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Frugal Travel: 7 Tips For How to Vacation Without Going Broke

August 29, 2018

You don’t need to be rich to travel in style.

3 min read

Good news: Frugal travel doesn’t have to mean backpacks and hostels. In fact, you can travel in style without sacrificing your experience and style.

Holly Johnson* of Club Thrifty, a blog for budget travel aficionados, joined us on our podcast “Teach Me How to Money,” and shared her tips and tricks for frugal travelers.

The following are edited excerpts from her recent conversation with Stash editorial director Lindsay Goldwert.

1. Frugal travel doesn’t mean haggling.

The internet really is a treasure trove of information when it comes to looking for the best price on hotels, AirBnB [rentals], and flights. There are so many websites and tools that can help you figure out how to pay less for travel. A lot of people use credit card rewards and travel rewards to get a lot more bang for their buck on their vacations, and that doesn’t involve any haggling at all. It just involves research and time. I would say you don’t have to haggle at all if you’re good at researching, if you’re willing to read blogs, and find out where the deals are.

2. “Google” or search your way to cheaper flights.

If I’m paying for flights, instead of using airline miles, I really like Google Flights. You don’t buy your ticket at Google Flights…[it’s] just a search engine that lets you find the cheapest flight to a destination you want to go to for your dates. And it’s very easily searchable, although you have to go buy the ticket directly with the airline.

3. Points and miles aren’t worth going into debt…

I used to think that people who pursued credit card rewards were debt-free because I am. But I’m finding out that there are a lot of people who carry a credit card balance at 17% interest, pursue rewards, and think that they’re doing themselves some big favor. So I would say that’s the number one thing to keep in mind: That you shouldn’t be in debt [or] carrying a credit card balance, if you’re [only] spending on the credit card trying to earn rewards.

4. …Unless your plan is air-tight.

If you are debt-free, then you can set up your favorite rewards cards to pay regular bills. For example, we pay for our health insurance, auto insurance, homeowners insurance, groceries, gas, the kids’ gymnastics lessons. Everything we can pay for with a credit card, we do.

The best way to use credit card rewards to save money on travel is to use them reasonably for things you were going to buy anyway. And then pay them off right away.

5. Travel insurance isn’t a bad idea.

You should have a travel insurance policy. You can buy one, most of the time, when you book your trip. Or you can buy individual travel insurance policies. I have an annual travel insurance policy on our family through Alliance Travel Insurance, but you can shop around.

Some [policies] you can cancel for any reason. For example, If you plan your trip and you buy a ‘cancel any reason’ travel insurance policy, you can cancel it [simply] because you don’t feel like going.

6. There are cheap vacations.

We do a lot of cheap beach vacations where we rent a rental condo on the beach in [places like] Florida, or on a golf course in Alabama. And those can be really cheap. My kids are seven and nine (years old), and ever since they were little, they’ll just play on the beach all day. When you have a condo, you can make most of your own meals, and save money that way. Sometimes simple vacations like that can be a ton of fun.

7. Expect unexpected expenses.

No one ever takes into account the [cost of] the cab to the airport. Or that every airline has a different checked-bag fee. Or that the kids are going to want a snack at the airport because they might not want the lunch you’ve packed.

One thing that has really happened to me in the last year—and I knew this, but it still caught me off-guard—is that we adopted a dog from the animal shelter last December. And it was free because it was a five-year-old pitbull. But every time we go somewhere, I have to pay $40 per day for somebody to watch the dog. So, sometimes, on a three-week trip, it can cost $700.

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By Lindsay Goldwert

*The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of Stash, and Stash is not providing any financial, economic, legal, accounting or tax advice or recommendations in this article.

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