When I selected Travel as our money saving category for April, I had every intention of road-tripping to Washington DC for a week of free monuments and museums, picnics on the National Mall, and of course, letterboxing. Instead, we road-tripped to Cincinnati for a long weekend of baseball and letterboxing.
We booked a hotel through Hotwire ($135), attended 2 minor league baseball games ($40), went to the Louisville Slugger Museum ($28), ate at two restaurants ($48), paid for parking ($11) and gas ($52), and spent nearly 6 hours in Spring Grove Cemetery (free), where we found 19 of the 50+ letterboxes that are hidden there. The total for our 3-day getaway was $314. We consider that an expensive trip.
Over the years, we’ve tried a lot of different ways to save money on travel. After all, the more you save, the more places you can go. Here are our top 5 travel hacks:
Shop Different Lodging Websites
Despite what Trivago might say, you can’t always “shop one and done” for the best deals. Yes, it takes a bit more time but I think the savings is worth the effort. We are big fans of Airbnb. With Airbnb, you can rent a room or an entire home for a fraction of the cost of a hotel and without the hassles and fees (deposits, cleaning, etc.) that sometimes come with a vacation rental. We got a great deal on a fully-equipped cottage in Hawaii two years ago for only $65 per night. If there’s nothing available via Airbnb, our next go-to site is Hotwire, followed by Booking.com (which lists hostels too) and lastly, VRBO. If you’re willing to crash on a strangers couch, Couchsurfing is a great option. We’ve only done this with friends but know a lot of folks who swear by it.
Use More than One Way to Get There
Same logic as above, using a “one and done” approach to transportation can often be the more costly route, especially when you’re traveling a great distance. To fly from Tampa to Honolulu in September 2014 was going to cost us nearly $700 each on American Airlines. By selecting an airport only an hour further from us (Fort Lauderdale) and booking each leg separately – FLL to LAX (on Southwest) and LAX to HNL (on Allegiant) we flew for $339 each (including the cost of baggage). If you’re traveling within the US and not in a hurry, taking a bus is a really cheap alternative (and an interesting experience!). We’ve yet to travel by train but a couple we recently met from Minnesota who travel almost exclusively by train tell us that train travel is much better in Canada and Europe than in the US.
Reconnect with Nature
The great outdoors offers an abundance of money-saving options when traveling. A $20 tent (or the back of your van or SUV) makes for a cheap alternative to pricey hotels. Campsites can range in price from free to about $40 per night (depending on location and amenities). We tend to stay in a state park or KOA, where there are hot showers and flush toilets. Mother Nature also offers cheap dining alternatives – they’re called picnics 🙂 – and free entertainment; hiking, biking, swimming, letterboxing…the options are limited only by your imagination.
Come Sail Away
For the budget-minded traveler who may happen to prefer their exotic locales to have a beach, cruising is not just a practical way to travel; it’s pretty much the only way some of us will ever get to places like St. Croix or the Dominican Republic. Cruising, just like any other form of travel, is what you make of it. You can live the high life in a room with a balcony and an ocean view or you can do what we do – book the cheapest room on the ship. Want to learn more about how to make the most of your cheap cruise? Read my post The Indie Cruise Traveler.
Be on the Lookout…for Discounts
Groupon and Living Social have saved us hundreds on attractions over the years, from Angie’s $29 surf lesson in Hawaii to 60% off admission to Kentucky Down Under. When planning a trip, they are the first sites I search for things to do. We also look in local newspapers and discount magazines (especially in high tourist areas like Oahu and Orlando). The Entertainment Book is another good source for discounts. You can buy one specific to the area you want to visit or search eBay or Craigslist for people selling partially used books.
What are some of your favorite travel hacks?
For tips on saving money on meals while traveling, read my post Queen of the Peanut Butter Sandwich. Happy Cheap Travels!!