Cheap travel tricks. Cheap travel tricks. Cheap travel tricks. Say that ten times fast.
Now that your tongue is in a twist and you’ve spit all over your computer screen, proceed to the cheap travel tricks below.
Next week I’ll be headed to Louisville, Kentucky to cheer on my boyfriend in the Ironman Triathlon. It’s a full day athletic competition consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run. Yes, these athletes do it all at once, barely stopping to eat, drink or rest. It can take a professionally trained athlete between 8 and 10 hours to complete the race, while the cut off time is 17 hours. Can you imagine? I can barely withstand sitting in a car for that long, let alone exercising non-stop. What these triathletes do is truly incredible, and it’s inspiring to watch them compete in the toughest race in the world.
For my trip to Louisville I’ll need a place to stay, food to eat and transportation from Maine to Kentucky and back. Here’s the catch: I’m not a rich jet setter with unlimited funds to spare. I need to travel on a budget, and here’s how I planned an affordable trip.
Bid for a room
I am Priceline Negotiator’s biggest fan. I will never book a hotel any other way. The process is simple. Select your travel dates, enter your preferred star level, and check off which areas of town you are willing to stay in. Then you name your own price for the hotel room. With one click of the button the Negotiator starts working. If a hotel accepts your offer, your credit card will be charged for the room and you’ll be finished with the booking process. If your bid is not accepted, you’re given the opportunity to change your criteria and bid again.
I used the Negotiator for my Louisville trip and booked a 4-star hotel adjacent to the race finish line for 47% off the original price. Talk about amazing savings!
Non-traditional vacation rentals
Before I booked a hotel, I also looked into some non-traditional forms of lodging for the trip. Airbnb offers rooms, apartments and whole houses for rent all over the world. Sometimes the owners of these rentals will be home during your stay and will act as hosts and tour guides for the city you’re visiting. Other owners leave the house and it becomes yours to use for the duration of your vacation. Non-traditional rentals offer many benefits, including access to a kitchen, so you can save money (and calories) by cooking your own meals instead of dining out.
Drive and split the cost of gas
The price of gas may be high, but I found that driving to Kentucky was the most cost effective form of transportation for my trip. Since there will be four passengers in the car, we can split the cost of gas four ways to save even more money. The trip is about 20 hours one way, but we’ll break it up and stay with friends along the way for no cost lodging.
No, I won't be driving The Green Machine on this trip. She'll be taking a much needed break for a few days.
Get airfare alerts
If you want to fly to your destination, set up airfare alerts on your favorite travel website. There are plenty of theories out there as to when prices for plane tickets are cheapest, but I have yet to see any of them hold true time after time.
Groceries not restaurants
Dining out while on vacation can be a money pit. Meals are often overpriced in touristy cities. Instead of dining out for every meal, opt for a trip to a local grocery store and stock up on things you can prepare easily in your hotel room. Yogurt with granola, cereal and fruit are low- to no-prep options for breakfast while deli meats and bread make an easy lunch. If your hotel doesn’t offer refrigerators in rooms, bring a cooler along and refresh the ice daily to ensure your food stays fresh.
I plan to eat at a restaurant at least once while on my trip (it is a mini-vacation, after all) but I don’t want to pay through the roof at tourist-style eateries. Before I head off to a faraway land, I always check out the Groupon offers available in the city I’ll be visiting. I’ve mentioned the great savings at Groupon before, and I still stand by the cheap goods and services they offer on the site. For Louisville, I picked up a half-off Groupon for a popular gourmet pizzeria. Delizioso!
How do you save money on travel?