Grab Temporary Opportunities to Help Your Travel Budget

spontaneous travel advice

THIS is Nicaragua

Whether you took an economics class or not in school, you probably understand the basic concepts of arbitrage and the relationship of supply and demand. Few industries are as sensitive to the latter as travel and the most savvy travelers use the former to their advantage regularly. By being flexible enough to pounce on unusual deals and opportunities, some people are able to travel a lot more than others. If you’re in this camp, people wonder how you’re able to travel so much. You’ll probably wonder why they’re such homebodies.

Many people have built a prison of “stuff” that saps their budget, so they’re probably hopeless cases no matter what. They’ve got access to plenty of credit and they’ve used it to fill their kitchen and garage with gadgets, tools, cars, and toys. Others choose experiences instead and if that’s you, here are a few ways to travel much more on an average budget.

Embrace the Unknown Places

New Mexico

Somewhere near Albuquerque…

I can guarantee you I can find you a terrific deal on your next flight almost any day of the year. I could do that for you 30 times on 30 different days if you want. There’s just one catch: you can’t pick your destination in advance.

Often I can tell who is a savvy traveler from this nine-word start to their story: “We found a great deal on a flight to…”

There’s always a great deal on a flight to somewhere. You just need to open your horizons and look for alternates. The more variables the better (day of week, flight time, alternate airports), but just leaving the destination open can be huge. According to Google Flights, here’s where you can go from Denver, round trip, in cold mid-January.

Miami – $206

Los Angeles – $117

Houston – $121

Costa Rica – $430

Panama City – $456

Here’s where you can go from New York in early December:

Dallas – $87

Salt Lake City – $217

Orlando – $157

Merida – $274

Belize – $388

Paris – $490


Pay Attention to Seasons and Peaks

Belize snorkeling

Belize in the “off season”

There’s an ebb and flow to the traffic at nearly any destination and if you can avoid the peak times, you’ll save a small fortune. I know that’s easier said than done when you’re working around school schedules, but look where everyone else is going and avoid those places. There are always going to be lots of other spots where it’s low or shoulder season instead. Hint: those flight deals I mentioned before are often a good indicator. If you find great hotel deals too, there’s your spot.

I covered shoulder seasons in detail in my book Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune, but remember that any month of the year it’s shoulder season somewhere, including in July and August.

Take Advantage of Market Forces

In case you haven’t noticed, gas is cheaper than bottled water right now in the USA. You can drive 200 miles from your home town for less than $20. (In my Prius, I can go for 500 miles on that amount.) So where do you want to go that you can drive to? Why haven’t you done it yet? This won’t last forever.

Another major force is competition. Have you looked at the prices on Megabus and Bolt Bus? They’re crazy cheap. Have you seen the deals on Groupon or your local alt-weekly equivalent? You can get those same kinds of deals when you use those services in a new city for restaurants, bars, and attractions. Heavy competition is a bitch for businesses, but it’s great for you the consumer.

Cities are competing for your business too. They’ll subsidize attractions, build bike paths, put on free concerts, give cheap or free public transportation, and even provide capacity guarantees to airlines to get them to fly to their destination. They want you as a visitor, so visit the tourism site and see what they’re offering.

Exchange Something Besides Money

Fly to Thailand on mileage

There are a lot of ways to travel somewhere new without spending thousands of dollars in the process. Sign up for an use the right credit cards for your recurring expenses and you will end up with lots of free flights and hotels.

Sign up with a home exchange program and be flexible to end up with a week or more of free accommodation. There are also house-sitting services where your main jobs are taking care of the pets and watering the plants. In exchange you get an apartment or (more often) a house to stay in. You can work abroad or do a volunteer program that includes a place to stay.

Go Where Your Money is Worth More

The idea of arbitrage really comes into play when you travel internationally. If you can withdraw your rich country money in a place that’s not so rich, that money will buy you a lot more in your new location. Right now the U.S. dollar is very strong against a whole basket of currencies. In London that just means the pub and the Tube won’t be so costly, but in a country like South Africa or Colombia it can mean bargain basement prices on nearly everything. Take your greenbacks to Mexico or Indonesia and you’ll start feeling downright rich. If you’re not sure where the best deals are, you can save a whole lot of research time by getting one book.

Just don’t sigh and utter that sentence I hate to hear: “I wish I could travel more but…” Unless you’re below the poverty line, I don’t believe it.

  1. Daniél Lecoq

    Peak seasons can also be dirt cheap.
    I don’t know how it is over in the states, but here in Europe, the “last minute” travels during the peak seasons cost very little.
    Example: Winter is high season in the Canary Islands, where I currently resides. From the end of October/beginning of November until late March/beginning of April, you can usually find both way flights and a week hotel from Scandinavia(I’m from Sweden, that’s why I know the prices) for 998 SEK – 1498 SEK($113 – $170).
    During summer when the high season is the Mediterranean, you can find similar prices to Mainland Spain, Mallorca, Italy, Malta, Greece, Tunisia and Turkey.
    Sometimes even a week of all inclusive at a luxury resort for less than $300 per person(especially after the events in Turkey earlier this year, prices there plummeted.)

    I assume you have similar things on the other side of the pond.

  2. Marjorie Pellot

    You can always find a great deal in every places you wanted to go. It depends on how you handle and save for that trip.

    A great bargain too while on a trip was fun.

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