Here’s an interesting post that diverges from my usual travel and life journaling/ recipe-writing style, but it made so much sense to me that I’m surprised it’s taken this long.
As most of you probably know, I have no facebook. Which is painfully annoying when it comes to planning group events, communicating with clubs and organizations at school and letting potential roommates or internet folk get to know me a bit more. Although I’m cool with it, the rest of the world tends to roll their eyes at me, whatever. Anyways, an upside to no fb means that I have to be a bit more creative with my procrastination. Instead of just looking through my old best friend’s cousin’s oldest brother’s wedding pictures (yes that was random, if you fall into my bff bracket don’t go warn your bro about his wedding pics) I’ve found some nifty new ways to delay studying and productive-life-doing. Like stumbleupon. Like wordpress. Like pinterest. Like studentuniverse.
And at some point all of those sites end up refering me to “life hacks,” some sort of cool blogger that wants to share tips on living. Twenty things they wish they knew when they were twenty. Seven-jillion ways to make cleaning your house more efficient. And tons of advice on how to save money. I tend to (arrogantly so, I admit and I apologize) brag about my abilities to score cheap flights. Cheap concert tickets are another one of my skills but I’ll save that for a later date. It blows my mind that people manage to pay full price for flights simply because they aren’t as used to flying, or maybe they just aren’t weird enough to spend their free time picking random locations around the world and comparing airline rates (sorry i’m not sorry) (it’s okay to judge me).
SO. Today. I decided it’d just be common courtesy to share some of my fave tricks with the world and to stop acting like they’re top secret finds. Because they aren’t. They aren’t anything new or creative, you can probably find them hiding elsewhere on this worldly wide web, but they’ve worked for me. Maybe they can work for you too. Oh, and I’m not going to number them. That seems annoying. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
This tip is THE WORST when you’re traveling for conferences and you’re like OMG I CAN’T BE FLEXIBLE WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY A FORTUNE. I’ve recently spent time in that bunch and I know, it sucks. However, if you can manage, flexibility makes all the difference. Mid-week flights are gems. Weird hour flights are gold. Are you willing to sacrifice some sleep and comfort to save a few hundred bucks? BAM. Wednesday at 4am you’re on your way and a week later you’ve already forgotten how crappy that night in the airport was and that 12 year old kid that sat next to you and lectured you on the new and improved food pyramid that you don’t acknowledge because you still think corn is a vegetable and not a grain (it totally is) has already left your thoughts. And you’ve got an extra $300 to get scuba certified by some mostly-legit folks in Belize.
It’s a few hours out of your day. But are you within a bus ride to DC or NYC? How much could you save if you didn’t settle for flying out of that airport that’s super convenient but lets be real, only has like three gates? Especially for international travel, check out those big cities and what it would take to get there. (Again, consider what you need to be comfortable and what you’re willing to cut out. Remember, I’m just another shoestring traveler so my advice won’t always fit your situation.) Staying domestic? See which airlines go where. There are some weird airlines (airtran for instance) that go to specific cities, but at super cheap rates. Does Delta have an unusual direct flight from Charlotte to LA that can cut out a couple hundred bucks in connecting fees? (it does) Does that one airport that’s a few hours away happen to have super cheap overnight parking that could make it worth the drive? (it might) PLAY AROUND. Try search engines like kayak and student universe, but once they give you an airline try going to the actual website of the airline to see their price. Sometimes it’s cheaper. Sometimes they also show other airports they fly to that could also be nearby you. Kill a connecting flight and you cut down the price.
