You’re doing it wrong.
God, nobody wants to hear that, right? I mean, nothing shuts people down faster than getting unsolicited advice from a know-it-all. It’s so annoying. So abrasive. So freakin’ presumptuous.
Come to think of it, that probably wasn’t a great first line to start this piece…
Alright, so here comes the crummy part. When it comes to travel planning, you could be doing it wrong. I’m sorry, but it’s true.
Before you tune me out, give me a second to explain.
What if doing it “right” could save you thousands? What if you just changed one or two things about the way you planned your next adventure that could literally cut 50% or more off the cost of your hotels and flights.
It’s possible… and it’s not even that hard. But you have to start from the beginning.
The Biggest Mistakes People Make with Travel
As you might expect, we get questions about how to save on travel all the time. It can be anything from “Can you help me save on a trip to Disney World?” to “I need to fly my family of 6 to Shanghai. Please help.”
Honestly, this is one of our favorite parts of our job! We love hearing about your travel and handling these types of questions. And, if you have a travel rewards question for us, feel free to submit your own question here.
With all the interaction we receive, we also get to see a lot of the mistakes people make. While not planning ahead is probably the most common mistake, there’s a bigger mistake that costs people even more: Choosing a destination, then trying to make it cheap.
I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We’ve all done it.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes we want to go where we want to go and that’s all there is to it. But if you’re just booking a regular old vacation and are the least bit flexible with your destination, this step-by-step approach could save you thousands.
How to Earn Massive Travel Savings with Proper Planning
If you really want to save money on travel, it all happens in the planning.
I’m telling you guys, we’ve used this method to travel the globe for tens of thousands less than the average traveler. It’s a crazy simple technique that you should employ whenever possible. Here’s how to do it in four simple steps.
Step 1) Find the Best Rewards Offers (Optional)
Since we talk a lot about rewards travel here, I think it’s important to mention this first. It’s certainly optional, but if you plan to use rewards, this is a biggie.
Start your travel planning by finding the best rewards offers first. In fact, it’s often best to earn the points and miles and then decide what to do with them.
Credit card companies are constantly changing their offers, and these deals only last for a limited time. Find the cards with the best offers, especially those with limited time signup bonuses, then pounce! If the deal is good enough, you can always find a way to use the points later. Learn more about the best current rewards card offers here.
Also, you need to do this several months ahead of your trip. Like 9+ months out. You’ll need time to earn the rewards, be credited with the rewards, AND book the best deals. The sooner you get going the better.
Step 2) Create a List of Target Destinations
What’s costs the most when you travel? Airfare and hotels, right? So, if you want to go to Europe (or Asia, or the Caribbean, or anywhere else) but don’t care if it’s London or Prague, search for the best deal first.
This trick is super simple but extremely effective. You see, most people plan their travel backwards. They pick a destination and worry about the price later. Try creating a list of target destinations first, then choose from your list based on price. (3 to 5 destinations is usually plenty.) This simple technique can literally save you thousands of dollars every time you travel!
Again, if you’re using points and miles, sign up for the best offers. Then, instead of earning miles that fit a predetermined destination, plan your trip around the miles you have. You’ll get to see far more places for much much less.
Step 3) Research Flight and Hotel Prices
With a list of target destinations in mind, start researching prices and availability.
If you’re booking with points and miles, the amount of points you spend is often directly related to the current price of the flight or stay. The lower the price, the less points you’ll use. Traveling off-peak could help you save as much as 50% on the cost of flights and hotels, as well.
One final note on this: If you’re redeeming points and miles for your trip, you typically need to book directly through the credit card company or the airline/hotel. Although booking sites are nice, they don’t usually allow points and miles redemptions. However, by booking through a credit card portal, you can typically stretch your points even further.
Again, you don’t have to use points and miles, but they can definitely help.
Step 4) Book It
When you’re satisfied that you’ve found the best deal, book your trip!
Again, you’ll usually find the best prices by booking several months in advance (think 9 to 12 months ahead). If you reeeaaallllly don’t care where you’re going, you can also find great last-minute deals (think less than 6-weeks away). If your airline or hotel has a favorable cancellation policy, you can even continue searching for better deals up to the refund date.
In any case, do your research, pull the trigger, and enjoy your trip!
See?!? Saving money on travel isn’t that difficult after all! In fact, it’s all in the planning.
Of course, there are dozens of other ways to save money on travel, but this little planning strategy can have a huge impact rather quickly. Just remember, if you want to save money on travel, flexibility is the key!
For more discussion about travel planning, be sure to join our frugal travel Facebook group! There, you’ll find hundreds of people like you sharing travel tips and ideas on a daily basis. It’s really a great resource, and we hope to see you there!
Until next time, happy traveling!