I mean, really … And this is how to do it affordably.
By: Chris Panayiotou
If your 2018 resolutions include “Traveling more,” make it happen before Trump shuts down more countries. For a bit toward the end of 2017, getting a passport (admittedly not a big accomplishment, unless you’ve owed back child support) was THE thing to do, so if you have gotten yours, great. We focus on ways to save you a few bucks while seeing the rest of the country and the rest of the world.
1. Get a credit card.
Now this may not be an available option to you, based on your credit, but if you can, shop around for the card with the best travel rewards programs. There are several options, either you can get a card for a specific airline, specific hotel chain, or a card that allows you to use your accumulated points toward travel. My personal preference is the airline card, and while I wish I were getting a check for this, I prefer the Southwest Airlines card. Down side is that it has an annual fee, but they do give you free points on your anniversary and free drink tickets too. I prefer the airline card, because a hotel card limits me on hotel rooms that I can get for free, and the hotels available may not be in the ideal locations. If location of your room isn’t as important to you, the hotel card might be a viable option. The accumulate-your-points-toward-travel cards are good too, and are probably my second choice, but I just feel that the points don’t seem to accumulate fast enough on these. Hotels do seem to be the biggest cost of my travels, so perhaps I should rethink my own advice and go with the “accumulate” card.
The real trick with any of these cards is to earn points, and the best way to do that is to set up your monthly bills (the ones you have to pay anyway) to be auto-paid monthly on your card. Paying this off every month will not only get you free flights and free stays, but also give your credit score a boost, which may enable you to get better cards with better rewards. (Totally disregard this tip if you are going to carry a balance from month to month. If you’re not paying it off in full every month, this will be more of a detriment than anything.)
2. With said credit card from tip #1, get your car rental.
This may be an early 2000’s idea, now that we have ride sharing, but if you need to rent a car, use the right credit card. Many credit cards offer you the same insurance coverage for free that the car rental places offer you for an additional cost. You’ll need to check with your credit card company to see if this is an included perk, and if so, what all it covers. Then, when you’re at the counter, you can make an educated decision and potentially save some money by declining the additional coverage option.
3. Sign up for rewards programs.
This also goes with tip #1, but this doesn’t rely on credit. If you’re loyal to one airline, signing up for an airline reward program can be useful, much like getting their credit card is.
Signing up for a hotel reward program is beneficial if you’re loyal to one chain of hotels (which I’m not). The better option for me has been these third party booking sites that give you free rooms based on how many times you’ve shopped with them.
If you have a job that requires you to travel, many employers allow you to collect the points from the trips they send you on. If your company has a preferred hotel, sign up for that hotel’s rewards program, and do the same for their preferred airline’s program. Using these may not be ideal for your personal travel, but a freebie is a freebie.
4. Switch hotels throughout your stay. *
Depending on your trip and your emphasis on saving money, you can go to extra lengths by not staying in the same hotel for your entire trip. Different nights have different prices, so it may be economically sound to book one room for two nights and then another for one night. Yes, it can be a pain to check out of one and then check in to another hotel, but it can save you money.
*I only recommend this for seasoned travelers, and those who don’t mind working harder to save money.
5. Be aware of the discounts you may be able to get through your job, organizations you belong to, or through the cards you carry.
There isn’t much explaining on this one, just use your resources.
6. Get off!
Airlines often overbook flights, so when the flight attendant comes on over the intercom and asks for volunteers to get off the plane and take the next flight out, VOLUNTEER! The policy varies by airline, but they will give you free flight credit. I’ve had an experience were I volunteered to get off a Dallas-bound flight from Atlanta. They gave me $300 credit that was good for a year, they gave me another $124 credit (cost of the flight I was exiting), and they put me up in a room at the airport’s hotel overnight, until the next flight first thing in the morning. Assuming that your life won’t be an absolute catastrophe if you come back a few hours or a day later, this is a great way to finance your next trip somewhere.
When putting that passport to use, a couple of international travel tips:
7. Don’t be all patriotic, nshit.
When flying internationally, fly with an international carrier, as I have always found them to provide a better overall experience. Keep an eye out for airlines with arrangements to pick up each other’s routes, because, for instance, you may think you were flying KLM to Amsterdam, but you end up on a Delta flight with a Delta crew. In my experience, international airlines will feed you more often, give you free alcohol, and their planes tend to be equipped with more entertainment options. Not all foreign airlines are created equal, so do a bit of research before selecting whom you’ll fly with. (I’ve found KLM and Emirates to be good options.)
8. Work your layovers.
I go to Europe every few years to visit family. One thing I like to do is take flights with long layovers in other cities, and this usually corresponds with where the airline’s hub is located. By doing this, I am able to add an entirely different country to my trip, spending several hours there (long enough to get out and explore) and other times, spending the night. This is only for the adventurous though, as finding your way around requires some resourcefulness, the ability to read a map (you most likely wont have cell service there), a fairly good sense of direction, and patience, as not everyone you come across will speak English, but that varies by country.
9. Test your friendships.
Worst-case scenario: if you want to save money, crash on an out-of-town friend’s couch when you go visit.
So remember, in order to live the #COSIGNLife, you have to GTFOH! A trip away from home can inspire or can allow for the recharge you need to get back to attacking the world and pursuing your path. And one bonus tip: if none of your friends want to go with you, don’t let them stop you from your life experiences. Traveling solo is not a bad thing, just plan ahead and research your destinations. Life will throw you many obstacles, so make it happen while you can, and safe travels!