I’m always being asked, “How do you afford to travel so much? What are your tricks?” Here are a few hidden travel secrets that I consistently use. All of them are completely free!
- LivingSocial – LivingSocial has dozens of vacation deals, from hotel rooms to all-inclusive packages (including flights). They offer a “buy three, get one free” promotion on all of their travel packages. So if you are traveling with a group of four (or more) know that you get one trip for “free,” or you can split the total cost equally. I’ve done this several times and it is a huge cost savings. And their packages are always exceptional!
- maps.me – One of the biggest struggles when exploring a new international city is the lack of GPS and knowing where you are. maps.me is a free app that can be downloaded on your phone before your trip. Once the map is downloaded, it will work without an Internet or cellular connection. The app uses only GPS and will provide tracking and mapping services to you (all free of charge). Since WiFi is pretty easy to find in most countries, there’s no need to purchase an international plan or a SIM card (which are often flaky and unreliable).
- Google Maps – It’s difficult to know what attractions and events are near each other when planning an itinerary in a new city. Google Maps allows you to create a new map, place “pins” on it (for each site you want to visit), and save the map to your phone or computer. This gives you the ability to see what sights are clustered together and how you can logistically see everything you want to see without spending a lot of time driving, walking, or taking public transportation all over the city. It can also help in deciding what part of the city you want to book a hotel and where public transportation stops are. And don’t forget to “pin” the airport…it’s nice to know how far away you will be when you land!
- TheFlightDeal.com – So you want to go to Eastern Europe in September? Or South America in November? Great! Now you know the “general” area you want to travel and you can look for flights going to those areas. If you follow @TheFlightDeal on Twitter, you will get frequent updates on amazingly cheap flights every day. This allows you to see what flights are cheap and then you can plan your trip around those flights, knowing you saved hundreds of dollars and got a great deal. For example, you wanted to go to Eastern Europe, but didn’t care if you flew into Budapest, or Prague, or another city. TheFlightDeal.com found cheap flights into Budapest, so you opted for that and took the train to other cities nearby. They also offer an option for text messages (if you are not a big Twitter user).
- Airbnb.com – The world is changing and the idea of booking a hotel isn’t always the best option anymore. Airbnb.com allows travelers to stay in unique parts of cities, with options available for two people or large groups. Most places have WiFi included and some even have laundry facilities (which are nice for those extra-long trips). Plus, you can often find a much more cost efficient deal with a more unique experience.
- Avoid International Transaction Fees – American Express and CapitalOne both offer credit cards with no foreign transaction fees. These cards have no annual fee, so you can just use it when traveling (if you have another card you’d prefer to use on a daily basis). Other credit cards can charge up to 5% of a purchase if used internationally. This can get costly, especially with lodging expenses. Most banks will also charge foreign transaction fees for debit and ATM cards. However, Charles Schwab, Fidelity, and CapitalOne all have checking accounts that do not charge a foreign transaction fee for purchases or ATM withdrawals. Set up an account before you leave and avoid the cost of currency exchange programs offered at the airport and banks. Plus, you can use any ATM at any time, so you don’t have to worry about running out of money or having too much leftover at the end of your trip.
What about you? What are your tricks to traveling?