We don’t catch feelings, we catch flights. That sentiment is nice and catchy for an IG caption, but let’s be real. Bills come once a month and traveling can be expensive. Also, if you’re trying to visit locations that aren’t exactly wallet-friendly, it can be hard to rack up those passport stamps the way you really want to. However, a few savvy tips can help you seriously save on those destinations that you may have thought were out of your reach.
ESSENCE asked a few experts their top tips to that will help you save on everything from flights to meals, and help you reach the destination of your dreams without breaking the bank.
Act fast on fare glitches
It wasn’t long ago that everyone was going wild over the travel glitches to Kenya and South Africa. This requires staying alert on Twitter and being quick to book. One site that Jenn Earley loves is Secret Flyer. “I was at dinner with some travel agent friends and one received a notification about cheap roundtrip flights from New York to Johannesburg for $400 roundtrip,” the Atlanta based owner of Cultured Vacations said. After booking, Earley suggests checking directly with the airline carrier within 24 hours to ensure your flight is confirmed and then start making additional travel plans. But in order to afford those flights on a whim, why not start a separate travel fund? Saving $20 here and $30 bucks there can really add up, and help you easily afford those last minute flight glitches everyone loves so much without needing to dip into your everyday funds or bill money.
Be strategic with planning your flights
On the flip side, if you don’t find a flight glitch, but you’re dying to travel to a specific destination, take a good look at the calendar and Google. “Avoid business and holiday routes for the cheapest flights, and remember two singles may land you a better bargain than one return,” says Radha Vyas, cofounder of travel company, Flash Pack. Avoiding holidays is a pretty obvious way to save, but also check to see if the location is having any major events or festivals so you can avoid them. Booking a flight the week after an event can easily save you hundreds, as less people are bound to be in town. Also, do the math to determine if buying a roundtrip ticket is the best move. Sometimes the numbers work in your favor to book a departure and return flight on separate airlines.
Pay in advance
Being prepared and even pre-paying can seriously help you save. Whether you’re booking a hotel or a tour, companies usually give discounts to folks who are willing to pay upfront. Travel pro Ariana Pierce used this tactic while on a trip with some friends to Dubai. “We wanted to do all the exotic excursions, so we prepaid for all of them here in the United States. The rates are often better online than in person,” she says. Pierce also did the same with her hotel, which equaled to an almost 25 percent savings off the original price. While pre-paying might be a bigger hit to your wallet upfront, you’ll appreciate the savings in the long run.
Assemble your girl gang
There’s strength in numbers and naturally, there’s also savings in a crew. Pierce knows this well. “I travel with my friends often. We take advantage of great group rates because there are so many of us,” she says. The savings can include hotels, transportation, and more. Use money sharing apps like Venmo or Cash app to be sure everyone is contributing fairly and evenly. Also, just because you’re traveling with your crew doesn’t mean you have to be stuck at the hip, venture out and life your best life.
Embrace the flexibility of solo travel
On the flip side, traveling alone doesn’t mean you can’t land the savings. Vyas loves solo travel for the flexibility, which can lead to discounts. “As a solo traveler, you’re better equipped to take a last minute gamble on hotel rooms because there’s less of you!” It may be a risk, but if you arrive in the early evening, hotels are usually looking to fill rooms. “Night staff tend to be more relaxed and you’ll be at an advantage by negotiating face-to-face. As a solo traveler, I’ve found people will often go out of their way to help you,” says Vyas, who’s based in London. You can book in person or use a site like Hotel Tonight. Either way, less people in your crew means less people who need to be pleased.
Find all the free stuff
Let’s say you still haven’t found a flight deal or any savings on your hotel, you can still save some coins while on the ground. Earley suggests taking to social media to find the deals in the city you’re visiting. This can include following tourism boards on social media to see what’s happening in the area. Also, a simple Google search can make a world of difference to your wallet. A search for “free event” and the city you’re in can open up the door to the free-99 or low cost happenings.
Venture out for cheap eats
Finally, If you’re only eating at restaurants in the downtown or tourist spots, your wallet is probably screaming, ‘what are you doing baby?!’ Companies in these areas jack up the prices on everything from a cup of coffee to a steak dinner, but the solution is as simple as walking a few blocks or taking a short cab ride. “Wherever you are in the world, always head away from the [city] center to hunt down hidden neighborhood places where the food is great and the prices are guaranteed to be more reasonable,” offers Vyas. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals where they eat, because they’re most likely not chowing down at the price gouging eateries. Also, when all else fails, Groupon deals are just a few clicks away.