I’ve now spent more than four years on the road. I’ve traveled solo and non-stop to more than 60 countries on four continents. In that time, I’ve learned (through trial and error) some great ways to travel for less.
That’s why I’ve teamed up with dealchecker to bring you some of my best tried and true money-saving travel hacks, tips, and advice. Read on to learn how you can save big on your next trip!
Best Travel Hacks From More Than 5 Years on the Road
Choosing The Right Credit Card
Choosing the right card is one of the best travel hacks and can help get you a free flight, free rental car insurance, extra points or miles in your highest spending categories, and even no foreign transaction fees.
Some cards even come with complimentary lounge access in airports around the world—which means you can spend your layover sipping champagne eating decent food, or even showering. I’ll take that every time over camping out in a crowded, noisy terminal.
But choosing the correct card can be complicated. This post is in no way meant to be a comprehensive guide to travel credit cards, but I carry the Chase Sapphire line of cards. Depending on the Sapphire card you choose, you can earn 2-3 points/miles per dollar spent on everything travel-related. This category includes everything from flights to Uber rides to rental cars and, especially handy for me—dining. For everything else, you’ll earn 1 point/mile per dollar.
I also recommend the Charles Schwab debit card, It’s the best option for travel because Schwab charges no ATM fees, and when an ATM charges you, even in a foreign country, Schwab refunds the amount to your account at the end of the month. These monthly savings can really add up!
Schwab also has no foreign transaction fees, and they have the best customer service of any bank I’ve ever dealt with.
How to Save Money on Flights
Flights will often make up your largest travel expense when planning a trip abroad. By spending less on your flights you can travel more often or put that extra cash towards better use on your trip.
- Set up price alerts as soon as you know your approximate travel dates. There’s been endless debate about when is the best time to book flights, but creating a price alert is the best way to stay on top of price changes—and potentially save a ton of money.
- Sign up for newsletters sent out by airline carriers that service your primary airport, and also follow them on social media. These are often the first places you’ll hear about sales and deals.
- Take advantage of stopovers Some carriers let you extend a layover so you can see a connecting city before catching your flight to your final destination. IcelandAir is famous for this. They let you extend your layover up to 7 nights at no additional charge. This is a great way to add a second destination to your trip without paying more in airfare!
- Always search for flights in private mode. Airlines track your search history and increase prices if you search for the same flight multiple times. But when you use incognito or private mode, airline websites won’t be able to tell what you’ve looked at recently. This one trick has saved me hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars over the last four years.
- Use SeatGuru to find the perfect seat on your particular plane! If you are traveling with a partner or friend, book the window and aisle seats. Most people will not book the middle seat—some will actually pay extra to avoid it. So, when you book the window and aisle, you and your travel mate will typically get an entire row to yourself. And don’t worry, if someone does book the middle seat, they’re probably happy to trade with one of you. If you don’t feel like chancing it, book two aisle seats in the same row. This way, you’ll have extra space but can still talk.
- A blogger friend of mine did a more comprehensive post on this topic alone. If you want to do a deep dive into how to save money on flights follow that link.
Airport Travel Hacks
Not packing correctly can cost you—literally. Often, especially if you’re traveling with budget carriers, checked luggage fees can add up to more than the cost of the ticket. Baggage is one of the travel hacks and is an easy place for you to save big!
- Consider going carry-on only. I’ve been traveling more than five years with just a carry-on. If I can do it for that long, surely you can do it for a long weekend or two-week holiday! Also, when packing, don’t fold your clothes, roll them. It’s a huge space saver! You can even tuck socks and underwear into your shoes to save space!
- Take an empty bottle of water through security and then fill it up at the water fountain as you wait to board. Of course, only do this if you’re traveling through a country with drinkable tap water.
- Load up on snacks at the grocery store before your flight. You are allowed to take most food items through security, just not liquids. Packing substantial snacks like nuts, dried fruit, or even homemade sandwiches can help you avoid paying for an in-flight meal or expensive airport restaurant options.
Tips to Beat Jet Lag
Jet lag can knock you out for the first few days of your trip, but it doesn’t have to! Use the tips below and remember that the best cure really is prevention.
- As tempting as they can be, don’t take any of complimentary cocktails. Hydration is key!
- Get on local time as early as possible, even if this means staying awake during the flight. If you arrive already on a local schedule, even if that means pushing through the first day and staying awake when you are tired, you’ll benefit from it the rest of your trip!
How to Save On Accommodations
For Hotels: Shop around to find the best prices for your dates. Keep in mind that booking sites often offer you better prices than you get from booking directly with a hotel. Always start your search by looking at a range of different options available. Also, if you are a member of the booking site you may be able to unlock better deals or specials than shopping as a non-member.
If you plan to stay in an Airbnb: always email your Airbnb host and ask for a discounted rate. I’ve saved more than 60% by doing this! Be sure to mention your stellar rental history (if you have one). With a bit of luck, you can often stay in a nicer place than you would otherwise be able to afford! This travel hack works best for both long-term or last-minute bookings.
Saving Money Once You’ve Arrived
- Download maps.me for offline maps. I’ve found maps.me to be the best offline maps app on the market.
- Use the app XE for currency conversions, even when you’re offline
- I always travel with a power strip/surge protector. While it takes up a bit of space in your bag, it’s a lifesaver if you’re staying in a room with only one electrical outlet or traveling with another person.
- Want to get into an exclusive restaurant that’s all booked up? Check to see if your credit card comes with a concierge service. If it does, ask them to make the booking for you! I was recently able to get into Pujol, the #17 restaurant in the world using this trick. Best of all, it’s a free perk that’s automatically included for many cards, including Chase Sapphire cards!
Which of these travel hacks do you think is the most useful? Do you have any travel tips or advice to add? Let me know in the comments section below!
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Travel writer and owner of the blog. My work has been featured on Fodors, Eater.com, International Living, and Great Escape Publishing, among many others. My story? Nearly six years ago, I left my job at an Oklahoma City law firm and embarked on a journey around the world. At the time, I thought I would only be gone for 6 months, but the more I traveled, the longer my bucket list became. Flashpacker describes how I travel. Rather than traveling as the normal world wise backpacker and staying in hostel dorms, I prefer a more comfortable experience, and typically stay in private rooms, take Ubers instead of taxis, and now use a suitcase instead of a backpack. Foodie, on the other hand, describes one of the key reasons why I travel. I love to pick a central “base camp” and then explore the surrounding area, really immersing myself in the culture and interacting with the people, and enjoying and exploring the food of an area is an essential part of this experience.