As a long time solo traveler, I’m often asked how I can afford to travel as I do & what are the best online sites & tools for cheap, quality travel. So I’ve put together some tips for what I consider to be the most helpful, lesser known travel tips for those of you looking to travel solo or otherwise.
I didn’t use any special methods most of my travel life other than due diligence (ie. repeatedly searching at all hours DAILY for any variance in price) but, as you go along, you learn! Currently (ie. it’ll change fairly quickly) finding the cheapest direct flights entails a variance of these options:
- Delete browser cookies before buying ticket because prices go up when you visit multiple sites.
- You can typically get cheaper tickets if you wait until midnight. There is more inventory & better rates because many seats are put on a 24 hour hold.
- Book flights in an Icognito window of Google Chrome so there are no cookies.
- Use Google Flights, Skyscanner, or Momondo to find the best airfare pricing. Then book through an online travel agency such as Orbitz or Expedia if there is the possibility that you can’t get off work or some other impediment arises. These online agencies allow you to cancel flights without penalty by 11PM Eastern Standard Time within 1 day of booking! OR book through your points credit card so that you get maximum points for the purchase.
If you are traveling & staying in hotels that charge wifi fees or even flying an airline that charges wifi fees, a little known trick is to add “?.jpg” at the end of their URL to bypass the expensive fee & use internet for free.
There are a multitude of wifi apps to help you locate free wifi in your travels. The problem with them is that you need wifi to access those apps!! I’ve not found them helpful!
ALWAYS check the government website to see if your currency is accepted. If it is, only exchange a very small amount of cash for local transactions of those who might not be on board (ie. taxis, fruit stands, etc.). Where International travel is concerned, you should always carry the equivalent of $300-$500 USD with you in case your ATM or credit card is not accepted….or is lost.
Use ATM’s for local currency rather than banks. In other words, don’t exchange your cash in the airport you depart from or arrive at EVER. Withdraw what you need from an ATM machine for the best exchange rate with no fees.
If you are okay with investing your travel money in an online only account, ABSOLUTELY use Aspiration!! They pay the highest interest on any checking account out there & you decide the fee! You could decide it should be zero! And there are ZERO ATM FEES WORLDWIDE!!! You’ll get hit with the fees but Aspiration reimburses them! Put as much as you want in but, I guarantee, you’ll make it your go-to savings & travel account!!
I have for years been a serial Couchsurfer & have made lifelong friends from hosting, surfing, & just meeting up for activities worldwide! This is a FREE option for those of us on a major budget or who simply want to live the local life. I have joined multiple other similar sites, but none have compared to the quality of people, the instant response to emergencies (whether it be a couch to sleep on or a stranded motorist), or the deeply mutual addiction where travel is involved.
Something fairly recent that has rocked my travel is airbnb! I so wish I had utilized it as a homeowner & rented my extra bedroom out before I decided the world was my home! Depending on what your budget is, you can rent an entire home, a small apartment, or just a room. There are other similar options popping up now but, after having consistently perused them all for the same dates & locations, airbnb stands out as the best!
Where hotels are concerned for the person without hotel points (or enough of them), I typically can’t find any better deals than on booking.com or hotels.com. It’s all dependent on where you are at the time of booking (ie. USA or International). Hostels can be found on these sites as well & tend to still be cheaper. BUT always Google search hostels when you’re abroad as, where ever you are, you’re likely to find a local option that may be cheaper. As a side note, HostelWorld SOMETIMES offers the best rate & sometimes the ONLY rate for certain hostels but they ALWAYS charge a fee. The same goes with Hostelling International. Think of that before booking as they may not actually be the cheapest!
Travel Insurance – I see that a lot of travelers recommend it but I’ve NEVER paid for travel insurance, nor have I needed it. However, I am a healthy person & tend to be even healthier in my travels due to the exercise. I do hear that World Nomads is the best go-to travel insurance company, though.
On your phone, add Google Maps & Google Translator! You’ll not regret it as you can use them offline in whatever city or country you’re in! Just be sure to download your destination!
Don’t spend the money on T-Mobile International, as convenient & relatively cheap as it is, unless you have no extra unlocked phone to take on your trip. On my last trip, I did use T-Mobile International but it would have been much cheaper to simply buy a SIM card for everywhere I visited. AND, in this case (ie. August 2017) it would been even cheaper than before thanks to Europe deciding to share! Share what? I’m not technical so I can’t tell you the details without plagiarizing but…it boils down to buy a SIM card in Europe & it works ALL OVER EUROPE!!!
Uber! Lyft! Cabify!! LOL Yes, there are alternatives to taxis everywhere!! Don’t solely depend on them, though. If demand is high, these “ride share” options will charge TWICE AS MUCH as a local taxi!!
BlaBlaCar in Europe is a fabulous option. I’d say it is the Couchsurfing of car sharing! And, OMG, if you are in Australia or New Zealand, refer back to my post, Saving Money In New Zealand! I’m positive, with research, it’s possible to find similar getting around deals where ever you find yourself!
Other than the above, make it a point to learn a few key phrases & words in the language for where you’re headed, bring any medications that may POSSIBLY be needed with you (if prescription, make sure you keep them in the original packaging), don’t pack fancy clothing or wear expensive jewelry, treat yourself to nicer accommodation along the way from time to time, wear a money belt in sketchier locales, travel with a large backpack & a day pack, take a photo with your phone of all reservations, always travel with a copy of important documents (both paper & digital), & FOREVER, keep a good attitude!!
In all aspects of life, things happen. They change us but we can control how they change us….and we can control, to a degree, what happens. Safe & informed travels, my friends!!