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    18 Travel Hacks That Have Saved Me Thousands Of Dollars And Taken Me All Over The World

    From couch surfing in Puerto Rico to flight hacking my way to Bali, I've figured out how to see the world without draining my bank account.

    The coronavirus pandemic is still impacting travel and destinations around the world have different COVID-19 restrictions in place. It’s important to check and adhere to local government policies as you're planning any future trips.

    Travel is a privilege, pure and simple. But it doesn't have to break the bank.

    Woman in the desert and camels in front of Petra
    Evie Carrick

    I've pretty much dedicated the last decade of my life to travel. It's been my largest cost and my greatest joy. But I'm not staying in five-star (or even two-star) hotels, eating fancy meals, or booking guided excursions. I've been able to travel as much as I have because a) I have a job that lets me work from anywhere, and b) I love saving money and traveling on the cheap.

    After living in 5 countries and visiting over 50, here are my biggest money-saving hacks:

    TLC / Via Giphy / giphy.com

    Don't miss #12.

    1. I like to find ways to stay for free, like visiting friends, to keep my costs low.

    2. If I'm booking via Airbnb, I try to stay in one place for a full month.

    Screenshot of Paris Airbnb with a 49% monthly discount
    Airbnb / Via airbnb.com

    When you book for less than 30 days on Airbnb, you pay per night, but when you book a stay for 30 days or more, you'll get a major discount (sometimes as much as almost 50%). The discount can be so dramatic that it might make more sense to pay for a month-long stay and leave after three weeks than to book a three-week stay up front. 

    3. I always use the flexible date feature when booking a plane ticket.

    Screenshot of flights
    Kayak / Via Kayak.com

    With many companies relaxing their work-from-home policy, now is the time to forget about the "fly out on Friday, return on Sunday" norm. Kayak allows you to search for flights three days before or after your ideal departure and return dates and even has a flexible month mode so you can find the cheapest days to fly in a particular month.

    By shifting your trip just a day or two, you might be able to save hundreds of dollars.

    4. I swear by only eating out one meal a day. (PB&J will be your friend.)

    5. I plug in several airports near me and at my destination to see if there are any cheap or direct flights.

    Screenshot of direct flights from Newark, New Jersey
    FlightConnections / Via flightconnections.com

    LaGuardia might be in your backyard, but it might be worth it to make the trek to Newark for your flight. I always look up nearby airports on FlightConnections to see what direct flights are available. If you can save $300 on that flight to Reykjavík, that hour-long train ride to Newark will feel like nothing.

    The same goes for your arrival airport. You might have your heart set on Rome, but a flight to Naples may be cheaper (and a train between the two is just over an hour and can be as cheap as $15).

    6. Once I'm in the area where I want to be (Southeast Asia, for example), I'll fly local, budget airlines to hop around.

    Screenshot of a sample flight from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh
    NokAir / Via nokair.com

    If there's a direct flight from LA to Bangkok for cheap, buy it — even if you really want to get to Vietnam. Most of the world has small, budget airlines (think Spirit, JetBlue, and Frontier in the US) that fly regularly — and cheaply — through the region. You might not have heard of Thai Smile or NokAir, but they'll be your best friend when you want to book a cheap flight from Bangkok to Ho Chi Minh City.

    A fairly comprehensive list of low-cost airlines that operate around the world can be found here.

    7. I adapt my travel style to the cost of living at my destination.

    Woman in the metro in Paris
    Evie Carrick

    The cost for a trip to Paris is going to be vastly different than a trip to India. You'll have to work to make Paris affordable (cheap Airbnbs, public transportation, free activities), while in India you can live it up (fancier accommodations, taxis, and tours). My favorite hotel in New Delhi (shoutout to the Hotel Hari Piorko) averages around $12 a night, while I always consider myself lucky to find an Airbnb for less than $50 a night in Paris.

    The golden rule: If you want to travel for cheap, you can never treat one trip like your last. Each destination has a distinct cost of living, and you'll need to adjust your travel style to stay within your budget.

    8. I only take free city tours, but I always tip the guides well.

    9. I rely on Wi-Fi rather than paying for an international phone plan or SIM card.

    CBC / Via giphy.com

    If you're traveling solo, paying for an international phone plan may be worth it, but I personally never spring for one. Wi-Fi is everywhere, and it's actually kind of nice to not be scrolling through Instagram while you're waiting in line to enter the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City. I promise, your texts, emails, and Insta will be there when you get inside the museum and connect to their free Wi-Fi.

