3.04.2014

How To Travel In Style [While On A Budget]


The requests have been heard and today I am here to deliver. Traveling is one thing that most people always want to do, but never actually do because "it's just so expensive." Before we begin, let's talk about the importance of travel for a second. 

I personally think traveling provides some of the richest experiences and memories you will ever have and is absolutely worth every dollar it takes to do so. Rich or poor, I will travel. Without sounding too romantic, I believe that you grow as a person, and closer to the people you are with, when you enlarge your tiny little world and go out and experience new things in new places. There is a quote that goes something like "Don't ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive." (thanks to good ole Howard Thurman for those wise words) and to me, I come alive when I travel. 

So now that we have discussed my love affair with travel, lets dive into the things that have allowed me to do so. Before we begin it should be noted that I am a travel snob. I prefer to stay in 4+ star (typically newer) hotels, eat at great places, do fun things while there, BUT I do so on a minimum budget (which is typically $1500 total or less which includes round-trip flights and a car rental for the two of us). My goal is that a few of these items below will make that trip to wherever you are dreaming of going, seem a little more possible. 


+ For starters, create a vacation savings account. If you are able to, set-up an automatic transfer weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly into that savings account out of your regular checking account. Make it easier yet and have a small percentage of your paycheck direct deposited into that vacation savings account. This way you are consistently saving and won't have to shell out a huge chunk of change at one time for your trip. 

+ Second, we always take our vacations in off seasons. Typically we try to vacation two times a year. These two trips typically happen between January-March and September-November. This avoids paying high ticket prices during Spring Break season, Christmas Vacation, etc. It also means not a million people will be in the same destination spot as you. This is easier for us to do because we don't have children and their school schedule to plan around, so for us these times of the year are perfect! Along with this, we prefer to leave on a weekday and come back on a weekday for the lowest price. For our most recent trip we left on Friday evening and returned the following Friday evening. 

+ When deciding where to go, I turn first to Expedia (you can also go to BookingBuddy to compare all different sites, I typically have had the most luck with Expedia) and just start typing in destinations I have in mind. But here's the deal, I always sort by star rating. Like I said, hotel snob. What I have found though by doing this is that you are able to stay in some really nice places for not a lot of money. After getting a good idea of what it is roughly going to cost to go to several different places, I put together an Excel document to present to the husband. This document will list the destination spot, dates of travel, flight times, hotel, type of room, and last but not least, the price. We can then hash out what we think is the best bang for our buck. [side note: I use Trip Advisor like a fool during this time, researching and reading reviews on the hotels I have in mind to get all of the inside scoop].


+ Another great idea that has worked for me in finding great hotels and resorts for less is to Google "new hotels in ________". Many times new hotels and resorts will run specials when they first open. We were able to stay at Secrets Maroma a few years ago in its opening year for around $700 a person (including flights), that trip today would cost us over $4,000. 

+ Before booking ANYTHING (this includes activities on your trip), google "discount codes for ____". I have saved lots of money this way. 

+ Bloggers this is for you--before booking your hotel, email them and introduce yourself and your blog. See if you can work out a deal where you will promote your stay on your social media accounts and blog for either a free or discounted stay. The travel industry wants exposure just like anybody else, use it to your advantage! I contacted the last hotel we stayed at prior to arriving and was able to land a free room upgrade. It's not worth not asking. 

+ Book your flights, hotel, and rental car all together if possible for the best price. Again, I either do this through Expedia or most recently, have started doing it through Southwest as that is who we prefer to fly with. 

+ Speaking of flights, try to fly on an airline that offers free bags (three cheers to you Southwest). This alone can save you anywhere from $50-$200 depending on how many bags you take. On Southwest each person can fly two bags for free. If you are questionable on your weight limit for your first bag, bring a second just to be safe. This way if you purchase anything on your trip you have an empty bag to put it in which won't cost you any additional money to check. This can save you $75 alone for not going over the weight limit! 


+ After booking your trip, sign up for Groupon in that area. You can find a ton of great restaurant or activity deals this way. Why pay full price for dinner when you pay half? Exactly. Also hit up Restaurant.com and see if there are any good deals in that area. We have saved some money doing this ourselves! 

