By Alex Kallimanis: Traveling is fun, enlightening and inspiring. But it can also be a little uncomfortable at times, especially for people traveling on a budget. We aim for our readers to get the best bang for their buck, because everyone loves a great deal. These are some of our top travel hacks to keep in mind before planning your next vacation!
1) Free Flights with Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses
Play the credit card points game to earn free flights with everyday spending. There’s really no catch as long as you’re responsible with credit (being irresponsible is the catch). We take advantage of credit card bonus sign ups and Chase is one of our favorite cards for the flexibility.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred has no annual fee the first year and offers 50,000 bonus points when you sign up. 50,000 bonus points on Chase rewards is worth about $750 in travel credit. There are no blackouts on flights, meaning that if there are seats you can use your points. You can often even earn airline miles with the free flight this way too! The Chase system is easy to use to cash in the points for free flights and hotel stays around the world, making it a popular among travel hackers. You can even transfer Chase points to many airline mileage programs at a 1:1 ratio!
The Gold Delta Skymiles Card is another good card with less of an intro spend compared to Chase. They’re currently offering 60,000 bonus miles after you charge $2,000 on everyday purchases. That can be enough miles for a free ticket to Europe. Plus the card entitles you to a free checked bag on Delta flights and the option to purchase Delta lounge access.
2) Consider choosing seats in the back of the plane
You’re far more likely to get a whole row to yourself in the back of the plane. Sure, it takes a little longer to get off the plane, but it’s so much more comfortable to fly this way on a budget. Perhaps don’t pick the very last row, as you won’t be able to recline your seat. We usually choose the second or third last row. Here are more tips for choosing the best seats in economy.
3) Travel off-season when possible
Off-season travel can be so much cheaper. It also doesn’t require as careful of planning in advance. Popular destinations like Venice, Santorini and the Great Wall of China are totally mobbed in the summer. Traveling in the offseason also means it’s easier to get photos with nobody else in them at famous sites!
4) Choose rooms with free cancellation and double check prices on Google
That way if you have to cancel your trip or find something better later, you can make changes without paying a penalty. We typically use booking.com because the price you see often includes taxes and they usually offer the best prices. But quickly double check by searching the hotel on google before booking. This quickly compares prices across many booking sites.
5) Always sign up for frequent flier miles and points programs
Grow your points as you travel. If you’re on a budget, don’t stay loyal to one single airline or hotel. But if you have a larger budget, upgrades can make loyalty worthwhile.
6) Always look at reviews for hotels and restaurants
Just be wary of fake reviews. If there a lot of glowing reviews by people that have only left one review, they’re probably fake. On the flip side, some reviewers are overly critical, so weed out ridiculous reviews. Sometimes it’s best to just look at the negative reviews to see if there is a systemic problem with an establishment – like bad food in restaurants or bed buds in hotels. Consider emailing a travel writer you trust for specific recommendations.
7) Stay in independent hotels for a more personal experience
This is also good for better cultural immersion. We love to support well run family hotels around the world. Airbnb often provides similar opportunities. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here for free and receive $40 off your first stay over $75.
8) While you can often get free flights by utilizing credit card points and airline frequent flier miles, sometimes you have to pay out of pocket. When you do, it’s best to check multiple sources. Google flights is one of our favorite resources to begin our search because it’s so easy to use. Check out this article I wrote on how to buy cheap plane tickets.
Here are a few more articles that you might find useful:
For any questions about planning a trip or maximizing bonus point programs, email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be happy to assist!
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