Disclaimer: Stop reading now if you require a 5 star-hotel even though you’ll probably pass out drunk on the bathroom floor and you cannot travel without your wolf pack of equally high maintenance friends.
Background: I am a poor college student. I work full time, I live on my own, I have rent and bills to pay every month and saving can sometimes be virtually impossible as tuition and other living costs rise.
But…. I also happen to love travelling. I feel trapped if I spend more than 4-5 months without getting on a plane to anywhere. It doesn’t even have to be out of the country and in fact most of my trips happen from Thursday night to Monday morning to a city no more than one time zone away. So how do I reconcile my pocket with my lavish travel needs?
1. Skip on the hotel: Click here. Make a profile and start expanding your mind. The concept is that locals in the cities that you plan to travel to, host you for FREE. Yes for Free. This way you can make friends in new cities without the awkward bar encounter and learn about all the best spots that you won’t otherwise experience. Yes there are risks involved with this so make sure that you only stay with verified members or those with lots of references (I’ll probably post something solely on couchsurfing later).
2. Set Expedia as your homepage: I am the cheap flight guru and while many have argued with me about how Travelocity, Orbitz and a variety of other sites are better I have always found better deals on Expedia. I also keep up with cheapair.com but only because they search for combinations of one way flights that are sometimes a cheaper way to fly if you don’t mind switching airlines. But here is the real tip. Set your favorite travel booking site as your homepage and jot down a list of cities you would like to visit. At least once a week spend 10 minutes searching for flights to those cities on dates that you are available. The minute you see a cheap flight don’t hesitate to buy! Plans and itineraries can be drawn up later.
3. Save for travel: Put aside a few bucks every paycheck. I usually transfer over $50 and forget I have it. I’m serious about forgetting by the way. Even if my bank account had a few cents, I pretend like my savings account doesn’t exist. I’ve been to NYC at least once every year for the past 5 years and have yet to pay more than $140 for my flight. Imagine finding deals like that and not being able to take advantage. That’s also how I went to Hawaii (a typically $900-$1000 flight) for $450.
4. Spirit Airlines and Jetblue: Don’t let them fool you. Spirit’s Baggage fees sometimes amount to more than what you would pay for a decent airline. Joining the $9 fare club is totally worth it though. I once flew to Puerto Rico for $78 round trip and that’s including my bags. Also, get a true blue account. It is virtually impossible to get enough points to get free flights unless you fly every week, but they send awesome emails almost every week with discount codes for up to $100 off popular destinations.
5. Fly Thursday to Monday: From my experience searching for flights on Thursday night and returning in the wee hours of Monday morning returns the cheapest fares and there are some great benefits to this although jetlag may occur. If you work full time you only have to take Friday off and maybe a half day on Monday if you can’t find an early enough flight. You also get an entire weekend instead of just Saturday night to enjoy everything the city has to offer. Finally, you are more likely to find a host on these days than in the middle of the week.
Fly away friends. Trips are the only things that cost money yet still make you wealthier!