How I Traveled to Seoul, Korea for Free on a Layover [Travel Cheap]

How I Traveled Cheap to Incheon and Seoul, Korea for Free on a Layover [Travel Cheap]

Before you read any further, I want to clarify this trip was only a 23 hour layover. That’s plenty of time to see some beautiful places in a country but probably not enough time to really travel the country. That being said, this post discusses how I was able to travel cheap to Korea for free on a [planned] layover.

 

I always start with the big 3 expenses in traveling. To travel for cheap, you’ll need to save on Flights, Accommodation, and Transportation. The better deal you’re able to find for all 3, the more money you’ll be able to save.

Flights:

One of the best ways to do a quick visit of a country is by adding in an extended layover. In this case, I was flying to Asia for a work and family visit trip.

But I had wanted to visit Korea and just see the place. So I decided to find a flight via Google Flights that would have a long enough layover in Korea.

Accommodation:

The awesome thing about overnight layovers, particularly in Asia and particularly if you’re flying with an Asian Airline, is they’ll usually provide a free hotel if your layover is over a certain number of hours.

In this case, they provided a free night stay at a nice 4 star hotel. It included a 5 star breakfast buffet also!

Note that I changed my return flight to February; hence the February check-in date in case you were wondering.

Transportation:

Transportation in Korea is incredible. The trains are all well organized, there’s shuttle service to and from airport, and you can also take the award winning tour buses that leave from the airport.

I didn’t find anybody who spoke English but I still got around perfectly fine. I even took the train from Incheon to Seoul for a day visit!

Public transportation does require a bit of research on sites like WikiTravel or TripAdvisor. Or if you need further guidance, feel free to contact me.

Things to Do:

Obviously since it was only a layover, I didn’t have a whole lot of time. But I felt I had just the right amount of time to get a taste of the country. You’ll notice most of my photos are food pictures.

If you had more time than I did, I’d suggest doing a quick TripAdvisor search for “things to do”.

Below are a few photos from my layover trip to Korea.

What are some of your tips for traveling cheap to Korea?

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How I Traveled to Kunming, China for $412 [Travel Cheap]

How I Traveled Cheap to Kunming, China for $412 [Travel Cheap]

In this post, I discuss how I was able to travel cheap to Kunming, China for a little over $400 for flight, accommodation, and transportation.

Kunming is a rapidly developing city in the Southwestern area of China. I was there for a business meeting with some manufacturers we’ve worked with for over 10 years. 10 years ago, we had visited Kunming and I can say it’s transformed from almost a 3rd-world looking city with vast majority of rural small town to a bustling high rise packed city.

Traveling to China is by no means cheap, but here is how I was able to travel to Kunming for cheap.

I always start with the big 3 expenses in traveling. To travel for cheap, you’ll need to save on Flights, Accommodation, and Transportation. The better deal you’re able to find for all 3, the more money you’ll be able to save.

Flights –

There are a number of China airlines that are usually cheaper flying to China than the international airlines. Sichuan, China Eastern, Air China, or any airline with the word “China” in it.  after doing an initial search on flights.google.com, I was able to snag a cheap deal with Sichuan Airlines.

If you’re booking from the States, I’d suggest looking at your points inventory to save on long-haul flights.

 

The above itinerary were for two people. So $745 split by two is about $373.

Accommodation:

Hotels and accommodation in China is generally pretty cheap. We were able to stay at the most renown and oldest hotel in Kunming. It happened to be named Hotel Kun Ming.

 

At less than $40/night after all taxes & fees for a 4 star hotel, that’s a steal! Now note that the $40 price was at the extended building which had older and smaller rooms.

But the rooms were clean and the room was great for a short stay.

It did not include breakfast but the buffet breakfast was less than $10/person.

Transportation:

The nice thing about business trips is the manufacturer will almost always send a driver to pick you up and take you to where you need to be.

It’s just how it is in most places in China. Companies are extremely hospitable and it’s almost wrong for them not to make your stay as pleasant as possible.

I’ve had owners of manufacturers come out to meet me personally for dinner and even leisure after. So it certainly doesn’t hurt if you’re traveling to China for business. If you’re on your own, cabs and public transportation in Kunming is cheap and convenient.

It just requires a bit of research on sites like WikiTravel or TripAdvisor. If you need further guidance, feel free to contact me.

Things to Do:

Honestly, we didn’t have a lot of leisure time while in Kunming but the City is beautiful and there are lots of parks, lake, and night life things to do.

I’d suggest doing a quick TripAdvisor search for “things to do”.

Below are a few photos from our trip to Kunming.

A lot of tourists and visitors come to Kunming!

What are some of your tips for traveling cheap to Kunming?

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How I Traveled to Chiang Mai, Thailand for $145 [Travel Cheap]

How I Traveled Cheap to Chiang Mai, Thailand for $145 [Travel Cheap]

In this post, I discuss how I was able to travel cheap to Chiang Mai, Thailand for under $200 for flight, accommodation, and transportation. Note that this flight was originating from Bangkok since I was already there but is still a cheap itinerary.

Thailand is a favorite destination for people all over the world because over there, you feel like a King. Food prices are around $2 per meal and you can get large, fresh coconuts for less than $0.50.

On top of that, there are endless things to do. Amazing beaches, the famous river markets, temples, elephant riding, tiger petting, and a plethora of night markets.

