If you ask my friends who travels the most of anyone they know, they’ll probably say my name. And, it’s true; I love to travel. I am constantly craving new experiences, and I love to do it for cheap. Every time I travel somewhere new, I get inundated with Facebook messages asking how we are able to do it. So, I decided to spill the beans because – who doesn’t want to travel more for less?
How We Travel so Much for so Little
My husband Paul and I went to England, Scotland, and France for our 10 year wedding anniversary last year. This year we flew the family to Washington DC over the kids’ Spring Break, I’m headed to Germany for a solo trip with my sister in a couple of months, and then my husband and I are taking the kids to The Netherlands and Belgium over their Winter Break this December. We will be there on Christmas Day and I can not wait to show my boys how different cultures experience different major holidays in such a hands-on, in-your-face kind of way.
I have been to Germany seven different times, as well as having visited Austria, England, France, Scotland, and Mexico. I still have wayyyy more places on my to-visit list, and when you’re finding deals like we are, it’s hard to say “no”.
1. Getting there.
First things first, you must know how to find a good deal on airfare. I have outlined the 6 things I do to save on airfare in this post, but I must also share my newest favorite: Scott’s Cheap Flights. If you’re not dead-set on a particular destination, and if you can book right away, this website is simply awesome.
There is a free version which will work just fine, or a subscription version that costs $39 annually. I used the free version for over a year and now have the paid version. If you are just now starting to watch the deals, the free version would suffice just fine. The free version is, after all, how Paul and I got our super cheap ($550) round trip plane tickets to London (from our somewhat expensive home airport in Wichita) for our anniversary trip.
Depending on where you’re flying out of, the frequency of deals will vary. I’ve noticed that Chicago and big cities on the East Coast get the most frequent deals, while smaller cities like Wichita come through 3 – 4 times a year.
2. Be flexible with your destinations.
If you’re headed to Europe and you’re open to destinations, broaden your horizons – literally! Us Americans tend to forget just how small some European countries are by comparison. You should also know that, depending on where you’re going, you can hop on a train and be in another country in a matter of hours, sometimes minutes! So, if you find a killer deal to London but you really wanted to go to France, why not fly to London, stay for a day or two, then head over to France on their Eurostar train? It’s just over a 2 hour train ride and only about $50.
For our family trip this December, we booked flights from Wichita to Amsterdam for less than $500 per person round trip. We will hang out and see Anne Frank’s house, visit museums, eat some crazy good food, and then we will hop on a train to hang out in Belgium for the rest of the week to the tune of $36. Pretty sweet, right?!
3. Be strategic with lodging.
Paul and I have fallen in love with Airbnb. I won’t go into all of the details of how that home sharing platform works since I already did (see How Airbnb Works), but I will say that by making sure to choose specific amenities you save on your trip overall!
Once you’ve nailed down your destination, start going through the Airbnb listings with a fine-toothed comb. Here’s how we narrow down Airbnb’s for our trips:
#1 want: Proximity to either train station or attractions. We have never had a problem with public transportation while abroad. It is inexpensive, efficient, and a great way to see the city.
#2 want: A washing machine in the apartment! This really could be my #1 want, as it makes it possible to travel with only a carry-on bag saving you baggage fees on your flight AND making it easier to hop on a train from one city or country to another.
#3 want: Hair dryer. It may sound silly, but hear me out. Hair dryers can take up valuable space in your carry-on, even with a “travel sized” version. If you’re traveling to Europe or Asia, you must also know that their voltage is 220 watts compared to our 110 watts. Finding an apartment with a hair dryer available frees up space in your luggage and prevents you from buying a voltage converter. Of course you may need a voltage converter for other things, but if you can get by without it, do.
All of the other “wants” simply aren’t as important to us. We find the cheapest of all of the available apartments that meet our criteria and request to book. It really is easy and efficient!
4. Cash in rewards
If you’ve followed Heart Hook Home for a while now, you’ll know that Paul and I charge everything on our rewards credit cards and pay them off every month. It is definitely a shift in thinking to get started, but now I can’t imagine going back to paying solely with cash or debit. We rack up points as quickly as we are able and we save them for cashing in on airfare or lodging. We are getting four nights of free lodging on our trip to Amsterdam this December by redeeming Paul’s points!
Or work it the other way… Say you find a killer deal to Rome from a New York airport. The problem is that you’re not in New York. Cash in your rewards points to get you to New York earlier that day, then hop on your cheap flight to Italy!
Travel more for less
In short, if you pounce on the super cheap flights when you see them and then find an Airbnb in just the right spot, the rest is a walk in the park. Hopefully a walk in Hyde Park in London, Vondelpark in Amsterdam, or Tiergarten Park in Berlin. 😉
More travel tips:
How Airbnb Works: A Beginner’s Guide to Airbnb
Super Slim Hidden Fanny Pack Free Crochet Pattern
14 Tips for Planning a European Vacation on The Cheap
Ten Tips for Fitting Your Life into a Carry-on Bag
Lesser Known Resources for Learning German
Tips for Choosing Credit Cards (for Their Rewards Programs)