    If you're worried about navigation, download the Google map of the area you're traveling to in advance, and if you know there will be a language barrier, you can download the language dictionary in Google Translate. Both will still work in airplane mode.

     

    10. I usually opt out of rental car insurance and rely on credit card benefits.

    11. The same goes for travel insurance. I don't buy it because I know my credit card perks cover most of it.

    12. I book overnight flights and buses to save on lodging.

    Woman asleep on a plane
    Evie Carrick

    I LOVE overnight flights and buses because not only are you making moves while you sleep, but you're also sleeping for free. Think about it: If you book an overnight flight to Morocco or an overnight bus between Prague and Paris, that's a night of free lodging.

    All it takes it a solid eye mask, great earplugs (I love Mack's Dreamgirl plugs, which are extra small and block out all sorts of noise), and a cozy sweatshirt to snooze the journey away. If you’re desperate, pack some Aleve PM.

    13. Until recently (I'm 35), I used my student ID to get student discounts.

    Gaumont / Via giphy.com

    If you still have it, your student ID may be able to save you big. There are student discounts on everything from train tickets to museum fees all over the world. At the Met in New York, for example, a student ticket is less than half what you pay as an adult. 

    If you don't want to be a sketch ball (like me), you might be able to get similar discounts with an AAA membership or travel card.

    14. I swear by my carry-on suitcase and backpack combo. Truly. It's all you need.

    Person walking with a backpack and carry-on suitcase
    Evie Carrick

    Do you really need four pairs of shoes in Spain? I promise, you don't. I once traveled for a year with just a carry-on suitcase and a backpack (and I'm quite vain).

    Put your electronics and toiletries in your backpack for ease of airline security and your clothes and shoes in your carry-on. You'll only need one or two pairs of versatile shoes and a few basics — black T-shirts, jeans, a solid jacket, and a nice top. Don't worry, the rest of the world knows how to do laundry.

    15. I refuse to pay extra to choose an airplane seat.

    Fox / Via giphy.com

    It depends on the airline, but many companies now charge you to select your seat. Of course, it depends on your situation (and how long the flight is), but if it'll save me $20 to $40, I opt to sit alone. And in truth, I rarely have to. 

    Ask the gate agent if they can reseat you, and if that fails, ask your seat mate if they'd be willing to swap seats so you can sit next to your travel partner. Be prepared to sit alone, but chances are you won't have to.

    16. On more complicated trips, I'll go rogue and book a ton of separate flights.

    Screenshot of great travel deals
    Scott's Cheap Flights / Via scottscheapflights.com

    This doesn't always work, but sometimes travel hacking can save you big. I always try the "multi-city" feature on Kayak, but if I don't like what it gives me, I'll try hacking myself. For example, if I find an amazing flight from Paris to Beirut (the Scott's Cheap Flights eblast always has great deals), I'll book it and then find a separate round-trip ticket to Paris later. Or, if you can get yourself to the continent or region you want to visit, you can then book a connecting flight on a low-cost carrier (see #6).

    17. I switched banks so that I never have to pay an ATM fee again.

    Screenshot of ATM card benefits
    Charles Schwab / Via schwab.com

    ATM fees really add up when you're traveling (plus, they're often twice as much). A few years ago, I changed banks just so I would never have to pay an ATM fee again. My new bank, Charles Schwab, actually reimburses you automatically for any ATM fees you rack up (both in the US and worldwide). Some months it saves me almost $50.

    18. I only use credit cards with no foreign transaction fees and great travel rewards benefits.

    Chase Sapphire Reserve info page showing no foreign transaction fees
    CreditCards.com / Via creditcards.chase.com

    If you're not a big traveler, chances are you've never heard of "foreign transaction fees," but they exist. And they suck. Basically, any time you make a purchase overseas, you're charged an additional fee (usually 1% to 3% of the value of transaction). 

    To avoid this, look for credit cards with no foreign transaction fees (Capital One Venture, United Explorer Card, and Chase Sapphire Reserve are three cards I've had luck with). As a bonus, most of these travel-friendly cards are also travel rewards cards, so you can rack up points to redeem for more travel as you travel. Genius.

    Any money-saving tips I missed? Please share! I'm always looking for new money-saving travel hacks.

    And for more money-saving tips and tricks, check out the rest of our personal finance posts

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