Isn’t travel expensive? How do you afford to travel so much?

I get this question all the time. And the answer is that it doesn’t have to be. Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks for maximizing your budget so you can see more of the world and for longer.

Plan Ahead…Or Be Spontaneous.

“Book your flight exactly 54 days out. Tuesdays are the best days to search for low cost airfare.” Is there any truth to these travel myths? Yes, but FareCompare can tell you much more about it than I can. If you don’t have a set destination in mind, why not be open-minded? Skyscanner (my absolute favorite booking site) doesn’t require you input an end point, so pick any time frame and it’ll show you the cheapest countries in any given period. Conversely, you can only enter a destination and search by “dates flexible,” up to an entire year out. If you switch the view to calendar instead of list, it’s super easy to visualize when the cheapest days to fly are, which is how I went to Hawaii for $270 the week of Christmas. Peak season, be gone.

Weigh All Your Options

With the arrival of Airbnb, you now have three options for lodging – booking a hostel, homestay or hotel. It pays to check all three types of accommodations because Airbnb has some amazing rental properties that are a fraction of the cost of a hotel. Similarly, you may scoff at the idea of staying in a hostel, but they’re not only for solo travelers, spring breakers or backpackers (especially the private rooms). Do your due diligence and research all possible options before committing. Depending on your destination, you never know which may be the cheapest.

Don’t be Scared Off by Expensive Flights

More often than not, flights to the furthest, most exotic places are the most expensive. What you might not expect though, is that they usually have the lowest cost of living. Unfortunately not the case with Australia, in Thailand and the majority of Southeast Asia you can stay for pennies to the dollar. Good street food in Bangkok cost as little as .50 cents a meal (yes, really!) so you’ll actually be saving money while you’re there. If you look at the cost of each potential trip as a whole that includes flights + accommodations + entertainment, you can get a more well rounded estimate of what it may end up costing to determine if it’s worth it to you. If you just want to get away, it pays to check the exchange rate to see what destinations are in our favor at any given time.

Play the Points Game

Signing up for just one credit card can get you at least one round-trip domestic flight, if not more. I always check if I can use miles to pay for at least part of my trip by taking one-way flights, odd connections or using miles to cover lodging, rental cars, or other miscellaneous extras. If you assign a dollar value to your points, you can see when it’s worth splurging and when it’s worth saving by comparing the value to the actual flight cost. (It’s easy to do this by checking how much it costs to buy miles per program.) Don’t get me wrong, I hoard miles like it’s my job and hate parting with them, but by mixing and matching programs and points, I’m able to save a lot of money.

Wondering how I’ve traveled completely for FREE? Read on.

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