. Combine this information with some stunning photos and you’ve got some great content to monetize!
There are endless ways to travel cheap in 2020, most of which depend on your preferred destination, comfort level, and ultimate budget. However, the best ways to save money while traveling in 2020 are to keep a budget, make use of rewards programs, and split the cost with a friend or family member.
And if you are entrepreneurial and creative, share your unique travel experience with others online in the form of blog posts and stock photos that you can monetize to offset the cost of travel and even fund future trips!
Travel is less expensive than ever before, so get out there and make life-long memories, but remember to stick to our advice when you do!