Budgeting

Traveling in Financial Style: Ways to Save Abroad

There are approximately one hundred gazillion websites dedicated to financial travel tips.  However, that doesn’t mean that new ways of saving aren’t always popping up or that everyone has the same methods.  It never hurts to continually educate yourself on what the most recent updates to these financial tips and tricks are as products, services, and information continually change.  

Flights

Flights are the number one expense when traveling (usually).  The cost of one ticket for one person can easily total the same amount as the hotel or other expenses for your entire trip.  If you can save money on your flight, you’ll have more left to enjoy the rest of your stay, and utilizing a few basic tips can help you get more bang for your buck.  

Traveling on defined dates

Always compare across multiple providers.  Google Flights does a pretty good job aggregating most sites, but never assume they’re perfect.  Likewise, while Google Flights is a great place to start – to check out what flight might be most agreeable to you according to departure or arrival time, layovers or airports – after you find the flight you want, check in with the airline’s website as well as other discount sites.  Some of the lowest rates are found on Skyscanner and Cheapoair. Sometimes, though, you can apply coupon codes up to ten percent off at places like Expedia or Orbitz, so also keep that in mind. The number one thing to remember when booking any flight, regardless of the provider you use, is to delete your browser history and any cookies stored on your device before making your final purchase.  Why? It’s not nice, but very often (translation: most of the time) websites will increase the price of flights they know you’re interested in. Deleting your search history (and cookies!) will give you a fresh start and likely a lower price. In some cases, if you can even book with a different device entirely, you’ll probably be best positioned to ensure the lowest, original price that hasn’t been influenced by your search history.  

Flexible travel dates or destination

If you have the luxury of choosing when you travel, you are in the unique position of being able to find the cheapest travel prices of all.  Google Flights and Cheapoair will both allow you to see the listed prices for each day when you do any flight search. This means you can scroll through every month and check out when prices are most agreeable, taking advantage of the best rates.  Additionally, Skyscanner has an option after you do a search that lets you view average monthly rates side by side. “View whole month” will show you either a calendar or a graph (whichever you prefer) to allow you to compare rates for your chosen destination according to time of travel.  What about if you don’t have a chosen destination? Skyscanner has more options for you. The home page has a “Map” link that will give you prices to various locations around the world from your departure city. Other tools, such as Secret Flying, are also fantastic for both those open to somewhere new and those flexible in their travel times.  Secret Flying takes advantage of what are called error fares, or flights that may have been mistakenly marked down but, once published, that airlines are (typically) required to honor. You can search Secret Flying by continent, specific destination, or specific time, as well as sign up for regular updates on the latest deals.

Hotels

Hotels are generally the second most expensive part of your trip.  Depending how long you’re staying, your hotel bill could be more than your flight.  This is another arena in which it pays significantly to bargain hunt, price compare, and delete your browser history before buying.  Don’t underestimate the benefit a coupon code on a site like Expedia, Orbitz, or Hotels.com can provide. (Just search “coupon code for [site you’re looking for].”)  Beware, meanwhile, of certain promises that may seem great, like a tenth night free but with prices that were ten percent higher to begin with. Other sites may have lower rates from the get-go.  Agoda is generally known for its rock-bottom prices, and will usually price-match as well in the event you do happen to find a cheaper rate elsewhere. Also, in the digital age, AirBnB should not be off your radar.  As it has gained in popularity, hosts who make significant income from their AirBnB rentals are taking their businesses very seriously, and comfortable, safe rentals sometimes even with extra perks can be found for less than you’d pay for a regular hotel.  AirBnB will also provide you with additional options, such as apartments or other unique homes, for a fraction of the cost of using an agent or other rental service. Last-minute searching for a hotel? Check out Hotel Tonight. Due to the incentive of being able to sell a room that was previously going to be empty (and thus non-profitable) some hotels offer steep discounts through apps and services like Hotel Tonight to rent out their empty rooms to last-minute or unexpected travelers.  

Transportation

Depending on where you’re traveling, you’ll have options in transportation.  In major cities, most will have an extensive public transportation system with some form of refillable card that can be used on multiple, if not all, parts of the system (such as rail, bus, ferry, etc.)  This not only is easy, convenient, and often less stressful, but will save you massive amounts of money versus grabbing a taxi everywhere or taking an airport shuttle. Usually costing a minimal fee for the card itself, you can choose the amount you would like to add to your balance.  As you travel, a small amount will be deducted each time you scan your card at the entrance to your chosen method of transportation, and in some cities the amount deducted decreases each time if staying within the system as part of the same trip. Public transportation also comes with the benefit of being consistent with routes and stops, impervious (in cases such as the metro) to traffic delays, transparent in pricing and generally available when you need it.  Versus paying a high fare each time you need to go somewhere, cities across the world from Tokyo to Istanbul, Athens, New York, and Los Angeles all have refillable card programs readily available for arriving travelers. In the event the metro doesn’t arrive where you need to, or in places where public transportation is less extensive, the sharing economy again comes into play. Uber and Lyft have become rather ubiquitous in most parts of the world, with drivers who are often (like AirBnB) serious about the opportunity to earn their own money.  Uber and Lyft are usually significantly cheaper than taxis and not only allow you to plot your route ahead of time, but show you your fee (or at least estimated fee) up front. Likewise, since everything is charged through the app, disputes or fare increases are less likely.

A few other travel notes

Credit cards as a means of financial travel perks have been hashed over time and time again.  That said, never, never, and never underestimate the extreme benefit a great travel card can provide (thousands of dollars, often).  While we won’t harp on them here, keep an eye out for cards that offer great sign-up bonuses – especially in points that are worth more when booked for travel, effectively giving you a major discount – as well as any cards that might come with free travel perks like insurance or free hotel nights.  If you’re loyal to a certain airline alliance or hotel chain, many cards will help you rack up credits in that arena as well. Travel can be expensive – or, not so expensive – depending on the way you go about booking some of your major costs. It never hurts to shop around, and as the internet and globalization expand, tech is making many existing rates lower as well as offering new, more affordable alternatives. 

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