Living on a Budget:Traveling
I’m going down a more light hearted path today as a friend encouraged me this would be great information to share and it’s on two topics I’m passionate about: traveling and living on a budget!
Colby and I live very frugally – we know our money is a gift from the Lord and we want to respect how and when we use it. Because we spend little and do everything we can to keep our expenses to a minimum this allows us extra money to travel! People are always surprised with our big and long trips every year. But, we have the vacation days, and have saved the money, so why not!? Not only do we live on a budget, but we travel on a budget to. If you are not on a budget, money is growing in your back yard or you don’t like to travel then this post is not for you!
- Sign up for a rewards program. We use Marriott and love it. They have what seems like an ongoing promotion that if you stay 2 non-consecutive nights, you get 1 night free. While Colby lived in Georgia last year and I would go visit him I was not allowed on base, so our only option was to stay in hotels. We would hotel hop every night I was there. We would stay in a Marriott one night, and then drive 1 minute down the street and check in to another Marriott. This means we got a free night. So every weekend I went (2 nights) we accumulated one night free. Those free nights sure do add up and we had over 7 free nights for our last trip.
- Sign up for credit cards. I don’t suggest doing this if you have bad credit scores/history or if you are taking out a big loan soon, but there are so many ridiculously good deals when signing up for credit cards. This website lists top credit cards with the best deals.
- Marriott offer the Look No Further Program, which guarantees a 25% discount off any other lower rate found. I would say about 80% of the time I can find a lower price on Kayak.com. I then go fill out this form and get 25% off the Kayak rate. That means if a room is $125 on Marriott and $100 on Kayak, Marriott will give you the room for $75 ($50 discount). It can save you so much money it’s crazy. And with the stay 2, get 1 free deal, it sometimes feels as though they are giving away rooms for free.
- Look for hotels with free parking and breakfast. These are probably the two things that I hate spending money on the most. Food and car expenses. Avoid them both.
- Clearly I know most about the Marriott program, but we also have a Choice and Hilton account and I know Choice has very low priced hotels as well.
- Use Bing. This website is great. When we are not using miles, I use it to book all our flights. It gives you predictions on when to buy. It tells you the history of fares as well as predicts what they will be in the future.
- Of course, flying on a Thursday is cheaper then a Friday, as a Monday is cheaper then a Sunday. If you have a flexible schedule, avoid flying on the weekends. Anytime you can avoid flying during prime time, you will find a better deal.
- Again, sign up for a reward program. We have AA (American Airlines), BA (British Airways), United, SW and US Airways, but mainly just use AA and BA. BA is hands down the best credit card/rewards program we have ever come across. A flight that costs 25K miles RT on American (considered a reward flight), is anywhere from 9K to 15K on BA. So you get double the amount the flights for your miles. I don’t even know how they do this. Even though you book through the BA website, you fly on AA. It’s a steal. I actually don’t want to tell anyone, because I don’t want this to get revoked, ever! I don’t know the last time we bought a flight. Oh, and the booking fee is just $2.50 per person! So the majority of the time we spend $5 to fly! What would cost us 50K AA miles to get to Kansas to see Colby’s family, only costs us 18K miles and $5 with BA. It’s genius, but booking can be confusing, so if you are seriously interested, let me know.
- I am not a normal person in the fact that I do not enjoy eating out. “Say whhhhat?” Yes, that is right, due to our frugality, I find that eating out is the biggest money waster, ever. When we travel, we are usually on the go during the day, doing active things like hiking. We stay at hotels that have free breakfast. For our last trip, I made a bunch of granola and health bars ahead of time. I also brought mixed nuts. We would get extra fruit at the hotels and on our hikes eat the granola/fruit/nuts, etc. Basically we would eat big breakfasts, snack all day and then only food expense of the day was dinner. A good way to save on dinner is to split meals and check the menus ahead of time to make sure they meet your budget. Also, most of the time you can find coupons and specials at the local visitor center or hotel lobby.
- We are suckers for the all-inclusive resorts. To get to Mexico from Dallas is a 2.5 hour flight. It’s cheap, easy, close and fun! For our last trip back in May, once I found the hotel we wanted, I went to Kayak, Orbitz, Cheap Caribbean and the hotel website to price it out. Turns out the cheapest was on orbitz (not always the case). From there I googled orbitz + coupon code and sure enough, a coupon code came up where we got an additional $100. Always price match between websites, because they all offer different prices.
- Rarely do we go somewhere where we need a rental car. The last time we got one was when we were in New Zealand, so that’s a bit of a different circumstance. Many airlines and hotels offer additional miles/points by booking through their sites. Also, price match across websites as well.
- Negotiate! Ask for discounts. What is there to lose? Remember our expensive whale excursion? When we were signing up to do it, I asked if they offered any discounts, and just by asking they gave us 10% off. When we went biking, I asked if they offered any discounts, and they said, no. That’s fine. It doesn’t always work. But, what is there to lose?
These are just a few ideas, I’m sure I could go on and on all day. By saving in the ways that we do, we are able to travel more. Our last trip to the Pacific West our only expenses were 3 nights of hotels (out of 12), dinners, activities, and gas. There are plenty of travel forums that can help with this and a great way to avoid hotel expenses is to travel places where you know people who live there! I have a passion about traveling and finding good deals so if you have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me!