I always start with the big 3 expenses in traveling. To travel for cheap, you’ll need to save on Flights, Accommodation, and Transportation. The better deal you’re able to find for all 3, the more money you’ll be able to save.

Flights:

Traveling in Asia is awesome because it’s cheap. There’s a number of budget airlines including Scoot, Air Asia, and Tiger Air. I was able to find a deal through Air Asia after doing an initial search on flights.google.com. If you’re booking from the States, I’d suggest looking at your points inventory to save on long-haul flights. And if you’re booking from elsewhere, I’d suggest flying into Bangkok first.

Had I flown directly into Chiang Mai, it would have been significantly more expensive than flying into Bangkok first.

The deal I got from Bangkok to Chiang Mai was $70. It would have been about $500 to fly direct to Chiang Mai!

Both legs of the flights also had a meal option for around $5 USD! The way Air Asia works is similar to any other budget airline where you only pay for what you need.

Since I was only traveling with a small luggage, I didn’t need to pay for check-in.

Unfortunately, Air Asia does not display ticket prices anymore but I had paid about $70 USD to fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai.

Accommodation:

Hotels and accommodation in Chiang Mai is slightly more expensive than Bangkok but still cheap. As you’ll see below, I booked a very nice 3 star hotel for about $30 USD.

You can find cheaper hostels for even less, but I wanted to stay somewhere decent. If you’re looking for luxury accommodations, they also have 4+ star hotels for around $70-80/night.

Total I spent about $60 for 2 nights in Chiang Mai. The hotel was nice! It included breakfast each morning, had free wifi, was extremely clean, and the owners helped me navigate where I wanted to go. In fact, they called a private songthaew for me while I was there. I’ll discuss more of what songthaews are below.

Transportation:

In Chiang Mai, I utilized a lot of the local transportation methods which were songthaews and tut tuts.

A songthaew is a wagon-truck vehicle that stops and picks up passengers in the back of the truck. It’s interesting how it operates. You can for a songthaew, go to where you need to go, and pay when you leave. If you’re unsure of how to use one or how much to pay, you can negotiate with the driver.

However, if you know the approximate fair amount, you’re expected only to pay that amount. I paid about $15-20 total for my basic songthaew trips (from airport to hotel and vice versa).

It just requires a bit of research on sites like WikiTravel or TripAdvisor. If you need further guidance, feel free to contact me and I’ll tell you a bit more from my experience.

Tut Tuts are the other option for travel. It’s a small 3 wheeled mini car that takes you wherever you need to go! It’s a fast little firecracker but be weary of tut tut drivers that try and up sell to foreigners. Most locals take songthaews.

Things to Do:

There’s a ton of things to do in Chiang Mai. All of it was extremely cheap. I hired a personal songthaew driver that made me feel like a millionaire. He took me wherever I wanted to go and waited outside until I was ready for the next destination.

In Chiang Mai, I went to a monkey show, spent some close time with tigers, saw lions, and even took an authentic Thai cooking class!

If you liked this post, you can also read on how I was able to travel cheap to Bangkok, Thailand for under $300.

What are some of your trips for traveling to Thailand for Cheap?

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How I Traveled to Bangkok, Thailand for $298 [Travel Cheap]

How I Traveled to Bangkok, Thailand for less than $300 [Travel Cheap]

In this post, I discuss how I was able to travel cheap to Bangkok, Thailand for under $300 for flight, accommodation, and transportation.

Thailand is a favorite destination for people all over the world because over there, you feel like a King. Food prices are around $2 per meal and you can get large, fresh coconuts for less than $0.50.

On top of that, there are endless things to do. Amazing beaches, the famous river markets, temples, elephant riding, tiger petting, and a plethora of night markets.

I always start with the big 3 expenses in traveling. To travel for cheap, you’ll need to save on Flights, Accommodation, and Transportation. The better deal you’re able to find for all 3, the more money you’ll be able to save.

Flights:

Traveling in Asia is awesome because it’s cheap. There’s a number of budget airlines including Scoot, Air Asia, and Tiger Air. I was able to find a deal through Tiger Air after doing an initial search on flights.google.com. If you’re booking from the States, I’d suggest looking at your points inventory to save on long-haul flights.

The deal I got from Taipei to Bangkok was only $203.

Both legs of the flights also had a meal option for around $5 USD! The way Tiger Air works is similar to any other budget airline where you only pay for what you need.

Since I was only traveling with a small luggage, I didn’t need to pay for check-in.

 

Service on Tiger Air is also sublime.

Funny story (skip if you don’t want to read): I almost missed my flight back from BKK – TPE because I went to the wrong airport. The person who called the cab for me thought I was going to the main International Airport (BKK), not realizing my flights was from Don Mueang. Of course, I didn’t realize there were two airports in Bangkok.

It was during traffic jam hour when I had to go from BKK – DMK.

When I got to the gate, it had just closed so I begged the wonderful Tiger Air staff to let me on board. My flight back to the States was actually the next morning so I would have missed that flight as well if I didn’t catch this one.

The gate agent personally called the pilot. The pilot told her to let me on. So I ran to the gate as quickly as I could.

Unbeknownst, there was a short small lady running after me the whole time. Since I was already late, I didn’t bother to stop until I got to the gate.

