Inflation-driven price hikes, turbulent gas prices and soaring airfare are eating into vacation budgets, prompting many travelers to put off travel plans.
In a 2022 poll of more than 4,000 travelers from Destination Analysis, 45% of participants say the high cost of travel kept them from taking as many trips as they would have liked. In addition, 30% of respondents name flight prices specifically as being too expensive, while 40% cite personal finances as a barrier to travel.
Just because you’re feeling the squeeze doesn’t mean you have to ignore the call of the open road (or skies or seas). With a bit of creativity and know-how, you can snag deals, land ultralow airfare and score rock-bottom hotel pricing — and our travel editors are here to help.
Here are the travel hacks we swear by, including a complete guide to the cheapest place to travel for each month:
1. Use the ‘Flexible Date’ Feature
One of our favorite features offered by certain travel search engines — including Kayak and Kiwi — is the option to search with flexible dates. In some cases, traveling as little as one day later or earlier can equal hundreds in savings.
You should play around with different dates, but as a general rule of thumb: go for midweek flights on Tuesday or Wednesday, which are often cheaper than Monday, Thursday or weekend flights.
2. Get TSA Precheck or Global Entry Membership Fees Reimbursed
Even if you don’t travel that often, it’s worth enrolling in the TSA Precheck or Global Entry trusted traveler programs. Offered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, both memberships let you use expedited security lanes that dramatically reduce your wait time.
It typically costs $78 to apply for TSA Precheck and $100 for Global Entry, but certain credit cards will reimburse your application fee.
3. Disguise Your Carry-On as a Pillow
This ingenious travel hack, first brought to our attention by TikTok user @nolimitua, essentially lets you bring an additional carry-on bag. Airlines don’t typically charge for pillows, meaning you can use a zipped-up pillowcase to stash your luggage overflow.
4. Don’t Exchange Currency at the Airport
This might just be the oldest travel hack in the book, but it bears repeating: At all costs, avoid exchanging currency at the airport. Airport currency exchange booths are notorious for horrible exchange rates; you’re much better off withdrawing local currency directly from an airport ATM.
5. Compare Hotels to Home Rentals
Now that options go beyond hotels and resorts to include home rentals, hunting down the cheapest accommodation can be tricky. Generally, renting a room, house or apartment on a site like Airbnb or VRBO is cheaper than amenity-packed hotels, but not always — especially when you factor in cleaning and other fees.
Compare options and pricing across different sites and make sure to check what’s included, as extras like parking and breakfast can tack a lot onto your rate.
6. Book Longer Airbnb Stays
Whenever possible, book longer Airbnb stays. The platform typically offers discounts on rentals booked weekly or monthly — sometimes as much as 50%. In some cases, the discount is so significant, it makes more sense to book the whole month, even if you’re only staying for three weeks.
7. Travel to the Right Place at the Right Time
As a seasoned frugal traveler, you likely already know to travel during off or shoulder season, and avoid travel during peak or high season. But depending on factors like climate and attractions, different places go through shoulders and peaks at different times. With that in mind, here is a quick guide to the cheapest places to travel by month:
Best Places to Travel in January
Falling right after the high-travel holidays, January is one of the cheapest months to travel, period. If you can handle the chill, major metropolises New York City, London and Amsterdam will see some of their lowest rates of the year.
Best Places to Travel in February
Much like January, February is a top month for budget travelers due to its proximity to the holidays. Low prices and thin crowds make it a good time to cross the Pantheon in Rome, Italy or the Taj Mahal in Agra, India off your bucket list.
Best Places to Travel in March
March marks the very end of the high season in tropical destinations like the Caribbean. With the rainy season right around the corner, the month often represents a rare window to catch both vacation-friendly weather and low prices in spots like Punta Cana, Dominican Republic or Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Best Place to Travel in April
April brings the official end of the high season for the Caribbean region, meaning you’ll likely still be able to catch good weather along with discounted rates. For our money, the best place to travel in April is Puerto Rico, which tends to see tourist numbers dwindle during March.
Best Places to Travel May
Right before Europe’s high season, May brings travel bargains to hot cities like Istanbul, Turkey, and Lisbon, Portugal. It’s also a wise time to visit New Orleans, falling after the Mardi Gras rush and before the muggy summer.
Best Places to Travel in June
June is right at the start of the summer peak season in many places, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t deals to be snagged. The month is the offseason for Las Vegas, Nevada, where you can land incredible hotel deals — if you can handle the heat. High temperatures in Cancun, Mexico, mean it’s also low season, and, unlike Nevada, it’s on the ocean.
Best Places to Travel in July
Soaring summer temperatures in July translate to excellent deals in many southern U.S. destinations, including Austin, Texas, Phoenix, Arizona and Miami, Florida. Meanwhile, the opposite is occurring in Sydney, Australia, where wintertime weather means deep discounts on hotels.
Best Places to Travel in August
There’s no getting around it: August is a busy month for travel. Still, you can score savings to certain islands in the Caribbean — like Barbados and St. Lucia — where pending hurricane season keeps travelers away.
A word about hurricane season: Both Barbados and St. Lucia have a relatively low hurricane risk; you’re unlikely to see worse than heavy afternoon showers. Just make sure to purchase travel insurance, which can protect your non-cancellable reservations in the event of weather-related issues.
Best Places to Travel in September
Travel deals abound in September when summer vacation crowds begin to thin. If it’s sweater weather and dazzling cityscapes you’re after, Mexico City and Buenos Aires, Argentina, are both top contenders for our pick for the best place to travel in September.
Best Place to Travel October
October might just be the best month of the year to visit Greece. Compared to the summer months, it’ll be significantly less crowded. And if you book early enough in the month, you might still be able to squeeze in some beach time.
Best Place to Travel in November
November is technically hurricane season in the Bahamas, but the highest risk of storms occurs between August and October. That means November might be the perfect blend of storm-free skies and rock-bottom lodging. (But again, it’s a good idea to get travel insurance in case you have to interrupt, cancel or reschedule your trip due to weather.)
Best Place to Travel in December
Last but not least: Hawaii is our pick for the best place to travel in December, with the month delivering some of the lowest rates of the year. Stick to the Big Island, where hotel prices tend to be consistently lower than neighboring islands.
The post 7 Money-Saving Travel Hacks Our Thrifty Travel Editors Swear By appeared first on The Real Deal by RetailMeNot.