How To Plan A Cheap Trip

I get asked this question often, so here I am sharing some tips on how to travel for the low. Now I'll say this several times through this post and throughout this blog in general, but the term cheap is, of course, relative. Whenever people notice my back to back travels, they wonder "how do you do it?!", i.e. how can you afford to travel as often as you do and have the money to do so. Now in an older post "How dare you say travel is expensive",  I explain to you how to find good deals to make travel relatively inexpensive.  The same rules still apply, and carry over into this blog post. Since this post is about cheap travel, get ready to do some outside of the box planning and research.  For example, if you want to plan a cheap trip to Paris in the middle of the summer, it's going to be tough.  Probably not impossible, but then again it depends on your definition of cheap, and how much you really want to spend.  If you want to save some of that hassle, here are some sure-fire ways to plan a cheap trip.

Visit in the offseason 

Pretty much traveling anywhere during the summer months can lead to the possibility of paying more due to the peak season.  Kids are out of school so families are going to be more inclined to take their vacation during the summer months.  Airlines and hotels are well aware of this and take the advantage to capitalize on it by price gouging.   Plan to take your trip during non-peak months to lessen your chances of paying high hotel and flight costs.  For example, visiting certain cities in Nov-Jan  either right before or after the holiday can increase your chance of cheap travel - try a few weeks before the Christmas holiday or the second week in January.  Depending on your location of choice, keep in mind how the weather will be around that time if that's important and a deal breaker for you.  Instead do some research and plan to visit somewhere like the Caribbean or Hawaii during those months if you are looking for warmer temperatures.  Speaking of the Caribbean, hurricane season hits its peak from August to October.  Flights and hotels tend to be really cheap around this time because of this. Book the flight and get insurance in case a hurricane makes it impossible to go. You're essentially playing Russian roulette but if you have the time to be flexible to do so, it may be worth it.  And cheap!

Pick a not-so popular destination

Try visiting places that are similar to a destination you want to visit, but tend to be less popular therefore increasing the chance for cheaper prices.  For example, visit Montreal instead of Paris, or Fort Lauderdale instead of Miami.  If you keep it in state or within the same country, research how to visit the city that might interest you a little bit more. Use Fort Lauderdale versus Miami for example. Might just be as simple as an hour or more bus or train ride away.

Stay in non-conventional lodging 

I've said it before in, "How to DIY solo travel plans", consider hostels when traveling.  If you really want cheap travel, this is a good start. And a great way to meet like minded individuals. Hostels aren't for the bougie or for the 'I'm too good'. It's for the open minded, the brave, the free spirits, and for those who would rather spend their time exploring new places and save. It's about the overall travel experience and hostels are a good way to enhance this experience.  Bonus: they are cheap!  Prices vary with the option of renting a bed in a shared room for as low as $10 a night, or having a room to yourself for a little bit more money.  Hostels tend to offer various options and you can choose according to your budget.  Also consider Airbnb.  They offer several room options as well from shared room, renting a room, or renting the whole place.  Headed to London?   You can stay in a hotel for $175 a night or rent a room for $75 a night or the whole place for $150 a night by using Airbnb.  Save your coin! Do your due diligence and I'm sure you will come up with the best option that fits in your price range of cheap.

Be flexible and utilize flight deals 

Sign up for travel alerts! I repeat...sign up for travel alerts! Trust me on this one. Sure travel deals will flood your inbox everyday, but if you are on the hunt for cheap travel this is the way to go. Unless you are checking airline sites all day everyday, sites like airfarewatchdog and The Flight Deal, will do all the work for you. Want to get that $39-100 flight from US cities, the $200 flight to the Caribbean, the $400 flight to Europe, or the $500 flight to Asia?  Set up alerts. Even better, follow these sites on social media. Thanks to following airfarewatchdog on Twitter, I was able to score a $428 flight from Los Angeles to Spain. For August. Remember I said above that planning a cheap trip to Europe during the summer isn't impossible.  Set up alerts and follow your favorite travel deal sites on social media to increase your chances. Also, be flexible on when you can travel. Search by the month instead of exact dates and you increase your chance of finding cheaper travel.

Choose budget airlines

Please consider Spirit Airlines!  Hear me out. They consistently have cheap flights.  Now I know they don't have a great reputation, but I have flown them 4 times and have yet to have any major issues, if any issues at all.  And I plan to continue to use them until I have major issues. Don't knock it til to try it.   Please know that airlines like Delta, United, and other airlines of this caliber are not exempt from having bad customer service, flight delays, or other service issues, just because they may not be considered budget. Sure, Spirit will nickle and dime you for everything, but just be prepared and you won't have to dish out any extra money on top of the 'bare fare'.  I've never given them more money then my initial fare. I bring my own food and drink on the plane, the correct sized luggage that meets their requirements, and print my boarding pass prior to arriving at the airport. Prepare ahead of time and budget airlines like Spirit will be key for planning a cheap trip.  Did I tell you about the time I paid $34 for a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Maryland?  So yeah, I keep Spirit Airlines in my back pocket.

So now that you have some tools for planning a cheap trip, where are we going?!

Happy travels!