+ Now, departure time. Some of us writing this blog post hate flying. To cope with this fear, alcohol is needed. However, alcohol can be expensive while 30,000 feet in the air so I highly recommend bringing your own shooters. As long as they are 3 oz or less and put them in a plastic bag, you are free to bring them on the plane! Free water + pop on the flight plus your shooters and you are one happy camper. Or at least I am. 

+ Once arriving to your hotel do two things at check-in: Ask if there are any room upgrades available and ask if your room has a mini refrigerator (I always place this in the special request section when booking my trip). I always ask about upgrades and it has worked 98% of the time. If they don't have the room sold, why not let you stay in it? The mini refrigerator is muy importante because you can then hit up a local grocery store and buy breakfast items, lunch items, snacks, bottled water, and your own alcohol. We save ridiculous amounts of money on vacation by not going out to breakfast and lunch and drinking our own drinks at the hotel. Try it. 


+ If you are traveling somewhere that has Happy Hours, do your best to grab drinks or eat dinner during those times (typically between 4-7 pm). You can also save huge amounts of money doing this. Utitlize yelp like it's your job to find these spots. 

+ And last but not least, this has nothing to do with saving money but more with remembering that great vacation you just took--bring your nice camera. I know that phones take pictures and it's convenient and all, but it's also a lot of fun to have great quality photos to look back on. My recommended camera for travel and every day purposes? A Sony NEX-5. Compact enough to throw in your purse, the option to change out different lenses (my favorite is this lens), and great photo quality. 

+ I know there are more things I haven't covered (shockingly enough), but if you have a topic you would love discussed on travel please let me know in the comments below and I'll be sure to do a follow up post!

My favorite places to stay as of recent: 

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36 comments:

  1. Love the idea of an Excel spreadsheet. I've tried multiple times to sit down WITH the husband to plan out a trip and it never works. Branden is a give me the basic information first kind of guy, forget all the "ohh this is pretty" "oh I once heard *insert famous name* stayed here once". Thanks for this and again, my apologies for getting this confused with a "traveling in awesome clothes on a budget" post. Would love to see one though! :)

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  2. I have a sister who never wants to go anywhere in her life and I find it so sad. Traveling is so much fun. It enriches your life and you create so many fun memories. I have a love affair with travel too. We do at least 1-2 trips every year. It's definitely worth the money. You just have to save up and plan ahead.

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  3. Such a great post! Traveling is a huge priority for me and my husband...even if it's just two hours away we love experiencing new cities together. Living on two teacher salaries I love finding even more tips to save money when traveling!!

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  4. such good tips! :) traveling can be so expensive if you don't know some of this stuff!

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  5. I love this post! We travel and stay on the cheap thanks to the fact that the boyo travels for work and has points everywhere, but I never thought about planning ahead with groupon or asking for discounts. Great tips, Erin!

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  6. SO helpful -- One of my favorite posts to date - thank you for these great tips :)

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  7. Traveling is hands down my favorite thing to spend my money on, and I always make sure we are getting a deal/traveling in the off season.

    Great tips! I've also found that it's cheaper to travel to the Caribbean and stay at an all-inclusive instead of cities in the U.S. all your food and drinks are included, plus the hotel stays are cheaper :)

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  8. I love traveling so much. I already have three vacations planned within the next 12 months - one of them being Blogcation. Duh. My boyfriend likes to travel in theory, but he hates all of the money spending (and planning). I'll definitely have to utilize these tips to convince him to go on a vacation with me. I love the Excel spreadsheet idea.

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  9. Erin these are all great tips!! I will definitely be using them for upcoming trips for Matt & I!! Thanks a ton for all of your suggestions & tips!!

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  10. These are great tips! I love Tripadvisor, I review everywhere I go as well as read reviews about everywhere I go. Next time I go on vacation I will definitely have to contact the resort to let them know about my blog. Hopefully till then I can grow my audience a little.

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  11. I love traveling and I always love good tips on saving money! Thanks Erin, great post!

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  12. Quick question... would you mind sharing what you say to hotels when you contact them about free or discounted rates for staying there? I have an idea of what I would say but, obviously it's worked for you so just wanted to get an idea. Thanks chicka!!

