5 Ways To Save Money On Travel & How To Potentially Travel For Free

How to Save Money on TravelJust like clockwork, as holiday season rapidly approaching, gasoline prices start to rise to take advantage of travelers looking to enjoy the company of friends and family.

The same can be said, and witnessed first hand, with the cost of plane tickets around Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years.

I’ve also noticed that since the economic downturn, we started seeing more and more airlines finding new ways to sneak in excessive hidden fees wherever they can.

In this article, we will go over some tips and techniques to save your self money as you travel this, and many more, holiday seasons.

1. The Luggage Rack(et)

Save Money Baggage FeesRemember when you could check 2 bags for free?  Now, as an economy passenger, that is often a thing of the past.

Many airlines now only allow one free checked bag, and many domestic flights you have to pay for your first bag.  Where this can get expensive though is often the second checked bag is much more expensive.

Domestic flights typically charge $50 for a second checked bag, however international flights, even a shorter distance, often charge $75 or $100 for the same second bag.  The very long, trans-oceanic flights can be in the $100 to $200 range!  A third bag is even more!

SunMountain Club Glider ProThen there are weight allowances, and customers with overweight bags are charged an additional fee!  Same goes for bulky or non-traditional luggage such as golf clubs, sporting bags, and certain strollers.

If possible on short flights (any flight really), travel with nothing buy carry on luggage.  If you cannot rely solely on carry on (for the golfers, surfers, bikers, etc.) rest assured knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel as some airlines still offer free luggage.

While many airline carriers are charging more and more for their luggage, Cathay Pacific, Singapore Airline and ANA still give their customers 2 free checked bags, and have announced they have no plans in the near future to change this policy!

Still, traveling light not only saves your wallet but it also helps streamline your travels and reduce the stress of having a massive bag to lug around the cobble stone streets of Europe and risk injury to you and people around you as you try to hold onto your massive bag during rush hour traffic in Siem Reap on a Tuk Tuk.

The best way to avoid excessive luggage fees is to know the size restrictions and make sure you don’t go over the weight limits!

VOSA Tip: I biggest recommendation to travelers, when it comes to packing, is to pack your bag… then take half (or more) of the stuff you packed out and leave it at home!

2. Hidden Fees on Things You Use

Hidden Fees TravelingAfter a while, it starts to feel like the airlines are nickle-and-dimming you and fellow travelers.

For example, Ryan Air is now charging $50 to print out their boarding passes, and other airlines are soon to follow!  $50!!!  That’s crazy!

There are some airlines that are now tacking on an extra fee when you are paying with your creidt card.  I understand that they pay processing fees to the credit card companies but I think this is rather unfair extra fee especially since when you’re booking online or over the phone you don’t have the option to pay with cash.

When was the last time you saw free food on a flight?  We all know that’s a thing of the past.  You might get cookies and snacks, at best!

Another disturbing trend we are seeing is certain airline companies are starting to charge for bags by weight (but massive Caddilac-sized children’s strollers are free to bring).

It also pay a smart shopper and to know the ins and outs of the systems and protocols.  Sometimes it is less expensive to pay for a third bag, than having your second bag be overweight and paying the penalty there.

The easiest way to find out how much your bags weight before you leave home is to weigh yourself on a scale, then weigh yourself holding your luggage and make the simple math subtraction to see how much your bag weights.

If you’d prefer to to know how much you weight (a common feeling around Thanksgiving and holiday season) you can always opt for handheld luggage scale that you can use at home and abroad to see how much your bags weight.

Footlocker BagAnother, handy trick is to pack an empty bag folded up in your luggage.  Footlocker bags with zippers work great!  If your one bag is overweight, you can always take out the empty bag, transfer some of your items into it, and take it as carry-on or check the second bag.

Having this extra bag also helps for when you are on vacation and wind up with more clothes or souvenirs purchased to pack, and you don’t have to buy an overpriced suitcase while on vacation to take back your two bags of stuff when you left home needing only one!

VOSA Tip:  When you are still booking your flight and comparing your travel options, consider many of these “hidden costs” or services you routinely use (such as checked bags, in-flight food).  Make sure to add in all these up-charges when choosing your travel plans based on total cost.

3. Avoid Ticket Change Fees

Airline Change FeesIf travel plans change, know that a $50, $100 or $200 fee to change a ticket can certainly add up.

US Airways charges $200 to make a change on a domestic flight and $250-$450 to make a change on a transatlantic/transpacific flight.  Click here to see, US Airways outrageous fees to make changes to your ticket for yourself.

You can sometimes have these fees waived if you are very polite, respectful and ask nicely.

Although some airlines, like US Airways, do have policies in place that do not allow their customer service reps to waive the fee you can write a letter to request to have the fee waived.  I have a letter in the mail to them right now and will let you know if I am able to get my $200 back for changing a flight.

Even after knowing that airlines have policies in place that don’t allow customer service reps to waive the fees, do not be afraid to ask to speak to the manager about having these fees waived.

If you don’t like the answer you get, just hang up and call again as the likelihood that you will talk to the same people is very small.  I’ve used this trim many times to get to my desired outcome.

They are even more likely to waive these fees if you are a valued customer and can be verified by using your frequent flyer membership number.

VOSA Tip: Show up to the airport 30-60 minutes before the airline recommends that you do.  Meaning that if the airline wants you to be there 90 minutes before, show up 150 minutes early, so you don’t end up missing your flight due to unforseen problems getting to the airport resulting in you needing to pay expensive travel change fees.  I always think it’s better to spend an extra 30-60 minutes sitting at the gate people watching then have to deal with the headache of missing a flight.

