Since this is the last day of January 2020, and the time for resolutions are coming to an end, let’s discuss some fun resolutions: Traveling more! I travel quite frequently, and many people ask me how I go about that because traveling is expensive. In this article I provide 3 tips for frugal traveling.
There’s transportation costs, be it plane, train, bus or car. Next, you have to stay somewhere, be it hotel, motel or Holiday Inn (shout-out to Rapper’s Delight). Accommodations can be prohibitively expensive, depending on your tastes. From there you have to eat, and food can be cheap or pricey, depending, again, on your taste-buds. Finally, there’s spending for experiences and entertainment. If after reading this list you think traveling is out of your budget, you’re wrong.
3 Tips For Frugal Traveling: Sign Up For A Travel Credit Card
This tip is dedicated to those who fly, as there are several airline-branded and non-airline branded cards available. For the travelers choosing the train, bus or car, yes this tip won’t exactly help you. However, choosing those methods are already pretty frugal. Amtrak runs deals all the time. You can get a ride on Megabus for $1 or check to see what Greyhound offers. And gas prices have been low in many parts of America for several years now.
Now, back to the tip: If you fly a specific airline only, then go for a airline-branded credit card. I only fly Delta, so I got their Gold American Express credit card. I earn SkyMiles on all my purchases. Plus, when I signed up, they had a 50,000 miles bonus if you spent a certain amount in a certain period. Due to work purchases, I got my 50,000 miles! Now I’m using those to fly for “free.”
Airline-branded credit cards have an annual fee. My Delta AmEx card has an annual fee of $99. Some people don’t like the annual fee, but you have to look at the benefits you get. With my credit card, I get a free checked bag. Delta charges $30 one way for a checked bag if you travel within the U.S., so a round-trip is $60. The annual fee is worth it after taking two trips in a year.
Now if you want to sign up for a non-airline branded travel credit card, I would review the selection NerdWallet picked. Most people I know swear by the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve cards. However, the annual fees are $95 and $450 respectively.
3 Tips For Frugal Traveling: Travel During The Off-Season
If a solo traveler, you have more freedom over where you go, how you go and when you go. But if you’re traveling as a couple or with a family, you need to have a discussion about this tip because it will save a good amount of money.
You probably already know when you visit certain places during their “busy season,” prices will be higher. And you have to deal with more people.
But the frugal traveler travels during the off-season! Flights, hotels, and even car rentals will be cheaper. Let’s say you want to go to the beaches in Florida. If you visit during Spring or Fall, prices are more reasonable than the Summer months.
Also, the first three months of the year are the off-season for many areas throughout the U.S. because 1) the holidays are over, 2) people are back to work and kids are back in school, and 3) it’s Winter and people don’t like to travel then (except to ski).
Even though you would have to bundle up to visit during this time period, you can use your savings on a warm coat!
Stay In Budget Lodging
Besides flying, the big expense when traveling is lodging. Even two star hotels can run $100+ a night, depending where you go. Now, we want to be frugal when it comes to our accommodations, but we also want to be safe and not get bed bugs. Don’t get cheap here.
What I like to do is stay in budget lodging, like hostels, hotels and AirBnB.
Hostels & Hotels
I’ve used hostels, which can run $30 a night for a shared room. Yes, you share the room with other people, but you can lock up your stuff. And depending on the hostel you may have a bathroom in the room. But nearly all have dormitory style bathrooms.
My only complaint about hostels are their beds. Many have bunk beds, and it’s hard for me to get up the ladder if I’m on the top bunk bed. And if I need to use the bathroom at night, I shake the bed and disturb my neighbor below.
If a hostel isn’t for you because you don’t want to share a room and you really want to stay in a hotel, then check out budget hotels like LaQuinta Inn or Motel 6 or Travelodge. I’ve stayed at LaQuinta Inn a few times and had great service. It was clean, the staff was nice and I was happy with the price.
Finally, AirBnB can be a great option if you pay attention to the cancellation policy. Since these are homes and/or rooms owned by private owners, listings have great cancellation policies (where you have up to 1 day before checkin to get your money back) to crazy strict policies (where you don’t get any money back). But you can get a whole house or apartment to yourself at an inexpensive price. (I got a basement apartment in Washington D.C. during the summer for about $50 a night.) Or you can go really frugal and get a private room in a house for about $25 a night.
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