We are getting out of town no matter what. Here’s how you can do it in our financial reality.
Published on 5/9/2023 at 4:02 PM
At least 85% of Americans plan on traveling this summer, whether it’s taking a short road trip to somewhere nearby or hopping on one of the world’s longest flights. But with all of our wanderlust, a specter of doom hangs above us: money. For the average American, money is very tight right now. Since 2021, inflation has skyrocketed and some people report that they are cutting back on essentials like food in order to afford their summer vacation.
Right now, those of us living in the United States get to spend every mundane outing, big event, and daily routine wondering where the next bullet will fly, while barely being able to cover the basic costs of rent and food, despite the ample time we spend at our jobs. It is no wonder Americans are so desperate to escape with a little trip—our waking hours are filled with nightmares.
I really don’t like that we feel the need to ration our food in order to afford a vacation. While I can’t fix the economy, I can get you expert advice on how to recession-proof your next trip, so that hopefully you can buy your groceries and book a flight. Here’s what you need to know.
Plan in advance!
This is the most obvious and most frequently shared piece of advice from travel experts the world over. But it really does make a difference.
CheapAir.com calls early planning the “golden rule” of flight booking, and it can be applied across the board. Urgency (last-minute bookings) tends to put the power in the hands of hotels and airlines. Late bookings give you less flexibility in searching for the best prices.
Additionally, planning ahead can help you with saving up, so you aren’t making extreme cuts to your budget when it gets close to your trip. “I recommend opening a savings account and automating monthly savings for a future vacation. I like this because it puts some space between your vacation planning and everyday needs,” Kristen Gall, Rakuten‘s retail and shopping expert, explained to Thrillist.
Another benefit of time? You can be thorough with your research. “Prices can fluctuate daily for hotels and airlines as some days are more popular to book than others,” Gall added. “Make sure you do your research on what sales and deals are going on so you don’t miss out on easy savings.”
Pay with your time
When you are short on cash, you can consider taking the slower, cheaper route. Direct long-haul flights tend to be pricier than connecting flights. In fact, the cheapest flights you are likely to find will be connecting flights with long layovers. That typically means you’ll spend up to 28 hours getting somewhere that might otherwise only take… eight hours.
Of course, in addition to such a long journey being genuinely exhausting, there is also the issue of getting that time off of work. If you are remote, that might mean connecting to the airport Wi-Fi and taking meetings in a different time zone. If your work is in person, that might mean taking an extra day or two off just for travel. Of course, taking time off, especially if you don’t get PTO, is costing you in a different way. Depending on your situation, longer travel times might end up costing you just as much in other ways. But if you’ve got some flexibility, it could be a way to reduce your costs and get in some time for a really long audiobook.
“Embracing a long layover can save you money and allow you to day trip to another destination,” a CheapAir.com rep told Thrillist. “Just make sure your layover destination has reliable public transportation to and from the airport to avoid any scheduling stress.”
Airlines love your loyalty. And in many ways, staying true to one company can have benefits for the consumer, like bonus miles, free upgrades, and other exclusive perks. But sometimes, a side piece (booking with a different airline) is the best option. If your preferred airline is offering flights to your selected destination at a price hundreds of dollars higher than competitors, it’s time to cheat. Research your flights on platforms where you can compare the cost of tickets from various airlines. Google Flights, CheapAir.com, Going, and Kayak are all examples of the platforms that let you compare prices.
“Price comparison shopping can take you a long way, especially when traveling. Don’t forget to use a tool like Google Flights to see what day is least expensive to fly—fares can vary by hundreds of dollars from just one day to the next, so it’s a great way to find the best fligh
In addition to sales and competitive pricing, don’t forget to utilize one of the most time-honored traditions of thrifty shoppers: coupons. Gall, who works for Rakuten, advises to check for promo codes, discounts, and cashback opportunities before booking. It’s a little cheat code that could quickly add up.
“By using promo codes or digital coupons as well as browser extensions and sites like Rakuten, not only can you earn cash back but you also earn extra savings,” Gall added. “Using a rewards credit card to extra earn points or cash back is another way to ensure you’re scoring the best deals.”
Basically, you should utilize every tool at your disposal to maximize savings. It can be a bit tedious, but the savings could be the difference between affording your trip and staying at home this year.
Avoid random purchases
Every single vacation, I come back with a handful of kitschy items I was certain my friends and family would love, only to see their lackluster responses over my presents of candy, shot glasses, and other small souvenirs. Never mind that I’d spent half a day and $100 hunting down perfect little treats for my loved ones. But often, it just results in more money spent and less room in my luggage.
“Do your best to avoid buying knick-knacks and little souvenirs that won’t serve you much purpose once you return home. We all want to bring gifts for our loved ones back home or have mementos for ourselves but these costs quickly add up, especially in tourist locations, and they don’t usually stand the test of time. Take a picture instead,” Gall said.
If you do want to make purchases while you travel, try making a plan ahead of time. In certain destinations, you can purchase big ticket items (leather goods, designer items, jewelry, etc) at a lower price than in the States. If you strategize, you could make your vacation a bit more multi-purpose by getting one of the big ticket items on your shopping list at a lower price by picking up the item in a country where it is cheaper.
Looking for more travel tips?
Whether you need help sneaking weed onto a plane, finding an airport where you can sign up for PreCheck without an appointment, or making sure you’re getting everything you’re entitled to when your flight is canceled, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading for up-to-date travel hacks and all the travel news you need to help you plan your next big adventure.