When I got to the gate, I found out the short lady was the gate agent that let me on the plane. She was trying to return my ID and Credit Card. Lesson learned: always check your airports.

Accommodation:

Hotels and accommodation in Bangkok is incredibly cheap. As you’ll see below, I booked a decent hotel for about $17 USD. And the majority of my stays was about the same price.

You can find cheaper hostels for even less, but I wanted to stay somewhere decent. If you’re looking for luxury accommodations, they also have 4+ star hotels for around $50-60/night.

Total I spent about $90 for 5 nights all together in Bangkok and also Chiangmai.

Transportation:

Whenever you travel in Asia, more likely than not there’s going to be great public transportation. There are cabs but cabs can be expensive and unfortunately a lot of cab drivers tend to rip-off foreigners.

In Bangkok, I rode a bus from the airport to the main train lines. I took the train to the nearest station near my hotel and then walked right to where I was staying.

It just requires a bit of research on sites like WikiTravel or TripAdvisor. If you really can’t figure it out, I’d be happy to help you.

It’s not as straight forward than taking a cab and may not be super simple, but it’s an adventure that will save you a lot of money. In my case, I spent about $4-5 to get to where I needed.

Things to Do:

There’s a ton of things to do in Bangkok. All of it was extremely cheap. I hired a personal driver that made me feel like a millionaire. He took me wherever I wanted to go and helped haggle prices at places I wanted to visit.

Some notable things in Thailand were the famous floating river markets, some of the massive temples, tuk tuks, huge night markets, the main city, and the wide availability of fresh coconuts!

 

If you liked this post, you can also read on how I was able to travel cheap to Chiang Mai, Thailand for under $200.

What are some of your trips for traveling to Thailand for Cheap?

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11 Ways to Save Money on Hotels [101 Travel Tips]

One of the most important things about traveling is finding cost effective travel accommodation or hotels (next to finding cheap flight tickets). Travel accommodation can get very expensive quick, especially if you’re booking hotels.

This is part of my series 101 Travel Tips & Hacks to help you travel more for less.

Below, I’ll show you exactly how I find the best deals to lower your costs on travel accommodation and hotels.

(my 4 star hotel in Kuala Lumpur under construction but $30/night)

I’m going to start with hotels. Although hotels aren’t usually cheap, it’s certainly a standard of choice for most travelers as it offers comfort and amenities travelers tend to look for.

Hotel prices vary widely in different cities and in different seasons. I’ve seen hotels shoot up prices 50-100% due to large events.

But I’ve also seen hotels cut their prices by over 60% due to remodeling or construction.

1. Gauge Hotel Costs before Your Trip

Always try get an idea of how much hotels cost in the area and during your travel dates before you book your flight, especially if you’re flexible with travel dates. Special events may cause hotel prices to soar over 500% like what happened with the 2017 Solar Eclipse event.

Hotels that normally cost less than $100 jumped to over $500/night that week! That’s an extreme example but I’ve seen prices jump 100-200% easily due to other large events or conferences.

If possible, you want to avoid any dates with really expensive rates. This is easily do-able by doing a really quick search before you book anything else.

I usually start with Priceline or just Google hotels in the location you’re traveling to get a gauge of approximate prices of hotels.

(Google’s nice quick, hotel search)

If all looks fine, then you can proceed to find the best deal!

2. Try an Express Deal

Priceline’s Express Deals are quite awesome actually. Although they won’t tell you exactly which hotel you’ll get until you book, you can still know the guest rating, amenities, general location, and even bed choice before you book.

You can also bid on hotels but I normally stay away from bidding since you’re unable to control a number of factors such as the ones listed above.

And for hotels, things like bed choice, free parking, location, etc. are all really important to make your travels as smooth as possible.

Hotels.com, Booking.com, and almost every website has their own unique “special deals.” The thing I’ve found about hotels is it really varies a lot in price and varies across different platforms.

I wouldn’t be overly concerned with finding the best possible price, honestly. If you find a good hotel with good user ratings at a price you feel good about, I’d say save the time and just go with it.

Also, a lot of hotels these days have pretty flexible cancellation policies. If you’re able to find one with a good cancellation policy up to a few days before your actual travel date, book it! You can always cancel later if you do end up finding a better deal.

3. Find a Modest Hotel with High Customer Reviews

If you are budget conscious, 3.5 star hotels is usually the highest you should go. A lot of 4+ star hotels have a lot of extra costs such as parking fees, resort fees, maintenance fees, etc. Since the fees are per day, those expenses can really add up quick if you’re paying $30-100 extra per night.

The upside to expensive hotels is the opportunity to potentially network with other guests. Or if you’re using points or your anniversary free night, it wouldn’t hurt to try a super expensive hotel!

But normally if you’re on a budget, 3.5 stars is the highest you should go.

The most important thing is always looking at Customer Reviews as it gives you the best picture of what the hotel is actually like.

There are a ton of 4-5 star expensive hotels that got average reviews from Customers. And then there are a lot of 2-3 star inexpensive hotels that got stellar reviews from customers.

Almost every hotel booking site will have actual customer ratings. Anything below 7 (out of 10), I would not consider booking. 8-10 is what I would stick with.

Although this may sound like common sense, it actually took me a lot of bad experiences to learn this myself… that customer ratings are extremely important to find a comfortable, clean, and safe stay.

