Are you a Travel Guru?? Maybe you want to be, but you’re just starting. Maybe you’ve been traveling for a bit now, but could use some tips and tricks. Well, I am here to help you out!! I’ve been traveling around the U.S. for a couple of years now and have gathered up my best secrets to planning the best trip ever on a budget. Check out my top 6 tips below 😊
1. Use the Hopper App
If you’ve never heard of the Hopper app you are missing out! This app allows you to put in your departure location and arrival destination and search for flight and hotel bundles! The Hopper app is similar to other sites that compare prices from many hotels and airlines but offers even more exclusive discounts to their app users when you book ahead. When traveling you might have specific dates in mind or maybe you’re flexible, either way, Hopper will work for you!
If you have specific dates in mind, you can enter those into the app and the app will populate the cheapest flights for those dates. Hopper will even let you know if you can save money by departing the evening before or the morning after. If you aren’t positive if you want to book yet, you can select the option to “watch this trip.” This means that the app will notify you when the prices drop or raise and what the prices are projected to be as you approach your travel dates. This way, you can hurry up and book when prices are expected to go up the following week!
If you are flexible with your dates, you can benefit from using the Hopper app as well! Say you have a friend who lives in Denver and you’ve been wanting to visit them, but don’t have any specific dates in mind. You can enter your departing and arriving locations and then view the calendar dates highlighted in green, yellow, and red to see price availability from low-high.
After you start booking with Hopper, you will begin to earn carrot cash. This unlocks rewards for hotel bundles, car rentals, and more! One thing to note is Hopper does not list every airline. Popular airlines such as Frontier, United, American, Spirit, and Delta are displayed. However, the popular airline Southwest is excluded from the app. Aside from the rewards, another benefit of using Hopper is you can “price freeze.” This means you can lock in the low price deal on Hopper with a deposit and pay the remainder of the ticket price in a few weeks.
2. Get a Travel Squad
Travel costs can add up quickly, especially when traveling alone. When you consider the costs of driving alone or staying overnight alone, having a travel squad can save SO much money. I recommend that you either travel with a plus 1 or a group of 4, most Airbnb apartments/condos and hotel rooms are best fit for those group sizes. Also, it’s easy for car travel with 2 or 4! If you’re looking at a cabin or beach house, feel free to max out on size. Most of the time you’re traveling you will be out doing activities or in common areas of the house so sleeping quarters don’t exactly need to be “luxurious.” Air mattresses ARE YOUR FRIEND. On my last trip to Deep Creek, MD I and two of my gal pals shared a room with two twin beds and just pushed the mattresses together and slept horizontally. Was it perfect? No, but did I mind doing it? Absolutely not! It lowered the cost and made for memories of us three staying up late all snuggled in one massive make-shift bed!
3. Travel to Your Top Cities in Their Off-Seasons
Not only should you look at off-seasons but uncommon weekends to travel. I know it may seem ideal to travel on a holiday weekend like MDW or President’s Day because you already have time off of work. Unfortunately, everyone has that idea. Traveling on random long weekends is more cost-effective. Of course, if there is an event occurring like Mardi Gras in NOLA or St. Paddy’s in Chicago you want to go for those specific times, but that isn’t always necessary. I visited friends in Atlanta in December for a Friday-Monday and it was perfect and super affordable. Two other trips that I took out of the typical season were to Las Vegas and Disney World in August. Both were borderline over 100°F during the week I was there, but they were more affordable than around other times of the year. This is also where you should take into consideration if you can drive rather than fly. If it’s a long holiday weekend, driving somewhere can be much cheaper than flying especially if the trip is scheduled last minute!
4. Research Destination Activities Ahead of Time
Something that can cost you a lot of money when traveling is arriving and then trying to figure out what to do in the moment. Plan plan plan is my mantra. If I know I’m going to a big city for three days, I’m going to want to do EVERYTHING. This is only possible with research. Use social media, local blogs, and even friends you know have recently visited the area!
I went to Chicago in 2019 with 3 of my girlfriends and created this itinerary so we could do and see everything we wanted while not breaking the bank. Instead of buying tickets to the John Hancock 360° Observation Deck, we booked a free reservation to the Signature Lounge at the 96th and got to enjoy the same views while relaxing and having a fun cocktail and dessert after our dinner. By researching ahead of time, I also found out about the Chicago CityPASS. This was a flat fee for a pass that you could use to redeem entry to several Chicago tourist spots at a discounted rate! The passport to Eataly was another thing I had discovered as well as the wine tasting classes that were available only as pre-purchase. Check out my very detailed itinerary below!
5. Join Any and ALL Rewards Programs & Emails
Say it with me, FREE REWARDS. I am the QUEEN of joining rewards programs and this is why… you get exclusive deals and owe the company nothing! Sign up for all of the rewards programs and subscribe to email updates so you get the most up-to-date info about sales and low-fares. Some of my favorite rewards are Hilton Honors, Marriott Bonvoy, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards, MileagePlus United Airlines, and AAdvantage for American Airlines. Also, make sure to download the Airbnb app and sign up for email updates there too! My all-time favorite rewards program is the Marriott Bonvoy program where I am a Gold Elite member and credit cardholder. With this status, I receive enhanced room upgrades, 25% more points on stays, and a 2 pm late checkout plus MANY more things! If you’re interested in enhanced rewards, sign up for the Marriott Bonvoy Boundless credit card with my referral link!
6. Explore Transportation Options
Obviously, there are many modes of transportation for travel: Grey Hound Buses, trains, cars, flying, I could probably think of even more if I was getting creative. Make sure to check out all the options that make sense for your destination. It’s not going to be cost/time effective to take a train to California instead of flying. Here are some tips for various modes of transport.
For flying, consider flying out of a smaller airport or another nearby international airport. I’m local to Pittsburgh but the Latrobe Airport also flies to a lot of places and is only about an hour away! A lot of Spirit flights can be found cheaper at Latrobe. If the flights are too expensive out of Pittsburgh to a destination unavailable at Latrobe, I will also look at Cleveland flights. Cleveland is almost ALWAYS cheaper than Pittsburgh. Of course, the logistics of departure and arrival are more difficult considering the car travel to Cleveland and if it would make sense with timing. For car travel, naturally check the toll routes vs. other routes and if it saves money by avoiding the toll roads based on time and mileage.
I hope you learned something new or at least figured out a way to better utilize one of the apps I mentioned. Make sure you let me know if you use these tips and tag me in your next travel adventure!