Getting Creative with Budget Travel

My travel mantra holds that travel should be free — or as close to free as you can get! Budget travel tips usually focus on ways to find cheaper airfare or hotels, and these are a great start. But thinking outside the box can yield some extraordinary vacations that are surprisingly affordable. Here are the different ways I travel to save (and sometimes earn!) money:

Rent a House or Apartment
If you want to stay somewhere nicer than a hostel, but aren't eager to pay hotel prices, consider renting a house or apartment. You'll be able to cook for yourself and avoid the $5 bottles of water. You're also more likely to get an authentic local experience, as vacation rentals are often located in neighborhoods, rather than in tourist areas.

Vacation rentals are a great proposition if you've got kids, since they can run around and eat Mac 'n Cheese — the epicenter of childhood, by my memory — without disturbing hotel or restaurant staff.

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Cheap Travel: How To Get The Most For Your Travel Dollars

Travel has always been a priority for me. I love seeing new places, experiencing new cultures, and just getting away from the routines of my daily life. Even more important, my family and close friends are a pretty far-flung crowd. I have loved ones spread from Boston to Buenos Aires. We buy a lot of plane tickets in my family. We buy so many tickets that I should have become savvy about how we buy them much earlier than I did.

For years, I've mainly just flown with JetBlue. I use Farecast to see if there's a better deal available elsewhere. If there's not a significantly cheaper ticket on that site, I buy my ticket through JetBlue. They generally have low fares and a good frequent-flyer program. This is a pretty simplistic approach. Since I'd never researched it carefully, I didn't know if I was really getting the best deals on my travel.

Now, my best friend is moving to San Francisco. (Yes, between losing my cat and my health problems and my friend's move, it's been a doozy of a month). I'm suddenly looking at traveling a lot more than I already do! Figuring out how to squeeze a few trips a year to the West Coast into my budget is a challenge. Before I overhaul my other spending areas, I wanted to find out if I could get more travel for the same amount I'm already spending. Maybe I can make my existing travel budget take me further — literally. Continue reading...

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How moving to a developing nation improved our financial situation

This guest post from Craig Ford is part of the "reader stories" feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. Craig writes two blogs: Money Help for Christians and Help Me Travel Cheap.

On 16 May 2006, I boarded a Folker 100 aircraft with my wife and ten-month-old daughter. We made the short flight from Port Moresby to our new home — Alotau, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea.

To be honest, the move had nothing to do with money. We moved there to do missionary work in Alotau. However, more than four years later, I've found that our decision to move to this third-world country located in the South Pacific actually had a very positive impact on our finances. (For some context, I have an interview with some PNG citizens so you can learn a little about their standard of living.)

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How to Avoid Sneaky Airline Fees

Last Friday I arrived home from New York City after a week of Broadway, museums, twinkling holiday lights, and more cannoli than any one person should consume. (Thankfully, I spent plenty of time walking them off!) Visiting the city in December was on my life list of things I wanted to do, and it didn't disappoint.

Of course, New York City isn't inexpensive. But my husband and I stayed with a friend, which meant we didn't have to pay for a hotel room, and we lucked into a few deals. For example, our friend used his corporate discount to get reduced-price tickets to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and we scored $25 tickets for front-row seats to Wicked through a lottery drawing held two hours before the show. I'd also prepared myself to expect higher prices so that I could relax a little and enjoy the first big vacation we've taken in almost three years. I can say in all honesty that every expense was worth it — especially the cannoli.

But want to know what travel expenses are not worth it? The new fees airlines charge for everything imaginable! Need to check two bags? That'll be $60. Want a pillow? That's $7, and we only take credit cards. Continue reading...

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How to Save Money While Traveling

When I was packing for my trip to Argentina, a friend advised me, “Put everything you're taking on the bed. Now put back half the clothes, and take twice the money.”

Take more money than you think you'll need when traveling.Good advice. I tried to follow it and still ended up bringing more clothes than I could possibly need. I didn't bring much money, though, because one of my goals for this trip is to keep saving even while I'm traveling.

