We all have a travel bug. Who doesn’t like trying delicious new foods, meeting friendly people, or soaking up some sun at a white beach? Of course, traveling can be expensive, and in the minds of most people, it is a luxury.
In spite of the expense, Americans are traveling quite a lot. So often, that there were 1.7 billion leisure trips registered by the US Travel Association (USTA) in 2014, and by 2018 it was clear that the numbers continue to grow. This statistic shows that you don’t need to have a huge budget to take a short vacation outside your area. You need to know how to find the best cheap travel deals.
If you are looking for a vacation that will not deplete your savings but will allow you to have lots of fun on a budget, then keep reading! In this article, we will give you a list of proven strategies and ideas on how to score the best cheap travel deals.
Are you ready to de-stress, relax, and enrich yourself with great experiences without breaking the bank?
Let’s get into it!
Strategies for Traveling Cheap
Getting the best cheap vacation deals requires flexibility and thorough research. Here are some strategies on how to land the best deals out there even with a tight budget.
Spring break is so tempting after the long, cold and dark winter. Millions of people travel looking for some sun and fun. But this considerable demand drives up the prices of both flights and accommodations. So, if you don’t want to share your plane and hotel with a massive crowd of tourists and pay accordingly, you should be flexible when it comes to dates.
Pick those times of the year when few people travel, because then you will get lower prices and smaller crowds. These times are usually early in December, the end of January and the beginning of February. Of course traveling off-season has its downsides like poorer weather, but in the end, it is all worth it.
Before booking a hotel during low tourist periods, it is worth contacting them and asking for a discount if they are under-booked. Of course, there are luxury destinations and resorts (like on the Caribbean) where hotel rates do not drop much during the low season. Still, you can always try to negotiate and save money.
If you are still unsure about a destination and need to choose based on cost, online services like Skyscanner can help determine the lowest flight prices for different locations.
The season is not the only thing that matters when booking your budget trip. Hotels and airlines also consider the days of the week when they set prices. Weekend getaways are very popular, so the majority of people leave on Friday and return on Sunday. So, if you can fly out on Thursday and return on Monday, you will likely get a much lower price. Other good options involve leaving Sunday to Wednesday and returning Thursday, Monday or Wednesday.
When you are traveling on a budget, you should also be flexible when it comes to the destination. So, when you start searching for flights instead of a destination, enter your travel dates, and you will get the best deals (use Skyscanner, Travelzoo, and CheapCaribbean.com). You can also opt for getting a list of featured discounts and deals for different destinations. But always remember to verify the deal using the site of the respective hotel or airline to avoid scams.
Another successful strategy for traveling inexpensively is to visit less popular destinations. Skip the hot spots and think outside the box. This way, you will avoid the crowds of tourists, and you will see less-traveled places. Some of these destinations include Bolivia, Albania, the Philippines, and Sierra Leone. These destinations are cheap alternatives to popular resorts and budget destinations that are worth exploring. The idea here is to travel to places that others haven’t thought of visiting. If you are looking for an adventure, remote locations are excellent choices that allow you to unwind. Just keep in mind that while accommodation may be cheaper than usual, the flights to get there will be more expensive. Still, the experience will be worth it if you enjoy peace and quiet.
Sign up for Deal Notifications
Who has the time to check flight prices regularly? Fortunately, there are low-fare alerts that you can sign up for. These are very convenient because you practically let someone else do the searching for you. The notifications you get usually come via email, and they provide a good overview of flights and prices.
You can modify the settings of the alerts to suit your preferences. For example, you might be looking for specific dates, the lowest prices within a month, or great deals on a particular location. You can choose to get the emails either daily or weekly.
Two sites have great fare alerts – Airfarewatchdog and Kayak (see below).
There is another type of email that is equally informative and convenient. These alerts contain the top picks on the hottest travel deals and are different because they are a list curated by travel companies. Signing up for these emails is excellent if you have a specific destination in mind, and you are looking for a good deal.
If you see a deal or a package that you like from a list like these, make sure to check the site of the hotel and airline to compare prices. You need to know how much you are saving. Keep in mind that you can also find a “hot deals” list on sites like Orbitz, Groupon, Travelzoo, and Priceline.
Use Social Media
One of the best ways to harness the power of social media is to follow your favorite hotel chains, airlines, and travel companies. These alerts are the best way to stay updated on sales, promotions, and other news, plus it gives you great opportunities to access exclusive offers.
Where to Look
Twitter –Virgin Atlantic and JetBlue are very active on Twitter, and they tweet some excellent deals on airline tickets. Sites like TravelDeals work as aggregators of different deals. These companies compile and tweet the deals they find.
Facebook – This is an excellent source for travel deals. On Facebook, you can follow the page of an airline or hotel to get their latest updates. You can also join travel groups and get to know other travelers. These communities are beneficial, and they are great places to find information and answers.
