Budget and travel are not known to go together. They’re not an item. There are just so many components that need to be paid for – transportation, accommodation, food, entertainment. While travel will never be cheap, here are some ways we’ve found to cut costs.
When to Book – Everyone knows that if you book to late, you pay more. But we’ve also found that if you book too early you may pay more as well. Basically, you pay more when you appear to be more desperate. If you need to take a one hour flight tomorrow morning, you’re pretty desperate. That flight could cost you $350. Just the same, if you are booking something 8 months in advance, more than likely, there is a specific event you need to be at and you will pay the desperation cost. The sweet spot is 2-4 months in advance from what we’ve experienced.
When to Go – Well, the cheapest time to go is usually the time when you can’t go. It’s far more expensive to travel during summer, spring and winter breaks. If for some reason you can go in September right after summer, early December before Christmas break or anytime in January and February, you will find airfare rates drop tremendously. As an example, roundtrip fares from LAX to Dubai in August are around $1,500. That same trip a month later is $800, just about half the price!
Hotel Stays – I want to confess that we’ve never stayed at an airbnb. So we can’t really speak on if it’s a good option or not. We choose to go for traditional hotels because of the simplicity of it (never have to meet up with a stranger and get the door open, no cleaning fee, etc). We also enjoy having someone clean our room for us and calling up anything we need like a baby cot. When it comes to hotels, keep in mind the difference between a 3 and 4 star rating could be something as simple as one has a gym and pool. If that’s not a big deal, go with the 3 star. The service and cleanliness of the place could be better. Also, whatever you find on sites like hotels.com or Kayak, check directly with the hotel and see if they could beat that price. When you book directly, they’re more willing to give upgrades and cancellations without charge. And remember, unless the hotel is the destination, you will spend most of your time outside enjoying the city. Don’t overspend for a place that you will only use to sleep.
Credit Card Points and Airline Miles – Another confession, we hardly use credit cards at all. In fact, Saleh doesn’t even have a credit card. Many people choose to use a credit card for the cash back and points benefits. But if you do the math on it, it’s really just a gimmick. For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card offers 1.5% cash back on all purchases. That means you have to spend a thousand dollars just to get 15 dollars back. When you factor in the fact that you spend more when you use plastic as opposed to cash, you’re not coming out on top. So we have no loyalty to a card or an airline. We just try to go with the best fare we could find. (If you travel for work, it may be worth it to accumulate the miles with a single airline on your company’s tab.)
Flight, Hotel, Car Packages – We also don’t book packages. You can usually find similar packages cheaper if booked separately. Think about it – someone has to earn their cut for putting the package together or creating the computer program that puts it together. You will generally pay for convenience.
Shorter Stays – Every additional day away from home costs you. If you’re planning a ten day trip, that’s gonna cost you almost twice as much as a 5 day trip. In my experience, after about 4 days it’s time to go home. Laying on a foreign beach is nice, but not sleeping in your own bed gets old fast. A 2 week vacation is almost never necessary. We usually do quick trips. We stayed in Istanbul for 5 days and that was only because there is a TON to see and do there. But we usually go for just a few days. We recently visited Kansas City on a BBQ run and stayed for only 2 days.
Remember, the more you save on the current trip, the sooner the next can happen.
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