10 Smart Ways To Travel Without Going Broke

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
In theory, travel is the only thing you can spend money on that actually makes you richer. But, in practice, paying for a big trip can quite easily leave you broke, making it a little difficult to really enjoy that metaphysical wealth. Unless you know all the good cheats to help you travel well on the cheap, that is.
Whether you've got a serious case of winter wanderlust or your vacation schedule is dictated by destination weddings, we've got you. So, stop feeling guilty about adding beautiful Parisian snaps to your Pinterest board or RSVPing yes to a #ThaiTheKnot celebration 8,332 miles from home.
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And, don't think that sticking to a budget means you have to stay in one-star hotels and eat PB&Js every day. There are smart ways to travel on a budget, and once you're in on the secret, your vacations will never be the same again.
From knowing when to book your flights and hotel to finding food that satisfies your taste buds and your wallet, we've gathered actionable tips from travel professionals that will help lower costs on your next adventure. Whether the savings are big or small, they all add up.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
1. Book Tickets Anonymously
It's no secret that prices for the same flights fluctuate, and it's only natural to check online a few times before purchasing to make sure you're getting the best deal. But, Zach Everson, Travel News Editor for MapQuest, warns that airlines will actually penalize you for appearing too eager. "If a site knows you're visiting it repeatedly, desperately searching for flights to a particular destination, it's going to charge you accordingly," he says. Clear your cache before you ultimately commit. You just might find a lower price available.

And, loyalty doesn't always work to your advantage. Everson adds that airlines are more likely to show you a higher price if they think you only fly with them. "Don’t add your frequent flyer info to your online purchases until after you've bought your ticket," he advises.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
2. Share With Others
When you use services like Airbnb (short-term apartment rentals), Couchsurfing (lodging with locals), and EatWith (dining in homes with others — some chefs are Michelin-starred!), you're not only getting a true representation of the place you're visiting, but you're also paying a lot less.

Matt Kepnes, author of How to Travel the World on $50 a Day and blogger at NomadicMatt.com, says that these services can significantly lower your travel costs, plus they give you some incredible experiences. "I've had hosts show me around, take me to family dinners, cook amazing meals, and drive me to my next destinations," he says.

If you’re feeling a little weird about staying with strangers, Kepnes suggests researching and looking for people with verified profiles and reviews. "These sharing economy websites can open up a whole new world," he says.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
3. Pull The Student Card
If you are a full-time student, you're eligible for the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) that offers over 40,000 discounts around the world, says Teresa Cordova, Senior Digital Marketing Specialist at STA Travel. "While most people purchase the ISIC card for the flight discount, the huge perk of the card is the discounts you receive worldwide." The $25 card gives you access to hotel and hostel discounts, ground transportation deals, and things like free drinks. "One of the things I love about the ISIC card is that you can find discounts at home, too, not just abroad," Cordova says. "These include discounts at movie theaters, flowers, car maintenance — really, too many to list. These are just some of the ones I personally use myself."

Not a student? There's an International Youth Travel Card (IYTC) that offers similar benefits for those aged 13-26.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
4. Be Social
"In a nutshell, the best ways to score travel deals using social media are to search, interact, and act fast," says BohemianTrails.comblogger Megan McDonough, who won a 2014 Travel and Leisure Smitty Award for her strategic skills. "If you fly a certain airline regularly, head over to their Twitter feed and see if they've created a specific hashtag or separate account for deals. Or, consider joining in on a weekly Twitter chat like Expedia's #Expediachat, which is held every Wednesday from 1:30 to 3 p.m. ET. There's a $500 travel voucher on the line that is awarded at the end of the chat."

McDonough also suggests searching basic hashtags like #TravelDeals, or even more specific ones like #TTOT (Travel Talk on Twitter), that many companies and brands use to promote new or existing deals. Other hashtags to keep an eye on include #TNI (Travel Night In, a weekly chat), #TravelTuesday, #BeachThursday, and #FriFotos.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
5. Plan Ahead
If you're taking a road trip, there are some tricks to getting the best deals for car rentals. Jeanette Pavini, a money-savings expert for Coupons.com, says that weekends are actually the best time to rent. "Monday through Friday, business travel accounts for the largest chunk of car rentals," Pavini says. "So, if your period of travel includes a Saturday night, you may qualify for lower weekend, leisure rates.".

