Travel can be affordable! I am just like the majority of the population who work for a living and with limited number of vacation days per year. For every trip, I put a lot of time to plan out my vacation to maximize what I get from what I paid 🙂 Many of you might not have much interest as I do on planning or might not have much time to plan so here I put a list of useful tips to make your vacation planning easier and save some hard-earned money! Note that some of those links are referral links so I’ll get a referral bonus if you book/sign up with my link, thank you in advance for supporting my blog 🙂
Updated: November 18, 2019
Cash Back Rebates
The easiest way to get some money back on most of the travel booking sites as well as regular online shopping is via cash back portal (that means first you need to start with one of those cash back rebate website and then search for the store/website then click through it to receive whatever the % cash back listed, sometimes they have special promotion to give extra percent), very easy to sign up and start collecting cash back! I would very appreciate if you click through my referral links below so I can get referral bonus 🙂
Mr Rebates: http://www.mrrebates.com?refid=898146
Rakuten: https://www.rakuten.com/r/YIYOUM?eeid=28187 you’ll get $30 sign up bonus with $30+ purchase!
TopCashBack: http://www.topcashback.com/ref/Yiyoumei you’ll get $10 as sign up bonus
Points and Miles
If you have good credit score or a frequent flyer, check the following blogs/sites out for how to travel for almost free:
Boarding Area: https://boardingarea.com/
The Frugal Travel Guy: http://www.frugaltravelguy.com/
The Points Guy: http://thepointsguy.com/
Flyer Talk: http://www.flyertalk.com/
If the above doesn’t apply to you, you can still save on your travel by the following tips:
1. Google Flights: https://www.google.com/flights/
I use Google Flights when I have a general idea where I want to go but not exactly on place and date, for example, the Caribbeans. I usually input my home airport and select a date and then click on the “map”. Then, it’ll display all the flight prices to everywhere in the world during that time period so that’ll give me an idea of the price around that area. When I know exactly where I want to go, I can search on “lowest fares” and select the duration of the trip for example 8 day trip. That’ll display all the prices of an 8 day trip from now up till 11 months for some destination so I know when is the cheapest time to travel. Note: Google travel is like a search engine, not an agency, so it’ll direct you to the airline to book. You can also track the price and Google will notify you when the price changes.
2. SecretFlying: http://www.secretflying.com/
If you are not sure where to go, try Secret Flying to see where on sale (sometimes they found error fares which can save over 80% off regular flight price) to spark some interest! I constantly checking this site everyday to see if any place super cheap to go!
3. The Flight Deal: http://www.theflightdeal.com/
This site constantly update with the latest fare sale, check often as you might miss out a deal!
4. Directly with the airline
Sometimes airlines have special sales that the rates aren’t available in other 3rd party booking agency like Expedia. Sign up for the airline’s email notification to get alert of sales! I saved at least $100 with my Grand Cayman flight from JetBlue’s two days fare sale event!
Hotels (make sure you check if there’s extra cash back from Mr. Rebates, Ebates, and TopCashBack first and then decide which one offers the highest to get to those sites to book the hotels)
1. Booking.com: http://www.booking.com/
What I like more about booking.com than other hotel booking sites is that it displays pictures of each category of rooms. It’s really important for me to know how the room looks from pictures than a text description of the room. Also, booking.com has more “local” hotels and bed and breakfasts in smaller villages and towns than other major booking sites.
2. Hotels.com: https://www.hotels.com/
With CheapTickets and Orbitz cutting back their coupon code amount, I switched most of my non-chain hotel bookings with Hotels.com. It offers to stay 10 nights get 1 free (actually the average of the 10 nights spent and you’ll get a coupon of that amount so view it as like 10% back). In addition, there are a lot of websites selling Hotels.com gift cards and when on sale for 15% off like Gyft and other gift card site. Thus, 15% off on top of 10% off! And don’t forget to check Mr. Rebates, Ebates, or TopCashBack for additional cash back!
3. CheapTickets: https://www.cheaptickets.com/
This site has the same inventory of rooms as other major booking sites but it often offers 20% off (now 16% is the norm) with discount code (does not apply to major hotel chains). It saved me a lot of money! And don’t forget to check Mr. Rebates, Ebates, or TopCashBack for additional cash back!
4. Orbitz: https://www.orbitz.com/
This site has the same inventory of rooms as other major booking sites but offer 15% (now mostly 10%) with discount code (does not apply to major hotel chains). In addition, sign up for an account so you can earn Orbucks which you can apply on your next booking! And don’t forget to check Mr. Rebates, Ebates, or TopCashBack for additional cash back!
