Travel costs seem to climb daily as oil prices and add-on fees increase. However, it is still possible to enjoy a nice vacation almost for free. Doing so just requires a bit of work and planning ahead of time.
The first step is to leverage the spending one already does every month. Many airlines and travel companies affiliate with a credit card and award travel miles or points based on what one spends on that particular card. If you’re the disciplined type, managing your monthly expenses and paying them off diligently each month can reap a significant number of points very quickly. It’s not uncommon for a person to have generated enough points for two domestic round-trip flight tickets within 12 months.
If traveling overseas, using a domestic hop to a closer airport can reduce the overseas flight leg by hundreds of dollars. Domestic flights are far cheaper than international flights because they use smaller planes that cost less to operate. A flight to Paris from San Francisco will be $400 more per stretch than a flight from New York to the same destination. Using a domestic flight could cost as little as $100 per route, and the flier can then take advantage of the lower New York international flight price. The method just requires careful planning to avoid missing one’s plane, including providing enough time to get through customs and airport security if necessary.
Second, various other marketing programs exist that award similar points when a consumer eats or consumes various brand products. These points can be easily leveraged into either a discount or free days for rental cars or hotel stays. While such offerings likely won’t cover the entire cost on a trip, they can reduce that same expense for a car or room by as much as 20 or 30 percent.
Third, timing of purchase is everything in travel. Travel programs enjoy their highest prices when the travel happens in season. For example, going to Europe is the most expensive during the late summer an early fall since it’s the best weather and the time for harvest festivals. However, for less than half the price the same trip could be had in the off-season when only business fliers are making the same hop across the ocean.
Further, if travel in deep winter is not a viable option, then timing a purchase before big buying surge can also save hundreds of dollars. Early spring and late fall avoid the summer season pricing while still getting to the same destinations with good weather. Especially when traveling with a family, a few hundred dollars per ticket savings can add up to a few thousand dollars quickly.