When you’re in a long-distance relationship, you learn a thing or two about traveling. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that it is expensive. I usually have to save a couple months worth of paychecks before I can even think about going to see my significant other. But when you are in a long-distance relationship, you also learn a thing or two about how to save money and cut corners when traveling so you can make the most out of your visit once you're there. I have gained a number of tips within the past year.
Four things I’ve learned about air travel: Book early. Look at all your options. Try to fly at strange times or days. Do not pack anything of value.
I’ve read the “sweet spot” for booking a flight is usually 90 days out. That tends to be the window of time where flight rates are pretty low, depending on where you are looking to go.
Look at all of your options, too. Do you really need to spend an extra hundred dollars just so you can board first? Do you really need that extra leg room for an hour-long flight? Probably not. Don’t limit yourself to one airline. There are many choices, each with different price ranges.
Try not to book your flights on busy weekend days. This is probably common sense, but I did not think about it the first time I booked a flight. Everybody takes advantage of the weekend to travel, and airline companies know that, so they raise the prices on weekends and holidays. Try booking your flights on a Thursday or a Tuesday. You save money on your ticket, and getting through security is a lot easier.
Do not pack expensive items either. This might seem like a no-brainer. You probably wouldn't pack your laptop or a diamond bracelet in your suitcase. But I am also talking about little things. Don’t pack your $50 conditioner in your suitcase because it will explode, and you will have to go buy a new bottle. (True story.)
Driving can actually be a pretty cost-effective way of traveling. It might not be as fast or efficient as a plane, but you still, hopefully, get where you are going.
When driving, I would plan your route and book hotels in advance, especially for a longer trip. The biggest lesson I learned with booking hotels is that you should always do your research and book them online beforehand. Be wary of “bundle deals,” which don’t always translate to actually getting a deal. Do your research on the hotel, and see what their regular rates are. If you plan on staying near a major city, try looking for hotels on the outskirts of town to save a buck.
The biggest mistake I’ve made while on a road trip is trying to follow three different systems of mapping: my GPS, my phone’s GPS and printed out MapQuest directions. I got so turned around trying to figure which way to go that I ended up tacking on an additional five hours to my travel time, which meant more money on gas and more pit stops to buy food. It was a big waste of money. I suggest following one means and bringing one backup just in case.
Trains and Buses
Not many people choose to take the train or a bus, but they are often less expensive than a flight or a road trip. Depending on where you are going, the trip might take a day or two, but you save a good chunk of money. Plus, there is no way for you to get lost!
What are some things you do to be money smart while traveling?