Traveling is notoriously expensive.
From booking the flights, finding a hotel in the right area, booking activities, and finding the best restaurants, these costs can quickly add up.
Traveling should be about taking a break from the daily work grind, checking things off your bucket list, and having the time of your life — while not needlessly draining the bank.
Could it be possible to have your cake and eat it too?
Just last month we discussed the difference between being frugal and cheap. Being cheap would be saying ‘no’ to once-in-a-lifetime activities. Being frugal is finding great deals that could lower the cost of the overall trip so that it might fit better into your budget.
That’s where we come in!
Our international travel hack ideas could help you get that dream vacation without destroying your travel budget!
#1 Bundling is Almost Always the Best Deal
Travel bundles are pretty much vacations in a bag. One of the best international traveling hacks is to use a bundle deal. They can include flights, hotels, all-inclusive options, and even activities. Best of all, there is one set cost for it all!
There are several sites out there that can give you some unbelievable deals (some of them are more reputable than others), but Travelzoo and Groupon are a few that we trust. Travelzoo, for example, searches the internet and publishes the best travel deals. Since it is a one-stop shop for all of your travel plans, you are cutting out the cost of the middlemen.
Rather than booking everything separately, a bundle deal will save you more money. It would be very rare (and a lot of work) to search for the lowest airfares and hotel accommodations individually, then combine them together for a price that is lower than you could get with a bundle.
That being said, it is always safest to go ahead and check to see what the going rate for the vacation would be if you were to book everything individually. That way you can see for yourself that a bundle deal is as good as you think it is!
What’s even better, Travelzoo has an email service that you can sign up for, to receive 20 of the best deals they found while searching the internet each week.
So, even if you don’t see the trip you are looking for, just be patient, because it could end up being in one of next week’s most unbelievable deals.
#2 Flexibility is Your Friend
The most frugal traveler will ideally have a very open, flexible schedule.
Unfortunately, that is not the case for most of us with full-time jobs. Bundle deals come with very specific with timeframes. The available times for the hotels, tours, and flights need to line up perfectly with each other in order for the deal to work.
So the best option for you is to have a few dates in mind before you book and before you ask for time off of work.
Sometimes this is impossible and you have a very narrow window to take your vacation in. In that case, it might be beneficial to find several places you might want to travel.
They might not have a crazy good deal on the second week of June for Hawaii, but maybe they would have one for Ireland or maybe Spain?
Try making a list of five different locations and compare the prices of each for that specific time of the year to see which one is more affordable.
Added flexibility is one of the best international travel hacks you can utilize!
#3 Set Aside Money for Travel
So we all know that you need some sort of money in order to take a trip, but how exactly is that one of our best international travel hacks?
Well, let’s say that you find an amazing deal for your dream destination. If the dates that you are looking for are lining up, and your funds have been saved, then you are free to snag that deal!
We recommend setting aside money each month, just like you would for your emergency fund or 401k.
Before you know it, you will have a chunk of money ready, so it might not feel so daunting making that big leap when you click to purchase.
#4 Travel Points are Your Friend
Although booking as a bundle is often the better option out there, free is always best!
If you have a credit card that allows you free flights or travel points, take full advantage of that first and foremost. Some cards will allow you a free flight once a year, which could cover a large portion of your travel expenses.
For example, if you book a trip to Disney World, maybe you could take advantage of your credit card’s free companion pass and pay off the rest of your ticket with your travel points. Suddenly, you have made it to Florida without paying a dime!
This is one of those cases where it might be cheaper to buy your airfare separately. Be sure to compare prices and you will be confident that your deal really is the best option out there.
#5 The Day You Book Does Matter
As crazy as it sounds, the day you book actually does matter!
For example, certain airlines promote sale prices on specific days of the week, like Southwest Airlines will run their deals on Tuesdays. The actual sales day will vary depending on the airline or websites you are looking at.
In our example, the best day of the week to buy a ticket from Southwest would be on Tuesdays.
When you travel during the year will also affect your ticket prices.
If you are trying to travel on a weekend or a holiday, there will be a lot of other people trying to travel on those same days. The airlines know that they are going to fill up, so why would they bother with lowering the cost of the flight?
Summer, more often than not, will be one of the most expensive times of the year to fly. Everyone is leaving for summer vacation and the demand shoots way up! This also applies to the holiday seasons.
It is all in the supply and demand.
If you are looking for a cheap flight near Christmas, that could end up being very difficult. Your best bet is to try and find the off-peak season for your travel destination.
