Thursday, December 12, 2013

How to Use the WWW to Travel Worldwide on Any Budget

I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time I heard, "I wish I could travel," or some derivative of that, followed by "but I don't have the money." 

In this day and age, there are so many resources available to you on the World Wide Web.  I'm here to help you discover those resources and realize that you can travel, even if you have a lack of green.

Here's what you can do: 

1. Book your flights using all of the resources available to you. 
  • First, use Bing Travel! Finding out about Bing's Price Predictor was one of the best things that ever happened to me.  The following was taken directly from Bing:
    "Bing Travel analyzes millions of round-trip flight itineraries daily and intelligently filters airfare data to reveal the best prices and deals. The Bing Travel Price Predictor can advise you whether fares are rising, holding steady, or dropping, and whether you should buy now or wait."
    (See Tip #4 for more on timing your travel.)
  • Next, if it's time to buy, make sure you compare at least 5 airlines, across 3 or more websites.  Simply going to, for example, may not always be your best bet just because you've been flying on Delta your whole life.  There are many fish in the sea!  Also, as I mentioned, make sure you search across various websites; you have a million to choose from.  Orbitz, Priceline, Expedia, you name it, they all may have different prices for the same exact flights.  Once you have the best flight picked out, go back to the airline's website directly and make sure they do not have a lower price.  
  • Lastly, do your research! One word of caution, since there are so many travel websites, there are bound to be rotten apples.  Make sure you go with a reputable company and if you haven't heard of them, do your research.  The same goes for airlines.

2. Find a place to sleep before you leave your own bed.
  • Hotels are as easy to find online as flights.  Many hotels can be booked in a package with travel sites like Orbitz or Expedia.  You will need to do the same thing you did before for flights.  Compare 5 hotels through at least 3 websites, and then circle back to the hotel's website as well.
  • Want to spend even less?  Try Airbnb.  Airbnb is a website and app that allows people to rent accommodations from other people.  This can be in the form of rooms, houses, villas, even boats, castles, you name it!  Airbnb is known to be much cheaper than a hotel and often much more enjoyable.  Airbnb says: 
"Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 33,000 cities and 192 countries." 
  • Try a hostel!  In the digital age, finding a hostel is nearly as easy as finding a hotel.,, and are a few of the many hostel travel websites out there.  Again, if you haven't gotten the hint yet, you'll have to do your research.  Compare as many hostels as you can across sites like these to find the best price and best value.
  • Want a chic luxury hostel?  Did you even know that those exist?  Because they do.  Check out the Posh Packer to search for boutique hotels/hostels under $100.  Posh Packer's Facebook page describes their business this way, 
"The Poshpacker is an exclusive network for design driven hotels and luxury hostels from around the world at < $100 USD per night, per person."
  •  Want to spend absolutely nothing?  Many of you will have a hard time accepting that people could offer anything to you for free in this day and age, let alone offer accommodations to you for free, but that is exactly what CouchSurfing is all about. I spent a good portion of my college life on courchsurfing and still continue to use it to this day.  Check out what CouchSurfing has to say about it self in their "About" section:
"We envision a world made better by travel and travel made richer by connection. Couchsurfers share their lives with the people they encounter, fostering cultural exchange and mutual respect."
3. Learn from the locals!
  • Reach out to locals directly using sites like CouchSurfing to ask their advice about where you are headed in a personal e-mail-like message so you don't waste your time and money booking the wrong things. 
  • Use sites like Yelp or Urbanspoon to understand how the locals feel about certain businesses, restaurants, etc.
  • Read personal stories and reviews from travel forums on places like Tripadvisor.  

4. Remember that timing is everything.
  • Wednesday is the cheapest day to travel, according to Farecompare, and I've found that to be pretty accurate.
  • Be flexible!  Though Wednesday is often the cheapest day to travel, there are definitely exceptions to this (Friday and Sunday rarely are exceptions, unfortunately, and will cost you the most).  Many sites allow you to search within 3 days of the date of departure and returning flights, so check every day of the week!
  • Tuesday after 3PM is the best day to purchase tickets, again according to Farecompare.  I haven't necessarily tested this, I normally just obsessively check Bing Travel until the Price Predictor says "Buy" and my wallet agrees.
  • Sign up with Farecompare and allow it to track millions of flights for you!
  • Don't buy tickets more than 4 months in advance, but don't wait until two weeks before your trip either.  Buying between 2 and 3 months out will generally save you the most money.  Flights are known to steadily increase and rarely decrease, except for fluctuations that happen regularly throughout the day.
  • Avoid traveling around the winter holiday season and in the summer, if you can help it that is.  If you don't, you will get hit with what they call a "Peak Air Travel Surcharge" and who wants that?  You will find that many tourist destinations frequented by Americans are less crowded in February and March with less American tourists traveling during those months.  If that's not enough, it is the end of summer for the other side of the world, so there's always somewhere exciting and sunny to explore. 

5. Click here for some other great travel apps!
  • My favorites from the link above are Wi-fi Finder, Better Translator Pro, and iMovie.
  • I would also recommend the Duolingo app prior to the trip, as it is the best app for learning a language that I've come across.
  • Save the websites or the apps for paying your bills online right onto the home screen of your smartphone.  Pay your bills from your phone if you happen to be traveling when the bills are due.  **Remember to put your phone on airplane mode before you leave the USA or you may be subject to roaming rates.

6. Lastly, avoid pricey flights and destinations.
  • Many cities around the world are known to be expensive, so avoid those if possible or you'll have to make some sacrifices in quality.  Forbes listed the top 10 most expensive cities for expats in this article.   
  • On the other hand, sometimes an expensive city can be inexpensive to travel to.  Moscow, for instance, is one of the world's most expensive cities in the article above, but according to this article, it happens to have one of the least expensive airports to fly into as well.  Another example is San Juan, which may cost you twice as much for accommodations compared to many other Latin American cities, however the flight from the east coast will cost you on average under $300 so the trip may end up being affordable.  There are many things to consider when choosing a travel destination!
  • The cheapest cities in the United States to visit can be found in this article by Kiplinger.
  • Certain flights are expensive no matter what time of day or year they are booked.  Here is a list of the most expensive flights in the world.
  • Avoid expensive airports if possible.  Sometimes this can be inconvenient, but the hassle of going a little further to or from the airport may save you a lot of money.  Check flights from neighboring airports at both your departure and arrival locations. The most expensive airports in the United States can be found in this article by the Wall Street Journal.  Obviously the general rule is that the further you go, the more you will pay to fly there.
  • How will you get to your destination from the airport?  If you're planning on taking a taxi, you may want to avoid the cities in this article from Farecompare. If you're planning on using public transportation, you might want to avoid these cities or plan on renting a car yourself.

If you read all of that, you might have realized that it takes a lot of work to travel on a budgetResearch is key, but if you're willing to do that, you'll find that traveling is possible and even affordable.  Good luck!

Thanks for reading.
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