Far too often, people put traveling on their bucket list. Travel lives (for some) in the land of “When I’s.” You’ve heard it. When I get my tax return when I have more time off, when I have a better job, when I get a raise, when I finish this project…
Traveling doesn’t have to be a “when I” event, though. Traveling can be just like anything else. You make it a part of your life, and you do it. Suddenly, you’re a traveler, the same way you’re anything else.
As you become a traveler, you learn tricks of the trade. You learn the shortcuts to make it easier, cheaper, better. …But who says you have to do the trial and error yourself? Here are three ways to save money while having fantastic travels.
1. Be Vigilant
How often have you heard someone complain about an epic flight delay? As it turns out, airline companies are legally required to pay for their goof-ups, however, most travelers aren’t aware. Your inconvenience can also be your reward.
Airlines can provide vouchers for future flights, miles toward future flight purchases, vouchers for food, and sometimes reimbursement for cab or hotels. How do you know if you’re eligible for reimbursement? Weather delays and short delays won’t generally do it. Bad service (example: stuck on the runway for hours with no air conditioning), or major delays that impact your other flights generally will.
What’s the best way to get your reimbursement? One word: Twitter. Keep your complaint short and sweet, and direct it specifically to the airline. They’ll generally respond nearly instantly. If they only offer an apology, offer a firm response that you expect reimbursement of some sort. You’ll likely be directed to a form to fill out. Occasionally, you have to follow up. A bit of forms and follow up to potentially have a free flight? Verdict: worth it.
2. Creative Accommodations
When airline travel first came around, people had two options for lodging: hotels or relatives. Now, options abound, if you know where to look. While staying with relatives is a great no-cost option, it’s not for everyone. Hotels can be cost prohibitive. Then what?
Last minute hotel deals are one of our favorite ways to experience top-notch accommodations at a lower rate. Hotels want maximum occupancy and often have discounted rates for last minute bookings. This isn’t a great option if you’re going somewhere with minimal hotel choices, unpredictable weather, or large tourist events nearby. It is, however, a great option if you’re flexible with where and when you travel.
Hostels are a great way to travel in metropolitan areas, especially if you enjoy a communal, camp-like environment. Guests rent beds (often bunk beds) in a dormitory style room, and share a bathroom, lounge area, and sometimes a kitchen. Hostels often have optional group events. Because hostels are frequented by solo travelers, they’re a great way to meet new travel companions. Looking for someone to check out a nearby hotspot or must-see locale? You’ll likely find someone right there in your room.
Want to get a more authentic experience? Airbnb is great. Airbnb used to be people renting out their room, or their sofa, or their home when they left town. Now, a decent percentage of Airbnb listings are living spaces created solely for Airbnb purposes. Hosting for Airbnb is a thriving business. Because hosts and guests rate each other based upon their experience in a number of categories (and Airbnb quantifies these experiences and incentivizes hosts with the prestigious Superhost Status) you are likely to receive exceptional service as a guest in an Airbnb stay. Airbnb’s are a solid lodging option because they’re available globally, in metropolitan as well as rural or suburban areas.
Couch surfing is a thriving website and lodging option. The best part? It’s free. You can travel as a solo person, or as a group. It’s like Airbnb, except you’re not going to stay in someone’s place without them there. You’ll be a guest in a home where people already live. Instead of payment, you can offer to cook a meal, teach your host a skill, or just hang out. Couch surfing is like staying with friends who want houseguests, and it’s free.
3. Remember Cash isn’t Everything
Paying for travel doesn’t always require cash. Rewards programs are a great way to get free or discounted perks while you travel. Credit card points can be redeemed for lodging or airline miles. If it’s a card specific to a hotel or airline, you could receive complimentary upgrades or bags checked. Some credit cards include complimentary airport lounge access. Others include complimentary room service breakfast in hotels. Opportunities for complimentary perks are nearly endless and nearly always improve travel experiences.