You’re a 20-something living with mom and dad or a roommate. Sallie Mae is knocking on your door every month asking for her student loan money back. All of your extra cash goes to brunch (especially if you live in Dallas) or weekend day-drinking on a patio (again, especially if you live in Dallas). So when the itch to vacay starts biting, you immediately tell yourself there’s no way you can take a trip on your own dime, right? Well, coming from someone who vacations almost as often as he takes showers (wait, what?), gather around while I tell you five ways I do it on a budget.
1. Airline Loyalty Programs-find one you like and stick with it. Jet-setters swear by frequent flyer programs. American Airlines’ AAdvantage, Southwest Airlines’ Rapid Rewards, Virgin America’s Elevate, just to name a few, all reward their frequent flyers with points that add up to free flights and send out exclusive flight offers. Sites like Airfarewatchdog.com are good to be subscribed to as well because you can set it up to get notified when a specific destination you REALLY want to go on is having a deal! Take this a step further and switch your credit card perks to where you receive airline miles every time you make a purchase! It totally justifies anytime you “make it rain” on yourself at the mall.
2. Carry-on, Carry-on, CARRY-ON! I know, trust me. This was the HARDEST feat to get over when preparing for travel because I like to bring my entire closet on the road with me. However, I had to face the truth that I don’t need 10 button-ups, nine tanks and 12 pairs of chinos for a five-day trip (womp, womp). With checked baggage fees at minimum $20 a pop, I’ve learned some handy-dandy packing tips to get all I need to fit in my resourceful carry-on (shh! packing secrets revealed here). If you absolutely, positively can not fit your outfits, dancing shoes, toiletries, iPad , and for the ladies, every piece of MAC makeup you own, into your one carry-on, invest in a nice backpack or small duffle as airlines count them as “personal items” (same is for purses) and allow you to simply slide it under the seat in front of you.
3. No need for a hotel when you have a friend living in the city. Don’t be so quick to delete your old college and even high school friends from Facebook in the off chance one of them may be living somewhere you’d like to vacation. Next to airfare, hotel costs is a major expense of a vacation that can be eliminated by making couch reservations at your old pledge brother’s studio apartment a block from Times Square! Now, if you’re going to South Beach, Barcelona, Australia, Play del Carmen, somewhere you don’t know anyone, then sites like Airbnb and CheapCarribbean.com come in handy for finding vacation rental homes and all-inclusive resorts to reside in at a low late.
4. Be flexible with destinations. Your co-worker just got back from San Diego and she’s showing everyone in the office her photo album of her on the beach sipping cocktails out of coconuts and parasailing in the Pacific. Now you’re feeling salty. You go back to your desk and look up flights to Cali only to be let down that they’re costing more than your rent! However, you do see that Southwest has flights to New Orleans for $99 round trip! When this happens you need to be willing to switch that bikini top in for some Mardi Gras beads because at the end of the day it’s all about escaping the monotony of your daily life for a little while and experiencing something new.
5. Why be a tourist when you can act like a local? Let’s be honest, all of the touristy stores, restaurants and bars jack up the prices for tourists who don’t know any better. Yeah, I know you were watching the Travel channel and they said you HAD to go to “this spot” because they have the BEST margaritas but there’s no margarita in the world that’s worth $23.95! Plan ahead by doing research on Yelp and Trip Advisor and talk to people who live where you’re going to find the popular local joints that don’t cost an arm and a leg. You’ll look cool when come back and you can tell your friends that instead of eating in Times Square you went to a little Italian restaurant off Bleecker Street and had the best antipasto, primo, secondo and dolce made by the grandmother of a local mafia family.
How do you save money when planning to travel?