Another way to get a lower rate is to rent the car for a little longer than you need it. "Most rental companies start offering the weekly discount rate when you rent for a minimum of five days," Pavini says. "It may be worth it to rent the car for longer than you need just to qualify for this discount. I've done this myself and received a better rate for the week rental." And, avoid one-way rentals. "Return the car to the same place you rented it from, or you'll pay around twice as much," she warns.

One more tip: save money on gas by packing light. "You can increase fuel efficiency by keeping luggage inside the car," Pavini advises. "A loaded roof rack can decrease efficiency by five percent."
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
6. Eat Where The Locals Do
The key to finding good places to eat is talking to people, says Heather Poole, flight attendant and author of Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama, and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet. "A store clerk at an Urban Outfitters in San Francisco told me about an amazing place to go for breakfast," she says. And, because they travel so often and know the secret about asking locals for recommendations, flight attendants are also good people to grill. "We know good, cheap places," she says. "Take for instance the diner located in the YMCA building in San Diego. Bet you wouldn't have thought to go there! But it's a favorite among crew."

Poole also suggests making the most of happy hours and splitting meals. Another tip? Stay far away from restaurants that cater to tourists. You can usually spot these by their location (right next to tourist attractions) and signs that tout English menus. You'll usually end up paying more for mediocre food.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
7. Work With a Travel Advisor
Often times DIY means less expensive, but that's not always the case when it comes to trip planning. Lia Batkin, co-founder of the NYC-based travel consultant agency In The Know Experiences, says that working with a professional can save you anywhere from 15-30% depending on the destination.

"A travel advisor is also able to give you perks that have added value such as upgrades, breakfast, transfers, or spa credits," Batkin says. "These are all perks you wouldn't receive from booking a trip online." And, a handful of services available through some travel advisors, like hotel bookings, are free. If you're looking into more complicated travel plans and are asked to pay an upfront fee, just do a quick bit of research and ask for a quote first to make sure the savings will be worth it.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
8. Pack Even Lighter
While you can never be too prepared, the more you put in your suitcase, the more it's going to cost you. Melisse Hinkle, site editor at Cheapflights.com, says that flyers these days aren't just dealing with the expensive checked baggage fees, but also with weight limits. "The penalty for going over in weight is high enough that passengers are unloading clothes in the middle of airports just to beat associated fees," she says. "Beyond that, having more bags than you can carry leads to porter and bellboy costs every time you move from point A to B."

Hinkle suggests planning your wardrobe ahead of time and packing versatile staples like a black dress or a nice pair of jeans to save luggage space. And, don't forget your essential toiletries. Forgetting them could cost you if you have to make a drugstore run during your trip.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
9. Use Plastic
Travel Channel host Samantha Brown says that she uses credit cards whenever possible while traveling. "If you're not earning credit for your purchases, then you're literally leaving money on the table in the form of points that could be used to offset the costs of your travel experiences," she says.

Brown is the spokesperson for the BankAmericard Travel Rewards credit card, which gives points for all purchases that you can use for toward travel expenses. However, there are other cards that give you points and perks for specific hotels, airlines, etc. You can get everything from free W-Fi and breakfast to free rooms or flights with these programs.

Another perk about using a credit card? If you're abroad, you'll usually get the best currency exchange rate with it (be especially careful with debit cards, which charge a percentage fee on every international transaction, in most cases). Plus, it's a lot safer to carry around than pockets full of cash — and, you're much more covered by way of fraud protection than you would be with a debit card.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
10. Be Flexible With Your Hotel
Bob Diener, president and co-founder of getaroom.com, says that the sweet spot for booking a room is 21 days in advance and, on average, Sunday nights are usually the cheapest. "Try independent hotels," he advises. "And, don't rule out getting a room in other parts of the city. A short cab ride can save you a bundle."

And, just because you're booking online doesn't mean you shouldn't pick up the phone. Sites often have unlisted deals. "If you call our call center at 1-800-468-3578 and ask for unpublished rates, you will typically save 10-20% off the lowest rate the hotel is offering," Diener says. "It can even be as much as 60%."
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