I’VE been asked a lot over the years how I am able to plan such cheap trips and adventures and the first thing I want to say is how can I not? It boggles my mind when people plan adventures and pay full price for them. Whether it’s because they don’t have the time to find something cheaper or they actually have the money to spend (I’m only completely jealous if that’s the case), they seem so surprised when I tell them how much I spent to do similar activities. So here are my tricks to being completely cheap.
PATIENCE – This seems obvious and yet counterintuitive to anyone who really knows me because they know I have no patience for anything in life (I literally checked my email 500 times a day when applying to Grad school to see if I had been accepted yet). I am a very impatient person, but my desire to be cheap trumps my desire for immediate gratification (just barely). So I take time to find the best possible deals. I search every site fathomable and create extensive graphs and charts to figure out which deal will best tickle my fancy (only sometimes).
BE FLEXIBLE – Having a specific date set in stone for travel plans makes finding the cheapest options difficult. Having a time frame instead of a specific date works better because you can look at the options available and then choose the cheapest price. It’s usually better to travel in the middle of the week then on the weekend and it’s usually best to take those butt crack of dawn or late night flights than flying in the middle of the day when everyone and their mama is at the airport. If you are flexible with your travel dates then you can start planning ahead, which takes me to my next point……..
PLAN AHEAD (nice segue right?) –Start planning your trip as soon as you know you’re going to take it. You don’t have to buy your plane tics and hotel stay right away but if you start looking at what the average costs for where you’re going are early on you can figure out your budget and learn what kind of deals are out there. I started planning my New York trip months before I knew the dates I would be going on it (I really had the whole trip mapped out since I was 7 but don’t tell anyone). And now that I know what trip I’ll be taking next I am already looking at what kinds of activities and costs I can expect. Obviously this isn't always possible. Sometimes you don’t know about a trip until the day of and that makes things trickier. Fortunately there are sites on the internet that can help with that.
USE RESOURCES – The greatest thing about the internet (aside from half-naked pics of Channing Tatum) is that there’s an unlimited amount of resources at our literal fingertips. Groupon and Living Social are great sources for deals on just about everything, but most people only use them when looking for an activity around their hometown. You may get the daily emails from these sites and think that’s all that is available, but that’s not the case. You can go to the website and browse through all activities and items available anywhere in the world (I search these sites before I wipe the crust from my eyes every morning). Find out what kind of activities you want to do on your trip and see if it’s offered on these sites. But make sure to check back regularly as deals change daily and just because something wasn’t there today doesn’t mean it won’t be available tomorrow. Another great site to use is Travelzoo. This site has great last minute deals on airfare and hotels as well as events and activities. I truly believe there is no reason to pay full price for anything when these sites are functioning 24/7.
A lot of these sites also provide extra discounts for regular buyers. I probably get a promo code from Living social once a week for an additional 10-20% off my next purchase. As is always the case it pays to spend but with these sites you will be paying a lot less than other places.
RESEARCH – Don’t just buy any deal because of the price. Make sure to research the company providing the deal before buying it to know what to expect. If the company providing the deal has an average 1 star rating on yelp find out why and determine if those complaints are problems for you (which reminds me Yelp also has deals too!!!). If there are a lot of complaints then it might be best to pass on it and find another company offering a similar deal as most competing companies tend to offer similar deals these days.
BOTTOM LINE – I don’t do anything that anyone else couldn't do. I don’t go to travel agencies and I don’t’ use any resources that aren't available to everyone. I’m just very anal about what I purchase and I ensure that I get the best possible deal.
Here are some tricks to saving money:
FOLLOW AT YOUR OWN RISK
1. STOP paying rent/mortgage. You may eventually be evicted or lose your home but you will be saving a LOT of money in the meantime. It usually takes several months to be evicted or have the bank foreclose on your home anyways so that's quite a bit of traveling money to save!!
2. EAT nothing but ramen noodles for a year (or longer if you wish). 99.9% of American college students do it so you can too (factual data here). BONUS: You will probably lose a lot of weight so you will look fabulous (or sickly) for your next trip!!
3. STOP spending money on clothes. If you do lose too much weight on the noodle diet and can no longer fit into your clothes you can become a nudist. Showing off that hot new bod you got on that fabulous trip!! WIN-WIN situation right here!!!
Disclaimer: Please note that I bear absolutely no guilt or responsibility should you lose your home, develop an eating disorder or get arrested. If you want actual money saving tips see a financial adviser..
Resources I use:
Priceline (name your own price)
Yes it takes time to search through every available site; but it is worth it in the end when you get to go on that exotic vacation of your dreams instead of just the dreaded yearly camping trip with the in-laws.