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Travel Experts on Their Go-to Travel Hacks

Get ready to up your travel game.

There are so many elements to travel: Flight tickets, lodging, food, transportation, and excursions can add up quickly. It gets even more expensive for families. In 2023, Pacaso revealed that the average vacation for one person in the U.S. costs about $1,919 per week. A vacation for two people will typically cost around $3,838 per week. It often leaves you wondering how people can afford to travel so often.

It’s a topic on Reddit, too. Among the comments are hacks ranging from working for a hotel or airline to being childfree or even forfeiting having a savings account to afford travel. There are also people who max out credit cards to be frequent travelers. While I don’t recommend going into debt or not contributing to a savings account, I completely relate to the feeling of wanderlust.

Before choosing a career (and side hustle) in the travel industry, my favorite travel hack for exploring was to maximize the days my company would be closed. I was able to save on some PTO days and make quick trips out of long weekends like MLK Day. With direct or quick flights, it’s easy to explore a destination in two to four days. This is also a great way to explore your own state or a state over if you fancy road trips.

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Over the past year, most of my trips have consisted of just a carry-on and a small day bag. It’s like a game of Tetris, but being selective about what I pack has been a money saver, too. Some of the brands that I use at home, like Le Labo, Nest, and Grown Alchemist, are the brand of choice for hotel amenities. Things like shampoo, lotion, body wash, make-up removal wipes, etc. I can use what’s provided instead of bringing my own. I still bring my fave skincare products, but not having to restock toiletries before every trip saved me around a hundred bucks a month.

Ronny Maye

For a bonus, if you want to pack even lighter, your hotel may also have other necessities like deodorant, sanitary napkins, mouthwash, loofahs, and shave kits. Give them a call before your stay to see what they offer and what you might pick up there instead of packing it. I asked some other frequent travelers and travel professionals to share the unique hacks that allow them to travel more. Here’s what keeps them globetrotting:

Tap Into Rewards Programs and Services

Numerous programs offer travel perks, so determining which one is worth the signup and price is challenging. But, for around $12 a year, you can’t go wrong with an AARP membership.

This hack shared by Jennifer Henderson explained that the membership has saved her 10-50% off the price of hotels internationally and domestically. AARP also partners with cruise lines, rental car companies, excursion providers, tour operators, and travel insurance agencies to bring everyday savings to its members.

Jennifer Henderson

Consider Flying With a Budget Airline

Budget airlines catch a lot of flak for having egregious layovers or baggage policies, but if you follow the guidelines, you can score a great deal. Plus, a long layover allows you to explore an additional destination. Catherine Smith has exclusively flown with budget airlines for over a decade. Her flights with Frontier have averaged $50 or less roundtrip. With WOW Air (now PLAY Airlines), she’s been able to fly to Iceland from New Jersey for only $300 roundtrip.

Be a No-Frills Kind of Traveler

When booking various elements of a trip, there are usually enticing pop-ups encouraging us to spring for upgrades. While it’s pretty tempting to go for a bigger car or corner hotel room with city views, Brittany Lashley’s unique hack is to bypass the things most people are sticklers on. By having an open mind to staying in hostels or safe, clean, no-frill hotels, flying basic economy or with low-cost carriers, or using public transportation while abroad, she’s been able to travel often. If your hotel does offer a shuttle service (or house car), another money-saving transportation tip is to use their services to visit nearby attractions and restaurants. From personal experience, they will do a drop-off and pick-up within 5 miles. Also, ask your lodging host about partnerships with bike or scooter rental programs for free or discounted rates.

Brittany Lashley

Use Travel Exchange Platforms

If you plan to be in the same place for a while, staying in a hotel can be costly. You can use platforms like Airbnb or Vrbo, but the Banks Family’s frequent travel hack is couch surfing with friends and family and using HomeExchange over traditional accommodations. HomeExchange gives travelers unlimited home swaps in 145 countries for an annual flat rate ($220). Their other unique hack is to forfeit dining out each meal by grocery shopping and preparing home-cooked meals. Preparing meals during travels can add a few hundred bucks to the budget for other expenses and experiences.

Stick to the Carry-On Luggage Allowance

On average, it costs $70 bucks per roundtrip flight per person for just one checked bag for domestic trips. Some airlines offer free checked bags to all travelers, while others reserve that feature for status members or those flying internationally.

Alyssa Nelson of Wayward Blog shared that packing light is a skill worth mastering, especially with the airlines announcing increased baggage fees. Before your trip, research your airline’s baggage allowance (including measurement specifications) to avoid surprises at the gate. While most will allow a carry-on bag in addition to a personal item, note the allowance for your ticket type, too. Basic economy fares are often the most restrictive. Her other tip is to share the luggage space with your travel companion so you’re only paying one fee if you must check a bag.

Alyssa Nelson

Carrie Honaker shares the same sentiment. In addition to packing light using a sturdy and roomy backpack, like the Osprey Nebula, she shares that wearing your bulkiest clothes on the flight saves room in your suitcase to avoid the checked bag fees.

Check Neighboring Airports for Flights

Location is everything regarding travel, including your departure and arrival airports. If you can make the commute, check out the pricing at nearby airports for potential lower fares. Even with the cost of gas and airport parking (always opt for the economy lot), you can save hundreds of dollars. Paul Heney shared that flexibility in their airports has been a game changer for his family’s adventures.

Paul Heney

Their search starts with their home airport in Cleveland, followed by the Akron/Canton airport 45 minutes away. Going a bit further has been beneficial for their family, too. In planning a trip to Kauai, airfare from their home airport averaged $1,300 each. But from Toronto (4.5 hours away), the airfare to the same destination was only $498, saving them over $3,000.

Let the Deal Determine Your Destination

Quite naturally, most people plan their vacations around a particular destination. And for good reason. Some places are ideal for the activities and attractions you want to participate in. However, being flexible and willing to go (nearly) anywhere is Patrice Williams’s unique travel hack.

One of the best Google Flights features is the flight map that allows you to see flight deals for destinations across the globe. Williams uses this feature to pinpoint a destination. From there, she can start planning the other elements of her trip, like dining, exclusive experiences, and lodging.

Visit During The Off-Season

Every destination has a time of year when they will see an uptick in visitors, also known as their peak season. When places are in high demand, it drives up prices for guests.

Cara West

For instance, ski resorts will see more guests in the winter. Beach resorts will see more visitors during spring or summer vacation. Destinations can be significantly less expensive during their off-season, also known as should season. Cara West’s travel hack is to travel in the off-season. She shared that off-season travel has allowed them to enjoy destinations without the crowds and for a lower price point. When destinations are slower, she shared that they can also enjoy upgrades that may not be available during peak season.

Marcea Cazel

Keep Up With Your Health

From cramped flights and jet lag to restless nights getting acclimated to surroundings in a new city or increased physical activity from hours of touring sites, most travelers aren’t aware of how frequent travel can take a toll on your body. So, Marcea Cazel’s unique travel hack to being able to travel more is to keep up with your health and wellness. You’ll want to work with your primary care physician to be sure you are healthy enough to travel, particularly if embarking on long flights where things like dehydration and risk of blood clots are possible. In her carry-on, she keeps essentials like activated charcoal, ibuprofen, and electrolyte packets to keep her in motion and trips enjoyable.