It’s possible to travel on a budget, book cheap flights, and book flight deals. I’ve done it for the last 15 months and realized the reason most people don’t travel is because they make excuses. Poverty is a state of mind. I was able to travel in early 2015 on a measly 40K salary and continue to travel monthly even now after being laid off. I used to long for the opportunity to be on the Travel Noire Instagram page (still waiting by the way,) and now I’m on a plane every month. If my friends and I have somehow figured out how to travel domestically and abroad in the midst of careers, relationships, and Sallie Mae, I’m sure you can commit to taking at least one trip per year.
Notice: Before you continue reading, I am not responsible for any impulse purchases or debt that result from the excitement of this post.
Rule 1: Chase the deal, not the destination.
Flight deals are few and far between, and you have to jump on them when you can. You can find flight deals on a few different websites, but the best one is TheFlightDeal.com. Join their email list, and set up tweet notifications. Any time a deal is live, you will get it sent right to your phone. Once you find a flight deal, you have to be flexible with a few things. You will be on the flight deal’s time. You may be traveling during an off-season, with a weird layover, from a city that isn’t your own, or during an epidemic. (You know how cheap the flights to West Africa were during Ebola season? Tuh.) If you’re bougie, picky, or a Type A traveler, then you will be spending a lot more money to see the world. I’ll take my chances on life-threatening illnesses and 2AM flights.
@@The secret to traveling abroad? Chase the deal not the destination.@@
Nobody wants to go to Chicago in January. I know this, because flights were $120 round-trip when I went. I also went to Greece and Turkey in March 2015 for $500 round-trip. The flight was out of Boston in the winter, but it was a steal regardless. I actually wrote this blog post during a self-organized creativity retreat in Dominican Republic. I booked the flight to Santiago in the middle of the alleged Zika virus scare. Being who I am, Zika was just not enough of an issue for me to pass up a $215 round-trip flight to the motherland. Flights can be as much as $600 to DR from NYC. I tell you all this to show you that flight deals will never perfectly add up, but with a little flexibility and optimism you can go a long way. I had to be flexible with the dates, season, and my departure city, but again, you chase the deal, not the destination.
Rule 2: Book now, ask questions later.
Another thing about flight deals: you can’t wait to have all the details figured out. Trust me, a lot of people played themselves with $250 flight deal to Dubai trying to check in on dates with their boss, spouse and side chicks. When the flight glitches pop off, you book. If you’re like me, you have your card number memorized so you don’t waste any time. I’ve booked flights crossing the street in New York City. You will consult with your life and bank account regarding accommodations and vacation days at a later date. As Marie Forleo says, everything is figureoutable.
Rule 3: Exhaust all your options.
People are lazy, but research is key to book the best deal. If I want to go to a specific destination, there are 3 things that you must do before booking a flight.
First, research the best time to go.
I use a flight matrix software like Google Flights to identify the cheapest time to travel. You can use the price graph to identify when prices will be the lowest to that specific destination. You will get a few flight recommendations. Don’t book, yet. You might be able to find a cheaper option.
Second, check Orbitz and Southwest.
I use Orbitz to search flights within the dates that I identified using the flight ITA software. Sometimes you can find a deal by flying on two different airlines each way, and Orbitz does a good job at searching for those. You can also cancel within 24 hours, in case you were living that YOLO lifestyle and your boss shut you all the way down. It happens. Southwest flights aren’t listed on any travel sites (not that I’ve seen at least), so you will want to check there as well. I adore Southwest because you can also change or cancel your flight at anytime. If your plans change, you can adjust without penalties or issues. (If you’re booking a trip with bae, Southwest is always a good idea. Trust me, don’t get caught up out here.)
Third, shoot your shot with Name Your Price.
If you’re still not feeling the price, your day is flexible, and don’t mind a layover or two, I recommend you hit Priceline’s Name Your Price tool and bid on a flight. You can enter the amount you want to pay for your flight, and Priceline will send the offer to different airlines. The catch is you cannot select the time of your flight and lose your ability to claim airline miles. I don’t mind that much for a domestic trip. I use it all the time for last minute trips to New York from Atlanta, where I currently live. If I’m flying overseas, I want ALLLL my miles, so I won’t even bother bidding on a flight for international flights.
Bonus, try using your credit card points or miles.
I just got into the airline miles game, but I can’t really be of assistance on this one much. I know that people like Tonya Rapley of My Fab Finance live by sky miles. Until I figure all that out, I use Award Wallet to track all my loyalty programs and see how many miles I have on each airline and credit card.
@@The Secret Formula To Book the Cheapest Flight, Ever@@
Now onto some resources you should know.
Travel Websites You Need To Know
Airfordable: Like layaway, but for flights.
Booking Sites: Priceline (Name Your Price Tool) | Expedia | Booking.com
Travel Deal Websites: The Flight Deal | Secret Flying
AirBnB: the best (and often cheapest) accommodations you can ask for. (Click the link to claim $35 towards your first reservation*)
Use sites like Airfordable, Booking.com and Expedia to book now and pay later. As amazing as Airbnb is, you will get charged the moment you book. If your funds are low, these sites can help you take advantage of a once in a lifetime flight deal. Let’s just be clear, I am not a personal finance expert for a reason, so don’t be out here getting into debt on my account.
So far in 2016, I’ve been to Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, (shout out to the Zika virus for coming through and putting these flights on sale) and Miami. I also have a trip booked to Portugal and Brazil in the fall, and it’s only April. Keep up with me on Instagram and the #EmmTravels15 hashtag as I blog and travel. Who doesn't love a little wanderlust?