I am a wanderlust at heart. I love travel and adventure. I love seeing new places and cultures. I love trying new things and discovering new details of the world that I may otherwise never know. But as we all know, travel costs money and takes time that isn't always at our fingertips. While we can save up vacation time from our jobs and portion part of our paycheck to save for our next adventure, we want to make the most of every second and every penny.
Whether traveling domestically or internationally, road tripping or flying, there are some key tips that will surely save you time, money, and — let's be honest — a whole lot of unnecessary hassle.
Set up price alerts
If you are still a few months out from your trip, it may be tempting to jump on buying that plane ticket, but it may be worth a pretty penny to hold off a bit. Many experts suggest setting up price alerts to let you know when it is the best time to buy that flight.
One way to do so is with an app called Hopper. After searching for your trip, Hopper will inform you whether to wait or buy your flight that day. Sound too good to be true? According to their website, "since Hopper launched, our data-science team has collected a huge historical archive of trillions of flight prices. We analyze that data to share with our users through insightful predictions that consistently perform with 95% accuracy."
Clear your cookies
No, I sadly don't mean fresh-baked oatmeal raisin cookies. If you're like me, then you're also a bit of a travel site lurker, hopping back and forth from site to site, then back to the original, performing search after search and hoping for the best price, but did you know that you may actually be during yourself a disservice? It's true, at least if you're not being mindful to clear the cookies on your web browser regularly.
"Clean up your cookies before doing flight searches. Or search in incognito mode because some travel sites track your search history and raise the price simply because you've visited their site before," suggests Business Insider.
Sign up for a travel rewards credit card
In this day in age, we all have a credit card (or a few of them), and while I understand the need and desire to be cautious while using them and ensuring we aren't spending more than we make, there are ways to have this everyday item work in your benefit.
According to Cheapoair, you should "exchange your regular credit cards for travel rewards credit cards. These cards can yield free flights, complimentary hotel stays, and tours as you travel. You can even really get into travel hacking and never pay for flights again by taking advantage of sign up bonuses on some of these credit cards." If that's not reason enough to make a switch, I don't know what is.
If you are someone who travels often, whether for business or pleasure, then I would highly suggest applying for the TSA PreCheck program, which could save you loads of time waiting in the security line at the airport. If you've flown recently, then you know those lines can move really slow and get really long very quickly, but through the TSA PreCheck you don't have to remove your light jackets, belts, and shoes, and you can leave laptops and your bag of liquids in your carry-on.
Gate check your bag
As much as I enjoy not dragging my bag around the airport with me or worrying how I'm going to juggle putting my roller bag in the overhead compartment while I have my laptop bag over my shoulder and a coffee in one hand, I am also a penny pincher who would rather not pay the fee for my bag to be checked. So what do I do instead?
If you've ever been on a full flight (who hasn't?), then you've likely heard the gate attendants ask for volunteers to check their bags as they are expecting a very full flight and not enough room for everyone's roller bags to fit in the overhead compartment. I jump at this opportunity. Sure, I've already had to drag the bag around with me a bit, but I'm happy to be free of the burden for that final pre-flight bathroom break and to not worry about it during any layover.
According to travel expert Jason Steele, "Not only will most airlines gate-check bags for free, but they often encourage the practice to save space in the overhead compartments. So if you have a bag that's just a little too big to be carried on, you can try to gate check it for free. Just be careful with low-cost carriers like Frontier, Spirit, and Allegiant, as they will charge for gate checked bags, and the price can be even higher than it would have been if you checked your bag at the ticketing counter."