Today’s podcast is all about Travel Secrets That Every Millennial Must Know.
Let’s focus on these key areas: How do you pay for this all, Deal sites you should know about, everything airfare, tips and tricks for traveling abroad and finally unique ideas for where to rest your head.
How Do You Pay For This?
The first thing you need to learn about traveling, or really anything in life, is that you can negotiate EVERYTHING. I know it seems weird and may be out of your comfort zone, but listen, if you can negotiate a hotel rate 20-30% off, maybe even more, why wouldn’t you at least try?
Here are my favorite sites:
With Credit, Please
With all the competition out there, credit card rewards have become really rich. Rather than signing up for those frequent flier cards with airlines, get yourself a credit card that earns rewards. For example, let me run down a few of my favorites.
The old classic card is American Express. They were the first, and although they’ve lagged a bit in innovation, they are adding benefits faster than you can send out a new tweet. One of the cards I love with Amex is the Starwood Preferred Guest CC. Starwood owns all kinds of hotel brands for budget, like Sheraton, to high-end like St. Regis and everything in between.
I’m not going to go into the nitty-gritty details, but the power of this card is STARPOINTS. You earn starpoints on all your purchases, which you can then use for free flights and hotels across the world. And now, I’m so excited for this, you can use your Amex points to redeem stays at Airbnb properties. Score- more on my love for Airbnb later.
I’m also a huge fan of the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card because you can earn some mega points that you can use for all sorts of things, and you aren’t tied to one brand or one airline to redeem them. It’s like having your cake and eating it too. Who doesn’t love a good piece of cake?
I also have an American Airlines AAdvantage Citi card. I fly American a ton, and they have a great alliance network. That means that I can use those points on many other airlines here or abroad. The best part of an airline card is that I save money on those silly baggage fees. With this card, I can get two free checked bags every time if I’m flying American. That alone saves me $100 round-trip for my husband and me.
Now for some strategy: if you are a responsible credit card carrier, put all your regular monthly expenses on your card- like groceries, eating out, books, etc. Pay the cc off each month. You are helping build your credit score, while also scoring some major points. I just recently found out about a company called Charge Smart– look them up online. You can set up an account to pay your utility bills, student loans and other bills that you normally can’t put on a cc. The perk is that you are getting points for all of this.
The goal then is at the end of the year, combined with your sign up points, and your yearly points, that you could easily take a trip with a free flight, and free hotel rooms. See how easy that is?
If you are looking for super good – low-cost deals, Groupon Getaways should be in your bookmarks. They change what they offer all the time, but you can get cool local trips all the way to international trips to Europe and beyond.
If you are looking something a bit more, say we say upscale, check out Luxury Link. While some of their packages might be a tad above your budget, you can find some great deals. If you are splitting with a friend, then it gets even better. They also have an option where you can straight out buy a package, but you can also place a bid through their auction feature. So if you do some searching you can bid on some amazing places to stay and have a chance to get them at a fraction of the price.
Jetsetter is another great option. They send you email updates daily or weekly with their new deals. I would say they are a mix between Groupon Getaways and Luxury Link in terms of what they offer. Still, a solid option if you ask me.
Let’s talk about strategies for booking your airfare. There are a bazillion articles out there about when, how and what to do to get the best price on your airfare. Most of it involves lots of details, but hey, if you are serious about a discount then often times that is what you need to do.
For whatever reason, most airlines release new fares Monday nights. That means that Tues am is usually the best time to find the best deal. Not always, but 9/10 times. Also, flying mid-week is a great way to save money too. Leaving on a Tues or Wed seem to always give you the best deal, unless it is a holiday week, then all bets are off.
You can also see how full the plane is before you book the ticket. Logic rules here- the fuller the plane is…the higher your ticket price is. So that gets me to booking early. You want to try to book at least 21 days out from your travel if possible.
Now you’ve got those tips, if you want to score a deal you’ve got to invest some time in the search. I have a 5-step system that I use, are you ready, hopefully you’ve been jotting notes down.
- I sign up for Airfarewatchdog newsletter. They send out an e-newsletter and have the information on their site for up-to-date airfare deals. Definitely worth a glance before you book your next trip.