4. Be Keen on Hotel Location

Always take into account the location of the hotel. Particularly overseas, some locations that are hard to get to will add significant costs if you need to take a cab there.

I’ve stayed at hotels where it was over 30 minutes drive away from where I needed to be. While it may save you some money, the hassle may not be worth your time.

This is even more important when traveling internationally.

One time in Rome, I stayed about 30 minutes away from the City Centre. When I was done exploring, it was already dark so I had to take the first cab I could find. I ended up paying 40 euros for the ride and then getting scammed twice when he dropped one of my bills and demanded I didn’t pay enough. That cab ride alone was more expensive than the hotel I booked.

I generally try and find hotel within 30 minutes of where I’ll mostly be. Anything beyond that, you want to avoid if possible.

5. Check Hotel Amenities

Hotel Amenities actually make a big difference. If you normally eat breakfast, a free breakfast saves you money and hassle.

Free parking saves money as opposed to paying up to $20/day.

Gyms (if you want to get some exercise in each day) will save you money.

Free wifi will save you money as opposed to paying for it.

Pictured: Free & Included Breakfast buffet in Hanoi. Breakfast buffets are very common in Asia.

On the flip side of Hotel Amenities, know that there are also amenities that may not be cost effective.

Laundry Service, for example, is usually NOT cost effective unless there is a self-service coin laundry at the hotel. It’s a lot cheaper to get your clothes washed and dried at a nearby coin laundry.

Valet Service is normally NOT free and can cost quite a bit if you factor in gratuity.

On Hotel Aggregators, they’ll often give you a quick bird-eye view of what’s included with your stay. Be sure to pay attention to it!

6. Book a Flight+Hotel Package

If you’re looking to travel somewhere and you don’t want to deal with the hassle of booking flights, hotels, and transportation separately, deal packages are actually great deals!

This is especially true if you don’t have a large inventory of points and if you absolutely want to stay at a hotel (instead of an Airbnb).

Usually deal packages will provide high rating hotels at a discounted price and booking your flight with it will save you money than if you were to book separately.

Expedia, Travelocity, Priceline, Travel Pirates are all good options to find excellent deals for flight + hotel combos.

The only thing you usually want to be careful of is be weary of flight schedules and times. A lot of times, the cheapest option will have bad flight times with either long layovers or red-eye flights.

And if you want a better flight option, often there will be additional charges.

As always, be sure to also just double check hotel reviews before you book.

This is just an easier, less complicated way to book your travels while saving you a bit of money. Though it may not always be an option (particularly if you’re looking to book multi-city itineraries or if you only hotels on certain dates). It’s a good option, however, for a simple vacation.

7. Use Credit Card Points

Credit Card points also have awesome redemption value for hotels. SPG, Hilton, IHG, & Marriott are just a few hotels you can transfer Credit Card points to redeem for hotel night stays. The more luxurious and costly the hotel, the more likely your points value will go up.

If you sign up initially for a Credit Card specifically for a hotel, you’ll usually get a pretty generous bonus that can get you up to 5 nights for free once you reach a minimum spend for 3 months.

Although there’s usually an annual fee attached, a number of Hotel Credit Cards have something called a free anniversary night where you get a free night at one of their hotels each year.

That easily makes up for the annual fee if you plan on staying at a hotel just one night out of the year! And even if for some reason, you don’t travel at all, you can always do a mini staycation close to home.

Hotel Credit Card Points are great for anytime use. It’s not as effective for emergency use (as with airline points) since availability often is somewhat limited.

However, you can get some incredible rates with points.

I’ve stayed in hotels for virtually free on several occasions. Here’s an example on my really cheap travel accommodation in San Antonio at a SPG hotel for just 7,000 points!

Okay, you’re probably wondering when I’m going to get off the topic of hotels… There’s just so much to cover just for finding great deals on accommodation with hotels.

For those looking to find alternatives to hotels,

8. Try Airbnb

I’ve stayed in plenty of Airbnbs and they’ve all been very pleasant. Considering you can check reviews, it’s easier these days to find a great host at an excellent price. Often, you’ll also get a more “local” experience over staying at a hotel.

Pictured is a private room I booked near NYC for $25 a night. You can read more about my trip to NYC here.

Similar strategies apply to Airbnb as hotels actually. Although you may not be looking for amenities, you should still check parking availability, location, any clean-up fees, etc.

I find that a lot of Airbnbs also have decent cancellation policies that are laid out before you book.

The important thing is to check reviews from other travelers to get a better idea of what the place is like.

9. Consider a Hostel

Staying in a hostel is one of the cheapest ways you can travel. Though you’ll likely be sharing rooms with other people, you’ll inevitably meet a lot of strangers along the way. But that’s part of the fun of traveling! Just do your due diligence in checking reviews and use reliable sources like www.hostelworld.com

In Europe, I met a lot of other travelers in hostels. They also became great business connections that I have now from all over the world.

10. Consider a Work Away

If you’re planning to travel more long-term and want to get free accommodations, you can consider a work away where you volunteer to help with various tasks (e.g. teaching English, helping with chores) to get free accommodations wherever you’re traveling to.

Considering accommodations are usually around $40-50/day you can easily save over $1000/month this way. Again, just do your due diligence and use reliable sources like www.workaway.info

11. Stay a Night at the Airport

This sounds a bit insane but if you’ve never slept at an airport, you need to try it just once. You can donate the $80 you save to me! But really, sleeping at airports is awesome. Though not the most comfortable, it’s quite adventurous and you’ll be able to relate better to almost every traveler out there.

