Doesn't matter how much money you have or make for a living, using some travel hacks is a smart thing to get your traveling dollars to go further. This is why travel hacking can become a fundamental part of planning your vacations.
Part of traveling intelligently is learning how to do things like maximize your vacation time, find the best deals for airfare and/or hotels, and knowing when to go to specific locations. The first thing you need to do, though, is to be willing to take your vacation days. Most Americans do not take advantage of their paid time off, and as a result, waste both their benefits and the possibility of having an incredible experience. Instead of being part of that statistic, use some tips and tricks to make traveling seem more attainable and less out of your reach.
You also need to be willing to get creative, be open-minded and flexible, and put some time and effort into planning your trips. It might sound annoying, but it will pay off in the end when you get to go to more places and spend less money.
Next time when you plan your vacation, keep these travel hacks in mind:
Take weekend getaways
We tend to take a week off from work for vacation because most of us have a week's worth of leave. We use that week to travel to one location. Think about it. You could actually travel from Friday to Monday and have two vacations within the year and only use four vacation days instead of five. Taking this a step further, you could do three weekends and only use 6 vacation days, but, you would have traveled to three different locations for the year.
Stopover programs are awesome
Stopovers are inevitable. Sometimes there are just long layovers when you are flying long distances. There's an interesting concept called Stopover programs. You can take advantage of a stopover program and get a little more vacation at no extra cost.
Icelandair, which allows you to extend your layover in Iceland for up to seven days at no additional cost. You can stop and hang in Iceland for a few days, then move on to your next destination from there. Finnair also overs a stopover program that allows you to spend up to five nights in Finland, and Singapore Airlines offers stopovers in Singapore that include a hotel stay and airport transfer for about $60. This is a great way to see two places in one trip without spending a lot more.
Don't fly on the weekends. Tuesday and Wednesday are the best.
I always fly out on Tuesday. No matter where I am going. My last few vacations, I have left the Washington DC area on a Tuesday. The difference in price from Tuesday to Friday can be as much as $200 or $300 in my personal experience.
Airfare Watchdog says that, in general, the cheapest days of the week to fly are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So, instead of going on vacation from Saturday to Friday, try leaving on a Wednesday and coming home on a Tuesday. The same amount of days you're taking off, and you'll save money on flights.
Use Travel Reward Cards
I have to give credit to credit card companies. Travel perks for using their cards is a masterstroke that has me hooked. When used, properly, travel reward cards can go a long way to helping you go on vacation.
Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best travel cards out there, as it offers 2x points on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases, as well as travel insurance and deals. Capital One Venture is another good one, offering 10x miles on thousands of hotels and 2x miles on every purchase you make.
Flight Alerts are your best friend
When searching for flights, do not book the first thing you find. There are sites like Google Flights, Skyscanner and Hopper that will track flights for you. Believe me, I have seen some wild stuff when it comes to the volatility of airfare. If you are patient and maybe even have some ice water running through your veins, you can find some great airfare. Below is an actual flight I have been tracking through Google Flights.
Travel during the off-season to save money and skip the crowds
I hate crowds. More than crowds, I hate standing in line. Traveling during the off-season for a popular vacation spot is a good plan.
If you have the flexibility for when you can travel, consider going somewhere during their more low-key months. For example, Italy gets super popular from June through August, but is much quieter in the winter, from January through March. It's also so much cheaper, for everything from the flights to the food to the hotels. Yes, the weather isn't as great, but if you want to save money and skip the crowds, it's worth it.
Airbnbs are a great alternative to hotels
Airbnb just comes out cheaper than staying at a hotel or a luxury resort. You can often rent a two, or three bedroom apartment or house for much less than staying at a hotel. If you are someone who is into experiencing how people live in a particular country, then staying in a local neighborhood through Airbnb is a great opportunity.
Be flexible - take a red-eye
Look into overnight red-eye flights - you need to sleep during that time anyway, so you aren't missing anything. For example, if you're flying from Los Angeles to New York, book a flight at 9 or 10 PM out of LA into NY. You'll arrive super early in the morning, yes, but you just gave yourself a whole extra day to explore.
Flying back from Hawaii to San Francisco, we had a flight that left 9:30 pm from Maui and arrived in San Francisco around 6 a.m. A lot of us sleep during the flights so a red eye is perfect. You sleep during your normal sleeping hours and wake up in a new city.
Combine vacation days with public holidays
Here's a cool idea: add your vacation days to a public holiday. For example, if you have off Monday for Memorial Day weekend, you can also take off Friday and Tuesday, and make it a five-day trip. Travel and Leisure has a whole guide on how you can make 10 vacation days into 28, or 15 days into 45.
We can all have the vacations we want with just a little bit of effort. There are plenty more things we can do to reach our desired destinations.