Even under the most idyllic of circumstances, planning a trip can be an arduous undertaking. To start, there’s the matter of figuring out exactly where to go, booking your airfare, seeking accommodations and then, of course, not least of all, how to finance said airfare and accommodations. Now tie in all of the added obstacles that come with traveling in a post-pandemic world: We’re talking airfare at a premium, a rental car shortage, an abundance of cancellations and delays and, of course, all of the subsequent Covid rules and regulations, which still vary significantly from state to state, country to country. It’s stressful enough to make you wonder if all that rest and relaxation on the other end is even worth it.
So, to make things moderately less frustrating, we went ahead and asked some of expert jet-setters — agents, bloggers and various other industry professionals — for their top tips and tricks for navigating the often rocky terrain that is travel. The result is a compendium of wayfaring wisdom that will make budget-friendly travel feel more accessible and the process as a whole hopefully more palatable. We hope that you’ll soon find the opportunity to put them to good use.
“Start out with the price, not the destination. Most people think about where they want to travel and then input their desired dates to generate the price of their trip. But if you’re willing to flip this and be more flexible, you should make your travel search budget-first. Oftentimes you’d be surprised by what you end up finding. If you were set on going to St. Tropez in August but realize it’s a $950 ticket, you may find a trip to Nice for the same dates that’s only half the price.” — Alex Simon, Elude
“Join Facebook travel groups. These groups are filled with adventure-seekers like yourself, and they always share the best limited-time deals that you otherwise might have missed! Finally, a use for that app that doesn’t involve procrastination.” — Kevin Hwang, Ultimate Kilimanjaro
“Don’t fall for influencer traps. The luxurious hotels and glamorous views we see on social media aren’t what they appear to be. These beaches are often far away, expensive to get to, and people are usually too tired from all the time zones and traveling that they don’t have enough energy to properly enjoy their vacation. Find local creators who specialize in your area for insight into the untapped locations and hidden gems. If you are a parent, find families of similar sizes who travel on YouTube and learn from them.” — Frankie Scerbo, Elude
“Build itinerary using Google Maps Trip Planner in planning out the best spots to visit and the dedicated time for each place (to save time). It is also very important to download the maps of the location you are traveling to so just in case when one loses connection the offline maps are always there to the rescue.” — Aman Saxena, Trip101
“Do not completely dismiss travel agents, a good one can save you money.” — Joshua Francia, Surf Hungry
“Travel insurance on the third-party travel sites [isn’t always] needed as your credit card will cover certain travel mishaps and or medical treatment (however you have to book with the same credit card).” — Samantha Goldberg, Samantha Goldberg & Co.
“Use local sites. Many resorts and airlines now have exclusive perks when you book directly with them. It’s best to cover all bases and check the site directly before booking just in case you miss out on a free bottle of champagne on arrival.” — Will Hatton, The Broke Backpacker
“Book in advance. Even if you can’t jet off quite yet, there are some amazing travel deals on offer as the industry recovers from th pandemic. With bookings available for as far in the future as 2023, you’re bound to be able to find at least one steal of a weekend getaway!” — Hwang
“Don’t follow the tourists, find the locals! While many travelers focus on landmark locations or city capitals, these are often the most expensive places because they cater to the constant influx of tourists. There are a myriad of unique destinations and quiet enclaves outside the mainstream sites. Do some research and step into local places that may be overlooked on most travel guides. You’ll end up having extra cash on hand for a more enriched experience.” — Scerbo
“City Passes can increase the quality of your trip exponentially by providing you with up to 44% off public transport ticket prices and even discounted entry for museums and other attractions.” — Hwang
“Don’t assume roundtrip tickets are cheaper, or more expensive. Check sites like www.cheapoair.com that love to pair up different carriers to combine two independent one ways on different airlines and see if the difference is worth it. — Nikki Webster, Brit on the Move
“One important hack to remember when booking international flights is to always do the search in the currency and country website of either the origin or destination. Prices are usually lower compared to a 3rd country or currency. (E.g. If you are flying from the States to Chile, don’t search in EUR or in their UK version website)
Another key practice is to always clear your web browser cache or use incognito mode if you are checking flight prices multiple times. Some airline websites track your browsing history and will show repeat visitors a different and higher price to cause FOMO. This will drive you to make the purchase thinking that prices are increasing.” — Rax Suen, Nomadsunveiled
