How to Travel Cheaply and Save on Hotel and Airfare

January 19, 2020
how to travel cheaply

The frugal traveler always wants to know how to travel cheaply and have the best experience for the least amount of cash.  These tips will hopefully save you time, and money when booking your next flight and hotel. 

Find the best Airfare Deal

There really is no consistently cheapest day to fly,  however generally flying out on a weekday you may find the best price.   Check airfares using the Skyscanner website or download their app to do a quick price search and check which days are cheapest for a specific route.

You can browse the “whole month” and  “cheapest month” search options to find the best days and times to fly.

Hopper is another website and app you can use to help you find the best real deal.

If your dates are flexible sign up for airfare deal alerts with your favorite airline or with Airfare Watchdog.

Finding The Best Seat On The Airplane

Are you tired of finding out you have a bad seat on the airplane after it’s too late to make a change? Here are a few general tips for finding the best seat on the plane.

  • For Safety, select seats located behind the wings, not over them.
  • Want a  Smooth ride, select a seat over the wing. I find the front and rear of the plane tend to bounce a bit more than a seat located over the wings.
  • Desire a Quiet ride, choose a seat toward the front of the cabin. The trade-off is you may overhear the flight attendants’ discussions and also be bothered by passengers visiting the bathroom facilities.  The window seats are several decibels louder than aisle seats.
  • If Sleeping on the plane, choose a window seat, near the middle of the airplane. Window seats provide a better spot to lay your head. The center of an airplane reduces the chances of being bothered by bathroom lines or noisy food and beverage service.
  • Prefer a Quick Exit, then choose a seat in the front. When deplaning those in the front typically get to leave first, unless the airline has a rear and front exit.
  • For the most Legroom, select an aisle seat in an exit row.
  • Exit row seats typically offer more space. I always carry a tote on the airplane, so I avoid the Bulkhead seats considering the lack of under-seat storage and the flight attendants usually store their supplies in the overhead, I like to have my bag close and right over my seat row for easy access.
  • The best chance of getting Overhead space is early boarding. If your assigned seat is located in the middle or rear of the plane try to be one of the first ones on the plane.  Not much else you can do, boarding is the most stressful part of the flight for me when I fly with carry-on luggage.

Before purchasing your airfare, check the available seats and then check Seat Guru for details about the specific flight and seating.

Finding the Best Hotel Rate

I’ve put together a few tips you can use to find a cheaper hotel room and maybe a few extra perks along the way. Lodging can get expensive and takes a big bite out of your fun vacation cash.

Book direct with hotel websites and sign up for their loyalty program

A great way to receive free upgrades is to sign up for a loyalty program and use the same hotel chain whenever possible.
Member perks at hotels often include free Wi-Fi.  My personal favorite hotel loyalty program is Bonvou, previously SPG I have Gold status through my American Express card and am consistently offered room upgrade, lounge access, and bonus points.

Book early and keep checking rates

As soon as you know your travel dates, check the hotel cancellation policy before you book the room. After booking, keep checking back for discounts, promos or lower rates. It’s easy to re-book at a lower price.  Remember to check back again right before the cancellation period, sometimes hotels want to fill the empty rooms and will lower the room rate.

Sign up for a price drop and sale alerts for a cheaper hotel room rate

Sign up for price alerts through websites like Hotels.com and Trivago and Kayak, and they will take send you a notification via email or text letting you know when the prices start to drop.

Book using offer codes

Most hotels offer a small discount off their best deal if you book using an offer code from AAA or AARP. If you are a member of a trade or professional organization check if there are any exclusive discounts available for your use.

Sign up for loyalty programs and book through the travel websites

If you don’t travel enough to rack up free rooms at hotel websites or prefer more variety, then opting for a third party website loyalty program may just be the answer.  Hotels.com members can book 10 nights and get one for free.

Travel Apps

Travel Apps can help you find a bevy of discounts for cheaper hotel room rates. Everyone is aware of apps from Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz, and Trivago. Also, try Hotel Tonight or Jetsetter for finding last-minute discounts on rooms.

Book a room at a new property

Sometimes hotels will be looking to increase business and offer excellent room discounts just to get the word out.

Tips for getting a hotel upgrade upon check-in

1.  Check-in later in the day

Check-ing in toward the end of the day may offer the best chance of getting a coveted free room upgrade.
Hotels have a better idea of the occupancy later in the day, they are more likely to offer upgrades for unbooked premium rooms. If you check-in 2 hours or so after the posted check-in time you have a better chance at an upgrade.

2.  Asking for a corner room

If you’re looking to upgrade to a corner room, be discreet and be polite, avoid asking for special perks when others are waiting to check-in. The clerk won’t want to make anyone wait just so they can assist you with a special request unless of course, you have the earned elite status.

Let the hotel know if your unhappy and want a cheaper hotel room rate

If you are plagued by noisy neighbors or a less than clean room it can ruin your hotel experience and you should speak up. Just remember to be polite and don’t take any frustration out on the front desk staff.  To make it right the hotel may offer an upgrade for the rest of your stay, a points credit or a free drink at the hotel bar.  Don’t find something to complain about just in hopes of getting an upgrade, the hotels are hip to that tactic.

Planning for Future Hotel Stays

Hotels will sometimes offer the chance to earn extra points through a partnering agreement or shopping portals.

Most credit cards have travel offers ranging from cashback to bonus points or miles. It’s worth a couple of minutes to check your credit card for additional discounts that may be offered.

Do you have any tips or comments to share for finding the best rate at a hotel?

Check out more money-saving tips:

The Daily Work Commute and Spending Less



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