If you think that a road trip is the only way you’ll be able to get out of town this summer, why not check out some of these tips for how to satisfy that travel bug without having to be stuck in a car with someone for hours who will ultimately drive you to want to kill them.
1. Ditch hotels for a local’s home
Sure, you won’t have room service bringing you that cheeseburger when you get home drunk at 4am, but staying in someone’s home helps you to experience a new city as a local and also saves a bunch of money. Check out craigslist.com under the vacation rentals tab, or the safer route is to find a spot on AirBnB (where you can find ratings and everything has been verified). Just be sure to check out the area and ensure that it’s close to the attractions you want to see, or at least close to a subway or train line that will take you there. Also ask your host about nearby grocery stores so that you can stock up on the basics you’ll need to make breakfast and snacks. Maybe even consider checking out toursbylocals.com to get the lowdown on your city for a private tour at the fraction of the cost of those big groups filled with senior citizens.
2. …Or stay somewhere for free
I’ve known a few people who have done this and loved it. World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) will set you up with free lodging in exchange for working on an organic farm. From what I hear, most of the work is cleaning and working the land, but you may even be able to milk a cow or two if that’s what you’re into. Australia and New Zealand has a slew of options, but there are also farms in Europe and South America to choose from.
If farming isn’t your thing, there are other hospitality networks that connect travelers with locals who offer a spot to crash. Although not for me, if you’re a dude traveling alone you may want to check out couchsurfing.com, servas.org or bewelcome.org.
3. Check out budget airlines
Budget airlines like Norwegian Air, WOW and Air Asia offer ways to get out of the country on a budget. Many travel search engines like Orbitz or Expedia may not always show these flights in their results, so be sure to check the airline’s website directly. I’ve found that Kayak is the only site that does pull up the smaller budget airlines. Once you’re in a country like Europe or Asia, flying within the continent on these smaller airlines is usually super inexpensive – sometimes even less than a train, so be sure to explore flying as an option to save you time and money.
4. Use Regional Airports
Flying in or out of smaller airports that may not be directly in the city can often serve up big discounts that make it worth the slight inconvenience. Low-cost airlines like Spirit generally service these smaller airports as well, so it’s always worth clicking that “search surrounding airports” button. For example, flying Newark instead of JFK in New York is generally always cheaper, just as Fort Lauderdale is the cheaper airport to fly into compared to Miami Int’l – and you can get a shuttle right onto SouthBeach for way less than a taxi.
5. Add a free destination with a stopover
I just heard about this, but apparently you may be able to squeeze an extra destination into your itinerary at no cost—or for just a little bit more than what you’re already paying for your flight. Some airlines offer a free stopover (a break of more than 24 hours) in their hub cities en route to another country. You can check for these deals under “special offers” or by searching “stopover” on the airline’s site.
For example, Icelandair lets passengers hop off in Iceland when traveling between North America and Europe. Air Canada allows breaks in three cities on routes to foreign countries. For layovers more than six hours long in Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver, the airline even provides you with a one-night hotel stay for free or starting at $49, depending on your ticket type. Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines offer similar deals including lodging. If you can’t find details online, call the airline to inquire about no-cost stops on your route.
6. Always check the round-trip fare
If you’re moving or on a multiple stop journey, you’ll notice that one-way tickets can be stupid expensive. Check and see if buying a return is cheaper, but also become aware of your chosen airline’s policy on “throwaway ticketing” before purchasing a return flight you won’t use (since it’s prohibited in some cases).
Bonus tip: If you’re searching for the same site regularly, some ticketing sites may raise prices based on your apparent demand by accessing your cookies. Avoid giving this information away and being overcharged by clearing your cookies (does that sound dirty or is it just me), or searching through an incognito window on Google Chrome.
7. Visit countries in down economies
Sure we all want to go to Paris, but why not be adventurous and take advantage of countries with great exchange rates or down economies. Greece is going through some tough times right now (just make sure there are no protests going on), and Japan, Russia, Australia, and India have all seen their currencies drop compared to the dollar, making them much more affordable. While the prices in these places haven’t necessarily fallen, they have become cheaper thanks to the fall in their currencies.
8. Use last-minute apps for flights and hotels
If you’re one of those “I book travel last minute, I’m not OCD at all and can just go somewhere without even knowing every single detail of what I’ll be doing” people (not me), there are scores of apps that will be there to help you save money. Check out On the Fly for flights, Hoteltonight for hotel deals, and Loungebuddy for airport lounges.