5. AirBnB: with my referral link for $25 credit for both of us: http://www.airbnb.com/c/ymei3?s=8
When traveling in more than groups of 4, it’s often hard to find a hotel room that can accommodate more than 4 adults. That was what happened on our London trip, my cousin decided to tag along with us last minute so I turned to AirBnB for apartment. I was wary on AirBnB but lucky that the one I picked ended up as pictured! My rule of thumb when booking via AirBnB is make sure the pictures are “verified” so what you see will be what you get (although the pics could be taken years ago so might not always be 100% accurate), contact the host to see how responsive he/she is, read the reviews (you can only write reviews on places you have actually booked and stayed), understand the total price (sometimes there’s cleaning fees) and cancellation policy, and if you have issue call AirBnB right away when you first check-in. AirBnB hold your payment and release to the host 24 hours after arrival so if you have any issue call right away!
FlyerTalk forum has an excellent compiled list of discount codes of major booking sites here: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/hotel-deals/934858-general-list-codes-promos-orbitz-hotels-com-expedia-travelzoo-etc.html
6. Book directly with chain hotels
The benefit of booking directly with chain hotels is that you can earn loyalty points and enjoy your elite status free perks if you have it. Combine with that hotel chain’s credit card, you can earn extra points per dollar spent as well. For example, I spent over $1200 in the Conrad Maldives charged all the meals and activities to my room and with the old Hiltons credit card that earned 10 points per dollar (now 7 points per dollar with the no fee card) plus Diamond status, I earned almost 100K points; that’s enough for another night in the Maldives! Remember, you can still earn extra cash back via Mr. Rebates, Topcashback, Ebates, etc. I have seen as high as 10% back!
Trains in Europe
The fastest, most convenient, and affordable mode of transportation in Europe is usually trains. There are ways to save on train tickets. One of the best resource to find out how is TripAdvisor http://www.tripadvisor.com/! Go to the TripAdvisor forum and search, usually transportation is under the “top questions” on the right hand side of the forum. If not, just post a question and I am sure many experts will jump in to answer! Here are some common ways to save:
1. Rail Pass: http://www.eurail.com/
If you know how many trips you’ll be taking and want some flexibility on travel dates, sometimes a rail pass can save. You’ll need to do some calculations between a rail pass versus book directly and individually for each trip via the train company to determine which way saves more. Also, if you are under age of 25, a youth rail pass is the cheapest way to travel with flexibility!
2. Book Direct
Book direct with the train company since many 3rd party providers charged a fee and/or marked up the price. Some people choose to book with the 3rd party for convenience because many experienced difficulties with their credit card payment. I have booked many times with many companies and never have a problem! Many countries’ rail companies have English version and very easy to navigate! Plan early and book early to take advantage of advanced discounts as much as 70% off!
France rail: http://www.sncf.com/en/passengers
Germany rail: http://www.bahn.com/i/view/index.shtml
(If you are traveling with 2 or more people including yourself, DB Bahn offers a group ticket for less per person, also look for a one-day pass for unlimited travel within a region)
(I like new trains from Westbahn, free wifi which makes a 4 hour ride passed quickly)
I also wrote a quick guide on how to plan a day trip to Hallstatt: http://missvacation.blogspot.com/2014/03/quick-guide-on-how-to-plan-day-trip-to.html
Spain rail: http://www.renfe.com/EN/viajeros/
Italy rail: http://www.trenitalia.com/
UK train schedule and prices: http://tickets.southernrailway.com/sn/en/JourneyPlanning/MixingDeck
Bus and Ferry across Southeast Asia
For bus and ferry tickets across Southeast Asia all in one site, I recommend using Bookaway. It’s an easy to use booking site in English!
Look for a pass like the museum pass is available for your destination. I had the Paris Museum Pass and it gave free and direct access to many top attractions in Paris without waiting in the line ticket line. It saved us time and money!!! If you plan to visit many attractions then the pass is the way to go. However, if you plan to visit a few attractions then do the calculation to see if it makes sense 🙂
- Viator check for coupon code for additional saving
- Expedia check for coupon code on “things to do”, I saved 20% on the luau package at the Polynesian Cultural Center in Hawaii!
I found this when I was planning my trip to Paris: http://www.thefork.com/. This website offers discounts and promotions on restaurants like 50% off and special set menus. This really save us a lot of money in Paris – often viewed as expensive dinning out!
Health Benefits of Traveling!
Still looking for a justification to travel, especially for those travel addicts who feel guilty to book another trip! There are actually health benefits of traveling that I recently read called “25 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Traveling“! Check out the article and start planning your next trip 😉 As always, free feel to contact me for questions, I would love to give my personal advise and hear from you!
Need more inspiration for travel ideas?
Check out the list of best travel sites (I am one of them hehe) for more travel bloggers like me 🙂