If you’re dreaming of traveling overseas but don’t think you can afford it, you’ve landed in the right place (see what I did there?)! Some people think it’s less expensive to vacation right here in the states but that isn’t always true. Depending on your destination (Disney World, New York City, Los Angeles, etc) you could be spending more at home than abroad. So, here are my top 5 tips & tricks on how to afford long-haul travel on a short-haul budget. It may seem impossible but, I promise, it can be done.
How to Afford Long-Haul Travel on a Short-Haul Budget
Travel in the Off-Season
Save money and avoid crowds by traveling in the off-season. A good rule of thumb is not taking your vacation days during the busy summer season. Traveling from mid-September through the end of October can save you lots of money. Bonus, many destinations will still be warm enough to hit the beach – if that’s your preference. Another good time to go is mid-January through mid-march. This is just after the New Year and before Spring Break. Of course, if you have children this schedule could be a bit tricky.
Search the Web for Flights
Okay, this sounds obvious but most people log onto their favorite airline’s website and book tickets without any thought. However, at this very moment, there are loads of flight deals to be found on the interwebs. All you have to do is find the right site for everything you need. My favorite place to look is Skyscanner. The best feature on this site is the non-specific destination option. You can enter your “from” location and in the “to” section choose “Can’t decided Where? Click to Search Everywhere“. This search brings up several destinations, from least expensive to most. Click on the banner below to start searching for flights!
A couple of airlines you should keep an eye on are Norwegian Air and Wow Air. I’ve seen some of the best deals from the U.S. to Europe from these two airlines. Yes, they are discount carriers so they don’t have the best amenities but it’s really not that bad. Things you can do to make your flight more enjoyable… download your own books and movies, bring a small pillow and blanket, pack food, and grab a bottle of water from the airport. Being prepared makes those $400 round-trip fares worth it. Think of the airplane as a mode of transportation – not your transportation, restaurant, and hotel. This way you won’t be disappointed!
Pack like a pro
If you’re #TeamCarryOn then you have very little to worry about. If you’re #teamcheckedLuggage you’re in for a rude awakening. Unfortunately, both teams will have to adjust their carry-on luggage for most European carriers. This is where being #TeamCarryOn will come in handy. When your luggage fits the requirements, you can save anywhere from $30 – $50 on “hold luggage” or checked luggage. Checked luggage can add up quickly because it’s per person and you’ve got to do it there and back. So, if you can handle packing light then you’re well on your way to saving money!
Make connections & enjoy the free stopover
Most airlines charge a premium for non-stop flights so you can save at least a few hundred dollars by making 1 or more stops. It may seem annoying to transfer your bags and wait in different spots around the world but there are tons of things to do in airports now. Some airports have hotels by the hour (get your mind out of the gutter!), some have movie theaters, 5-star restaurants, spas, and much more. You can also spend some time in airport lounges if you have a premium ticket, status, or an airline credit card. Other lounges are available for a fee.
Nowadays, so many airlines offer free stopovers where you can stay overnight in their hub city before continuing on to your destination. We did this in Beijing and Istanbul and it worked out great. In Istanbul, Turkish Airlines allows you to choose between a free tour and free accommodations when you have a stopover. (Some restrictions apply, of course). Be sure to check with your airline to see if they offer free stopover tours, accommodations, or food vouchers. Even if they don’t, it’s fun to walk around or just grab dinner in a place you’ve never been.
Don’t overlook 3-star hotels
I’m a huge advocate for vacation rentals but if you’re not ready to try it out then pick a solid 3-star hotel. 4-star and 5-star hotels are great but 3-star rooms can be just as nice (and clean). The main difference is the hotel lacks amenities. Use this to your advantage because when you’re traveling you’re not there to relax in the hotel. You’ll spend hours sightseeing during the day, possibly nap in the late afternoon then hit the town for dinner and more. Note: Read hotel reviews, the bad ones, and if there’s no mention of safety issues, bed bugs, or filth then go for it!
Will your friends be impressed that you spent all your money on 2 nights at the Ritz Carlton? Maybe. Will they be impressed that you saved money on your hotel and stayed 5 nights instead of 2? Definitely!
How to Afford Long-Haul Travel on a Short-Haul Budget
It’s not an exact science but if you’re willing to do the research, look for deals, and exercise flexibility, you could be on your way in no time. So, go plan your next vacation!
Do you have tips on how to afford long-haul travel on a short-haul budget? Tell me about it in the comments! [Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click on one of the product links, I’ll receive a commission at NO ADDITIONAL cost to you.]