Travel has always been something I love doing. I enjoy visiting new places, creating new memories and seeing new cultures. It’s not just to get away from the routines of my daily life, but to remind myself of how blessed I am to be alive and see the world.
I do a fair amount of flying on airplanes, as well as driving across the country (and especially across the state of Texas). Here’s a few travel hacks I’ve discovered along the way.
1. Compare the cost of driving vs flying
With the price of gas these days, purchasing a plane ticket might actually cost less than driving to your destination. Compare the cost with a tool like a Fly or Drive Calculator from BeFrugal. It takes into account the total expense, carbon emissions and the time it takes to fly or drive, to help determine the best travel method. Here’s how my solo-trip comparison turned out:
I didn’t realize flying could be so much cheaper than driving, even when I factored in the price of the round-trip ticket. Flying also puts out less environmental emissions, which is a good thing.
2. Find free or discounted entertainment
Free-Attractions.com offers a complete list of free museums, free parks, free concerts, free zoos and more, at over 1,500 cities across the United States.
Start by inputting your city and state, look through all the free activities that are available, then pick your favorites and go. This is also a great idea for those times when you’re stuck at home and can’t travel too far.
City Pass offers an activity book that costs around $30 – $60 (depending on the location) for major cities across the country. I purchased a City Pass booklet last year when I visited Seattle.
Which included a trip to the Space Needle, the Aquarium and the EMP Museum – where they had a special exhibit of Battlestar Galactica (I’m a geek at heart). It also includes coupons for food and other popular tourist attractions.
This is an entertainment coupon book that includes discounts for retail shopping, dining out, grocery shopping, car rentals, sporting events and tons more. For $15 you will get over $1,000 of coupons, savings and discounts.
They have a much broader range of cities where you will be able to benefit from the savings compared to City Pass.
3. Earn travel rewards (with or without a credit card)
Travel rewards programs aren’t always as free as they might appear. Be sure to read the fine print to see if your credit card company has any redemption restrictions. Rewards are available in two basic types:
- Frequent-flyer rewards programs provided by a specific airline company
- Credit-card rewards programs that earn points from everyday purchases
If you use a credit card that offers travel rewards and points, then by all means please take advantage of it. If you don’t want to use credit to book your summer travel plans, you can still earn rewards and points without a credit card. Sign up for a hotel’s loyalty program, earn frequent flyer miles and lots more — with or without a credit card.
Make the most of your loyalty programs by using Points.com, which let’s you exchange, trade and redeem rewards from airline frequent flyer miles to hotel points, from credit card rewards to gas and drugstore cards.
For instance, I have racked up a lot of points with American Airlines, but with Points.com I can trade my points for Delta or JetBlue vouchers instead.
4. Use online coupons and discounts
By doing a brief search for free coupons and promo codes on discount sites, you can save big by taking advantage of great deals (for example: 20% off airfare, a free car rental for a day or $25 off NYC hotels). You can also earn cash back on transactions (that’s deposited in your free account) on any travel booked online, in addition to saving money with coupons.
Search group buying sites like Groupon or Google Offers for dining, hotel and entertainment deals. Not only will you find discounts for 50% off or more, you can earn cash back when your Groupon deals are bought online.
5. DIY and plan in advance
By doing it yourself I mean, pack your food and snacks instead of stopping at convenience stores or buying pricey food at the airport. Bring your own headphones, magazines and books instead of buying them along the way.
Plan your trip in advance to see if you can stay with family and friends to cut down on accommodation costs, or borrow an extra vehicle instead of paying for a car rental. Planning ahead will also ensure access to some of the best deals and offers available.
To sum it up: you can still make traveling this season a priority, if you’re creative and start applying a few of these travel hacks. My travel budget is pretty small, so I’m always looking for ways to have fun while on a budget.
Do you have any travel hacks to share?