6 Tips for Saving Money While Wanderlusting
We’re two twenty-something sisters with student loans, living in one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., and one of us lives on a teacher’s salary. Yet, we’ve collectively traveled to Europe eight times in the past year and traveled domestically a dozen times in the last year without maxing out our credit cards, or even going into debt. How did we do it? With a little luck, some flexibility, and a whole lot of credit card miles. Here are our favorite tricks to traveling the world on a dime (and then some…).
make your credit card work for you
We each have Chase Sapphire credit cards that allow us to book international travel at least once a year at no cost to us. We pay our credit cards off every month so we’re never racking up debt and interest, but we are racking up those airmiles. When you first sign up if you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months you get 50,000 bonus points - that’s worth over $600 in air travel! Of course, this doesn’t mean you get to spend $4,000 at Nordstrom just for fun, but a lot of what you are already spending can be put on a credit card and then immediately paid off. Kelda paid for one of her master’s quarters using her Chase credit card to help her hit the $4,000 mark. Other travel credit cards we love are the Alaska Airlines card. If you spend $1,000 in the first 3 months then you get 30,000 bonus miles. Every year you also get a companion fare, which allows you to take a friend with you on your Alaska flight for just the cost of taxes (as low as $22)!
budget for travel
Building a travel savings account into your budget allows for you to be able to book a flight, hotel, or excursion when you see a good deal. There’s no point snagging an awesome flight deal if it means your bank account will go overdraft or you won’t be able to pay off your credit card. By saving for future trips it gives you the flexibility to book whenever you see a good deal without the guilt of wondering how you’ll afford it.
know how to search for flights
When we were little, one of our favorite things to do was create PowerPoints trying to convince our parents where we should go on vacation. Now, we still love to search for travel, but we’re a little more savvy about it. One of our favorite tools to use is Scott’s Cheap Flights. Scott’s Cheap Flights is an email service that sends you incredible deals and mistake fares from airports near you. Every week we get emails for crazy good deals like $600 flights to Bali.
Another one of our favorite tools is Google Flights. It gives you the option to search regions (i.e. Asia or Europe) and the calendar tool easily lets you see what days are the cheapest to fly. Google Flights is how Kelda booked her Seattle → Brussels flight, with a day stopover in Iceland, for only $400!
book in advance
If you can, look for trips in advance! People always say that summer, spring break, and the holiday season are too expensive to travel and that’s simply not true! Kelda’s a school teacher so the only time she can really travel is during peak season, however, we haven’t paid more than $500 for a Europe flight in years and we’ve traveled during summer and spring break, but by being flexible with our location & booking in advance, we’ve been able to score great deals!
We get it. You want to go to the Amalfi Coast and you want to go for exactly two weeks on specific dates. And you can do that, but you'll likely pay a lot more. When we first started planning our summer trip this year, we originally were looking at the French or Italian Riviera. However, we realized that it would be pretty expensive. We scaled back and realized what we really wanted was a vacation somewhere beautiful, sunny, and where we could get a nice tan, not necessarily to see the French and Italian Riviera (although it's on our list!). That's when we found great flights to Crete and it was decided! If you narrow in and get too specific with your dates and location, you'll end up paying a lot more. Try to at least be flexible on either your travel dates or your location, and you'll find much better deals.
know what you’re willing to cut costs on and what you aren't
There are always more ways to cut costs, but that doesn’t mean you want to do them! It’s usually always cheaper to stay in a hostel or just rent a room in an Airbnb, but we’ve never stayed in a hostel and only once booked just a room, because that’s not an area where we want to compromise. Where we are willing to compromise? We don’t mind flying on budget airlines. Norwegian Air is a favorite for $400 flights direct from Seattle to London. And once we’re in Europe? You’ll often see us on RyanAir flights. Is RyanAir the best airline? No. Is it cheap? Yes. The RyanAir flights are usually short (1-3 hours) so we don’t mind flying them, but we’ve also met many people that just can’t handle the small seats and customer service. We also don't mind having longer layovers (hello, new city!) or the time of our flight. This allows us to get much cheaper flights. We also never check bags, because when you fly on budget airlines that usually means you have to pay extra. And you know what? We’ve been able to pack for month long trips using just a carry on (don’t worry we’ll share our packing secrets with you soon)! Figure out what areas you’re willing to compromise on to save a little money and what things are non negotiables for you.
Traveling can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be! Let us know in the comments what tips you picked up and what awesome deals you scored - we need some new travel inspo!