Traveling is only as expensive as you make it! The absolute best way to save money on travel is to go where plane tickets are on sale. Book the plane ticket and then your trip, not the other way around - you can save thousands!
We've done some crazy things, like booking plane tickets without an actual trip planned. That ended up being our trip to Glacier National Park, Yellowstone National Park, and a day in Grand Teton National Park - one of our favorite trips! We flew into Salt Lake City because the flights were so cheap and drove all the way to Glacier National Park in Montana and then made our way back down to Salt Lake City visiting the other two parks. One time we booked cheap flights to Colorado on a Friday night and flew out that Sunday morning to visit Rocky Mountain National Park.
This post was originally published on May 31, 2016, and updated on August 6, 2018.
There are a lot of articles out there on technical ways to save money such as which day of the week to fly, how far out in advance to book, etc. but these tips are from our personal experience and things we have done over the years to save. Here are a few tips:
WAYS TO SAVE MONEY ON FLIGHTS
SET A PRICE WATCH
Set a price watch on the cities that you are considering traveling to. You can sign up through Google Flights to get email alerts when the price changes. We have been able to take advantage of price drops via the emails we receive from Google Flights.
Sign up for Scott's Cheap Flights. Scott's Cheap Flights is a newsletter that will send you emails when flights go on sale. This is similar to Google Flights but you don't select your own location to watch, instead, you receive notifications when any flights go on sale. There is a free version and a paid version. We use the free version and have been able to take advantage of the deals a few times. We were even able to book a trip to Kauai, Hawaii for $325 round trip instead of the normal $700 (+).
SEARCH FOR FLIGHTS USING A SECRET OR INCOGNITO BROWSER
I have no evidence to back this up but I always search for flights (and hotels and rental cars) using an incognito browser. If you are using Google Chrome you just click on the three vertical black bars on the upper right side and choose "New Incognito Window".
Use the rewards from your credit card. We have an American Express that we pay in full each month and “forget” about the points/rewards. We build up a lot of points and normally can use those points each year to book our flight, paying very little - if any - out of pocket.
Note: Using credit cards like this only works to your advantage if you are disciplined enough to pay the bill off in full every single month. We don't buy things we don't need or can't afford just because we have a credit card.
LIMIT ADD-ON EXPENSES
Currently (from my understanding) there is only one airline that offers no baggage fees and that is Southwest. If you are not able to fly Southwest try to only travel with a carry-on or just one checked bag total. Baggage fees can really add up. Just one person will likely pay $60 in baggage fees for a trip (multiply that by the number in your party and that amount climbs even higher!). If you have four people traveling and each person has a checked bag that's an additional $240 of baggage fees! If we are not able to carry on all of our bags (mainly when we are taking hiking trips), we always condense to one checked bag. Not only will this save you money but it will save you A LOT of time at the airport!
Everyone loves a little extra leg room but you have to evaluate how much that is worth to you. Airlines charge anywhere from $40-$100 (+) ONE WAY for the "better" seats. That might be worth it on a long flight but on a flight less than two hours, I'm not so sure.
So what happens once you've saved all this money on your flight and you get to the airport and then eventually your hotel or rented property? Check out the posts below.
Additional Travel Posts:
- How to Save Money at the Airport
- Eat Healthy & Save Money While Traveling
- Clean Eating Food to Pack for the Airport