I've decided that 2019 is my year of budgeting - and traveling.
I have to satisfy my wanderlust, but this year I am going to it the right way so that I finish the year even stronger than I finished 2018. That means traveling to more new places, while not breaking the bank.
Over the past 2 years, I’ve become pretty savvy with travel and flight hacks so I wanted to share some of the things I have learned along the way. Plus, I’m sharing several great tips from my friend Cassandra (Cassie) Harris of Travel Agent Diary. Cassie and I worked together in advertising right after I graduated college, but now she’s basically has the best job ever because she’s a travel agent and gets paid to explore the world!
Enjoy these travel tips and hacks!
Don’t Depart On The Weekend
Book in advance if possible, this will help save money instead of booking within a few days, but they key trick is to depart on an off day. Try to fly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, those are usually the best days of the week because they aren’t typical travel days. My co-worker’s dad is a pilot and she swears by Tuesdays, but if you don’t have flexible schedule, usually you can find deals on Saturdays or Wednesdays too!
This Southern Living article claims that you should book flights Tuesdays around midnight but I haven’t found the booking date to be a huge money saver, so honestly I don’t think the booking date matters as much, but if you have the patience, test out the theory!
Avoid Fridays and Sundays - that’s the main takeaway here.
Use A VPN
This is a travel hack I heard of recently that I’m going to try out when we book our flights for the Florida Keys!
One of my favorite cheap flight hacks is to use a VPN service.
Most travel companies charge you prices based on where they think you are. Let’s say I search for “Argentina to Dallas flights” from Dallas. The prices are usually exorbitant. But if I use a VPN and pretend I’m searching fromArgentina, the prices are normally a lot cheaper.
The VPN service I currently use is NordVPN. It’s $2.99 a month (really affordable) if you take the three-year plan (which I did). But if you’re just planning for a vacation, it’s $12 a month. NordVPN does not log data. The company also has servers in over 40 countries (I always try to search from the country I’m planning on visiting).
Clear Your Cookies
Have you ever noticed price changes on the same flight search within a few minutes of each other? That’s because you're browsing history is being tracked, which can lead to higher costs after your initial search to try to urge you to book faster as you see prices increase.
Clear your cookies in between searches. Or, if you use Chrome, use their incognito browser. I typically start my initial searches on Google Flights because the calendar will show you prices by day, but with incognito, I can usually save $20 - $40 per flights - that extra savings can get you a couple of meals or a few cab rides when you’re traveling.
I don’t know about you, but 2019 is my year of budgeting so every penny counts, even it’s just a couple of dollars.
Holiday Flights Are Cheaper
Depart on a holiday. If at all possible, book on days like Christmas, New Year’s Eve or Thanksgiving - days when no one wants to travel because they’re home with their families or they booked travel so they could already be at their destination on the holiday.
The worst day to travel is the day before Thanksgiving. So if at all possible, spend a holiday traveling somewhere you’ve always want to go for once! The days surrounding major holidays are some of the worst times to travel due to busy airports and high prices so departing the day of is key when using this travel hack.
Here are the Top 10 Worst Days to Travel - keep these in mind as days to avoid when planning your next adventure.
Save on Baggage Fees
My lovely friend Cassie Harris, from Travel Agent Diary, says pack light to save on baggage fees. Typically for international flights you can bring a carry on bag and a personal item for free.
Unless you're traveling somewhere cold where you need to pack heavy layers really think if you need that checked luggage or if a carry on bag will suffice.
Use Budget Airlines
Budget airlines are my favorite travel hack. My go-to is Allegiant because flights depart from the small airport 15 minutes from my house so I can avoid the 2 hour trip to the NYC airports. The catch with airlines like Allegiant, is that flights don’t show up in regular searches so you have to check their website for deals. Flights only depart on certain days and flight between certain cities - for example from my Allegiant airline I can only fly to certain parts of Florida and South Carolina.
If you’re interested in checking out Allegiant and a few more, try these budget airlines:
Allegiant (North America)
Frontier (North America)
Southwest (North America)
WOW Air (Europe)
Wandertab is a Google Chrome extension by Hitlist that shows you cheap flights from your home airport! Every time I open a new browser tab, Wandertab shows me deals on flights around the world from my local airport. If you live in New York like me, you can just enter the city and will aggregate all of the airports and show you the best deals from them all.
If you don’t really have a set place you want to go, Wandertab is a great tool for getting your wanderlust fix. Plus, Hitlist also has a free flight app you can download to search cheap flights.
I’ve heard Momondo is “hands-down the best flight aggregator ever” when it comes to booking international flights. Similarly to Wandertab, they also have a “Find Your Next Trip” section to inspire you if you don’t have a destination in mind already.
If you want to travel international, search for deals at small international airports. Stewart International Airport in the Hudson Valley has a deal with Norwegian Airlines offering flights to Dublin and other countries for as low as $99.99 - small airports want to increase traffic so they have the best international deals!
For domestic searches and weekend getaways, I typically use Hopper. The app is very user friendly, you can book for friends and family, and it you watch flights.
Keep your dates/destination flexible if possible. Chance & Cassie both recommend Skyscanner, which offer you an open-ended end destination. Spontaneity can be a fun thing! Also, being flexible with your dates is helpful on pricing if you can come back from your trip a day earlier/later for example.
Use Layovers To Your Advantage
Another great tip from Anshula that I have yet to take advantage of is using layovers to your advantage!
I once found a $20 round-trip flight to Cancun. As soon as I saw it, I transformed into a giggly, bubbly twelve-year-old version of myself. Could this be true? Have all my dreams become a reality?
Well, sort of. There was a three-day layover in Denver and I was planning on booking a four-day trip. Oh, sugar. But if you’re not set on a destination, you can use layovers to your advantage. To me, I saw the ticket as a $20 flight to Colorado and back (which is equally amazing).
Book (Somewhat) Early
There’s debate on what the perfect time frame is, but somewhere between 54 - 21 days in advance is the sweet spot.
Here are some great additional sites that I use to check to check hotel rates - and sometimes flights when it make sense - to help me plan the best time to book:
Travel In The “Off” Season
Another great tip from Cassie at Travel Agent Diary, recommends booking in the off season. If you visit Southeast Asia or even Costa Rica during their "rainy season" it may only rain for a few minutes a day - if that. It won't ruin your whole trip and you could really save $$$.
Search For All-Inclusives
Pretty much everyone I have talked to recommends searching for all-inclusive packages.
My best friend Anna went on an all-inclusive trip last Spring to the Dominican Republic and came back raving about how awesome the resort was. She recommends taking cash with you to tip the staff or in case you want to splurge on something outside of the resort - a great tip that I had never even thought of!
The only catch for all-inclusive packages is that they can have strict travel dates and set menus for food and drink, but if you don’t mind (I certainly don’t if it means I’m going to Paris for $500) then definitely do your research and try this hack.
Here are some sites that offer great package holidays with all-inclusive deals.
Choose Basic Economy
Flexible with your seat assignment? Not bringing much luggage? Cassie says you can bag some cheap flights just by sitting in Basic Economy (instead of Main Cabin).
Just don't be in a rush to have your zone called at boarding. You will be last!
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