You want to travel on your budget. Who wouldn’t want to travel on a budget? It’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the travel hacks, tricks and strategies that promise amazing deals on hotels and airfare.
There is only one way to travel cheaply. Be flexible about your travel dates, destinations, and plans. This may sound easy, or even simple, but it’s surprising how few people will take this advice seriously.
This flexibility-first mentality requires many to change the way they plan vacations. This requires a shift from the previous planning style:
“I would like to travel to Amsterdam between Sept. 5th and 13th.”
“I want to go someplace fun in September.”
This flexibility may seem impossible for some people. However, it is possible to save big and have more fun if you can let go of your preconceived notions about how to travel.
RIGIDITY: WHY IS IT SO EXPENSIVE
Travel costs are affected by the interaction of many factors.
— There are many options.
You limit the variables you can control by making specific plans. The cost of your trip will be determined entirely by the first three variables. These variables are totally outside your control.
Sometimes, this economic interplay will work in your favor and you’ll get a great deal on the dates and destination you want. You’ll often end up paying more if you start with a limited number of options.
HOW TO PLANN TRAVELS WITH FLEXIBILITY
However, you can still define some parameters for your search. Examples of parameters include:
— I would like to travel in the autumn.
I would love to be on the beach.
— I don’t want to spend more that $X.
You can now start weighing various dates and destinations to determine which one is best for you. You might begin with Hawaii flights, but you notice the high cost of airfare. You decide to switch to the Caribbean. Next, narrow your search to only a few places with low airfares. Then, start looking at hotel prices.
You can then find the best price/feature combination for your destination and book your travel.
Consider how many times you or someone you know have done it the opposite way. Start with dates and a destination, and then accept any costs.
TOOLS THAT WORK FOR YOUR JOB
This flexible approach to travel is becoming more popular. Many travel booking websites and services now offer helpful tools that are specifically tailored for this purpose.
ALERTS FOR AIRFARE DEAL OFFERS
Many travelers think in terms of flexibility when they read the newsletters about airfare deals, such as Scott’s Cheap Flights or Dollar Flight Club. When they find a low-cost deal on airfare, these newsletters notify their subscribers.
There is usually a catch. These deals may not be available on certain dates or to specific destinations. It’s not worth waiting around for great deals from Atlanta to Sydney.
You can also wait for exciting airfare from Atlanta to…somewhere and then jump on it as soon as it becomes available.
GOOGLE FLIGHTS EXPLORE
Kayak and Orbitz are two examples of travel search engines that offer flexible search options. Google Flights has a feature called “Explore”, which allows you to search in an extremely wide-open manner.
Enter your departure city and the length of your trip. Then, Google will return a few deals to a variety of destinations at random times during your date range.
POINTS AND MILES
Travel bloggers love to tell how they got first-class tickets using miles. But they rarely talk about their real secret: extreme flexibility.
To redeem points or miles for reward travel, you need to be flexible in order to get the best value. These awards are sometimes not always available. You must first find an option to book an award ticket before you can determine whether it is a good deal. Another reason is that airlines will often increase the price of award bookings for high-demand dates.
In other words, if you are looking to redeem miles for a particular flight on a certain day, you may pay too much or not be able get a ticket.
Many airlines offer award calendars, which allow you to see the dates and prices available per month. This can be particularly helpful for finding premium cabin tickets that are hard to find.