The travel industry is an extremely fast moving one, and, as anyone who is familiar with booking flights or making reservations knows, prices vary widely. Some price fluctuation is for obvious, seasonal reasons; while at other times it seems that fares and fees change for no reason at all. Here some tips on discount travel:
The Direct Route Isn't Always the Cheapest
In many cases there seems to be no rhyme or reason to how airfares work. There are seasonal changes, time of day changes, variations depending on demand, and then what seems like changes for no reason at all. When searching for discount airfares, look at alternate routes to get where you want to go. In many cases, a combination of 2 flights can be cheaper than one flight.
This usually works by taking advantage of very cheap domestic flights within the USA. For example, a return flight from New York to Montreal, Canada, which is a trip just over an hour, usually costs around $300. For the roughly the same price you can find return flight from New York to Los Angeles. The point is that for reasons have to do with traffic, regulations, and taxes, domestic flights are radically cheaper then international ones, mile for mile.
So depending where you want to go, you may find your airfare is much cheaper if you're willing to make a domestic flight first, before switching to an international one. If you live in the northern United States, for example, and want to go to Latin or South America, it will often be much cheaper to first take a domestic flight to a southern hub like Miami or Dallas and then fly further south from there, as opposed to taking a long flight directly from a northern city. When exploring multiple flights, also keep in mind how close you are to a major airline hub - it will be much more expensive to fly internationally directly from a smaller city then to fly to a major hub first.
In many cases if you're willing to put up with the slight inconvenience of two flights, discount travel can be yours. Just remember that as it stands most discount flight websites don't search for flights in this way, so you'll have to do some creative thinking on your own.
An often overlooked key to discount travel is food costs, which can be drastically reduced by shopping in local supermarkets rather than dining out. Most places you stay will take advantage of tourists as much as possible, and you often don't realize until you do some currency conversion that you're paying $10 for a bad breakfast at your hotel. Instead, buy some healthy snakes and fresh food from a market to eat during your outings. This doesn't mean, of course, that you have to cook - it just means you should grab something fresh that you can eat on the go instead of stopping for lunch at a touristy restaurant.
When you do eat out, you'll save a lot of money by dining on truly local cuisine. Besides making for a more interesting cultural experience, the food the locals eat will be much cheaper, and most of the time better. American style food - especially when it is quite different from a country's normal dining fare - will always cost a premium, and if you can't expand your dining tastes you will pay for it.
To achieve discount travel through food savings, especially when you are in a second world country, look to where the locals eat. Relatively, they don't have nearly as much money as you, so you can safely assume that the restaurants in which the locals dine will be not only more authentic but much cheaper. Avoid restaurants and grocery stores filled with tourists, and selling North American food and produce.
Look Into Renting an Apartment
If you're considering a long stay in a city, look into renting an apartment. This is usually much cheaper than even the cheapest of hostels, and is a tried and tested method of those interested in discount travel. Many countries that receive an influx of North American tourists have a cottage industry of people renting their apartments for a short time.
Unlike North America, where it is difficult to rent an apartment for less than a few months, in many foreign countries you'll find apartments for rent for times that are as short as 2 weeks. Even the cheapest of hotel accommodations is likely going to be more expensive than a short term apartment rental.
Renting an apartment also helps you in other ways. Firstly, you're likely going to become more immersed in the foreign culture by not staying in a hotel or touristy area. Secondly, you will presumably be able to cook in the apartment, which will give you a radical savings on food costs.
Sometimes you'll find apartments that are rented specifically to those interested in discount travel, which will come with basic necessities. But you should also look around for locals who are looking to make a bit of money while they are out of town. In this case, you're likely to have a more enjoyable experience as the apartment will be more nicely furnished and lived-in.
Whatever apartment you choose, if you're interested in discount travel and plan on staying in a city for more than a few weeks, renting an apartment is almost certainly the way to go.
This is probably the most important concept overall in terms of discount travel. The entire travel industry is basically geared towards charging people for comfort and convince and if there are a lot of particular things that you want to do and see you will no doubt spend more money while traveling.
If you're willing to be more flexible, however -- if you're willing to be more interested in traveling to, say, "South America" as opposed to a particular country in South America, you'll be privy to massive savings. While, granted, not everyone is in a position to do this, if you can be flexible and open to new things in regards to your destinations you have the option of taking whatever is cheap, and you will often save lots of money.
Discount travel doesn't end with the flight, however. Once you arrive, do your best not to be picky, and remind yourself that you're probably going to pay for every bit of inflexibility on your part. Every country you go to will present you with certain choices that are much cheaper then others. Perhaps you'll find that beef is a fraction of the cost of chicken when dining out, for example. Now you may much prefer chicken, but if you're willing to put that aside, you'll save a lot of money. The same goes for drink: in much of South America, rum will be ridiculously cheap, while other types of alcohol will be relatively expensive - maybe you don't particularly like rum, but if you're interested in discount travel, you do when you're in south America.
By basically sticking to a "when in Rome, do as the Romans" idea with your tastes, you will make your trip much more affordable. And if you're willing to be flexible enough that you want to take a trip as opposed to a particular trip, you will find your travel is heavily discounted.
When you travel, the most expensive part of your trip is usually just that: travel. This doesn't mean simply the flight to your destination, but also the traveling you want to do once you get there. Bus trips, car rentals and train tickets will always be relatively expensive, and when you're on the go you also tend to spend more on food and accommodation.
Many travelers arrive in a foreign land with a long inflexible itinerary of things they want to do and places they want to see that has them on busses and trains nonstop. In terms of discount travel, consider the value of staying put for while. Not only you will experience huge savings on transportation and accommodation, but there's a good chance you'll have a more interesting and valuable experience.
Although it is tempting to try and see as much as possible in a foreign country, if you are constantly moving, and in particular if you are constantly moving in touristy areas, its unlikely you'll get a good sense of what the country is like. If you stay in once place for while, though - let's say you rent an apartment for a few weeks in a city - you're going to get a better sense of what it's like to live there. You can experience the culture a bit more, meet some locals, dine in local restaurants etc. . .
Besides saving you money, staying put will also allow you to avoid what many people get sucked into when traveling: being constantly on the go. Ask yourself if you really want to spend your trip sitting on busses and trains, and never staying in the same place two nights in a row. Not only is there a good chance your trip will be more enjoyable when you stay put, but it's guaranteed that you will save a lot of money.