A post all in itself and advice that is hard to gain without learning it on your own. But it’s huge. Baggage fees are the worst. They are getting higher and higher. If you’ll be gone less than a month, it shouldn’t be a challenge. If you’re leaving for more, it may be a challenge but probably still worth it. If you’re traveling with your ten rifles, grenade collection or your irreplaceable razor and toenail clippers- disregard this. You’ll be checking your shit and paying your fair share of “carrying threatening equipment long distances” paperwork and I have no experience to give advice on that front. Except for the time my 80-year-old grandma was nearly strip searched because her nail scissors obviously meant she was a national security threat. But whatever, good luck. AS FOR THE REST OF YOU. Seriously assess what you need to bring and what your bags can carry. I’ve got a couple killer bags that just barely pass the “carry on” size limit and they’re an embarrassing pain when I can’t fit them in the overhead compartment and need to stow under the plane at the last minute and hold the plane up, but you know what? I saved $50 by not checking it. That’s $50 for five nights at a sweet hostel in Paris. Not to mention I don’t have to deal with the Lost Luggage Headache. Also, when they say “one carry-on” and “one personal item” you know what they really mean? TWO CARRY ONS. They have no definition of what qualifies as “personal.” If you just tell them you have to carry TONS OF TAMPONS and a regular purse is too small they will look at you weird but they won’t tell you it’s not personal stuff and they will just do the last minute under-the-plane check. Take advantage of it. Stuff the real purse inside a tote bag and use the extra space to save yourself a checked bag. Assess your stuff. Toothpaste, deodorant, some lightweight clothes, the pile of Important Stuff That You Cannot Loose, you’re set. Buy the shampoo when you get there, ditch the special pajamas, and save yo self some cash.
Pinterest. Stumbleupon. Twitter. Probz facebook too. You know all those discounts you hear people stumbling into? Guess where they’re advertised. You know that weird FLYGHTS-R-US search engine that your friend told you about when she found her $475 ticket to Peru (yes the ticket price happened, yes I also just made that site up) and you are like I’VE NEVER HEARD OF THAT BOLOGNA THERE’S NO WAY THATS REAL HOW DID YOU FIND IT- well guess what. If it’s a real site with cool stuff, chances are someone pinned it before. Type any variety of “travel tips” words into the search bar and you’ll find a plethora of weird and cool advice. (Quick note- to any that don’t know, pinterest is essentially a site that serves as a bookmark storage space, you can tag cool websites for later use and you can also scroll through things other people have tagged.) The internet is real cool guys.
Round the world tickets– I am yet to use these, but it baffles me how many people don’t know about them. In essence, you get one ticket that’s good for something like a year and you build multiple stops into it. If you’re gung-ho about seeing the world and need some hefty flights, it’s a killer bargain.
Couchsurfing.org– Again, no idea how so many people don’t know of this site. It isn’t exactly a “flight” hack- but consider it a life hack. If you’re a friendly person that likes to help out your fellow backpacker, give ’em a place to crash when they pass through. Via the pay it forward method, someone else where you’re looking to go may open up a couch for you. It’s based on a review system so you can ease the “what if it’s secretly a serial killer and I meet my end” worry by chatting with others that have stayed with the same people. At best, you score some lifelong friends that take you out for the locals version of a good time in their town and let you use their a hot shower. At worst (assuming the your serial murder thoughts don’t pull through) you get an uncomfortable couch to pass the night for cheap. Save hotels for when your family visits you. Check this out for the nights your simply trying to get from point A to point B.
Frequent flyer miles– Haven’t really used them myself, but people swear by them. Prolly worth a shot especially if you travel for work and you have some say in which airlines you fly through.
Take a bus– I’d say most places in the world are accessible by bus. Airports in particular. Stock up your music device, bring some books and know that you’re a badass adventurer that gets to see more from the window than anyone skipping across the country in a plane. Disclaimer: I KNOW I KNOW. Sometimes busses suck. But this is a post on cheap travel- not comfortable travel. And we all take ridiculous bus rides at some point or another. And where else will you get crazy stories about that one girl that mysteriously went missing at the gas stop in Nothing But A Cornfield, Nebraska (true story) or meet that crazy hippie that you ended up being bffs with and traveling through Morocco? Just sayin.… and along the same lines.. take a train. or a boat. or your skateboard. There are some really cool ways to get to new places so don’t let yourself believe you’ve gotta fly there to get there.
ANYWAYS. I hoped some of this helped. This is the stuff I consider as I’m coming up with these wild plans of mine that I’m notorious for pulling out of nowhere. No words I’ll call wisdom, just some explanation of how I do what I’ve done and am hoping to continue doing. In case it wasn’t implied, I’m 100% open to any and all cool tips if you’re reading this thinking DAYUM THIS GURL HAS GOT TO KNOW ABOUT THIS REALLY COOL WEBSITE THATS TOP SECRET BUT HAS BARGAIN PRICES, because I’m obviously super interested and I promise to keep it top secret.