Traveling is fun, enlightening and inspiring. Regardless of your budget, there are many ways to save big on trips, allowing you to spend more at your destination of choice. We want our readers to get the best bang for 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 and Hotel Stays with Credit Card Sign Up Bonuses
We take advantage of credit card bonus sign ups to save thousands each year on travel. The sign up bonuses alone are often good enough for free international flights or a week’s worth of complimentary hotel stays. Travel rewards cards also offer other travel perks like free lounge access and room upgrades. This is the best tracks hack for all budgets when played right. The best deals change, but here are a few cards we have saved big with!
Hilton Honors American Express: Lots of Travel Hacks Included!
The Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card is an excellent travel rewards card to have. They offer 130,000 Hilton Honors Points that you can redeem for free Hilton stays. 130,000 Hilton points is worth around $700 in Hilton hotel credit! You can also use the points at for stays at Hilton brands like DoubleTree, Hilton Garden Inn and HomeWood Suites by Hilton.
Another excellent perk of this card is automatic Hilton Honors gold status. Normally you have to spend a lot of money at Hilton to earn this status, but not if you sign up for the Hilton Honors American Express Surpass Card. You’ll have gold status at Hilton from your first stay using this card. A major perk of Hilton gold status is free room upgrades when available. You can also skip the line at check-in.
Asides from earning 130,000 points to use on free hotel stays there are two other things I like about this card. One is a free Priority Pass, which allows you 10 lounge visits in over 1,200 lounges worldwide. At $95, this is the lowest annual fee card I’ve come across that gives free lounge access! You can enjoy complimentary snacks, drinks and comfortable seating with outlets to charge your devices. There is so much value in keeping this card!
Delta SkyMiles Gold or Delta Skymiles Platinum AMEX Cards
The Delta SkyMiles Gold American Express Card and Delta SkyMiles Platinum AMEX cards are great cards to have. Delta ranks as the best US airline for customer service and flying experience. Just note that if you have have ever had either product, you’re not eligible for the bonus again. But if you have had just the Delta Gold card, you are eligible to receive the bonus with the Delta Platinum card.
Last year I flew roundtrip from Washington, DC to Tokyo Japan on Delta for 70,000 Skymiles and $60 in taxes. If I paid out of pocket for the ticket it would have cost me $1,300. So I saved over $1,000 on that ticket! Then I was able to replenish Delta miles even during the pandemic by signing up for the Delta SkyMiles Platinum card. Read how I earned over 120,000 Delta Skymiles in a year without flying!
2) Check Reviews for Hotels and Restaurants & Ignore Fake Reviews
We never book hotels without checking reviews first. Are the beds comfortable? Is the location convenient? Are the rooms quiet? A good night’s sleep and comfortable stay is important to a travel experience, so be sure that overall reviews are good. We typically check google reviews. TripAdvisor is another good resource.
Domestically, we always check restaurant reviews as well. Internationally, we may let that slide if we cannot get on the internet and we’re hungry (spontaneity can be fun too!). If you can’t check restaurant reviews when you travel internationally, select places that look popular with locals. Locals are not flocking to establishments that are serving bad food, regardless of where you are in the world. Many restaurants, especially in cities, have their menus posted outside the front door. So also check that the establishment falls within your budget.
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 pattern of problems with an establishment – like bad food in restaurants or bed buds in hotels. Consider emailing a travel writer you trust for specific recommendations!
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) Always sign up for Frequent Flyer Miles and Points Programs to Maximize Your Travel Hacks
Anytime you fly or stay in a hotel, always sign up for their loyalty program, if you’re not a member already. It is always free. Then 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. One of the biggest hacks is to not waste points long term.
5) Choose Rooms with Free Cancellation and Double Check Prices on Google
Especially in cities, there are often a lot of options on where to stay. So why pre-pay for rooms when you do not have to? Sometimes hotels give special non-refundable deals, but we rarely choose those. There are usually deals with free cancellation and it is good to allow yourself some flexibility in the event plans change.
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. Google quickly compares prices across many booking sites! But if you do book through booking.com – please use our link 🙂
6) Stay in Independent Hotels or Airbnb
Small independently run hotels can be a great way to experience the local culture. Airbnb can offer similar experiences. It is also the best value for families and groups of friends. If you’ve never used Airbnb, sign up here for free and receive a discount. Book listings with consistently great reviews for the best experience. This is one of the best travel hacks for families and groups of friends!
7) 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.
8) How to Buy Cheap Plane Tickets When Paying out Of Pocket
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.
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For any questions about planning a trip or maximizing bonus point programs, email me at [email protected] and I’ll be happy to assist!
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