Here are some TIPS to help you plan the ULTIMATE ADVENTURE and not break the bank! These tricks of the trade apply whether you are looking to make a month long trek abroad, or you want to spend 5 dreamy days in Bora Bora!
1.) First off… If you haven’t already… Open a CHASE SAPPHIRE VISA
The Chase Sapphire card is an amazing place to start to accrue travel points. Any and all travel you book through their ULTIMATE REWARDS site will earn you 5x the points on all travel purchases! Right now they are also offering a 60,000 point bonus (a $750 value!) if you purchase $4,000 within the first 3 months of opening the card. (Believe me, it’s much easier than it sounds!) These points rack up QUICK and you can apply them towards hotel stays, flights and upgrades, and many other travel related experiences!
2.) BOOK FLIGHTS ON POINTS!
There are so many ways to gain airline miles out there! Chase Sapphire of course being ONE! If we have enough points racked up, I always use ours on FLIGHTS. I can always find affordable lodging, but flights drive a hard bargain. Even if you’re willing to take the red eyes, or the long layovers, often times they are the most expensive part of the trip. So, use your earned travel rewards on booking them. If you want more AMAZING airline miles tips and tricks, follow: Zachary Burr Abel @MonkeyMiles he’s the master of this realm!
3.) EXPLORE ALTERNATIVE RENTAL PROPERTIES INSTEAD OF BOOKING A HOTEL
(Unless of course you have POINTS!) I am a huge fan of Airbnb, and VRBO, as I am boutique vacation rental companies. Not ONLY for the convenience of having some comforts of home on vacation (like a kitchen, separate bedroom/ living area, etc…), but because often times the total price is far more affordable than a resort stay. (Especially factoring in the ability to make some meals at “home”). It also lends you to a wider range of stays. If you’re in to unique stays, you can find a sailboat to stay for a night or two. Or perhaps a YURT! If you are willing to share some common areas, like an outdoor space, or outdoor kitchen, you could substantially save- and hey, you may meet some really amazing people to boot!.
4.) MIX AND MATCH LUXURY WITH AFFORDABILITY
Every adventure we take is a mixture of luxury and affordability. We like to stay on the move when we travel, covering more than one “area”, so in one place, we may splurge on a high end experience at a luxury villa or resort, and then we’ll save money a few other nights staying in a more modest accommodation. Like I said before, GRITTY is our huckleberry- so keeping it simple (and sometimes borderline uncomfortable for a night or two) doesn’t scare us- all part of the adventure, right!? We just arrange our “rest days” when we are staying in style, and for the days we are on-the-go, we will stay in a more affordable accommodation. (Find the little bungalows or studios a few blocks off the beach, or book the rooms without a view… The savings add up!)
5.) SKIP THE TOURISTY TOURS
I’m not saying NOT to indulge in the touristy experiences and tours, I am just saying be careful where you book. Many tour companies over charge for a very lackluster experience. This is another reason why I love booking with airbnb. Many times your “host” will be someone living local and can recommend a company, or person, that you can arrange a tour with where you will maximize your value. Another amazing way to do “self tours” is through apps! Search your app store for tourism guides or driving tours for the area in which you are visiting. Many times, for a nominal fee (if any), you can purchase a tour guide app with an interactive map, and tons of great highlights of attractions, restaurants, shopping, nightlife, and hidden gems only LOCALS know about!
When you do book the big tours, I am a big fan of one booked experience per location. For instance, we will be traveling to Italy soon and visiting 3 regions. While in Tuscany I arranged a COOKING CLASS with a local Italian in his home (recommended by none other than our gracious Airbnb host). “When in Rome” (yeah, I’m gonna be using that one a LOT), we are investing in the skip the line tickets for the Forum, Colosseum and Vatican on our walking tour day. On the Amalfi Coast we are taking a private boat tour around Capri. The rest of the days I’ve left unstructured to explore and wander and eat and experience on our own. To be spontaneous (Yes, I PLAN to be SPONTANEOUS!) Don’t be afraid to get lost!
I know this one may seem like a no-brainer… But it is true. Save money where you can. Purchase your own supplies such as breakfast bars, fruit, coffee, water, alcohol, sandwich fixin’s and snacks. Save your money for happy hours with a view, or delicious fresh catch dinners! I also recommend visiting local farmers and/or fish markets! Once, staying in Mexico, our grounds-keeper offered to cook dinner for us one night. We hit the local fish market and bought a beautiful fresh caught red snapper right off a fishing boat, brought it home, where our kind and generous host cleaned and cooked us the most amazing meal! The entire experience was memorable from start to finish, and cost FAR LESS than a night out. Win-Win.
Once you have arrived to your destination, it is hard to decide whether or not to rent a car, take a shuttle, hire a driver, or arrange a tour. Well…. PRICE COMPARE! I almost ALWAYS find that renting a car is far more affordable than any other option. And we LOVE the freedom and exploration of driving. That said, sometimes the ease of NOT having to drive is very appealing. Don’t be afraid to mix it up throughout the trip. Pick up a car in one location for a few days, and return it in another! Then from there, take a train or bus or ferry to the next location! If you have some time flexibility you’ll find HUGE savings between taking a train vs another plane flight. Or perhaps arriving to another location down a coast by ferry vs a private car transfer. Plus, it UPS the ADVENTURE quotient!
8.) STASH CASH
This is an oldie but a goodie. From the moment I begin planning for a trip I start my “mason jar fund”. ANY extra cash that comes our way (The $10 I found in the dryer after a load of laundry, or the $5 we “won” on scratchers) I STASH in the mason jar. In addition, I make it practice to withdraw at least $20 CASH BACK every grocery run. The saved cash can be your spending money on your trip! Believe me, it will almost be embarrassing how much you save up!