You’ve been working hard and now you just want the fun and hassle-free vacation you deserve. How can you be sure to avoid any surprise fees and cut travel costs along the way?
Here are some tips to help you identify and dismantle those pesky hidden charges before they chip away at your vacation budget.
10 Easy Ways to Cut Travel Costs
- Pack smart, pack light! Weigh your bag before you leave home so you won’t find yourself paying an overweight baggage fee, or having to pay a hefty price to check your bag in instead of carrying it on. This especially applies to low-cost airlines.
- If you have frequent flyer miles, use them before they expire. If they frequently go to waste, sign up for a credit card that gets your airline miles (as well as points for rental cars and hotels). Some of these cards also don’t charge fees for international transactions—a big bonus for your vacation budget. If you’re already using credit cards on a daily or weekly basis, you may as well accumulate miles and get major savings on your next flight.
- Sign up for airline email newsletters. These newsletters will give you priority notice on big sales, promotions and discounts that may last as little as 24 hours or until all the discounted seats are sold out. Sign up with the airlines (low cost and commercial) that are based on and/or most relevant to your travel destinations. You can sign up for free airfare alerts from sites like SmarterTravel.com or Travelocity.com to find out when the price drops on your desired route. Also, subscribe to email newsletters from travel discount websites like Travelzoo.com, where you can receive a customized discount and promotional alerts based on your destinations of interest and/or city of departure.
- If your flight is overbooked and you’re not in a hurry, go ahead and volunteer to be bumped to a later flight so you can get that discount voucher or a free trip to use another time.
- When you aren’t flying, buses can often be a cheaper option than a train. Check local and national bus companies for routes and timetables. You might also be able to score even cheaper bus tickets if you book online or in advance. For international travel, remember that if you pay in cash at a ticket office once you are abroad, you save yourself the international transaction fee on your credit card.
- If you are a youth, student or senior, you may be able to receive discounts at certain eateries, museums, theaters, and even on transport tickets. Teachers may also sometimes qualify. Even if there is no sign mentioning such a discount, it never hurts to ask. Just be sure to pack a valid (not expired!) form of ID to prove that you are eligible for the discount. You can also sign up for an ISIC card before your trip to serve as your proof of eligibility.
- Go for the FREE stuff. Look for the free walking tours, free outdoor concerts, free art galleries and free museum entrances on specific days or hour blocks (usually on Sundays in Europe), free breakfast at your hotel, etc.
- Speaking of free stuff, why pay for a vacation home when you can have one for free? Consider trying a home exchange through websites like SabbaticalHomes.com, Knok.com or LoveHomeSwap.com. If you don’t own your home, you can still sign up to be a house sitter on websites like TrustedHouseSitters.com or MindmyHouse.com.
- Instead of staying at a hotel and spending money to eat out every day, book a vacation apartment with a kitchen (or kitchenette) where you have the option to cook your own meals with local ingredients from a street market.
- Finally, travel like a local–literally. Know someone near your destination which you could stay with, or get “the scoop” on cheap restaurants, hotels, and events? Hook it up. Don’t know anyone? Check out AirBnB and ToursByLocals to connect with local hosts to help you eat, stay, and explore on a dime.
Suchi Rudra is an avid traveler and freelance writer from Texas who covers personal finance, travel, green building, tech, and entrepreneurship. Her work can be found in VICE, The Guardian, Vice, American Way, BBC Travel, Fodor’s, Transitions Abroad, PlanetEye.com, TravelStart.com, Expats.cz, The Writer and India Currents and many other publications.