Hotel Tonight App – This app is an ideal source for last-minute deals. Here you will find bookings at up to 70% off. The app is available for both Android and IOS devices.
If you travel frequently and are loyal to a particular chain of hotels, airline, or car rental company, you can become part of their loyalty program. These programs will allow you to collect points and miles, which will eventually save you money when booking reservations with the company.
Some companies are famous for their loyalty and rewards programs. For example:
Marriott – If you are part of their loyalty program, you have the chance to win a free night stay.
Hilton – Hilton also has a great loyalty program with attractive benefits and rewards.
JetBlue TrueBlue – A great airline loyalty program to consider. The advantage with them is that you also get points when you travel with partner airlines.
Travel rewards credit cards are designed for people who frequently travel because they can earn points by booking flights, hotel stays, and car rentals. The credit cards are not affiliated with a specific airline or hotel chain unless they are co-branded. If you don’t like to stick to one company, these cards allow you to collect points while purchasing a wide range of goods and services.
The best option is to get a card that doesn’t allow your points to expire. This way, you can pile up points during a long period and use them to book accommodation or airfare whenever you feel ready. These cards come with rewards and points which can be used for airport lounge visits, covering baggage fees, car insurance, or fuel surcharges. Of course, these are credit cards, so you need to make sure you pay off your balance in full each month. You’ll want to keep your credit score intact and avoid paying high-interest rates.
Consider Alternative Accommodation
You don’t always need to stay at five-star, all-inclusive resorts to have an incredible vacation. After all, when you travel, you don’t usually spend a lot of time in your hotel room. Anywhere that you stay should be clean and safe, but anything more is at your discretion.
Alternative accommodation means anything different than a hotel. It can be a hostel, couch surfing, bed and breakfast, or even a cabin rental. In the last few years, more and more alternative options have become available.
Here Are Several Examples
Vacation rental – The popularity of vacation rentals is snowballing. With services like Airbnb and HomeAway, homeowners can put their properties up for rent whenever they are not using them. Renting a place like that is a great way to live like a local. There are all kinds of properties available: you can get a room in a house or a tiny home suitable for one person, or a cabin in the woods. You can also travel with a larger group of family and friends and rent an entire house together while splitting the price.
Couch Surfing – For those with an adventurous spirit, there is couch surfing. This type of service connects travelers with hosts around the world who are offering some space in their homes where travelers can stay. Usually, they don’t charge money, but visitors can show their appreciation by buying groceries or a gift. Couch surfing hosts often are happy to be tour guides and show their visitors around. However, this type of accommodation is not the best for a long-term stay.
House sitting – Accommodation is probably the most expensive part of every trip. A way around paying a lot for accommodation is to house-sit for someone while they are away. You get the place for free, and you can explore the destination as much as you want. House sitting is a unique way to travel. If you want to save on transportation, you can also do this more locally.
Book a Package
You can save money by combining different components of your trip from the same travel company or site. For example, you can get a package that includes your flights, rental cars, and hotel, while paying much less than if you booked those separately.
The problem with this is that the vacation packages can include some hotels or rentals which are not popular on their own. It is worth exploring the package options, but don’t compromise too much on the crucial components. After all, you want to enjoy your trip as much as possible while staying within your budget.
Have You Visited All the Tourist Sites in Your City?
People come from all over the world to see the Statue of Liberty, and there are many New Yorkers who have never seen it. We tend to put it off because we live there, feeling that we can always do it tomorrow.
Caught up in our daily lives, we forget that we can have a great sightseeing tour of our city without spending much money. If you are on a tight budget and you have no time for a vacation, there’s no better way to enjoy some free time out and about in your town. Wandering about is said to help us relax and forget about the problems in our lives.
Look at your home town through the eyes of a tourist, because this will give you a great new perspective and make you appreciate it even more. To get out of your familiar environment, you can also book a room somewhere in your city. If you stay in your house, you will always find something to do and will probably postpone the sightseeing again. Moving to a different place will give you that feeling of adventure and excitement without spending much on transportation.
When we think about travel, we usually imagine exotic destinations, luxury resorts, and adventures. All the images from the movies suddenly come to mind. But this is precisely why we think a vacation is an expensive luxury, and a trip to a nearby national park or lake doesn’t seem that exciting anymore.
How Often Do You Go Exploring Your Region?
Some fantastic places in our country get overlooked, and that’s a pity. There’s something extraordinary about being a stranger in your home town. Opening up to things you may not know or haven’t seen before is truly an experience. The time exploring your backyard may prove to be as enriching as going abroad. If you are on a limited budget, but you want to do something different, you can always explore your own city.
Some of the best places to visit throughout the United States are the National Parks. Camping costs very little money, but it gives you a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. If you don’t like camping, you can still go to a National Park and get a cabin or lodge. Even driving through in an RV can be fun.