Note I would NOT recommend doing it more than two days in a row. I’ve stayed overnight at airports around the world including in Tel Aviv, London, Bangkok, Singapore, and more.

Picture is a photo of my sister sleeping at Denver Airport from our trip to Yellowstone National Park.

There you have it, some of the tops ways I’ve used to book cheap travel accommodation.

What about you? What cheap travel accommodation tips do you have to find the best deals and save money?

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10 Ways to Save Money On Your Next Flight [Travel Tips]

10 Ways to Save Money On Your Next Flight [Travel Tips]

Having booked over 100+ trips in the last 7 years out of my own pocket, I know how important it is to be able to find and book cheap flights anywhere.

This is part of my series 101 Travel Tips & Hacks to help you travel cheap and save money.

Here, I show you my best methods to finding the cheapest airfare tickets anywhere.

1. Gauge Flight Costs:

I always start with Google Flights just to get an idea of how much flights are on certain dates. I like Google flights because you can easily adjust dates & locations and it aggregates the best prices from all the different airlines (with the exception of a few like Southwest).

When flying or traveling, the best way to getting cheap flights can be summed in one word: flexibility.

The more flexible you are, the more likely you’ll be able to find cheap flights.

A more advanced tool is the engine that powers Google Flights. The ITA Matrix Software has more features such as finding out fuel surcharges. This is particularly useful if you’re booking flights with points. An example is if you were to book British Airways, their fuel surcharges are usually insane! In fact, a lawsuit was won recently against BA for their notorious outrageous fuel surcharges.

2. Try Using Points:

The two hands down best usage of Points are: Traveling on Premium class cabins (Business or First class) or booking emergency flights. But in general, you can still save your cash by just using points even if not for the two reasons above.

Redemption value for Premium class cabins are significantly better with points. I would’ve never been able to (justifiably) fly Business Class if it weren’t for the use of points.

Generally, last minute tickets get extremely expensive. With points, the redemption usually remains the same which means it’ll save you a lot of money if you can use your points instead of cash.

Points can easily get complicated and if you’re not an avid points follower, here are some general guidelines:

  1. There are 2 main ways to acquire points. By the actual miles you fly on the air or points you acquire from Credit Cards. The latter is usually the easier way to collect enough points for redemption unless you just fly a lot.
  2. There are many different valuations for points but I’d say generally if you’re able to save $100 using 10,000 points, that’s usually a decent deal. Take it with a grain of salt as valuations do vary but it’s a good starting point.
  3. Credit Cards offer large bonuses these days that are basically enough for a flight just with the initial sign-up bonus. To me, it’s a great deal. But with it comes some things you should know about Credit Cards. NerdWallet came out with a really great article on 11 things to know about credit. In short, I think Credit Card bonuses are totally worth getting.

Quite frankly, points can take a lot more time to really understand. The last thing you want to do is use your points through the Credit Card’s points or award travel portal as the redemption rates is usually pretty bad.

The hard part is figuring out the most cost efficient way to use it. I’ve followed the points guy for years before finally having a better understanding of the entire system. Another resource that has a lot of great info on points and travel is Upgrade Points.

However, points have taken me far and saved me a tremendous amount of money. They are particularly useful for international flights that can cost well over $1,000. I’ve easily saved over tens of thousands of dollars using points.

3. Use Deal Sites:

Sometimes Google Flights may not offer the lowest price tickets. As such, you’ll want to check other deal sites (like Orbitz or Skyscanner, or Cheap-O-Air) as sometimes deal sites will be cheaper. I’ve also used Momondo.com.

Note* I would just be careful of shady deal sites (I’ve found some shady 3rd-party sites even recommended on Momondo actually). Always do a quick google search on consumer reports if you find a deal “too good to be true”. Whatever hassle you have to face with bad sites is not worth the money you save.

Also, note that Google Flights does not aggregate every airline. In fact, there are a number of airlines and flights that aren’t covered by Google. Southwest Airlines, Ryanair, Norwegian, Vueling, and EasyJet are some of the airlines not covered.

4. Book a Flight + Hotel Package

If you need a hotel with your stay, these days there are lots of great flight + hotel packages you can find on Orbitz, Priceline, Expedia, Travel Pirates, etc.

And yes, they are actually quite good deals! This is particularly useful if you don’t want to go through the trouble of finding accommodation and flights separately.

Is it the cheapest option? Probably not. Since these days, there’s Airbnb, several hotel credit card options, and even deal sites for hotels.

But it does save you money and is cheaper than booking those flights and hotels separately. It’s also a hassle-free way to book your trip.

The only thing to note is flights offered for those deals often may not have the best flight times. Or the airlines they selected may have certain baggage policies. Just be weary of the possible pitfalls of certain budget airlines that I talk about more below.

 

5. Search Nearby Airports:

If you know how to search nearby airports, you can find cheap flights and save a lot of money as well. The below shows a flight from Dallas to San Jose. The cheapest flight on Google is $486 but if I just flew to Oakland Airport or even San Francisco Airport on those exact dates, I can save almost $300.

Google Flights actually helps identify nearby airports sometimes but not always…

Oakland Airport is only about a 30 minute drive from San Francisco Airport. And San Francisco Airport is only about a 1 hour drive from San Jose Airport.

