We're quickly approaching a new year, and if your goal is to try to travel as much as possible, it's not too early to start making plans. Seeing more of the world is something many people wish they had more time and money to do, and it's easy to think it's impossible for you. While traveling can definitely be tough (and sometimes, yes, not possible), there are ways to make it more inexpensive and less of a hassle. If you want to take more vacations in the new year, there are some travel hacks for 2019 you need to take into consideration.
Part of traveling smartly is learning how to do things like maximize your vacation time, find the best deals for airfare and/or hotels, and knowing when to go to specific locations. The first thing you need to do, though, is be willing to take your vacation days. Most Americans do not take advantage of their paid time off, and as a result, waste both their benefits and the possibility of having an incredible experience. Instead of being part of that statistic, use some tips and tricks to make traveling seem more attainable and less out of your reach.
You also need to be willing to get creative, be open-minded and flexible, and put some time and effort into planning your trips. It might sound annoying, but it will pay off in the end, when you get to go more places and spend less money. Of course, you shouldn't feel pressured to travel more in the new year — it's something you should only do if you really want to. And if you do, keep the below hacks in mind:
Take advantage of free stopover programs.
Stopover programs are awesome, and not everyone knows about them. A free stopover basically gives you the chance to get trips out of one vacation without paying for extra flights. Although not every airline offers them, a lot do. One is Icelandair, which allows you to extend your layover in Iceland for up to seven days at no additional cost. You can stop and hang in Iceland for a few days, then move on to your next destination from there. Finnair also overs a stopover program that allows you to spend up to five nights in Finland, and Singapore Airlines offers stopovers in Singapore that include a hotel stay and airport transfer for about $60. This is a great way to see two places in one trip without spending a lot more.
Fly during the week instead of the weekend.
If possible, consider flying out and in during the weekend instead of on the weekend. While it's tough to figure out the cheapest day of the week for every airline and destination, Airfare Watchdog says that, in general, the cheapest days of the week to fly are Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So, instead of going on vacation from Saturday to Friday, try leaving on a Wednesday and coming home on a Tuesday. Same amount of days you're taking off, and you'll save money on flights.
Apply for credit cards that come with travel perks.
Applying for yet another credit card might not seem like the best way to save money, but it is when it comes to travel perks. Certain credit cards help you rack up frequent flyer miles without even getting on an airplane, so that you can save money on your airfare, your hotel, your rental car, and more. Chase Sapphire Preferred is one of the best travel cards out there, as it offers 2x points on travel and dining, and 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases, as well as travel insurance and deals. Capital One Venture is another good one, offering 10x miles on thousands of hotels and 2x miles on every purchase you make.
Sign up for flight alerts to find the best deals.
When searching for a flight do not search and book the cheapest flight you see on the very first day you look. Instead, give yourself some time and be patient. Sign up for flight alerts to stay on top of fluctuating prices, or go to sites like Airfarewatchdog.com that also notify you when prices drop. You can also sign up for airline newsletters, as some airlines, like Delta or JetBlue, will email you when they're having flash sales (which you should take advantage of!). CheapAir studies have found that the best time to book a flight is between three weeks and three a half months in advance of travel, so plan ahead.
Look into city passes.
If you're traveling to a major city, you should definitely research city passes if you plan on going to popular tourist spots. These can save you time and sometimes help you pass the line. Going to Portugal? Get a Lisboa Card to get unlimited travel by public transportation, free entry into museums, and more deals. Paris has the Paris Museum Pass, which gets you free entry into more than 60 popular museums and monuments. Florence has the Firenze Card for access to all major museums as well.
Travel during the off-season to save money and skip the crowds.
Yes, there are some jobs where it's nearly impossible to go somewhere big on the off-season (like teaching). But if you are able to travel whenever, consider going somewhere during their more low-key months. For example, Italy gets super popular from June through August, but is much more quiet in the winter, from January through March. It's also so much cheaper, for everything from the flights to the food to the hotels. Yes, the weather isn't as great, but if you want to save money and skip the crowds, it's worth it.
Look into Airbnbs instead of hotels.
Hotels can be great when traveling: someone cleans up after you each night, you might feel more secure, they have cool amenities, etc. But they can also be really, really pricey. If your goal is to travel more by saving money, you should look into Airbnb rentals instead, which are often cheaper, especially if you're going somewhere in Europe. You can usually find a small apartment or home to rent for a few days for a much better price than a hotel.
Research where you're traveling to avoid unnecessary expenses.
It sounds obvious, but many people don't do this. If you're traveling to a foreign country, research their customs and do a Google search on how to save money there so you can avoid unnecessary expenses. For example, in many parts of Europe, like Italy or Spain, you'll get charged for water and bread at a restaurant. The waiter will offer both to you as if it's free of charge, but it isn't. These little things add up!
Book a red eye flight or just be flexible about times.
Part of traveling smartly is really maximizing the time you have, especially if you're going on a quick trip and don't want to waste a minute. Look into overnight red eye flights - you need to sleep during that time anyway, so you aren't missing anything. For example, if you're flying from Los Angeles to New York, book a flight at 9 or 10 PM out of LA into NY. You'll arrive super early in the morning, yes, but you just gave yourself a whole extra day to explore.
Plan your trips in advance to make sure you get off.
According to Conde Nast Traveler, planning your vacation in advance is the best thing you can do to make sure you actually take vacations. Spontaneity may be fun, but it often won't work in your favor: you'll either forget to plan something until it's too late (and more expensive), or you won't be able to get the days off that you wanted. Sit down, make a list of where you want to go during the year, look at your calendar, and figure out exact dates. Then take off right away to make sure it happens.
Combine vacation days with public holidays.
It sounds obvious, but it's worth saying: add your vacation days to a public holiday. For example, if you have off Monday for Columbus Day weekend, you can also take off Friday and Tuesday, and make it a five day trip. Travel and Leisure has a whole guide on how you can make 10 vacation days into 28, or 15 days into 45. Your trip might be more crowded, but could definitely be worth it.
Compare and research a lot before booking anything.
Never go online and book the first thing you see. Ever! The internet is great because it offers us so many options, and you need to explore all of them to get the best deal. Don't just look for hotels on Expedia - also check out sites like Booking.com, HotelsTonight, and Kayak. Once you find a hotel you like, research it and read reviews, which often include tips on how to save money or get the most bang for your buck. Put time into it to get the most out of what you're booking.
Add on to business trips, if you take them.
If you already travel for work, take advantage of that by adding your days onto a trip and staying a little longer. Going somewhere fun and interesting? Add on a day or two to explore on your own. It's maximizing your paid time off and getting you a better business trip at the same time.
Don't be afraid of public transportation.
Public transportation in another country (or even just another state) can seem scary. You don't want to get lost, especially if you don't know the language. A lot of people instead opt for Ubers or taxis or even private cars, and this can be so much more expensive. Do some research before you go to make sure it's safe, but most countries in Europe offer amazing subways, trains, and bus systems that are so easy to use and so much cheaper. For example, if you're going into London, look into the Oyster card, which saves you on underground and bus fare. Just don't rule it out!