Hello best life seekers!
Do you daydream about lounging on tropical beaches or skiing the Alps? Travel is a common dream that many people wrongly think is too expensive to afford. Having traveled to over 20+ countries and stayed in wonderful places cheaply and safely, here are the best secrets I’ve found for awesome travel.
#1 – Maximize travel rewards
Credit cards offer a number of fantastic travel rewards programs that I have used to fly free all over the world. I have “bought” tickets from Japan to the US on United Airlines for less than 30,000 points, from the US to Thailand on American Airlines for 22,600 points and domestically for 12,500 points. Hotel reward cards are equally fabulous. With points I have stayed free at Hilton, DoubleTree, and Marriott, often with free executive upgrades.
The key to awesome travel is taking advantage of credit card sign on bonuses and using points smartly. For instance, a free night at the Los Angeles DoubleTree might cost 60,000 points, but the Kuala Lumpur DoubleTree with views of Patronas Towers is only 10,000. Use your points for KL and your free night vouchers for LA.
Check out millionmilesecrets.com for the best overview of reward programs and awesome travel for cheap.
#2 – Go on the off season
My favorite months to travel in the northern hemisphere are September through November. The weather is still nice but hotels and flights are much cheaper. With the flocks of tourists gone, you have the attractions to yourself. I stayed in a house in Palermo in October that rented for $650 for the month. In July it had rented for $650 a DAY.
#3 – Airbnb
This site is fantastic and offers deep discounts so long as you do a little research. I’ve lived in fabulous places for 40% or more discounted rates. One trick is staying more than one night. Usually starting with 3 nights you see 5-10% discounts, increasing over lengths of stay. The best discounts are for month-long stays, perfect for us digital nomads. This is where I regularly book 40-60% discounts and have stayed in prime locales around the world, like that beautiful 2 bedroom house in Palermo for $650 a month, all utilities included and with TV, WiFi, laundry, and a superb kitchen.
Want cheaper? You can take a room in a house like I did in Busan, South Korea. My host was Korean and took me everywhere. It was mostly just me and her in a huge apartment for 2 months. Perks? Free breakfast, a lot of free dinners and lunches, cultural activities, all utilities like internet and TV, plus kitchen and laundry, and a 10 min walk to the beach. All for $535 a month.
#4 – Eat local
Most tourists blow their money in pricey restaurants that cater to the tourist crowds – and up charge on everything. Follow the locals to the best food with the best deals. When I’m headed to Japan, people like to tell me how expensive it is and I just roll my eyes since I rarely spend more than $15 for amazing food. One of my best meals was Ghengis Khan, a local specialty in Sapporo. This most delicious lamb I ever tasted came with side dishes and drinks. I went with a friend and our total bill was $34 dollars. Lunch or dessert sets all over Japan are 1000 yen or roughly $10-$11.
In Thailand I skipped overpriced tourist haunts and spent $2-4 for meals that were excellent at local restaurants where I was the only Western face.
Another trick is buying your food at markets or grocery stores either pre-made or to make at home. This is how I sampled local wines, unfamiliar foods and learned local dishes to make at the fraction of sit-down establishment costs.
#5 – Travel with regional operators
This one trick can save you hundreds of dollars or more but requires some research. I’ve flown on regional airlines for peanuts compared with the larger international carriers like when I flew via Peach Airlines (a Japanese company) from Busan, South Korea to Osaka, Japan for $88 while American Airlines charged $250.
When I’m hopping around a region I ask locals what they fly and trust. That’s how I get great discounts while not worrying about safety. These carriers don’t appear on Expedia results so I use Rome2rio.com to see them listed or usually go directly to their websites to book.
As a side note, Southwest and JetBlue are awesome airlines with great prices that never appear in Expedia searches either. That’s why I just booked a ticket from DC to San Antonio via Southwest.com for $155 while seats on American Airlines, the cheapest result on Expedia, started at $400+. Naturally I paid with my American Airlines credit card to earn reward points and will register my Southwest miles to earn points with them toward future travel with both.
Discounts aren’t just on flights. Check out local bus, rail and ferry tickets using Rome2rio.com You’ll thank me later.
Big Travel, Small Money
Travel is one of the most common dreams but it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. Use these savvy tips to travel to your dream destination. Use your left over savings for souvenirs. Or another trip!
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