Looking to get your hands on free flights, cheap flights, free hotels,
free tours, cheap getaways? It’s easy and anyone can do it. Not so different then infomercial that features the girl with a rock hard booty and the guy with the flat stomach, yes anyone can do it, thou your gonna need to do a little work to save yourself some cash to spend when you get there. I’ve gotten all kinds of free or heavily discounted trips and my mother can attest it had nothing to do with my math skills.
After a bit of a bitter taste was left in my mouth by a travel agent I decide to ink some advice for the reading public about booking your own travel to save yourself huge!
I personally have flown to, stayed in and traveled to plenty parts of the
world and the only time I recall using a travel agent to book anything for
me was in the small town of Oberstdorf Germany when I had an agent book me a room in Munich during Oktoberfest as I knew it might be a bit tough
getting one there. I don’t know if it was my lack of German or her lack of
English, either or I showed up at the height of the busiest time of the
year only to find that my room had actually been booked for the following
Amidst all the drunken bodies scattered about the entrance and
sleeping on the sidewalks, through the singing and puking and one litre steins
of beer spilling. As if to save the poor liver of ye druken tourist, if only for
a sip. The staff of this freshly built one hundred room hostel actually went
beyond out of there way to find me a place to sleep and eventually I ended up
staying in an unfinished room on a unfinished floor where I proceeded to throw my own after party with a few of my new best friends from the pub downstairs. All in all it worked out amazing and there’s roughly three full pages to that story you can read about on another page.
Anywhoo back to the bitter taste and the free flights.
A friend of mine makes hummus at one of our shops to sell at the local farmers markets and as a kind gesture he decided to buy my a $500 travel voucher through a local travel agent, knowing I’d put it to good use. With this I originally booked a few days at a hotel in Hawaii and had $320 left to spend. (yes the math is correct I managed to book 3 nights just off the beach in Honolulu for less then $180, we also got a free rental car on this trip and stayed at a locals place also just off the beach, Amazing!)
Well I think that this particular travel agent is used to booking weddings and
all inclusives for the scared and confused traveler who has no idea that really
there ten day all inclusive get away in Mexico that there about to drop $4000 on and get really exited because it has “free drinks”, has no idea that if they
spent a few hours online they could score that same trip for $800 and stay
another week for nothing then still have the $3200 in there pocket. All in all
after several exchanged phone calls and a few emails with her and me doing all my own research to sort out how I was going to turn this $320 into ten days of beach side accommodation in LA. I think she’d had about enough of my cutting out the middle man. So she calls me up and explains “I’ve never actually done this before, but I’m just going to have our head office refund your money with a %10 service charge and let you book your own accommodations”. Bahahhahahahhahhahahhahahhahahahahhaahhaha! “Service charge”, I believe there is typically a service given before a charge can be applied. All in all as soon as I got off the phone a spent a couple of hours on the computer and ended up booking three nights on the beach and three nights within walking distance to Disney Land for the lump sum price of ZERO dollars. And when I got the $320 I booked the last four nights in Hollywood and took the cash I saved to buy really important Mickey Mouse shwag!
Don’t get me totally wrong for those of you who have no idea about where to go or how to get there or what to do if your entire luggage goes missing and your hotel is overbooked. Then I’m sure that a travel agent is worth there weight in gold & there hundreds of excellent ones who I’m sure also know how to travel for nothing. I just don’t fit that profile and personally seem to know a few excellent ways to do it yourself!
To put it in perspective there’s some ways you can travel for free or at least
for way less then the couple you meet at the swim up bar who saved for years to go on this once in a lifetime getaway that they handed most of there saving over to make things easier on them. You do the math, on a $4000 getaway vacation dived by how much you have to work to save that money, plus %20 (cause that’s about how much you were taxed on that income) and I’m guessing you worked about 180-200 hours. Now take about 5-7 hours and spend that online doing a little leg work and you just netted an extra 210 hours of vacation time that you didn’t need to spend at work or free money to spend on water sports when you get there.
Here’s what works for me: I like to use booking sites, my favourite being expedia. There are hundreds out there, this just happened to
be the one I like the most. It breaks down areas, deals, combining hotels, flights, car rental a number of options to save some money. I usually start looking here about
4-6 weeks before I want to go someplace.