There is almost always a park nearby. Additionally, spending a few days in Nature is great for your wallet and your soul. If you own an RV, check out RV with Me for cheap parking solutions.
Booking last-minute travel is a proven strategy to save on your trip. It has a lot to do with the flexibility we already mentioned.
Tour and cruise companies need to fill the seats for their trips. Therefore, as departure time nears, you can find the free seats at last-minute prices. That’s because the companies don’t want to depart with empty seats. So, take time off, wait until the week before when the discounted prices appear, and then go.
This strategy works exceptionally well with cruises. They are usually expensive, especially if you are traveling alone. However, if you are the last passenger getting on the ship, you can find some fantastic offers. Cruise lines always offer some excellent last-minute deals because they don’t want to leave with empty cabins. One of the best places to look for deals is CruiseSheet, where you can get some unbelievably good deals.
Another way to get a good deal on a cruise is to book a year in advance. Early bird prices for cruises can be very affordable. If you want to travel as part of a bigger group, then it is best to contact a travel agent. They have good relationships with the cruise operators and can negotiate a sweet package deal.
Suggested Reading: Goodbye, Debt
Where to Find the Best Cheap Travel Deals: Our Top 5 Sites
There are so many sites and travel agents! It can take a lot of time to find the deals you are looking for. But you cannot be everywhere, knowing everything. And, besides doing everything yourself can be stressful, you need the flights, the accommodations, the car, then parking, etc.
Each service has pros and cons, but we have picked some of the most recommended brands for you. They are easy to use and offer a variety of deals; you can search for hotels, car rentals, flights as well as cruises.
Here is where you will find the best travel deals online!
Let’s first look at our top 5 of the best comparison sites.
This platform is probably the most popular place to look for deals online. Google undoubtedly has the biggest database, and it’s nice to be able to compare rates from so many different airlines and companies.
However, Google has not made the comparison precise enough, and this is its main drawback. Yes, you can find a pretty cheap flight, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be the best. With Google Flights, you don’t see the hidden baggage fees, no-meal flights, and service fees. Remember: When booking always check the fine print for hidden taxes and fees on the provider’s site because Google won’t do that for you. Some of the flights are also quite inconvenient.
Still, the functionality is great. You can set specific parameters when you search, and Google is particularly useful when it comes to modifying your search options.
If you want to try out some of Google’s amazing features, read the secrets of using Google for the best flight deals.
Travelocity is one of the biggest travel sites in the world. It is similar to Expedia and Priceline. The packages you can find on Travelocity are simply amazing. We would say that Travelocity is one of the best online services for saving money on the overall cost of a vacation or trip.
Instead of booking a flight or a room separately, you can combine it all and get a reasonable price. If you want to save money, don’t wait until you arrive at the destination to figure out the details.
Travelocity also has a convenient free app for your phone. You can monitor deals for specific locations anytime and anywhere. Just enter your next destination in the app, and you will get notified when prices drop. How cool is that?
We have mentioned this site on several occasions already. Recently, it has become very popular for finding great deals. The site has a network of 2000 partner companies, and its search capabilities are impressive. You will not miss the great deals if you use this site.
Travelzoo has received a lot of awards and recognition for quality. The site specializes in international flights, so it is an excellent choice for world travelers.
If you are a spontaneous traveler who likes to hop on a plane without much planning, Airfare watchdog is the best. With this site, you can monitor airline sites for discounts and sales.
The best part is that the site has a team of analysts who spend their time seeking the best airfares for you. This is like having a personal travel agent just for you. Analysts research for you and all you need to do is sit back and wait for the deals to be advertised.
Airfarewatchdog specializes in last-minute fares with a long list of airlines, not just the big names. If you are not loyal to a particular brand, using this site can help you pick flights for an excellent price. That’ll help you save your money for other fun stuff.
Kayak has been the king of travel websites for quite some time. It aggregates the data from hundreds of services, including travel agencies, booking companies, airlines, hotels, and more.
If you are flexible, or you like to be spontaneous and adventurous, Kayak is your best friend. It allows you to find recommendations that fit a pre-defined budget.
The site has a world map that makes things easy and convenient. On the map, you will see the cheap destinations highlighted, which makes them stand out. The travel dates may not be ideal, but the information on the site will help you figure out when is the best time to book.
Many services will notify you when the prices of airfare rise or drop. With Kayak, you have a predictor feature. It anticipates the fluctuation of costs before booking, and although they are not perfect, the metrics help with planning your trip.
Best Deals By Category
If you want to compare deals and search for flights and packages, these are the biggest and most popular places online. But that’s not all.
There are a million more specialized sites where you can find cheap flights, cruises, last-minute tours, and more. If you like to organize everything yourself, these recommendations will come in handy.
Let’s take a look at some of the best travel deal sites per category.