It gets a lot trickier internationally and is NOT recommended for families with kids. A lot of times the layover may not be worth the hassle, but I’ve personally saved thousands of dollars flying to a different country first before my final destination. And it’s fun to visit 2 countries instead of 1!

Search nearby airports at both your starting and ending destination. This may take some time and experience but it’s definitely worth it if you find a great deal.

5. Try a Budget Airline:

I’m actually a huge fan of budget airlines as they can save you a lot of money but only if you know how to navigate through their baggage policies.

Budget Airlines in Asia is almost on a different level than Budget Airlines in the U.S. Scoot & Asia Air have been tremendous experiences even with their strict policies and have saved me hundreds of dollars from the major carriers.

Below is an example of a budget airline that is over $100 less than the next cheapest flight.

Again, the key is just knowing how to travel with budget airlines.

Generally, the easiest way to not have to deal with any possible hassles is to only bring a backpack. The next best option is paying for your bag online. You just never want to risk paying for your bags at the airport.

More recently, major airlines have even adopted low-cost seats. It’s usually called basic economy or economy saver. American Airlines, United, and a number of major airlines have followed suit.

6. Be Careful of Airline Policies:

As mentioned, there are caveats to using budget airlines to find cheap flights. The main thing is to be acquainted with baggage policies (e.g. budget airlines like Spirit & Frontier and even budget seats like United’s Basic Explorer or American Airlines basic economy have extremely strict limitations on free baggage).

If you’re traveling with any baggage that you need to check-in, expect to add around $30 for the first bag. If you need another bag, the baggage fees goes up even more.

7. Use a Private VPN for International Bookings:

This is particularly useful if you’re traveling overseas. A lot of times, airlines will offer lower prices for local travelers than if your IP address is from the U.S.

This is why a lot of times people who live locally at a country you’re visiting can find better deals than you can if you’re living in the U.S.

8. Take Advantage of Stopovers:

This technique is slightly more advanced and best for international travel but if you just keep in mind that a lot of airlines offer free or low-priced stopovers, you can look into how you can fly to another destination for almost free.

9. Travel Subscription Plans

If you’re able to travel spontaneously, there’s also been a few subscription sites that have gotten popular really quickly because they scour the web to find really cheap deals!

Sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights or Dollar Flight Club has a dedicated team that searches the web for the cheapest deals and send it to your email inbox.  There’s a free subscription plan and a paid plan where you get all the deals every week. Millions of people have already subscribed so you know they must be doing something right!

10. Use a Special Travel Agent

Last, but not least, use a special travel agent. Note* the special makes it different from just another travel agent.

I’ve used travel agents in the past. The one downside I had with them was just not getting really spectacular deals. And I think perhaps because there are certain limitations of an agent (certain vendors, less flexibility, more hoops they have to jump through to book your tickets).

I find sites like Scott’s Cheap Flights and Dollar Flight Club different in that they don’t book tickets for you. They just find deals and send links for you to book yourself.

However, what they do well with deals, they lack in personalization. They send great deals to mass people but aren’t able to zoom in on individual needs.

That’s where a Special Travel Agent comes in. Basically someone who’s like the travel concierge service you would get with an American Express Platinum ($450 annual fee) or Black Card ($2500 annual fee).

Fortunately, these days you don’t need a $500 card to get that kind of service. Travel the World Box offers that service and on top of it, sends you useful gear every month starting at $20/month.

 

What are some of your techniques for finding cheap flights and great deals? I’d love to hear them.

If you found this article to be helpful, here are some other ways to travel for cheap:

101 Travel Hacks & Ways to Save Money and Travel Well, for Less

How To Travel Round the World For Cheap

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How I Traveled to Austin, TX for 2 Nights for $65 [Travel Cheap]

How I Traveled to Austin, TX for 2 Nights with a Family of 4 for $260 [Travel Cheap]

Austin, the capital of Texas is known for awesome Tex-Mex food and good vibes everywhere you go. It’s a must visit. This post discusses how to travel to and in Austin for cheap.

I’ll be upfront. This post doesn’t have any spectacular travel deals or cheap flights because I live in Dallas, TX (3 hours away). If you’re traveling from out of town, you’ll find some of my travel techniques below a bit more helpful.

I always start with the big 3 expenses in traveling. To travel for cheap, you’ll need to save on Flights, Accommodation, and Transportation. The better deal you’re able to find for all 3, the more money you’ll be able to save.

Flights: $0

We drove from Dallas which is about 3 hours away from Austin.

If you’re flying in from out of State, Austin Bergstrom Airport is the main airport to fly in. However, you can use flights.google.com to search for deals going to Dallas, Fort Worth (DFW) or George Bush Intercontinental in Houston (IAH). A lot of times flying into those cities will be a lot cheaper than flying in to Austin itself.

Accommodations: $210

Sometimes hotel prices are reasonable and better off just paying than using miles. In this case, we stayed at a beautiful Hampton Inn for $105/night with tax and fees included.

It was a very large and new room with free breakfast and very nice amenities.

Of course, they had a gym that we raided to get our exercise in.

Transportation:

Since Austin wasn’t too bad of a drive, we just decided to drive our own car. Gas both ways was about $50 from Dallas.