I rearrange the scenarios a bit to see what’s better, the sight will do most of the work. Yet your still gonna need to be a little clever. I’ve saved hundreds by simply booking two one way tickets opposed to a return or changing my dates by a day or two. There’s usually more options with one ways then returns as a return with a booking site will need to use multiple airlines and it’s more complex. As well I find flying on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursdays are usually cheaper and depending on the route flying Sunday is sometimes cheaper. I was cheaper to fly into Las Vegas on a Sunday, as most people were flying out that day. As well picking just out of season is great. Late spring means skipping crowds and lower prices with the same exited attitudes from locals as there season ramps up. Or just after season like say a spring ski trip. Cheap as chips and typically amazing weather.
Some other sites I like are sunwings.ca, craiglist, Air B&B, travelcuts.ca, flightcenter, going to an airlines direct website and I subscribe to a number of last minute deal and travel discount operators. After a while of skimming there best deals you’ll get a nack of what’s on sale and when, something is always on sale somewhere. Like anything flexibility is the key. If you can be flexible with your time then naturally it makes life easier. I once wanted to book a flight direct from Calgary, Canada to Sydney Australia. It was roughly $2200, not terrible, thou not impressive. I did some asking around and found that if I instead opted for an open ticket that would stop in Japan, Malaysia and Borneo that I could then go to four countries for $1300. Basically I spent the year traveling various countries at a profit of $1100. Current events also play a bit of a role in seat availability. I once took a return flight from Calgary Canada to Auckland New Zealand then on to Wanaka for $1000 return, yip $1000. Less then half the regular price. Why you might ask? Well it was a few years after the September 11th devastation that rocked the USA and that day there were about 18ppl on a flight that typically held a couple hundred. No disrespect to those whom suffered from 911, it just worked with my schedule and budget to fly that day.
If you can stay longer then it’s always cheaper. Lets say you went for vacation for two weeks in the U.S.A.. Your probably going to be rushing around trying to do everything you can, reading brochures on what to do when, and eating out for every meal.
Hotel per day, $90.
Entertainment per day $100.
Three meals a day $60.
Getting around $30 a day.
Lets say at a minimum your going to drop $250-$300 a day on this and that. Now lets take and drop you someplace super warm, a lot cheaper and for a lot longer. Say Thailand, now lets say you stay for a whole year opposed to a couple weeks. Now your going to rent places to stay for a month or better instead of a week. This works out to $5-$10/day, will say $7. Then your going to spend more time actually relaxing on the beach and snorkelling, as your mind is more at ease and doesn’t need something to busy it. Well actually snorkelling as a hell of a way to busy the mind. Even so you’ll do the odd tour and over the course of a month the average cost per day doing hikes, a zoo, snake shows, house boating etc will be brought down to an average of about $3-$6/day. Meals range from $1-$10, and you’ll buy groceries and shop at markets, cause it’s more fun, so lets average it out at $12/day for food. You’ll have friends, rent a scooter and have more time to take busses so travel will average out closer to $8/day. Now you went from a rushed 3 week vacation at $280/day = $5880 for three weeks. To an amazing year off for closer to $32 per day. Or 183 days in Asia for the same price. How do I know this is possible? I spent 11months in Asia with a girlfriend for under $20,000 for the two of us. It’s more then possible. It’s actually cheaper to vacation for longer! You just need to run the numbers.
Ohh credit cards. The devils currency! Unless you put them to work for you. I once spent a large amount of my time with someone who used to remind my 14hr work day self to work smarter, not harder. What did I adapt from this… Get a few credit cards with some kind of travel point options or an air miles type set up & put them to work. I currently use two on a very regular basis that have a percentage system for every dollar I spend I get an amount back to use towards all kinds of things. Top of my list, plane tickets and rental cars. I put everything I can across those cards, everything. If it has an automated payment option on something I need to pay every month no matter what, then it gets set up on those cards. Fuel, phone, groceries, you name it. Heck there’s even the benefit of FREE travel insurance and car insurance if I pay with that card. Basically I rack up the points until my mind needs to get on a plane and disappear. Then I book the flight, hotels and car (if needed) with that credit card. So I’ve just gotten the three top costs of any trip for FREE. Then as I have clearly booked the flight and car with that card, then I will be getting all of the insurances for free also. Seriously, I’m having a hard time seeing the downside to this. Yet I don’t run into a lot of people who use this same spend and travel philosophy, double bonus if you pay a lot of household bills or have a business, then there are always fixed costs.
The number one regret I hear from people as they get older is that they never traveled enough. And the number one thing I hear from younger people is that it’s so expensive to travel. Well if they’d learned when they were young just how cheap and easy it really is to travel then you might just find yourself telling travel tales rather then finding ways to work more so you can vacation less!
Do some research, ask some questions and stay longer. Well unless you like
working harder for less, then just keep doing what your doing…