“Take the time to research all your options when searching for flights and hotels. Look at the airline’s website as well as search engines like SkyScanner and Google flights. Often there are significant price discrepancies between websites or alternative cheaper routes you may not have thought of. Plus, many airline search engines allow you to set price alerts so you can easily see when the price drops.” — Lora Pope, Explore With Lora
“Flights on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are less crowded due to weekday dynamics according to Scott’s Cheap Flights.” — Ni Wayan, Balipedia
“While flight prices fluctuate throughout the week, it’s been known to be cheaper by booking during the afternoon. Flight prices are often higher in the morning due to business travelers booking their last-minute business trips.” — Joel Speyers, Prep4Travel
“When you are booking flight tickets, do what I do: take an early or late flight if possible. Yes, it can be a bit inconvenient but not many people travel at odd hours for that very reason so the tickets are generally much cheaper.” — Jill Miller, Your RV Lifestyle
“When traveling, the easiest method to save money is to avoid booking during peak hours. However, if you’re traveling with family and children, this may not be practical. Nevertheless, if you don’t mind flying at odd hours, it will save you a lot of money. In general, the best times to book a flight are between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., or after 8 p.m. Similarly, avoid reserving on Fridays and Sundays, as these are often the most expensive days to purchase flights. Instead, book during the week on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which are often the cheapest days. The bottom line is to travel when most people don’t want to, early in the morning and early in the week.” — Yulia Saf, MissTourist
“Utilize travel credit cards to get free flights and book red-eye flights to avoid paying an extra night for a room.” — Brian Donovan, Timeshatter
“Use search engines such as InterMiles, Expedia, and Skyscanner to get the flight details for all the different airlines flying to your given destination. You can then decide on the best option to suit your pocket.” — Miller
“To spend less money on accommodation during your travels, you can swap your home with someone else in the world who lives in a place you would like to visit. You’ll get to explore from a local place with the advice of the owner. This exchange is beneficial on the financial side, but also on the cultural and practical sides. For instance, they can take care of your pets or your plants when you’re away!” — Soline Le Page, On the Road Diary
“Contacting the hotel or location of lodging directly can sometimes beat online pricing. If you stay for a week, sometimes they will negotiate a better rate the longer you stay.” — Goldberg
“When you are looking for accommodation, a great way to save actual money is to use air miles and credit card points. You can also use sites such as Cancelon and Roomer, which list rooms that are available after late cancellations. These rooms are available at reduced rates.
Travel organizations like AAA offer great membership discounts, so join up and save. If you are under 35 you can get an International Student Identity Card which gives great savings on accommodation.” — Miller
“Travelers should utilize every gift card or voucher they come by to make the most out of their traveling experience. Amazon and websites such as cardcash.com have great deals that cater to accommodation and travel.” — Wayan
“[When you check into a hotel] ask for a corner room for quiet and a sometimes larger room. — Goldberg
“Book your car early and be flexible — flexibility on your car type, the pickup date and the pickup location can result in significant savings. Keep in mind that vehicle-type availability is variable and the price at an airport-based or a city-based car rental location in the same locale might be different. You might save money by picking up your car earlier in the week or by traveling across town to pick up your car. In Priceline’s top 30 most popular destinations, over 70% of searches show cheaper rates available at off-airport locations than at an airport-based location for the same car type.” — Lucy Bueti, Priceline
“Rental cars are king. Flight prices are rising as restrictions ease while car rental prices remain relatively stable. There are plenty of mid-week rental deals to get your hands on and ensure a safer travel environment than public transport.” — Hatton
“Compare airport parking prices. If you’re lucky enough to be flying to your destination this summer, then make sure you’re not spending your savings from your vacation deal on the airport parking. Airport Parking Reservations is an excellent site for finding parking prices that won’t break the bank.” — Hwang
“Car rental companies will upgrade [if you ask] when you check in. Ask them at the pick-up counter.” — Goldberg
“In the current post-pandemic era, delays are more likely than ever, and trust me when I say you do not want to be caught getting hangry on a trans-Atlantic flight. It’s often cheaper to pre-book in-flight meals.” — Hatton
“The third most expensive part of your adventure is food. Eating meals out can often rack up the overall cost of your trip, but this can be avoided by planning a picnic! Visit the local market and stock up on your favorites to last throughout the trip and stop those impulse $14 coffees and salads.” — Hwang
Bonus COVID tips
“A study by researchers at Emory University and Georgia Tech found that the best way to avoid germs on a plane is to sit at a window seat and remain seated for the course of the flight.” — Jeremy Scott Foster, TravelFreak
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