I think about travel a lot. Traveling for business requires that. But it also gives me a lot of time to think about traveling for fun. And that leads me to look for new ways to travel cheaply. It is a lot more fun to travel when you are spending less money rather than paying top dollar for your trip. This is not an earth-shattering concept . . . but I do have my best 7 ways to travel cheaply that I can share with you.
#1 – Sign up for reward programs
My favorite airline, by far, is Southwest. They believe in rewarding their frequent travelers. My husband flies so often that I have had a Companion Pass that allows me to fly with him for free for years. Anytime! Anywhere! Now that is fun! And for the last 2 years I have actually earned my own Companion Pass so I get to take a friend or one of my daughters with me on a trip!
I am also a member of Amtrak Guest Rewards. I get points for every trip I take and I can use the points for free trips. It’s easy and well worth it. Even if you don’t travel often by train eventually those points will add up.
My favorite hotel chain is Hilton. Their properties include Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton Inn, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, Home2, Conrad and Waldorf Astoria, which gives you lots of options for hotel stays in lots of locations. Once you pick a hotel chain stick with it. There is not much point building points with more than one chain because it will take much longer to have enough points for some free nights.
#2 – Switch your credit cards to ones that give points
My American Express card gives me Hilton points. My Visa card gives me Southwest points. I use them to pay for everything that I possible can. I earn a lot of my points this way and I have taken lots of vacations with free flights and hotels. That just leaves food and entertainment to pay for and makes for a very cheap trip.
For example . . . Key West has 2 Waldorf Astoria properties: The Reach and Casa Marina. I have stayed at and liked both, but I will probably pick The Reach to go back to because the location is closer to the downtown area and all the fun. There is also a Doubletree Hotel there. The nice thing about the Doubletree is that it is less expensive (and therefore takes less points for a night’s stay). But the hotel makes up for that by providing a free shuttle that operates all day and pretty late into the night. We have stayed in Key West many times . . . always with free nights on points.
#3 – Avoid Weekend Travel
Even when you are using points some days are more expensive than others. so if you can be flexible about your travel days you will spend less money or use less points.
#4 – Keep your suitcase light
It will cost you money to fly with a heavy suitcase. As long as it is under 50 lbs., you can check 2 bags free on Southwest. Make sure you know what the restrictions and costs are on the airline you are flying.
#5 – Travel with friends
It’s fun to travel with friends . . . but beyond that it can save you money if you can split the cost of a car rental or a house rental.
#6 – Skip the tours
Unless you are in a foreign country and you actually need help to get where you want to go, I prefer to venture out on my own. I just do a little research ahead of time and see where the tours are taking people and how I might get there.
#7 – Don’t travel during holidays
It is just more expensive to be on a cruise during the week of New Year’s Eve. Have I done that? Sure. But if you can put the trip off for a week or two you will definitely save money.
So those are my best ways to travel cheaply. I would love to hear if you have any good ideas to do this . . . I am ready to plan my next trip!