- Then I turn to Kayak. They are a feeder for airfare prices on many airlines. I can find out which airline is most competitive and which site has the best deal. I can even set price alerts so they automatically let me know when the price drops.
- Then I make sure I’ve signed up for the airlines Twitter and Facebook Pages and I check them often. I usually send a Tweet to that airline asking them if they have any specials. Hey, doesn’t hurt right. You would be surprised what kinds of deals you can get utilizing these two social media sites. It’s worth signing up for Twitter for this feature alone.
- Then I pop over to the airlines actual site and check and see what their fare is. Sometimes you might find a snag in the system and the same flight on their site is a better deal. I’ve had this happen many times.
- Lastly, and here’s a great travel hacker suggestion, when you are booking anything overseas, go to their international site and check the rate. For instance, if I’m traveling to London, I might check British Airways in the US and in the UK. You can convert all the prices to USD and compare. MANY times you will get a better deal that way.
- Ok, I said 5, but I’m going to add a 6th. Check alternate routes always. Is there an airport that is within a short commute from where you want to go? For instance if I want to go to London, I wouldn’t fly into Heathrow because their airport tax is ridiculously high…I might choose to go to Paris Orly airport and take another flight to London, or take the Chunnel and save a lot of money. Plus, I can spend a night in Paris…always top on my list.
Don’t buy foreign currency in the states. You will pay much more…but it is still way better than exchanging money at the airport. This is the worst idea. Don’t do it. If you need to, exchange some money at your local bank, and then do the rest in country.
Double check with your bank, but with most you can use any ATM internationally to get currency if you need. You will get the best rates this way. Honestly, try to use as little cash as possible. It’s hard to keep track off and easily stealable should someone take your stuff.
I always say leave your cell phone at home. You can rent one that you can take to the country and end up spending a heck less money. Check out Cellular Abroad. I’ve used them many times. For example, if you are going to Germany you can rent a phone for $49 for a week that includes a 3GB date plan, 200 free minutes to the US, free incoming calls and unlimited calling in Germany, compared to AT&T which would have cost you $450 for the same thing. I made this mistake by not renting a phone when I went to Africa. My bill was over $700 for one month. Don’t tempt fate…be smart.
I know it seems cheesy, but buying those city tourist cards are actually a good idea. You get all your activities bundled together for a lower price. Also, check out what are the “free days” where you are going. Those are days where the museums and such offer free entry. It is usually one time a month, but if you happen to be there then go to as many sites as possible.
Where to Rest Your Head
If you are looking to save money, hostels are a good option. You will need to share a room and bathroom with other travelers, but if you don’t care, than this will work. I find that hostels internationally are better than the ones in the US. It’s a great way to meet other travelers as well.
Couchsurfing has become a hot item too. Couchsurfing will allow you to see all the couches that you could rest your little head on anywhere. Word of caution- as a female you’ve got to use some common sense. Personally, I’m not sure I would couchsurf, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right for you. I know this has worked out for many people and they’ve loved sleeping on couches around the world. I prefer a hotel.
Have you heard of woofing? No, it’s not where you go outside and start howling at the moon. Woofing, which stands for World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms, is a way to volunteer your time in exchange for free accommodation and food. Typically you work 4-6 hours a day doing everything from gardening to milking the cows on a farm.
Volunteer tourism has even seen a boom lately. If you are passionate about an organization, like helping to create clean water in Africa, you can sign up for volunteer or mission trips. You will spend your days working as a volunteer, but you will also get to immerse yourself into local culture. Most volunteer opportunities are with a group, so you have some built-in travel mates. It’s a good way to see a place that you might not venture to by yourself.
Let’s talk Airbnb. You can book a room or an entire apartment anywhere in the world. They’ve even got some unique places like a houseboat in Seattle all the way to a castle in Ireland. Remember, you can use your Amex points too, which I love. It’s easy to use and staying somewhere that gives you access to a kitchen can help you save money on eating out all the time. I really can’t say enough about renting an apartment when you travel. I never miss the hotel experience when I do.
Hopefully this has inspired you to shop around before your next trip. I’d love to hear about all your travel deals and ideas, so leave me your comments below.