Some people have unlimited time and budgets. We are not them. Regardless, we still try to travel often. After much practice, experimentation, and research, we have determined the best tips and tricks for travel are to:
- book through the hotel directly
- fly on low-cost airlines
- travel light and save big
- book your room last minute
- when in doubt, drop the Google Pegman
While none of these methods are foolproof, they have enabled us to travel the world while working full time and being on strict budgets. If we can do it, so can you!
1. Book Through the Hotel Directly
Before we discovered this little trick, we were strictly third party travel site users. We still use these travel sites now, but more as research guides rather than online booking agencies. Not all, but many hotels offer the best rates when you book through their site directly.
For example, we just booked a room at the four star Clayton Hotel in Belfast for three nights. Initially, I researched the hotels in the area through a third party site. The total price for three nights at the Clayton would have been $497.00, which was about $165.00/night. We were pretty curious about the hotel and went directly to their website to look at photos, testimonials, etc. We were shocked when we went to the booking page. They offered the same room, but at a 5% discount and free buffet breakfast (valued at $13/person) if we booked through their site. Pretty cool right? It is not a huge savings, but every bit counts!
We found pretty much the same thing when we booked our trip to Switzerland. We booked the Fraser Inn and Suites in Geneva for two nights over Christmas. Geneva is one of the most expensive cities in the world and we are traveling at the most expensive time, so we had to do some serious research in regards to reasonable, but comfortable, accommodations. The cheapest price we found for this accommodation on a third-party travel site was almost exactly the same price as the hotel was offering on their site. However, they offered 50 CFA credits ($52) for breakfast every morning if you booked directly through their website. That is a pretty big savings, especially since a breakfast buffet counts as almost two meals, not to mention food prices in Geneva are not cheap!
2. Fly on Low-Cost Airlines
How do round trip flights from New England to Great Britain for $220 sound? How about the midwest to the Caribbean for $260? Western Europe to Eastern Europe for under $100? This is all possible if you are willing to travel light, sit anywhere on a flight, and bring your own food.
Norwegian Airlines, Easy Jet and Spirit Airlines are examples of some of the cheapest, low-cost airlines out there. They are not luxury, but get you where you want to go. If you are not a prima donna, these airlines could be a great options for you.
For example, Norwegian Airlines just opened brand new routes out of less-travelled airports in New England. You are only allowed a carry-on under 10 kilos (22 lbs), cannot pick your seats and food comes at a price. They have flights to and from places like Dublin, Barcelona, Oslo, London, Edinburgh, Bergen, Belfast and more. Regardless of the limitations, the plane was comfortable, new, and the service was great!
At these less-popular airports, the new flights are inexpensive, lines are minimal and parking is cheap. Jackpot! We normally travel out of JFK or LaGuardia in NYC, but now there are better options out of Newburgh and Bradley Airport in Hartford. To give you an idea about cost, we flew round trip to Edinburgh Scotland for $280 during peak season this summer. Parking was $8/day, and we walked through security in a matter of minutes. We also left on a Friday night, peak travel time. It was so easy, we booked a flight to Belfast for a long weekend the following month for only $227 round trip!
On the other hand, if you are traveling in the US and surrounding areas, Spirit Airlines offers a “$9 Fare Club” option. For a one-time fee of $59, you get discounted flights (yes, some are only $9) and baggage for everyone in your party for the entire year. We fly Spirit Air to Florida all the time! Check out our blog “Why Even Skeptics Will Love Disney World”.
3. Travel Light and Save Big
This segues nicely into our next tip. Travel light. Beat the baggage fees by packing less, or packing smarter. A great tip for traveling light is to wear your heaviest items. We always wear our heaviest shoes, clothing and jewelry (you would be surprised how much a bag of jewelry can weigh!) in order to keep our bags under the 10 kilo max.
If you want to get real fancy, try buying a travel jacket or vest. A great one for women is the XY37 Travel Jacket, which comes with an ergonomic built-in neck pillow, tablet pocket and more.
If you want to spend a little more money up front for long-term savings, invest in the Stuffa Men’s Travel Vest with 12 internal, stuff-able pockets. You don’t even need luggage with this jacket!
Or you can check out a personal favorite, the Bagket Transformable Vest. This vest has 10 internal and 12 external pockets, and after wearing it through check in, you can transform it into a bag!
Want to see more travel jackets? Check out this skyscanner blog post for other awesome, wearable options. If you want to see more cool travel gadgets, check out our recent post “Breanne’s Must Have Travel Accessories “.
4. Book Your Room Last Minute…VERY Last Minute!
This method of money saving genius is not for the planners out there. If you have every restaurant, site, and coffee shop planned for your trip a decade from now, don’t bother reading this section. If you are willing to take a small risk for a high reward, this option is great for you. Hotels hold their prices steady till last minute. Sometimes you can call a hotel the night of your arrival and book a room at seriously discounted prices.
Another option is to use one of the many apps out there that specialize in last-minute booking. Our favorite is an app called Hotel Tonight. For example, we had a wedding in New Haven, Connecticut a few weekends back. The hotel we wanted to stay at was charging $215/night. This was over our budget. The day of our arrival (around noon), we logged into the Hotel Tonight app and found the same hotel for only $150.00. That is a $65 discount! A couple things to keep in mind – if you choose this method of booking, make sure:
- It is not peak season at your destination
- There are plenty of other hotels in the area
- You have a back-up plan JUST in case…
5. When in Doubt, Drop the Google Pegman
For us, the most important factor in choosing a hotel is location, location, location. Yes, we care about hotel amenities (we love a nice breakfast and comfy beds), but setting is most important. Therefore, when we find a few hotels that seem reasonable and suit our needs, we call upon Mr. Google Pegman.
You probably know the Google Pegman as the yellow dude at the bottom right of google maps who brings you to street view. Honestly, I don’t think I have ever booked a hotel without him. Every time we find a few places that seem like good fits for our budget, style, and stomachs, we use the Pegman to see what the area really looks like. You may find a hotel that seems perfect for you, but when you drop the Pegman, you realize either the entire street is under construction or the venue is in a shady area of town. Alternately, the street view may show the hotel is in an adorable sector, next to quaint restaurants, shopping, etc. Keep in mind Google Maps does not update their photos daily, so what you see is not always what you get, but it is a start. The Pegman is always the determining factor in our hotel choices.
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