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Cheap Travel Options

Updated on January 25, 2013

Vacations Can Be Expensive

Airfare to Europe, Asia, Africa or Australia tends to run well over $1,000. Lodging in the most interesting parts of the world can cost into the hundreds of dollars per night. These costs can be quite onerous for all but the wealthiest families.

Just about everyone loves to get away from home for a few days and relax in the mountains or at the beach. One thing that keeps many people from going on the vacation of their dreams is money. OK, probably the main thing that keeps people from their dream vacation is money. There are a few ways around this problem, however.

The Ritz in Paris
The Ritz in Paris | Source

Finding the Cheapest Accommodations

Lodging and transportation costs are generally the two biggest money eaters in any vacation budget. Where are the best deals? With the internet, there is no reason that travelers should pay the rack rate for a hotel under just about any circumstances (such events as the London Olympics would be about the only exception).

Online travel websites provide all sorts of discount lodging options. has limited-time offers for their users, and sites such as and allow travelers to name their own price or to access unpublished rates that are not available otherwise. Of course, these latter two options are a bit of a shot in the dark because the purchaser does not see the hotel choice ahead of time, although the general quality of the lodgings are noted by a star rating.

Websites for hotel chains and sites such as allow travelers to research the actual hotels with images and a listing of specific accommodations and amenities. Trip Adviser allows users to rate their experience with hotels and attractions, so that scary accommodations like the Bates Motel can be avoided with ease.

Many chains have a lowest price guarantee. I was able to achieve this a few years ago by booking a room on a general travel website at a Fairfield Inn in Nashville for $79. Marriott promised to meet any lower price and then give a discount on top of that if their online price was higher. It was $89 on the Marriott website, so after faxing in the information, I was able to get the room for just over $59 per night. The front desk clerk wondered how I booked such a rate. The answer--research.

In addition to online research, there are travel gurus who publish guides to many of the world's leading vacation destinations on a regular basis. Those who have a specific destination in mind can pick one up and then take it while they walk the streets of their chosen destination. Cheap restaurants that have good food are frequently listed in these publications.

Many hotel chains have loyalty programs that award points for stays. These can add up to free or nearly free nights over time. Here is a story of how I paid $30 per night for a very nice hotel on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu a few years ago.

The Wright Flyer
The Wright Flyer | Source

Flying for Cheap or Even Nearly Free

Flights to just about anywhere are quite expensive. and other such general travel sites check a wide variety of airlines and then allow customers to compare prices. These sites do not compare all airlines, however. Some discount airlines only sell tickets from their own websites.

Some of these airlines that don't show up on an Expedia search are Spirit Airlines, Allegiant Air and Southwest Airlines. The first thing to figure out before looking to book flights is to check on airports near home. Some people may be willing to travel an hour to get to the airport; others may be willing to travel four hours to get a good deal. Check nearby airport websites to see which carriers operate. Some rural airports may only have one or two carriers going to one or two hubs. Competition will not drive prices down in this instance.

I live in a town in North Dakota that has a discount carrier that travels to vacation destinations. Sometimes, flights to Orlando or Las Vegas can at times run around $200. Since I know that Allegiant flies out of my home airport and Spirit does not, there would be no need to look at Spirit's website. I can then compare the cost on Allegiant with the cost on Delta or United and choose the cheapest.

Just about every major airline has a frequent flyer program. Every traveler should sign up for one or all of these. There is no cost to join, and the benefits can really pay off in the long run. As a reader, you may be thinking, "But I never fly." That does not matter, there are still ways to earn free flights through frequent flyer miles.

Most frequently flyer programs have partners that will award miles for purchases or for completing certain tasks. For example, there are sites such as e-Rewards that will allow users to earn "money" or points for completing surveys. These rewards can then be transferred to frequent flyer miles or hotel gift cards. While it takes a while to build up the requisite number of miles, they do add up over time.

The quickest way that many travel bloggers recommend is the credit card signup bonus. Just about every airline has a credit card sponsor that will offer a bonus that generally ranges from 25,000 to 50,000 frequent flyer miles for reaching a minimum spend amount. This bonus itself is sufficient to get a domestic round-trip ticket or two for the price of taxes (usually around $10 on domestic flights). Some of the airlines provide their card users a companion ticket for a highly reduced rate of around $99.

Keep in mind that a credit card will not be issued for those with bad credit. It is also good to keep in mind that paying off the balance of the card every month is imperative, otherwise the benefit is much less beneficial and users can get into financial problems. If the card is paid off every month, the bonus can turn into a quick ticket that costs only taxes.


There are no free rides in life, but there are very inexpensive vacations. Researching hotels and utilizing loyalty programs such as frequent flyer accounts can lead to vacations that cost pennies on the dollar. The best thing about these cheap vacations is that just about anyone can score one every few years with a little bit of research work. How have you been able to save money on vacations?


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