The warmth and cheer of the holidays have departed, leaving much of the U.S. with at least three more months of face-numbing winter. But vacations to warmer destinations don’t need to be exclusively reserved for the significantly well-off. Read on for seven ways to travel without having to live on ramen noodles for a month.
Go when and where no one else will. Flying to Hawaii in the winter or Europe in early summer will almost never be the most economical decision, but as Amanda Sundt of iExplore.com told NPR, travelers looking to save money should head to the Caribbean during hurricane season and check out countries in the throes of recession, where prices on hotels and airfare will be low — and tourism revenues will be welcome.
As for seasonal getaways, vacationers on a tight budget need to think outside of the box.
“If you’re going skiing at Christmas,” Sundt said, “it’s going to be expensive.”
The best timing for a trip to London or the Scottish Highlands may be around March, when British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger Article 50 of the European Union’s foundational Lisbon Treaty, detaching Britain from the European Union. Both the success of the “leave” vote and May’s more recent comments on the so-called “Brexit” have sunken the pound to historic lows, so there’s no telling what the separation’s execution will do to the U.K.’s currency.
Rent out your room while you’re gone. Why pay rent for a month if you’re only using your room for three weeks? With Airbnb, travelers can rent out a room for the equivalent of the cost to live there — and then some.
Car owners can do the same with vehicles they don’t plan on using during vacations. Turo allows drivers to temporarily rent out their cars, with coverage under the app’s $1 million insurance policy to boot.
Use alternatives to hotels and rental agencies. Just as vacationers can make some extra cash on their rooms and cars while their gone, they can save by using the same apps while traveling. BlaBlaCar, for example, is an international carpooling service for longer trips than the standard Uber — which itself is generally cheaper than the average taxi.
For even less expensive lodging than Airbnb, travelers should look to hostels. While cleanliness, safety and noise can vary, there are ways to prepare for these bumps in the road as well: As thrift blogger Mel Bondar wrote in a U.S. News & World Report piece on the subject, travel with a friend, pack headphones and bring shower shoes.
Keep a constant eye on airfares. According to an anonymous fare manager interviewed by airfarewatchdog.com, the common perception of an optimal time for ticket buying is a myth, and what’s needed is a bit of obsessive observation.
“We constantly read stories from pundits who proclaim that Tuesday nights are the best or Saturday at midnight is the lowest time for airfares, but that is not entirely true,” the manager told the airfares site. “Plus, fares are so dynamic since they are based on market conditions and the actual number of passengers who are currently booked on a specific flight that they can change rapidly at any time.”
Try a different airport. If a generous friend is willing to pick you up, or if your destination is a small town, it may be worth it to try your hand at alternative airports, which are often serviced by cheaper airlines. As Josh Reports of SmarterTravel.com wrote in USA Today, the same goes for the departing flight.
“I live near Boston and regularly search for departures from Manchester, New Hampshire, whenever I’m benchmarking prices to my destination,” he wrote. “Often I find better prices from Manchester.”
Try a road trip. Costtodrive.com gauges the amount of money you’ll spend on gas for a long distance road trip, allowing you to enter your departure location, destination and number of passengers, as well as your car’s model, make and year to calculate your total gasoline expense. Spoiler: Unless you’re driving 10 people cross-country in a Hummer, hitting the road should be far cheaper than flying.