If you’re flying in, definitely rent a car there since public transportation is not huge. For some cheap car rental tips, you can see my post with 101 travel hacks & tips. 

 

Things to Do:

We got to see the beautiful Capital of Austin, home of the Texas State Capital, awesome Tex-Mex food, and just an all around great city with great vibes.

We went along the “drag” which is one of the most popular streets in Austin on Guadalupe St. There’s a lot of stores, restaurants, and interesting things you’ll find there. Like some of the murals painted on the walls pictured above.

We also ate awesome food. Lots of good Chinese food and Tex-Mex places like the famous Juan in a Million.

Having been to Austin a handful of times, there’s a lot more to visit. The University of Texas is a must visit. Zilker Park, Mount Bonnell, and Barton Springs are also beautiful to visit.

And if you have time, make sure to try some thrift shopping when you’re there!

If you’re in the Austin area, you may also want to check out San Antonio – you can read about my cheap trip to San Antonio here.

What are some of your tips for traveling to Austin, TX?

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How I Traveled To San Antonio, TX for 3 Nights for $37 [Travel Cheap]

How I Traveled To San Antonio, TX for 3 Nights with a family of 4 for $147 or $37/person [Travel Cheap]

San Antonio is a beautiful place.You have the River walk, Sea World, the Alamo, and a number of great places to visit if you’re ever in Texas. The food there is also quite amazing. This post discusses how I traveled to San Antonio, TX for cheap.

Over the Summer, I took my family there for vacation and a work meeting and I was able to travel cheap.

I’ll show you how I did it. But here are some things we got to do while we were there.

Since my sister is autistic and has a severe mental disability, visited Morgan’s Wonderland. Morgan’s Wonderland is a themed park for people with Special Needs.

 

Flights – $0

Since we’re from Dallas, it was only about a 4.5 hour drive. We still rented a car though and I’ll explain why. But if you’re looking for cheap flights, there’s always a number of flights going into San Antonio Airport.

You always want to consider flying to nearby airports as well. I’ve seen flights to DFW and AUS generally a lot lower than going into San Antonio. The only catch is you’ll need to rent a car and possibly a hotel if you’re staying overnight in Dallas or Austin.

Which isn’t a bad idea to visit if you have time.

Accommodations: Free

I was excited to use my SPG points for the first time. I had accumulated over 35,000 points just from the signup bonus for spending a minimum of $3,000 in 3 months (and $2,000 more two months after) on the SPG Amex Card.

I found an incredible deal in San Antonio under SPG hotels for just 3,500 points a night in the Four Points Sheraton. Because we only used 3,500 points, our accommodation costs allowed us to travel cheap.

We had two nights at an awesome hotel for free. On top of that, we even got bonus points back for foregoing room cleaning. So if you’re generally pretty neat and tidy, you get extra points with SPG.

In addition to a beautiful, clean room – they also had a gym. We utilize it to the max every time.

Transportation: $147 for 3 days

Hertz was running a Summer deal at the time which awarded 5,250 miles to United Plus members for renting a car with them. Since I was a Mileage Plus member, I decided to take advantage of that deal (and also save my own car some mileage) since the valuation on United Miles was about 1.5 cents (or about $78.75 worth).

Of course, it’s cheaper to drive your own car but I figured there’s perks of driving a rental for long distance travel (namely if your car breaks down or if there’s mechanical issues. It’s easier to do repairs on a rental over your own unless you have AAA which I don’t.

 

San Antonio was a fun, meaningful trip with family. Best of all, I got to travel cheap. At $147 for 3 days (which we also stopped by Austin and a work meeting nearby), it’s a steal when you utilize mileage and travel deals.

You can find my complete list of travel hacks and ways to find cheap flights and travel deals without a travel agent here.

If you’re in San Antonio, you should also consider visiting Austin – you can see how we traveled cheap to Austin here.

What are some of your tips for traveling to San Antonio?

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How I Traveled to NYC for 3 Nights for $384 [Travel Cheap]

How I Traveled to NYC for 3 Nights for $384 [Travel Cheap]

This post is the prequel of my trip to Taipei in May, 2017. In this post, I’ll show you how I traveled well to NYC but still was able to travel cheap.

It’s a bit of a complex itinerary. Most people probably would not want to go through these complexities. But as for me, it runs in my blood and I love it because I get to travel cheap.

Before my trip to Taipei, I had a work trip in May to help host a race in New Jersey for one of the cities there.

It was really an awesome event that helped raise scholarships for some of their high school students.

Flights: $137 on Southwest

Note that this was only one-way. However, round trip prices weren’t too much more – I just didn’t book a flight back to Dallas because I wanted to advantage of a cheap flight from NYC. When looking for Cheap International flights (particularly to Asia or Europe), there’s usually a few good airports to check… LAX, SFO, NYC, and CHI.

Also I had A LOT of equipment I needed to bring; hence why I booked a slightly more expensive flight on Southwest. Southwest airlines allows up to 2 check in bags and 1 carry on bag at no extra cost.

There were a number of low cost carriers but the extra baggage fees I would’ve needed to pay for would have been very expensive.

Accommodations: $95 for 3 nights

If you ever travel to NYC, you’d know hotels are very expensive there. $200/night would get you an average hotel. If you’re staying in Manhattan, prices would easily run higher.

On top of that, I didn’t want to stay in a hostel because I had so much expensive equipment with me.

