Traveling around 9-5 jobs, our flexibility is limited. We almost always travel over US holidays to take advantage of a “free” vacation day, but are at the disadvantage of increased airline tickets.
1. Research Tours For Best Prices
We book most of our tours through Viator. Very similar or exact tours are listed at various prices throughout the site. Taking the time to scroll through pages of tours can result in an awesome tour at a fraction of the cost advertised on the first page.
2. Utilize Your Tour Guide’s Knowledge
We ask our guides A LOT of questions and all have been happy to help. Take advantage of spending the day with a local that knows the best time to visit temples, must eat restaurants, hidden beaches, and how to use local transportation. In Tokyo, our guide happily explained what metro lines and transfers were needed to reach our post tour and next morning destinations.
3. Plan Your Trip in Advance
Every year we plan a “big” trip around the end of summer. We will start booking flights, accommodations, and tours as early as February. This allows us to slowly accrue the cost of the trip and have it paid off before we leave for the airport.
4. Prepare and Pack Snacks
If circumstances allow, we purchase snacks, water, and breakfast ingredients from a supermarket or bring them in our luggage. Each morning we make breakfast and pack snacks and water for the day. We love to indulge in local cuisine, but this allows us to be more selective with our dining instead of making hangry decisions and just eating what’s convenient.
5. Eat Local
Small, locally owned sodas, cafes, and warungs are authentic and less expensive than popular or well advertised restaurants and are just as delicious. Markets and hawkers also offer inexpensive food. Street food has a bad reputation, but with caution it’s a convenient and usually inexpensive way to sample the local cuisine . We only visit vendors with clean areas, stay away from meat, eat fruit that hasn’t been peeled, and only eat food cooked in front of us.
6. Use Public Transportation
We use public transportation whenever possible unless there’s a considerable time difference. Buses are usually the cheapest option but can take significantly longer to reach our destination. Metros are more efficient, but it can take time to determine transfers and lines. In a crunch, we compare Uber or Lyft to local taxi prices. Researching cab fares and the bus or metro system prior to our vacation, allows us to make a quick, educated decision on transportation.
7. Invest in a Travel Credit Card
Scheduling our vacations around holiday schedules means peak flight costs. With Mitch travelling frequently for work, once a year we usually have enough miles to get one of the more expensive flights home at no cost. Monitor sites for promotions offering bonus sign up miles.
- We both have the Platinum Delta Sky Miles credit card. We started with a Gold Sky Miles Card, the $95 annual fee is waived the first year, and upgraded to the Platinum Sky Miles Card with a $195 annual fee. We can transfer miles to each other if we don’t have quite enough and take advantage of the companion flights to fly domestically.
- Recently I began using the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card. The accrued points can be used towards flights on airline available through the Chase travel site. Card holders can easily earn double points with Shop Through Chase at a wide range of retailers; from Target, Sam’s Club, Groupon, Macy’s, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Amazon, Hilton, Airbnb, and many clothing retailers. The $95 annual fee is waived the first year.
8. Research: Are Your “Must See” Restaurants or Bars Must See?
We love rooftop bars, but after researching prices and reviews sometimes they no longer make our must see list. Rather than paying the cost of lunch for one drink at a rooftop bar, we find the same view at a fraction of the price across the street at a small restaurant in high-rise. Also, some of these rooftop venues have transformed into chic, tourist attractions and don’t offer the local vibes we prefer.
9. Check the Holidays in the Country Your Traveling To
Taking trips over a US holiday doesn’t mean it’s a holiday where we are traveling. When we visited China over Labor Day weekend, our timing was perfect. Students had just went back to school, the week-long Chinese holiday had just ended, and there were no crowds. We check holiday calendars of countries we are visiting to avoid double holiday flight costs, crowded streets, and increased entrance fees.