Many of you have wondered how I am able to travel so often. I figured the best way to share my tips and recommendations with you guys would be to write them all down in a blog post. My goal is for you to refer to this when planning your next trip. I hope you learn some new hacks and eventually take advantage of some of them!
The most common question I get asked is "how do you travel so much?" The usual answer and best advice I give people is my secret weapon for finding the best airfare deals.
Skiplagged.com is a godsend.
They're so good at finding cheap flights that United Airlines sued them for it. That being said, don't be wary! It has been more than three years since this occurred, and I've been using this website for the past two years.
So what makes them so amazing at finding the best rates? This ingenious website uses an algorithm to find hidden-city flights, and more importantly, they consider all airlines when booking a round-trip ticket. What does this mean? Let me explain.
My friends, Princess and Meg and I, all traveled to Hawaii last January together. We flew from New York to Honolulu round trip for $580. Alright, I know that may sound expensive, but plane tickets to Hawaii are not cheap (although supposedly they are getting cheaper), and after doing a lot of research, this was a steal. Anyway, we couldn't pass up an opportunity to escape the brutal Northeast winter, hike tropical mountains, and surf gatorade-colored waters.
We entered our dates on Skiplagged, clicked round-trip, and chose a one way ticket from JFK (New York) to HNL (Honolulu) with a stopover in SFO (San Francisco), and a one-way hidden-city return flight from HNL to YYZ (Toronto).
Toronto??? Yes. Let me explain.
Flying from HNL to YYZ was cheaper than flying HNL to JFK. So on our inbound flight, we got off during the layover at JFK and purposefully missed our flight to YYZ. Makes sense, right?
The keys to booking a hidden-city flight are:
1. Make sure it's one-way. If it's not, there is a very good chance the airline will cancel your return trip, forcing you to book another flight.
2. Don't overuse them. I've only used a hidden-city flight twice, both times with a different airline. (The deals I find on skiplagged.com are so good that I try to not resort to hidden-city trips that often.)
3. Carry-on bags ONLY. If you check a bag and are using a hidden-city flight, when you get to your layover, aka final destination, your bag will still be continuing its journey to the next city. Hence, you are restricted to using a carry-on if you choose to use this method.
4. If it's an international flight, bring your passport. You never know if it will be required to board even if you're staying within the U.S.
5. Don't enter your frequent flier miles account number when using a hidden-city trip. The airline isn't going to like it if you miss your flight, and therefore, may dock any acquired miles you have racked up.
If you don't feel comfortable "cheating the system," Skiplagged has filters that allow you to turn the search for these hidden-city trips off. I am also not endorsing the use of hidden-city flights. I simply want you to be aware of them as an option, especially if planning a big trip. The reason Skiplagged is my go-to is because I can quickly find the cheapest airfare using different airlines.
We booked our tickets directly from the airline websites (JetBlue, Hawaiian, and Delta). You can book from Skiplagged.com, but beware of the service fee listed on certain flights; however, sometimes even with the service fee, the flight is cheaper on Skiplagged than the airline website. In that case, I book through Skiplagged!
P.S. Keeping your schedule flexible certainly helps if you want to book the best deals!
Your own two feet
You have legs for a reason! Why not use em while you got em? Maybe it's because I grew up in New York, but I don't mind walking...even if its 40 minutes to get to where I'm trying to go. Now some of you may think I'm insane, others may be in agreement. For me, exploring a city on my own two feet is what makes the place truly memorable. You might discover artsy alleyways along the way, which contributes to making the city "yours."
The London Underground, the New York City Subway, and the Shanghai Metro are fast, reliable, inexpensive forms of transportation that will get you where you need to go. If you're really bumming it, buses are almost always an option, but depending on the city (cough Hawaii & LA cough), these might even triple the time it would take to get there by car. In this case, an Uber may be worth it. Tip: Uber Pool is usually cheaper and will still deliver you to your destination at a reasonable time.
How many of you have a membership with USAA? You don't? That's too bad... It's free, they don't spam your inbox, and they give you discounts on car rentals. Companies like Budget, Hertz, Avis and Enterprise are all participants. The best part? If you have a USAA account, the under 26 driving fee is waived! Also, if you do happen to get in an accident (fingers crossed you don't), your membership with USAA could reduce your costs! So what are you waiting for?? Go sign up NOW.
If you happen to already be a Triple A member, this is a great company with benefits (I'm talking discounts!!) – including waiving that irksome under 26 fee. You can also earn an international driver's license for just $20 with your membership!
Getaround is a very popular app in San Francisco and starting to spread to other cities. Think Airbnb for cars. Just make sure to download and set up the app before your trip, as it can take a few days to have your license be processed through their system.
Before you even think of any hotels or Airbnbs, rack your brain for a friend located in the city you're visiting. Do you know someone you'd feel comfortable crashing with for a few days and could reach out to? See if they're okay with letting you stay for a few days. Offer to cook them dinner, pay for their meal somewhere, or host them if they're ever visiting your area. Even if it's not for the entirety of your trip, it can still save you a lot of money, that you can then put towards other excursions, or another trip!
Airbnb, vrbo & homeaway
I'm sure many of you are familiar with Airbnb, from luxurious condos to beachside shacks, you can almost find everything on here. Not only will you experience living like a local, but through connecting with the host, you'll be able to hit up all those great local hangouts and recommendations too! Whether you've got the entire house, or a private room, the options are convenient for one-night stays or lengthy vacations.
One of the first stops after arriving at my destination: hit up the nearest grocery store. I stock up on breakfast foods, snacks, and items that can easily be swapped out for lunch or dinner. Then, depending on my agenda for each day, I'll eat breakfast at the house, then either pack a lunch or cook dinner at "home."
If my trip is only a few days, I'll usually pre-pack my breakfasts and a few snacks, granted they fit in my luggage. If I'm using a car to get there, you can bet I have a ton of food ready to munch on. My go-tos for flying: oatmeal with protein powder or peanut butter, protein bars, apples, nuts/trail mix, jerky.
I know, I know. Doing this might seem like it's not worth it, but for me, it usually is. If for whatever reason, I don't make it to the grocery store, I don't have to rely on stopping somewhere for a quick bite in the morning. Which saves me time and $$!
If you're sticking to a budget, the key here is to limit how often you eat out. Although I'd love to eat out for every meal, that would add up fast and isn't healthy! Pick a few days to enjoy dinner at scenic restaurant or lunch at the local dive.
There was a time when cell phones didn't exist and pay phones spotted the streets. Travel may not have been as easy during these days, but if it could be done then, it can be done now. Even if you have to ask a stranger to borrow their phone to make a quick call. (Though who actually remembers more than one person's phone numbers nowadays?)
If I travel with a friend, I don't usually bother with the international plans or calling cards from my service provider. Usually the person I'm traveling with will have service abroad, but if not, there's usually easily accessible free wifi that you can rely on. Not too confident? Try trusting yourself for a day with only wifi! You might end up liking the spontaneity it can unearth on your trip.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
These are the main resources I use for my trips. There are definitely a bunch of other money-saving tips out there, but when considering the big $$ components of a trip, these are my best tips. I'd love to hear what YOU use for finding airfare, transportation, accommodation, and food! Or if you've got another hack that doesn't relate, let me here it!
– Alex –