Have you ever thought that you may have to take out a personal loan just to go on a family vacation? Yeah. Vacations can be frickin’ expensive. It varies year-to-year, but according to American Express, Americans spent an average of $941 per person in 2016. So if a family of four is planning a little getaway, it’ll set them back $3,764. Not an easy amount to save.
And don’t get me started on additional costs if you have a pet. If you have to board your dog? Fuhgeddaboudit. Might as well cash out your IRA now.
That’s the bad news. The good news? You’re about to learn a few tips and tricks that can save you thousands.
Tip number one
Plan ahead. Trying to travel on a limited budget requires planning. And though your initial reaction may be one of horror, there are studies that suggest planning vacations is as good for your mental health as actually going on vacation.
Do your research on the cheapest flights, places to stay, etc. In other words, don’t just log onto American Airlines website, search for a flight to your destination and book it. Find out if another airline has a cheaper flight. Same thing goes for your accommodations.
As an example, I recently went on a three day trip to New York and every single hotel room near where I wanted to stay was upwards of $250 a night. So I started looking for Airbnbs in the area and found one for roughly $120 a night. That alone saved me at least $390.
But one of the most important aspects of planning ahead deals hand in hand with ‘tip number three.’
Tip number two
Use sites like Trusted HouseSitters, Nightswapping, and Couchsurfing for your accommodations.
Trusted HouseSitters: This is probably my favorite way you can save boatloads of cash. In short, it’s a pet sitting service.
You sign up, look for a place to go and book it. You stay for free. All you have to do, is pet sit while on vacation. On the flip side, you can let the Trusted HouseSitters community know that you’re headed out of town and someone will stay at your house while you’re gone and pet sit for you… for free. That's a win/win in my book.
Couchsurfing: If you're looking for a free place to stay and interested in meeting the locals, give this a shot. The clientele are typically backpackers frugally crisscrossing the world. And many times you stay on a couch. Sometimes the host will have an extra bedroom. In a way, it’s kinda like Airbnb, but free.
Nightswapping: This service is also similar to Airbnb, except in lieu of cash, you use "nights." In other words, you sign up, host people at your place, and earn credits in the form of nights. Then you can use those nights to stay at a fellow member's home for free.
Tip number three
If you don’t already, learn how to travel hack. It’s one of the most important things you can learn when it comes to budget travel.
Simply put, travel hacking is the practice of traveling on the cheap. And one of the most lucrative ways to do that is to use credit card points and miles. It alone can save you thousands. How much does the average round trip flight to Europe cost? $1,500? $2,000? Using points/miles instead of cash is the equivalent of starting a 100m dash 50m in. You’ve got a huge advantage.
I’ll use a recent trip of mine as an example of how much you can save:
In 2016, Chase came out with its Sapphire Reserve. If you got the card, you were rewarded with the opportunity to earn 100,000 Ultimate Rewards (UR) points. Well, I basically put everything but the rent on that card for the next couple of months to reach the minimum spending requirement (which was $4,000 in three months) and earned the 100,000 points.
Combined with the UR points I already had, I was able to buy not only my plane tickets to and from Europe, but also my fiancée’s as well. The only thing I paid was a measly $260 in taxes. I’ll repeat that: $260 for two round trip tickets to Europe.
Now, this kind of thing does take a little bit of planning and research, but it’s most certainly worth it. Because when you can do something like that, you’re options are nearly endless when it comes to where you can go.
If you’re not sure where to start when it comes to travel hacking, a great place to start is with my book, Cracking the Code to Travel Hacking. It’s a great jumping off point. Whether it’s an elaborate vacation in the Maldives, or a jaunt up the coast, you’ll learn how to collect and redeem miles and points for free (or very cheap) airfare, and accommodations.
Read a chapter for free. Sign up below and not only will you get that, but you'll get a whole library of travel resources. Trust me, it's worth it.