4. Become A Travel Hacker & Travel For Free

Join the Travel Hacking CartelMy favorite method for saving money on international travel is to become a travel hacker.  Until recently, I didn’t know that what I was going was commonly referred to as “travel hacking”.

You see, over the years, I have accumulated large amounts of frequent flyer miles by simply signing up for travel reward credit cards that were offering huge sign up bonuses.

I won’t sign up for a new card unless the bonus they are offering is 30,000 frequent flyer points, or enough for at least one free flight.  I have seen bonuses as high as 50,000 points and when I do I usually sign up for those credit cards immediately.

Now, most of these cards will come with some predetermined sending minimum over the first 3 or 6 months in order to receive your bonus miles.

Oftentimes this amounts to $3,000 or $5,000 which can typically be met, or close to being met, with normal everyday spending but if you’re looking for some tips on how to check out some tips on how to meet minimum spending amounts.

I recently saved over $2,200 for a four-city airline ticket because I was able to book the flights with American Airlines frequent flyers miles.

This huge cost savings got me re-energized about travel hacking and I decided to join the Travel Hacking Cartel which is a service started by Chris Guillebeau, who has personally used these techniques to travel to all 193 countries in the World!

Join the Travel Hacking Cartel

VOSA Tip: Travel hacking can be a great way to help reduce, or eliminate, the cost of traveling. When you are using your travel rewards points be sure to know how early you need to book your flight before your departure date to avoid additional fees from the airlines. For example, American Airlines charges you $75 per ticket if you book within 21 days of your departure.

5. Minimize or Avoid Roaming Charges While Traveling

Travel SIM CardRacking up roaming charges on your cell phone can really add up quickly and provide you with a huge, and unpleasant, surprise when you get back home from your trip.

These days, with low cost pay-as-you go options almost everywhere in the world you don’t need worry about using your personal cell phone while abroad.  All you will need is an unlocked cell phone and a local SIM card which can both be purchased on eBay.

Now, there is something to be said about cutting the cord while traveling so you don’t have the constant distractions from social media, email, phone calls and candy crush.  It allows you to finally look up and enjoy the views rather than walk around with your head looking down, staring at the same screen you can look at everyday while you’re back home.

That all being said, I know that there are times when you need to be reached either by friends, family or work.  In those events you will want to consider traveling with an unlocked smart phone.  I recommend an older iPhone model, like the iPhone 4, since you don’t need to spend the extra money to get all the latest bells and whistles.   Having an unlocked iPhone will allow you to drop a local SIM card in while abroad and have some reasonably priced talk time.

Don’t bother with pay as you go data as there, typically, are plenty of WiFi hotspots everywhere you go these days where you can enjoy a coffee or tea while checking in on your digital life.

VOSA Tip: If you can go without constant cell phone coverage you can forgo the local SIM card altogether and just use FaceTime and Skype to make your calls back home. Speaking of Skype, you can even get a local Skype Out number that you set to forward to your local phone number in the country you are traveling in. This allows your friends and family back home to call a local number rather that doesn’t cost them an arm and a leg to get in touch with you while you’re travling abroad.

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Comments

  1. says

    $50 to print out a boarding pass is disgusting. That should be illegal, they should have to incorporate that price into the ticket. As for baggage, if I have to check something I’ll back the heavy things in my carry on to make sure there’s not a weight issue. I traveled for 7 months with one checked 44lb bag (the weight restrictions are stricter in China), so I feel I’m a pretty masterful “packer” at this point.

    • says

      I agree that $50 print a boarding pass should be illegal! Great job for traveling for 7 months and becoming a masterful packer! Where all did you go on your trip?

      Thanks for reading and leaving a comment :)!

  2. Mike says

    I went to Costa Rica and used my cell phone a handful of times and came home with a $900 bill. I tried to have the carrier reduce it but they didn’t take pity on me. From now on, I will be following your advice either just use skype or get a local pay as you go sim card to use. Thanks for the tip.

    • says

      Yikes! $900 for roaming charges couldn’t have felt good when you got home! Thanks for reading and for leaving a comment and by all means please please please buy yourself a local SIM card for your next trip!

      Skype is always a great option too when you’re looking to save money keeping in touch with your friends and family back home.

  3. says

    I just got into travel hacking about a year ago. I got 2 free nights at a luxurious hotel, 2 roundtrip domestic airline tickets. I still have some points left. I don’t know why I didn’t start earlier. But I haven’t signed up for any bonuses lately because with a little baby, there isn’t going to be too much traveling in the near future and we are looking into buying a place so I don’t want any dings on my credit.

    • says

      Congrats on the little baby! You do need to keep an eye on your credit score and applying for new cards can affect your credit score. When, like you said, you’re looking to buy a place it’s best to put your travel hacking on hold for a while.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment :).

  4. says

    Great breakdown Brent. Very thorough. I need to get better at being a travel hacker. I do use the United airlines credit card to help with airfare as my sister lives in Australia. Although it is frustrating as they keep raising the number of miles needed to get a free ticket. These days I pretty much have to put all spending on the card to get a free ticket.

    • says

      Thanks Kyle! Try not to get discouraged as the airlines devalue their points. A free flight is still a free flight even though it takes more points to get these these days.

      Australia is up there on my list of places I want to go. I’m really trying to get there one of these January’s so I can catch the Australian Open tennis tournament!

      I try to put all of my spending on one card as that helps to automate my finances.

  5. says

    All of these little costs definitely add up. I can’t stand the cost to bring a bag. My favorite airline (and in fact the only airline I like) doesn’t charge for this. The cost of the flight when you book it can easily creep up by a big percentage by all these little fees.

    • says

      What irks me the most about the baggage fees is that some of the airlines charge you $25 to check your bag then they make an announcement at the gate where you can gate check your bag for free. Makes me want to write a letter! haha

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