Ways to Save on Travel Without Using Rewards Credit Cards

iStock_000014687653XSmallI’ve noticed a trend lately in the blogosphere of bloggers pushing rewards credit cards to travel for free. This is great, because it’s a tried and true method and is very effective. Most people have a credit card and why not get some free travel for using it?

However, not everyone wants to have to open several credit cards to save on travel expenses, and I know that for me, I already have a credit card with travel rewards but want to save with other methods as well. If you travel more than once per year, typically you won’t be able to churn credit cards to get that many free trips anyway.

Travelling doesn’t have to be extremely expensive. Here are some of the ways I’ve been able to save:

Book Far in Advance

We are booking our honeymoon about a year in advance.

We looked at the prices if we booked just six months in advance, versus a year in advance, and we are saving almost 50% just by planning ahead. Flights, hotels, and even car rentals can be much cheaper when you book about a year in advance.

If you take advantage of a company that does price adjustments if the price of the flight or hotel rooms fall, then you don’t have to worry about a sale happening after you book, because you’ll get the rate anyway.

Use AirBNB or Equivalent 

AirBNB is a great way to save money on travel. I personally would prefer to stay in a room or apartment found off of AirBNB rather than a hotel, because I find hotels impersonal and not very comfortable at all.

Finding an accommodation off of these types of websites gives you a lot more flexibility than a hotel chain, too. Just be sure to read the reviews before booking anything.

Priceline or Equivalent

When I went to New Orleans this past summer, I didn’t know about AirBNB yet and we booked a hotel through Priceline.

We got a great deal because we used the bidding tool that Priceline and some other sites allow you to use. This allowed us to name the price, minimum amount of stars, and location that we were comfortable with. Priceline then submits it to several hotels, and lets you know whether or not your bid was accepted.

We saved a couple hundred dollars from the prices on the hotel’s website.

The only flaw with Priceline is that, if you are using the bidding tool, you won’t know which hotel you are staying at until the bid has been accepted and you are committed to that hotel.

Daily Deal Websites

One time I was on Groupon looking to see whether or not there was a daily deal on my favourite restaurant, and I came across Groupon Getaways. I was shocked as to how cheap some of the packages were. The first one I saw was a package deal – hotels, flight, and tours – to China for almost two weeks for less than the cost of an all inclusive beach resort vacation.

These are typically packaged as tours, but even if you use it for the airfare and hotel and ditch the tour, you’re still getting an amazing deal.

This is my personal favourite because, on many of these daily deal sites, if three of your contacts buy the deal, yours is free.

This means that if you are going in a group of four, one of you can get free travel. Living Social has deals like this as well, and I think Teambuy does too.

Travel on the Off Season

Travel is substantially cheaper during the off-season. People tend to want to travel during our summers, when there is time off, or go to hot places in the winter.

You’ll be paying a premium for doing this. You’ll save quite a bit of money by going just outside of the busy season; instead of travelling to Europe between June-September, go at the beginning of October. Instead of going to Cuba in December, try April.

 These are the methods that I have been using to save on travel over the last couple of years. How about you?



Ways to Save on Travel Without Using Rewards Credit Cards — 21 Comments

  1. Hi Daisy, we have not traveled nearly as much as we’d like, but that is slowly but steadily changing these days. We haven’t used AirBNB yet, but we would definitely consider it. We also prefer going in the off-season. We don’t like big crowds and the savings are an added bonus! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I wish I was able to travel often. Looks like the tides are changing slowly for me there though…I’m excited. When I do travel, one way I save money is bringing snacks on the plane. Unfortunately, you’ve gotta pay for everything these days. So, if you bring your own lunch, you won’t have to pay $13 for a sandwich that tastes bad on the air plane!

  3. These are great tips. I have one travel card and just use that. I don’t churn card to earn more rewards because I just don’t want to deal with that many cards.

  4. I’m an avid travel hacker, but I would never go about it the way bloggers in the PF world do it. Credit card referral bonuses are incredibly difficult to come by, and it’s no surprise that Barclay has “lowered the bar” for the recent card being pimped out and the rash of “look how great this card is” posts.

    I scored $350 RT tickets to Israel last year. No credit card apps, I was just looking on a forum at the right time and place.

    There is no doubt, however, that if you want to travel, especially internationally, applying for credit cards is by far the best “bang for the buck.”

    • I agree with you with credit card churning – you are so right about Barclay – I’m not even American but I know all about it, haha.

  5. I have become a quick convert to making reservations as early as possible. I blew it on our recent vacation to Hawaii. I had a chance to book our flight about six months in advance. Instead I waited hoping for fares to come down. Of course they went up from $750 per person, round trip, to $1100 per person. For our family of three, that added $1050 to our vacation cost. Doh! 😯

  6. These are all good tips! I’ve saved a ton on travel by planning my trips for the off season. Unfortunately, my daughter starts kindergarten next year so we’ll only be able to go when school is out of session =/

  7. I don’t know what the sweet spot for booking flights is…I’ve heard that booking far in advance might not necessarily be good as there might be price drops…though it can also go up. Flight prices fluctuate way to much…it’s like the stock market. Traveling in the offseason is definitely a good idea…prices are a lot cheaper.

    • In my experience, every time I look at flights far in advance and don’t book, the prices go WAY up after – but that’s just me!

  8. One item you did forget Daisy is the method of flying into smaller airports instead of the biggies such as LAX or Newark. I know a couple where the husband flies from S. Dakota to an airport outside of Miami and drives an hour, but saves quite a bit.

    Another option is to make it a road trip. I know a family that took a month off and drove from Pennsylvania out to Nevada to see relatives and made a whole trip of it. Car leasing is still cheaper than air travel.

    And I still don’t advocate using debt to build rewards. The fees and interest just are not worth it.

    Have a good honeymoon btw.

    • In Canada, smaller airports are MUCH more expensive than the larger ones, but that’s probably just Canada.

      Thanks Bill!

    • You gotta watch out for budget carriers too -they often fly to airports that are wayyyy out of the way and will cost you more in transport to get into the city than it would to just fly a big airline into the main airport.

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