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  13. Thanks for the tips.
    Http://KYfashion4.blogspot.com

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  14. GREAT tips. I had no idea that you can bring little bottles of alcohol on the plane. Do you put them in your carry on? I thought there was a security law against that. I hate flying and I can honestly say, that is the only way I can get through a flight. I too, would like to know what you say to get a free/discounted or upgraded room.

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  15. Great blog post, will be putting these tips to good use xx

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  16. Thanks for the great tips! Very helpful read!

    Shannon
    http://www.sincerelyshannon.com.au/

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  17. I agree with you on so many points about travel, and do many of the things that you do as well! I'm in Europe right now studying for a few months, and I'm actually really surprised by how much my parents and my friends' parents have chipped into flights and hotels for us, considering how stingy mine can be when it comes to spending money on "frivolous" things haha. But they agree that seeing the world is one of the most important things you can do with your life, so I'm reaping the benefits from that! :)

    I would also add picking a favorite hotel chain and airline, and signing up for rewards. The e-mails can be quite annoying and it might take awhile to build up any truly great rewards, but it's free and they'll eventually add up!

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  18. I love staying where there is a fridge... we prefer to eat breakfast in the room. Not only is it more affordable, but it is healthier because we aren't loading up on a huge breakfast every day. 3 meals out a day is expensive and more than i even want.

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  19. have you every used a groupon/livingsocial deal for a vacation? They look tempting but wasn't sure if they're a good deal or worth it. Thanks for sharing your tips!
    Kelly

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  20. Great tips... Ive already started saving money Im bound and determined to take a vacation SOON!

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  21. This is so informative and helpful...things that are so simple to do, yet I've never thought of them--signing up for Groupon for the area that you traveling--genius! Thanks for sharing these great tips!

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  22. These are awesome tips! We are going on our first vacation in 9 years in a month! You are probably wondering what our problem is!! :) We're driving with friends and staying in a friend's condo that is comepletely paid for and we will buy all the groceries. Chris and I are excited though because with his new work schedule he gets 7 days off in a row every month which will allow us to travel during non-peak seasons, so I need to start researching and creating this excel spreadsheet you speak of!
    Eva Marie Taylor

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  23. Thanks for the great tips! Unfortunately I would like to leave California for a vacation, haha. You were right in my hood on your vacation! Great photos, too. :)

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  24. You killed it with helpful information in this post girl! Thanks for sharing fo realz!

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  25. No offense at all to you, but this was WAY more informative and helpful than I thought it would be. Shows how dumb I am--I honestly just thought there couldn't be that many ways to save. This is brilliant! Great ideas!! I too am a hotel snob, but I also love to save! Yay this!

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  26. These are such great tips - especially the mini fridge!

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  27. I love all these tips!! We travel in off seasons too and people always ask. We don't have kids to worry about.

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  28. Great ideas! I have heard about the carry on alcohol, but never have been brave enough to try it. Now that I know it worked for someone, I'll be stocking up on 3 oz'ers for my upcoming trip!

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  29. A food tip--if you are staying somewhere that includes breakfast (e.g. anywhere in England), you might find that a hearty breakfast will hold you most of the day (especially if dinner is not too late). You will save $ on eating out, and avoid feeling overfull all the time. A snack in the afternoon will hold you over (and give you a chance to have that ice cream cone that you might otherwise miss out on). (Sometimes you can also take some fruit, yoghurt, muffin, etc, from breakfast to save for later.) Tips from a tightwad/scavenger. :)

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  30. This is exactly how I do things plus a few new tips for me! Totally pinning this!

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  31. I have to tell you, I have thought about this post 1k times...thank you for posting. It makes me BELIEVE vacation is achievable and can be done FAB and on a shoestring!!

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  32. Great article ...Thanks for your great information, the contents are quiet interesting. I will be waiting for your next post.

    Search for the best Car rental prices in Italy

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  33. You might want to consider spending some of that money on better luggage. Ick, so tacky. For being a travel "snob", you don't dress or travel with things that nice...

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  34. Some top tips right there. I am a traveler, who spends lots of money on traveling. I hope these tips will workout for my next trip to San Francisco and I will definitely share my experience here after coming back.

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I read and appreciate every one of your comments. Thanks for stopping by my space and sharing a piece of yourself on this huge ole internet. I meant that in the least creepy way possible. I'm just good at making everything awkward. Anyhow, thank you for your comments. They make me smile :)