So I searched for an Airbnb. This is also where location makes a huge difference to travel cheap with cheap accommodations. I searched for a place in New Jersey, not far from NYC. Yes, you would need to drive (ideally) but it gives you a lot more freedom to go where you want to go.

I’ve been to NYC several times. I’d say every situation will always be different. Sometimes if you truly want to explore and see as much NYC as possible – then it’s better to take public transportation and stay closer to the City. You wouldn’t want to drive due to the heavy traffic and expensive parking fees.

But staying in New Jersey is always a great alternative and there are lots of buses that run into NYC.

I had this entire bedroom to myself for about $25/night. It was wonderful aside from a bit of noise from the nearby airport.

Transportation: $152

I rented a car since I had meetings and equipment. It was also convenient since I was staying in Jersey. The only thing I had to note was my drop-off was different from my pick-up since I was flying into LaGuardia Airport (LGA) and flying out of John F Kennedy (JFK). I rented with Costco travel and didn’t have to pay any additional fees for a different drop-off.

For this particular trip, I didn’t go visit NYC since I had been there plenty of times. But my itinerary easily allowed for me to visit NYC and its awesome eats, sites, and things to do had I wanted to.

I’ll likely do a more “normal” NYC post elsewhere.

Until then, I hope you’ve found some ideas here on how to travel cheap and well to NYC.

You can find my complete list of travel hacks and ways to find cheap flights and travel deals without a travel agent here.

What are some of your tips for traveling to NYC?

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How I Traveled Cheap to Taipei, Taiwan for $466 on EVA Air and JAL [Cheap Flights]

How I Traveled Cheap to Taipei, Taiwan for $466 on EVA Air and JAL [Cheap Flights]

Over the Summer, I took a quick trick to Taipei, Taiwan and met with family, caught up with friends, and had a blast. In this post, I discuss how I was able to travel cheap to Taipei, Taiwan for $466 for flight, accommodation, and transportation.

I always start with the big 3 expenses in traveling. To travel for cheap, you’ll need to save on Flights, Accommodation, and Transportation. The better deal you’re able to find for all 3, the more money you’ll be able to save

This trip is going to get complex but bear with me on the itinerary and you’ll find some tips to save on travel.

I’m originally from Dallas, TX but had a race in New Jersey that weekend in May so I counted the flight to NYC (which I got for cheap) as a separate trip that was business expensed.

Flights: $454 (on EVA Air and Japan Airlines)

Admittedly, this flight was even more abnormal than usual. If you’re looking for general tips on how to find cheap flights, you can read my blog post here.

So I found a deal flying out of JFK that same weekend for $348. However, note that the destination was Hong Kong, not Taipei. This tactic is known as hidden-city ticketing where you get off at the stopover instead of the final destination.

United actually sued one of the sites started by a 22 year old that actively and publicly sold tickets that way – https://skiplagged.com/. The 22 year old owner of Skip Lagged won the lawsuit.

Here’s my take on hidden-city ticketing. For one, know it’s definitely frowned upon by airlines and if they find out, they may revoke your ticket, frequent flier mileage, etc.

I actually almost had my only carry-on luggage checked in (going to Hong Kong) due to it being overweight. To prevent that, I had to wear half my clothes into security.

After one experience, I would not recommend doing this but I did save quite a bit of money!

On my return flight, I used JAL mileage I had accumulated over about 2-3 flights on Japan Airlines. JAL Mileage expires after a certain time as well… so it was good for me to use it. It’s always good to use mileage if International prices are high and/or if your mileage is set to expire. In this case, a return flight would have cost about $800 and I would have lost quite a bit of miles at the end of 2017.

Of course, you take everything (including your mileage inventory) into consideration before you book any trip. Had there been a Round Trip flight for cheap, I may have opted to take that and used the JAL miles later in the year. But in this case paying cash was not ideal, so I took the opportunity to use my mileage.

Accommodations: Free

My stay in NYC was quite cheap, I talk about it a bit more in my NYC post here. But basically I paid $25 per night for an Airbnb in New Jersey. It was very clean and a very local experience. Since that was part of my work, I didn’t count it in the expense for my trip to Taipei.

In Taipei, I have family and a home there I stay for free. If you’re ever in Taipei, let me know and I can see if I can get you connected to cheap (and nice) housing!

Housing normally in Taipei is very cheap… We’re talking about $30 USD per night will get you a very night place.

Since my flight was at 12:00am, I stayed a “Night” at the JFK Priority Pass lounge. I didn’t take a lot of the photos but there were plenty of free food, showers, wifi, and this awesome PS4 Station. Yes, I played NBA2k17 shortly before my flight.

Transportation: $12

When I arrived in Taipei, transportation was a breeze. I had a lot of options getting home. I took the new airport shuttle which was about $10 USD and then a $2 USD MRT/Bus ride to my home.

Some may say I “cheated” with free accommodations, odd flight itineraries, and mileage but travel is always very holistic where you take your understanding of all the various rules, possibilities, mileage inventory and circumstances and make it into something ideal for your specific situation.

If you have family to stay with, do it! It’ll save you money! This was probably one of the more complex trips – but I saved a lot of money in the end. And it was a very pleasant trip!

You can find my complete list of travel hacks and ways to find cheap flights and travel deals without a travel agent here.

What are some of your tips for traveling to Asia?

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