It is said that there are two types of travelers in the world: those who look for a deal and those who don’t.
They could be on the same flight, staying at the same hotel, eating the same food, and taking the same excursions. But, they might be paying wildly different prices for the exact same experience because one chose to do a little research instead.
Being a frugal traveler doesn’t have to mean missing out. In fact, it could mean you are able to experience even more because you cut costs along the way.
Want to be a more frugal traveler? Consider some of these ideas to find some bargains on your next trip.
Timing Your Trip Right
One of the first steps in becoming a frugal traveler is picking a place where you want to go, and can also afford to go. The good news is that no location is necessarily off-limits, as long as you can be flexible on the timing of your vacation.
While you’re not likely to get a great deal on a hotel on Cape Cod for Fourth of July weekend or a cheap flight to the Caribbean over Christmas, you may be able to score a sweet deal if you decide to go to either of those places during what is referred to as “shoulder season.”
The term shoulder season is used by professional travelers and agents around the world to denote the time in-between busy seasons in any given destination.
It’s typically viewed as a less desirable time to visit by lay travelers, but to the pros, it’s often seen as the ideal time to go, since this is the time you may be able to find better deals on flights, accommodations, and more.
Take Mexico as an example. According to Frommer’s, Mexico’s high season begins around December 20th, peaks over New Year’s, then winds down at the end in April.
If you plan a visit during this time you can expect to pay a premium on just about everything as you’re competing with other travelers for space.
If you opt to visit just prior to this, say in November, or just after, in May or June, and you will likely be able to find better deals. As a bonus, there will likely be fewer people around, meaning you might be able to take excursions with fewer people, get restaurant reservations at highly sought after spots, and may even luck your way into a room upgrade at your hotel for free.
Finding Flight Deals
One of the most expensive parts of traveling is the actual act of travel itself. While driving can sometimes be a cheaper mode of transportation, it might not be an option depending on the destination you have in mind.
But there are still ways you can save. Here are a couple of travel hacks that may help you get better deals on airfare.
Signing up for email alerts. Some good news for busy travelers: There are other people out there willing to look for a good deal for you. And they’ll do it for free so long as you subscribe to their email newsletter.
Next Vacay, for example, is a website where users can input their destination, then simply wait for the site to send them daily emails with flight deals.
You may also want to check out Scott’s Cheap Flights, a newsletter that claims to find tickets up to 90% off, as well as Skyscanner, which allows users to set alerts for price drops so you can strike when the iron is hot.
Some of these services will send you deals for both your destination and others in case you need a little inspiration. You may also want to download a few travel apps that will send you price alerts as well.
Booking at the right time–and for the right day. According to a recent study by CheapAir, the best day to buy airfare is roughly 64 days out from your travel date. Anywhere between 95 to 21 days in advance of your departure day, however, consistently yields the lowest prices for travelers (within 5% of the lowest ticket price).
While the day of the week you book doesn’t appear to make much of any difference, the day of the week you travel can. Mid-week flights typically yield the best value.
In fact, CheapAir found that you can spend, on average, about $82 more to fly on a Sunday, than a Tuesday or Wednesday. For a family of four, that adds up to a savings of nearly $300.
Scoring Deals on Accommodations
Hotels base prices on supply and demand, so when there is less demand (say in shoulder season) prices tend to fall. Beyond the season, you can also try looking into checking in and out on less popular days.
If you can check in on a Monday and out on a Friday, for instance, you may be able to save, since mid-week pricing can be cheaper than weekends.
Even if you’re booking at a travel site, it’s also a good idea to frequently check the website of any hotel you’re interested in staying at. There, they may announce different deals and sales. At the very least, you may be able to spot a free room upgrade or free breakfast.
Entertaining Yourself on a Frugal Vacation
While you’re traveling, you’re likely going to want to participate in activities. And you can likely find ways to save on those also.
In a new place, try googling a few free walking tours, which can give you a wonderful sense of a place without having to spend a dime (though it may be polite to tip your tour guide afterward).
For cheap or discounted tickets to local attractions, consider checking out sites like Groupon, Airbnb Experiences, and local tourism boards.
You may also want to ask your hotel front desk at check-in for tips on things to do and see. Hotels often have partnerships with area attractions and may be able to provide you with a discount.
For restaurants it can be a bit harder to save, but if there’s one fancy place you’ve simply been dying to try, you can often save a fair amount by going for lunch rather than dinner.
Some restaurants run lunch specials or offer a specific lunch menu, where the entrees are a little smaller but also cheaper than they are on the dinner menu.
Setting a Travel Budget
Establishing a budget, and then starting to save for your vacation, can be a key part of the frugal traveler planning process. That’s because your budget can help determine not only where you can go, but what you can do while you are there.
A travel budget can help you to narrow down your choices, and also make sure that you are able to enjoy your trip without having to worry that you are spending more than you can afford.
Below are some categories you may want to include in your budget:
Transportation costs: When budgeting for a trip, you’ll want to decide if you’re going to fly, drive, or take the train. For driving, consider costs like gas and wear and tear on your car. For flying, you’ll want to be sure to include ticket price, baggage fees, airport parking, and destination car rental or taxi.
Lodging: Accommodation cost can seem clear, but you’ll want to be sure to ask about any resort fees and taxes so you can add it to your budget.
Food: It can be a good idea to come up with a cost for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (including tips) for everyone you’re traveling with. If your hotel offers free breakfasts you can put that cost towards another meal.
Activities: You’ll want to have a budget for daily activities and entertainment for each participant in your group.
Extras: You never know when an emergency, a fun activity, or an unplanned happy hour will arise. Adding a buffer to your vacation budget can help you prepare for these extra expenses.
Once you add up all the costs, you can start saving up for your vacation. You could even create a secondary savings account titled “travel fund” so you’ll be even more excited to save.
Vacations can be costly, especially if you’re traveling with a family. But with a little bit of research and advance planning, you may be able to significantly reduce the price of your next trip.
Simple frugal traveler tricks, like traveling off-peak, signing up for travel newsletters, booking your flight around two months ahead, and pre-scouting free and discounted local activities, can help you reduce costs without having to skimp on fun.
You can also make traveling more affordable by setting a budget, saving up for your trip in advance, and staying as close as possible to your spending plan while you are away.
Ready to start saving for your next getaway? You may want to consider opening up a SoFi Money® cash management account.
With SoFi Money’s special “vaults” feature, you can separate your savings from your spending while earning competitive interest on all of your money.
You can even create a “vacation” vault and set up automatic recurring deposits to help you build your travel fund faster.