How to Save Money on Travel: 16 Insider Tips from a Professional Jetsetter

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Traveling is the best. Until you start adding up the costs. An awesome vacation that doesn’t break the bank? Now that’s the actual dream. With a few smart solves, a bit of clever maneuvering and some insider-y tricks, it’s entirely possible to cut costs on virtually any getaway—yes, even during peak travel season.

Where to Save Money

Yes, you can opt for budget options—like booking hostels or pod hotels, and opting for picnicking with groceries instead of fine dining—but you can also save boatloads of money before you you actually take off. These 16 tips below include advice for researching cheap airfare, scoring under-the-radar deals and thinking proactively to secure flights and other perks without breaking the bank. Bon voyage!

1. Get Inspired with Skyscanner

If you just want to get away but don’t have a destination or specific dates in mind, Skyscanner is the perfect planning companion. Input your departure city, leave the arrival blank and put in the timeframe as a whole month. See what pops up!

2. Consider Flying into a Secondary Airport

France’s first affordable, long-haul airline, French Bee, operates flights from San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Miami International Airport (MIA), and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Paris-Orly Airport (ORY) for a fraction of the price you might pay to fly into Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). And say what you will about Ryanair (and we could say a lot), but the airline has made a business out of using secondary airports.

3. Let Google Flights Cover the Costs

Google Flights just recently announced a price guarantee that basically means it will pay the difference if your plane ticket drops in price on a badged flight after you book. (Click here to read the fine print.

4. Also, Check Airline Websites

Yes, we all like the convenience of booking sites that do the legwork for us, but some low-cost carriers, such as Southwest, don’t come up on search engines. So it’s just about taking that extra step to go to the respective website and check the fares.

5. Mention Any (And All) Special Occasions

Is it your honeymoon, birthday or anniversary? Mention it! (Just please don't make that stuff up, it's not a good look.) Sending an email or calling in advance to let the team at a hotel or restaurant will typically get you some special perks like a celebratory bottle of wine or even a room upgrade.

6. Choose Airlines with Customizable Ticketing Options

A lot of airlines started cutting extras out of the cost of a basic ticket. So what does that mean? Travelers who don’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles or overhead space can find cheap fares. Blue Basic, the most affordable category on JetBlue, for example, doesn’t include a carry-on bag. Though you’re still entitled to stash a small personal item under the seat. So if it’s a quick trip or you’re some kind of packing Houdini that might be a good option.

7. Ask If There’s Any Flexibility on Vacation Rental Pricing

Getting a better deal on a vacation rental is sometimes as simple as sending a message to the host before booking. Explain how much you love their apartment/house/villa, but that it’s just outside of your budget and ask if there’s any wiggle room and see what they say. Obviously, you don’t want to offend anyone so this really only applies if it would be feasible to stay if they knocked a few bucks off, not slashed the price in half.

8. Set Price Alerts

Sometimes simple solutions really are the most effective. Have your eye on a certain flight or hotel? Set a price alert and get alerted when the cost goes up or down. 

9. Plan Your Departure on a Wednesday

Everyone wants to cut out of work on Friday or jet off early on Saturday morning, so those days tend to be way pricier. According to Expedia, travelers who depart on Wednesdays save an average of 15 percent on domestic flights and 10 percent on international flights.

10. Subscribe to Newsletters From Your Favorite Travel Companies

Companies love building loyalty. One way to do that? Perks for members. One of my favorite booking platforms, KindTraveler, makes it easy and wallet-friendly to travel sustainably. Best of all (well, as far as your bank account is concerned), once a month newsletter subscribers get the inside scoop on flash sales for deals of up to 30 percent and other exclusive offers at incredible eco-conscious hotels.

11. Leave Later in The Day for Domestic Flights

Kayak data reveals that for domestic travel, flying in the evening (between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.) is 37 percent cheaper than departing in the early morning .

12. Book a Hacker Fare

It sounds all mysterious, but really a hacker fare is just booking two one-way flights to cut costs. You’ll be surprised at the fare difference between different carriers on flights that sometimes leave just a few minutes apart.

13. Adopt a Slow Travel Mindset

Yes, we’re all in a hurry to get out of our routines and into some vacation magic. But sometimes getting to the ultimate destination can be a wonderful part of the trip. “Traveling by train is typically more affordable and often more scenic than flying, and it’s amongst the most eco-friendly modes of transport to reduce planet-polluting carbon emissions,” says Jessica Blotter, CEO and co-founder of Kind Traveler.

14. Look Beyond the Airport for Car Rentals

The cost of rental cars has soared recently. One hack to cut costs?  Cast wider search parameters and compare rates at off-airport locations, which sometimes offer better pricing due to lower operation costs and less demand.

15. Traveling To Regions Beyond the Most Expensive Cities

Another pretty obvious one, but it bears repeating. Yes, Paris, New York City and Tokyo provide a million reasons to visit. However, those are also some of the priciest destinations in those countries. If you fly into a major city and then hop on a train to a locale with slightly less name recognition (you can even book a combo air and rail ticket), it will help cut costs significantly in terms of travel and everyday vacation expenses. Bonus: you’ll often find a more authentic experience beyond the well-trodden tourist path.

16. Use Social Media to Save

Is Disney World on the itinerary? Search and follow the park on Instagram before you visit. It’s a great way to stay on top of any last-minute savings or deals. (Targeted ads for discounted Monday park passes? Sure, we’ll take it!) The same goes for other attractions, like museums and guided tours. You’d be surprised how many last-minute savings pop up.

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Freelance PureWow Editor

Lindsay Cohn is a travel writer and serial trip planner who has visited 46 countries across six continents (and counting). When not globetrotting, she’s most likely either doing...