Best Flight Deals
We have talked about the big five flight comparison sites. But did you know that there are smaller sites that offer amazing deals for last minute flights? Sometimes, you don’t want to limit your options to what Google Flights says.
There is no one best online site for finding deals. All of them have their strengths and weaknesses, so it’s essential to search in different places before you book your flight.
These are the best sites for both last minute and discounted flights.
Momondo – Here, you will often find flights that don’t appear anywhere else. That’s because Momondo searches budget airlines which many other sites skip.
Secret Flying – This site is known for the best deals on flights from Europe.
The Flight Deal and Scott’s Cheap Flights – Check here for the best deals on flights from the USA.
Holiday Pirates – Another excellent resource for deals regardless of your location.
Skyscanner – This is a super easy to use and very intuitive site. If you don’t have a destination yet, you can start by checking Skyscanner.
Kiwi – After the latest update, the platform is very user-friendly and a must-see when looking for cheap flights.
AirTreks – If you want to travel far and you need to make several stops, AirTreks is the best place to look for budget flights.
All these sites have newsletters, so if you want to be up-to-date with the latest flight deals, don’t forget to subscribe to them.
Best Cruise Deals
If you are looking for a cruise, there is no better place to look for one than CruiseSheet. Here you will find the lowest rates and an easy-to-use interface. The second best in this category would be vacationstogo.com.
Best Transportation Deals
These are the sites to check if you are looking for cheap trains, buses, and more.
Rail Europe – You can get train passes for a specific country or region in Europe. They also offer a train ride across the entire continent.
BlaBlaCar – This is an excellent rideshare service that connects travelers with local drivers who are looking to share their ride for a small fee.
FlixBus – This budget-friendly bus service will take you all across Europe, and some parts of the USA, for an excellent price.
Megabus – This is another excellent option with routes in Canada, Europe, and the US.
Rome2Rio – A transportation comparison site that will help you find the best deals and options.
Best Accommodation Deals
Hotel deals are often limited and hard to find. Plus, the accommodation can be quite expensive. If you are looking for a beautiful place to stay on your trip, here are the best booking websites on the internet.
Airbnb – The best site for accommodation outside of traditional hotels.
Booking.com – This is by far the best site for finding hotels all over the world.
Hostelworld – The go-to site for budget travelers. Here you will find the best hostels.
Agoda.com – Another option for finding great hotels worldwide, this site is best for destinations in Asia.
Hotels.com – Great resource for destinations around the world, and it even features a reward program.
Best Tour Deals
Are you looking for a specific tour or excursion? Here are some companies that may have what you’re looking for. Don’t forget to sign up for their email notifications to stay up-to-date with the latest offers.
Context Travel – If you like history and culture, this site has great offers for you.
Walks –This is a great place to find small groups with local guides in all the most popular cities in the world.
Busabout – Here you will find touristic bus trips around Europe (hop on, hop off) as well as festivals and other activities.
Intrepid Travel – A small group tour company, Intrepid Travel has local guides which offers tours for groups and solo travelers.
Best Insurance Deals
Having travel insurance is an absolute must for every traveler. No matter if you are going abroad or just enjoying a trip within your own country, make sure you are covered before you leave your home. If you are traveling in your own country, remember to check the hospitals and emergency centers in the area you are going to visit.
Suggested Reading: How to Build a Budget
Sites Where You Can Find Travel Health Insurance
World Nomads – Travel insurance company with excellent customer service and comprehensive coverage on their products.
Travelex Insurance – The best option for families.
Insure My Trip – Travelers above the age of 70 will find the best health insurance options here.
Allianz Travel Insurance – Allianz is the best option for frequent travelers.
It is a common belief that travel is expensive, but in reality, some deals prove this wrong. They generally don’t last long, so the fastest and most flexible traveler will take advantage. Sometimes you will need to be a little spontaneous and jump on a plane tomorrow. However, you can also find deals that are offered several months to a year in the future, giving you enough time to plan your trip.
Scoring deals can be so much fun, but you need to be careful of the deals that look too good to be true. There are a lot of scammers out there waiting to take advantage of people who are just looking for a good deal. Don’t buy anything that should be free. Instead, be alert and verify anything that doesn’t look or feel right.
By now you’re hopefully convinced that you don’t necessarily need a lot of time or money to travel. There is more than one way to see the world! Finding great deals will be much easier if you look at travel as the art of going somewhere new and different, and letting yourself explore. It doesn’t matter if you have two weeks or two days. You can still make some great memories on a budget. Remember, landing the best travel deals is a matter of good timing, flexibility, and an adventurous spirit.
We hope these cheap vacation ideas, strategies, and resources will get you exactly what you’re looking for.
Enjoy your trip, and don’t forget to share your strategies for finding great travel deals with our readers. What was the best deal you got so far?