Saving for travel is relatively simple: You set up a targeted savings account and put a little money aside each week or each month. Setting a schedule and sticking to it is the key to saving for anything. Travel is no exception.

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Traveling cross-country dirt cheap

This guest post from Michelle Russo is part of the "reader stories" feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general "how I did X" advice, and others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity, and with all sorts of incomes. This story is perfect for Memorial Day weekend, which kicks off the summer holiday season in the U.S.

I've traveled the continental United States, sampling a wide variety of cuisines, and I can say without reservation that the best meal I've ever eaten was a hamburger at a fast food chain just outside Mount Rainier National Park. But in all fairness, I'd spent the past nine hours climbing a mountain, the granola bars were long gone, and I was beginning to see spots.

Twice I've spent a month driving across the country, from Philadelphia to San Diego and back. I've logged over 20,000 miles, and I've seen more during that time than all the rest of my vacations combined. I've also done it for less than $2,500. Continue reading...

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Searching for the Cheapest Airfare: Is There a Silver Bullet?

At one time or another, we've all been a day late and a few air miles short when purchasing a plane ticket. So we turn to the internet. But with all the bargain travel sites out there, which ones truly offer the best deals on a consistent basis? Surely, there must be a spectacular site out there that's going to get me the cheapest flight every time, right?

Testing the Premier Airfare Sites
I thought it would be fun — and educational — to actually go through a real-life example with a test flight that:

  • Departs Atlanta, non-stop flight to L.A. (LAX) at any time on March 8.
  • Departs L.A. (LAX), non-stop flight to Atlanta at any time, March 13.

So let's dive in and take a look at the different types of airfare sites out there to see how they perform. The first step to finding the best deal is knowing what the business models are for the sites offering these tickets. Knowing this will result in some time savings and myth busting.

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Planning a (Debt-Free) Dream Vacation

Most people agree that a vacation is supposed to be relaxing, but planning for one can be just the opposite. Still, poor planning can cost money and time, causing headaches and frustration when you're supposed to be getting away from it all.

Some people like to book a ticket and see where life takes them. Others prefer cruises or tours where the planning is taken care of for them. I prefer to plan my trips, researching and budgeting as much as I can while I'm at home to make the vacation as smooth as possible. If that sounds like the route for you, today I'm going to share my method, step-by-step, for budgeting and planning a vacation, including spreadsheets you download and customize.

This method is effective in planning trip logistics and budgets, laying out how to do the following:

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5 little-known websites that will save you time and money when booking airfare online

When booking airfare online, most people think of the popular online aggregation sites. You know the ones: They have the fancy commercials, catchy jingles, and washed-up celebrity pitchmen. While those sites aren't inherently bad, there are a few well-documented problems with relying solely on these larger engines:

  1. Many of the aggregation sites neglect to include smaller, budget carriers.
  2. Larger airline companies may temporarily exclude or intentionally block these aggregation sites from fares.
  3. Short-term specials or incentive sales aren't usually aggregated either. They're often only found by visiting the individual sites of the carriers.

Obviously, there isn't just one website capable of giving you the best deal every time. I wish it were that easy.

Many larger carriers make a significant amount of money off of the loyalty factor — meaning those individuals and companies who choose to fly the same airline every time for whatever reason. Because of this, they're not necessarily in a rush to make all their fare data open and available for the world to dissect. Continue reading...

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How to Earn Free Plane Tickets and Cash Back by Shopping Online

This is a guest post from April Dykman, an avid GRS reader, and a writer and editor by trade. April is a potential Staff Writer for Get Rich Slowly. In her first article, April described how she discovered freedom from mindless spending. April is an active commenter at this site.

When my husband and I went to Italy in 2006, we spent $2500 on plane tickets. We're planning to spend much less for our next hop across the pond because as of this month we have over 80,000 airline miles — just enough for two tickets to Europe.

I used to think frequent flier miles were only awarded to, you know, frequent fliers. Or people who use an American Express for big company expenses. I certainly didn't think little ol' me who gets on a plane maybe once a year would be able to rack up enough miles to matter. Continue reading...

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