I have made plenty of mistakes while traveling. I’ve regretted not purchasing travel insurance; I’ve bought a flight ticket a week before a trip at a ridiculously high price. Oh, and I’ve booked a ticket with a budget airline without knowing their baggage policy for carry-on bags. But the very least I can say is that I learn from my mistakes. Working in the hospitality industry has also given me the opportunity to learn from others’ mistakes. And learn the travel tips others have to share, like being flexible enough to book a flight without a specific date or destination in mind.
So start traveling smart with these 8 essential travel tips.
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1. Go Incognito and Shop Around
Make use of your browser’s incognito or private browser setting when you are searching for travel deals. It’s no secret that airlines and hotels track your browsing history using cookies (and not the delicious kind!). Last summer, while shopping for airline tickets I made the mistake of browsing without going incognito. The flight prices were jumping around in $50-$100 increments, all within five or six hours!
Don’t limit yourself to one website, either. Shop around!
2. When Possible, Book a Hotel Directly
If it costs the same (or even less!) to book directly with either the hotel do it!
This is because if you have any problems with your reservation either before, during, or even after your stay, it is so much easier to handle the problem directly with the hotel. If you booked through a third party and ask the hotel about a reservation issue, they will have to direct you to the third party who made the reservation. And it’s likely the third party will have to call the hotel to talk about the reservations issue. See how frustrating that can be?
Sometimes it is better on your budget to book through a third-party. But, if at all possible, skip that middle step so you can negotiate and talk to the hotel yourself about any reservations issues.
If you do book a hotel through a third party, make sure you book it through Ebates. Ebates gives you cashback on purchases you were probably going to make anyway (like toothpaste on Amazon, or deals on flights/hotels!). It doesn’t even cost anything to sign up. In fact, they give you $10 for signing up just by clicking this link!
3. Travel During Slow Season
Last year, I visited Chicago towards the end of October. When I visited attractions like the Sears Tower, there was absolutely no wait in line to make it up to the 103rd floor and step onto the famous Skydeck above the city.
Traveling during slow season definitely has its advantages like skipping the lines, and potentially saving big. Flight prices to your destination may be lower. There may be discounts waiting for you at the destination, too! During the mountain town of Vail, Colorado’s slow seasons, including its summer season, many restaurants have deals to get people into their seats.
4. Don’t Restrict Yourself – Be Flexible
Not everyone has the luxury of flexible travel dates. But, being flexible can open the possibilities of cheaper travel options. So, if you can be flexible in regards to your travel dates and destinations, then do it!
Kayak has an amazing feature called “Explore.” This feature shows you different destinations where you can travel at specific dates, for a lower price. To find this option:
- Go to Kayak.com
- Click “More” on the navigation bar at the top
- Then select “Explore”
- Enter the airport you’ll be traveling from, as well as the time of travel
- You can search by season of travel, month of travel, or exact dates
- Choose to search “any duration,” or a specified length of time
- When you enter all your search terms, the map is updated with flight prices!
Kayak’s Explore option is a great feature for the budget traveler with no destination. FareCompare has a similar Getaway Map option for the flexible travelers with no destination to explore.
If you want to search the lowest fares by month, but you have a destination in mind, Southwest features an option called Flexible Dates.
Do you know where you want to go? Are you flexible with travel dates? Sign up for Airfare Watchdog‘s email alerts! Mike and I are planning to visit France, but we haven’t bought out tickets yet. So I’m using Airfare Watchdog’s email alerts to let me know when there are good deals on flights to France!
5. Buyer Beware: Hidden Extra Costs
You might think you are getting a deal when you are booking through a budget airlines like Spirit. But be careful: the cheap price you are paying to Spirit is only for the seat and a small carry-on. It doesn’t include extras like overhead luggage storage or checked in baggage. And they sell those features at a much higher cost, especially if you don’t pre-pay for these features before you get to the gate.
Other costs that may surprise you are resort fees at hotels. It’s not a fee at every property, but sometimes when you book a room (for example, through a third party), you are only paying the room rate and taxes. Then, after you check in, you are charged a resort fee every night that includes certain amenities at the hotel (e.g. wifi, pool usage, parking, etc.). Don’t get surprised with this cost at checkout! Make sure you are aware of whether or not the hotel you book charges an additional resort fee.
6. Invest in Travel Insurance
I work at a ski resort. The nearest airport is one hour away, and the nearest international airport at least two hours away. Travelers frequently call to request refunds because they are forced to cancel or make changes to their trip. Whether it’s because of an avalanche causing them to be unable to fulfill their travel obligations, or the weather delaying their arrival for one or two nights, the purchase of travel insurance would have protected them (financially) from these uncontrollable causes of nature.
Last year I tried flying as frugally as possible from Hawaii to the mainland U.S. I pre-booked a flight across the Pacific during an airline company’s flash sale.
I booked my flight back to Denver through Spirit Airlines following a multiple hour layover at LAX. A few hours is an ample amount of time for a layover, right? Plus, I felt totally prepared for the very strict baggage rules associated with Spirit Airlines: I packed light and traveled with a duffel bag. What I did not anticipate a need for was travel insurance.
Our flight took off on-time. I fell asleep promptly and woke up about two hours into the flight. Out of curiosity I looked to see where we were on the live flight map. It was clear that our airplane had turned around. I would come to find out later that it turned around due to someone’s medical emergency. Because it was no mechanical fault the plane turned around, neither airline would have sympathy for my situation because I did not book travel insurance.
So I had to book another flight ($89 through Southwest) the next day, because our flight would not land in Los Angeles until later in the evening, after all of the flights to Denver were done for the day. And even though I was fortunate enough to book an airport hotel room at a discounted rate, I was still out an additional $100 for that.
If you’re not going to invest in travel insurance (not recommended), then at least be fully aware of the cancellation or reservation change policies before you book.
7. Ditch Traditional Options for the Alternative
Instead of choosing to stay at a hotel, look into renting an AirBnB. You have the additional benefit of chatting with your AirBnB host before you arrive and asking them for recommendations as to activities and events in the area! Plus, your experience will be as a whole will be unique, from accommodations to the part of town where you stay. You can use this link to sign up for AirBnB, and receive $40 towards your first stay! Plus, this credit never expires so you can sign up now and use the credit later.
Rental cars can be a big hit to your daily budget. The cost of the rental alone, plus gas, and maybe even a parking charge. Get to know the area where you’ll be traveling and consider an alternative.
Instead of renting a car, take public transportation, or use a rideshare app like Lyft. If you use my link to sign up for Lyft you receive $15 in credits towards your first rides. I love using Lyft whenever I visit a city! It is a prompt service and so much cheaper than grabbing a taxi.
8. Create Memories and Cherish Every Moment
Experience something new. Try something different. Appreciate the little things. Cherish the moments you get to create while you travel.
What are the travel tips you’ve picked up from visiting other places?