Transportation may be the most challenging aspect of budget travel. Luckily, searching for cheap airfares is easier than it used to be, thanks to the Internet. Web sites such as Travelzoo.com and budgettravel.com are a wealth of information.
For you spontaneous, just-need-to-get-away types, you can find rock-bottom priced airfare on the major airlines, who release last-minute sale fares on Mondays, Tuesdays, or Wednesdays for travel in the days and weeks ahead. Last-minute airfares usually depart on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays, and return on Sundays through Wednesdays. Keep an eye on the last-minute airfares that are released every week for your city, and you’ll begin to notice patterns. Competing airlines will generally offer last-minute fares on similar routes.
Another way to save on airfare: fly midweek. Outbound flights leaving Fridays through Saturdays are always more expensive since that’s when most people travel. Bundling air and hotel is another way to save money. An increasing number of websites are now devoted to offering last-minute vacation packages at low prices. Packages vary widely: weekend or week-long; air-and-hotel, air-and-car, or hotel-and-extras; domestic or international.
By allowing their airline partners to maintain anonymity during the purchase process, sites like Hotwire and Priceline can sometimes offer prices that are well below the published prices. This is because airlines need to fill unsold seats but don’t want to promote prices that will undercut their own pricing structure. You must be flexible about departure and arrival times, since you won’t find out those exact details until after you purchase your ticket.
And what about accommodations? There are plenty of off-beat options to cut your costs:
1. If you’re a military serviceman or veteran, you can stay at military bases around the world for very little money. Go to Military.com to learn more
2. Private homes. Go to flat-share.com to find an apartment in England, France or Greece.
3. University and college dorm rooms. It’s not glamorous or spacious, but it’s a money-saver. Check with universities in the city you plan to visit to find out more.
4. Farms. Agra-tourism is a growing business, and you can find farms to stay at in Europe (ben’sbauerhof.com) and New Zealand (glenmacfarmstay.com).
5. Campgrounds. This may be your best bet if you have a love of the great outdoors and don’t mind sleeping in a tent.
6. Bed and breakfasts. These can be especially cost-effective if you choose one in a smaller town near your destination city.