In October 2013, my wife and I went on a road trip through Colorado and Utah with five of our good friends.
It was epic.
Colorado and Utah are two of my favorite states. If you like the outdoors, you’ve GOT to hit up these two states! On this trip we went to Telluride, Grand Junction, Moab, Arches National Park, and Dead Horse Point (see our road map above).
One of the best parts about the trip was that my wife and I were able to save $2,787.28 in travel expenses.
Instead of the trip costing us $3,193.28 per person, it only cost us $406 per person. See this chart below for details:
How did we do this? With some creative brainstorming and travel hacking techniques. Here’s how, specifically:
1. Leverage credit cards bonuses
Travel hacking is taking advantage of already existing opportunities that lower your travel costs. One of those opportunities is credit card bonuses.
When I signed up for the Southwest Airlines Visa Card – and spent $2,000 in 3 months, something I already was doing with my debit card – Southwest gave me 50,000 miles towards flights. With these points, I was able to book four trips for $5.00 each (see one receipt below, and the other receipt here).
Two of these four trips were round trip flights to Denver for my wife and I. We both flew round trip to Colorado and back for $5.00 each (see receipts above). This was travel hacking tactic #1, and it’s one I highly recommend.
2. Stay at the home of someone you know
Many people may not think of this as a travel hack, but it is a huge one.
Often times, when people go on vacation, they will stay at hotels and resorts. There is nothing wrong with this, but it can be a HUGE expense.
You don’t need to stay at a hotel or a resort when you travel. Ask your family and friends if they (or anyone they know) has a cabin, home, apartment, or time share in a state/country/area of the world that you would like to visit. If they do, ask them if they would be willing to let you and your friends stay there (for free, or for a small price).
We did this with our road trip. While we did stay two nights at a hotel (for fun), we stayed primarily at my in-laws cabin in Colorado, and used their home as a ‘base’ for our road trip. This saved hundreds of dollars on lodging costs, and was easily the second best travel hacking tactic (after #1 above).
I recommend staying with family, friends, or friends of your family/friends on your next trip. You will most likely save A LOT of money!
3. Go with a group of friends
Lot’s of people like solo traveling. I’m not one of those people.
I’ve been on solo trips before, and it’s not as enjoyable in my opinion. While I cherish my relationships and love my family and friends, I’m an introvert, so meeting new people doesn’t come naturally to me. I think it’s much more fun to travel with family and/or friends instead of going solo, and share the travel experiences with those in your life you care about most.
Not only is it fun to travel with a group of friends, but you can also share the travel costs, which lessens the total cost for each individual traveling. For example, on our road trip, the seven of us split the costs of the car rental, gas, food, and the two hotels we stayed at (for fun). Instead of just one or two people paying for those expenses, it was shared seven ways. This lessened the cost for all of us.
By budgeting, I mean two things:
- Forecasting your total trip expenses ahead of time, and
- Tracking what you spend while on the road
As John Maxwell says, “budgeting is telling your money where to go, instead of wondering where it went.” Some things to include in your budget are:
- Car Rental
- Fun / Emergency
It may seem annoying to do this at first, but I have found that budgeting helps me keep travel costs WAY down. On trips I’ve budgeted, I spent less than I expected; And on trips I DID NOT budget, I ended spending way more than I had wanted to.
Also, use cash if possible. For some reason, using cash hurts more psychologically, and you’re less likely to spend frivolously on stuff you don’t truly want or need.
Side note: In Travel Hacking Academy, I share the exact simple budget I use when planning trips.
5. Cook your meals (don’t eat out a lot)
Another big travel expense for many people is food – specifically, eating out at restaurants.
You should definitely eat out while traveling; just don’t do it every single day for every single meal! It’s amazing how much money you can save when you buy groceries and cook your meals.
We stopped at a Walmart on our way to the cabin and picked up groceries for the week. This was a great decision that helped keep our costs low. (Plus, if you travel with your family or friends, cooking can be a great social activity!)
On your next trip, buy your groceries and cook your meals 90% of the time (and eat out the other 10%). You’ll be surprised how much money you save.
6. Go in the offseason
Instead of traveling during popular months (Summer, around Holidays, and Spring Break season), we went in October – a month that generally isn’t popular for travel (and thus, airfare and car rentals are usually cheaper). While my wife and I used travel hacking tactic #1 above to get $5 round-trip airfare, most of our friends in the group bought their airline tickets. Because we went during the offseason, their tickets were much cheaper than they would have been during the popular months of travel.
By implementing one or all of the six travel hacking tactics above, you will be able to reduce the travel costs on your next trip. If you are interested in learning more about how you can travel more for less money, check out our course Travel Hacking Academy.
Questions? Ideas? Share your thoughts and input in the comments below; we’d love to hear them.