For example, we have found that traveling to Europe has been more affordable during the fall (August, September, October) or early spring (February, March, April).
Thankfully there is a great international travel hack we use to balance the day to buy and the day to fly.
If you download the app Hopper, you are able to type in the dates you are interested in traveling and your destination.
The app Hopper, will not only show you which days are cheapest to travel, but it will also alert you to the best times to purchase tickets.
For example, if you are interested in traveling to London during the third week in May, try to be flexible enough to leave on Tuesday or Wednesday as opposed to the Thursday or Friday when you planned to leave.
This goes back to the idea – that one of the best international traveling hacks is to be flexible with your schedule!
#6 Cash is Not Always King
Exchanging cash, although seemingly the most straightforward way to do business, can be hit the hardest with foreign exchange rates.
Often times, if you need cash, you can actually get better rates by withdrawing money directly from your credit card. You will automatically be hit with any cash advance fees and/or exchange rates, but more often than not, these rates will be lower than the exchange rates you would normally be paying.
The reason is that while your credit card has set fees, the cash exchange rate is up to the discretion of the market rate of the day.
If you check with your credit card company on what their cash advance policy is before you start your trip, this international travel hack might just end up saving you a lot of money!
Another great tip is to use a credit card without any foreign transaction fees.
For example, the Chase Sapphire preferred card waives all of the international fees. All you need to do is call them beforehand and let them know that you will be in X, Y, and Z countries and you should be free to use it everywhere that takes card payments.
If you are not paying exchange rates for the majority of your purchases, and you pay off your all your purchases before you get charged interest, you will avoid all the possible fees!
#7 Book Your Excursions Before You Arrive
One of the best international travel hacks is to preplan what you want to do while you are visiting and find deals online.
For example, if you are going to England, you might know that Stonehenge is a great tourist location and something that you might really want to see. From there, you can look up the tour costs online to compare prices before you arrive.
A great website to do this on is Viator.
At Viator.com, you can browse through the excursions they offer and snag great discounts, as well.
When you take the time to preplan and search out the best deals on the big activities that you want to participate in when you travel abroad, you can also save enough money to indulge yourself with some of the more spontaneous adventures you come across while you are there!
#8 Don’t Eat Out Every Meal
If you are looking to get the most out of your travel destination, try looking up the average cost of food at restaurants before you arrive.
Eating out for every meal is a budget killer!
If you are traveling somewhere where the food is not cheap, like Switzerland, Iceland, or Hawaii,
finding a local grocery store to pick up sandwiches, breakfast food, or snacks can save you a ton of money!
Imagine how much you will save by preparing simple foods in your hotel room, rather than spending $30+ for breakfast in a restaurant every morning!
Your savings will multiply exponentially!
#9 Hotels Might Not be the Best Option
Browse the market on what is offered in the area where you are staying.
There may be some creative accommodations that will save you some money!
What sparks your imagination: Bed and Breakfast, hotel, Airbnb, cabin rental or RV rental?
Due to supply and demand, oftentimes Airbnb could be tons cheaper than staying at a hotel.
Not to mention how much they could save you if there was a kitchen to cook in (see hack #8)!
#10 Use a Good International Phone Plan
Start off by looking at your provider’s international phone plans.
Some providers, such as Sprint, have special global plans that allow you to use your provider’s cell phone service, but on another nation’s carrier.
For example, when you land abroad, you will be notified about how much data and talk time you are provided while abroad.
This will probably be a very minimal amount, so if you know if you are going to need more, you can buy a day pass online for less than ten dollars a day.
*This will vary from provider to provider
Alternatively, if you are able to get your carrier to unlock your phone, you can then use different international sim cards with it. You might be able to buy an international sim card at the airport you land at or beforehand at Walmart.
To keep track of the sim card, you just need to tape a paperclip (to get the sim card in and out) and your sim card to the inside of your phone case and you will be able to use your phone abroad for just the cost of the sim card itself!
Just pop your sim card into your phone when you are in the US and the international one in when you are abroad.
This might just be the most hack-worthy international travel hack!
Looks can be deceiving
Some of the more ‘expensive sounding’ places to visit, like Bali or Fiji, aren’t necessarily as expensive as some of the other options out there.
Take a closer look at what there is to offer and see if there isn’t a good deal just waiting for you!
We would like to hear about a time when you saved money on international travel. Find our Facebook community or subscribe to the show for more money tips to help you save.