We’ve all had our fair share of bumps and bruises this travel season. But it’s still possible to go all out on your next trip. (See: revenge travel.) The good news is you don’t have to go broke to go big on your vacay. We tapped budget travel pro Matt Guidice from Matt’s Flights, who’s appeared in major publications like The New York Times, and luxury travel influencer Wande Akin from Wander with Wande, who boasts over 86,000 followers on Instagram, for some of the best budget travel tips. So you can save at every step of the vacation process.
Is booking my flight on Tuesday a good budget travel tip?
Guidice says no. “It depends more on the day/time you are leaving and returning than it does the day that you book the flight,” he explains. Akin agrees. “What really matters is the day of the week on which you wish to fly, as well as how far in advance you book your flight," she says. "The cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday, since these are off-peak travel days.” So being flexible with the days you leave and return from a trip could be easier on your wallet.
So what is a good budget travel tip when booking flights?
Guidice and Akin both had lots of budget travel tips for saving on airfare. Like…
Be open to alternative airports. Because fewer people are flying to less popular airports, you might find a better deal. Think: Newark and Burbank over JFK and LAX.
Use third-party sites like Kayak and Priceline...to a certain extent. They can help you find good rates, especially for budget airlines like Spirit or Frontier. But once you find a good deal, book your ticket directly through the airline vs third-party companies. That'll help you avoid extra fees and resolve issues like flight delays or cancellations quicker.
Put your travel card to use when you book that flight. Because built-in travel insurance and points for future flights can help you save in the long run. Especially if you plan to travel a lot in the future.
Any other tips for traveling on a budget?
One of the most common mistakes travelers make is procrastinating, according to Guidice. Yes, we’re all guilty of that now and then. But booking tickets isn’t the time to do that. “You need to train yourself to just pull the trigger sometimes”, Matt says. “Especially if you are 100% going to take the trip.” Why? Because making moves in advance is much easier on your wallet.
Guidice’s tip: Book your flight, hotel, or Airbnb stay at least six months in advance for your next international vacay. And at least three months ahead if you’re vacationing in the US. ICYMI: Last-minute deals aren’t really a thing anymore. At least with airlines, which have realized they can make more money by raising prices right before a flight.
Akin says it pays to stick with one or two airlines you like. “Airlines offer free flights, upgrades, and more to passengers who have status," she explains. "It's important to find one or two airlines with which you can earn status and points. Find the airlines that offer the perks you want. You'll save so much money.”
Another suggestion from Guidice is to pack light. As in, carry-on-bag light. Some airlines will charge you for checking one bag. And most will charge you for going over their 50-pound weight limit for checked luggage. One way he suggested to keep your bag(s) light: Leave select toiletries home if you can buy them at your destination.
Are some destinations better for traveling on a budget than others?
Guidice and Akin’s advice is to think outside the box and consider visiting less popular destinations when traveling on a budget. Think: The ones you haven’t seen all over Instagram and TikTok already like Paris and Greece. You'll still get stunning scenery, as well as fewer crowds and less expensive restaurants and hotels.
When traveling — especially to a place that relies on tourism dollars — go the extra mile to make sure you're supporting the economy. Hint: Opt for local tour guides and stick to mom-and-pop restaurants, rather than larger chains. Akin told us it’s also a good idea to learn the basics of the country's language. Like how to say hello, thanks, and please. And be friendly, ask restaurant or staff about local tours. Akin says that helped on her Bangkok trip. “As a result of the people I met, I received so many recommendations on where to eat and even secret caves that I had never heard of before,” she says.
Which destinations make it hard to stick to these tips?
Major international cities. Or places you see all over TikTok. Like Rome, Paris, and London. And popular US destinations like Aspen, Colorado, and Key West, Florida. Because there are so many trendy tourist attractions, it may be tempting to throw your budget out the window.
Anything else to keep in mind before I book my flight?
Remember to be flexible. Akin told us one common mistake travelers make is searching for specific dates and destinations before they book a flight. “That needs to be flipped around,” she says, “Find cheap flights for any destination and date then book your flight from there.” Oh, and no need to stick to the hard and fast rules you were taught in the past like waiting until the last minute to book a cheaper flight.
Going on vacation doesn't mean you have to come home with an empty wallet. But the old rules like booking on a Tuesday won’t shave costs anymore. The good news: A little research and flexibility can land you a dream vacation.
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