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I’m not rich—I’m just innovative. One of the most frequent questions I get asked by friends, distant family members and readers is ‘How can I travel the world?’ I always tell them that unless poor health is an issue, there’s really no reason why you can’t travel and go to those places you’ve always dreamed about. It just takes some savvy, strategy and savings. Below are some helpful tips to help you score the best travel deals out there!
Here are 10 ways to make 2015 your year of travel:
- Sign up for newsletters
The best way to travel cheaply is to find the best deals out there. So sign up to travel deal newsletters to stay on top of fares. The top four travel deal newsletters in my opinion are: Airfarewatchdog, TheFlightDeal, ThePointsGuy and TravelZoo. But I also sign up to all of the airlines, hotels, car rentals, cruise lines and other travel providers’ newsletters as well. If that’s too much for you, then I suggest (blatant plug) that you sign up to Johnny Jet’s Travel Deals newsletter as well. I always feature the best deals and crazy fares like last week’s New York to Middle East, Asia, Africa for $187 roundtrip.
- Monitor FlyerTalk & Milepoint
Do you read about all those airline mistake fares, where people are flying across the country for under $50 or to Europe for $100? The way to find out when these mistake fares happen is by monitoring two frequent flier forums: FlyerTalk.com and Milepoint.
- Sign up to multiple travel credit cards
One way to travel the world, or even manage a staycation, is to get the right credit cards. Keep in mind, if you can’t pay off your credit card bill each month, this is not the strategy you want to go with. But if you can be responsible then you can sign up to a number of credit cards that offer larger sign-up bonuses. Don’t do it all at once—wait at least three months between banks. Then, charge all of your everyday purchases so you will earn miles/points. Because getting the right one is so important, I commissioned credit card expert Jason Steele to give us his recommendations for three credit cards to consider in 2015. One of my personal favorite cards (and one of Jason’s favorites) is the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard®. It’s truly a great deal because you can get an easy 60,000-mile bonus (when you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days and pay the annual fee), which you can use to book travel with any airline, anytime with no blackout dates, and it comes with no foreign transaction fees. Plus, whenever you redeem for travel, you earn 5% of your miles back with their exclusive Carry-on Miles. There are other perks too, like the fact that miles never expire. Learn more about the Arrival Plus terms and conditions.
- Use Twitter and Facebook
If you haven’t already done so, create a Twitter and a Facebook account. It takes about two minutes and you don’t have to put limited personal information on it, if you’re concerned about that. Your goal is to follow all the airlines, hotels, cruise companies, car rental companies and travel experts that you are interested in because sometimes they offer Twitter- or Facebook-exclusive deals. Don’t know where to start? Here’s a master list. You can thank me later.
- Contrarian travel
One of the best ways to save money and have a better experience is to travel where other travelers aren’t going. For example, instead of going to the Caribbean in February and March when everyone wants to be there, go in the summer when prices are much cheaper and you don’t have to fight for a pool/beach chair. Or go to a destination shortly after a natural disaster or international incident. For example, this is a great time to go on an African safari since most people have canceled their trips due to the Ebola outbreak. But many people don’t realize that East Africa and South Africa are even farther away from West Africa than London is!
- Rent an apartment or sleep on a couch
The idea of renting an apartment has been around for a long time but its popularity has skyrocketed after sites like AirBnb.com made it so easy. I first used them when I was going to London for a couple of days before the Olympics and finding a hotel room wasn’t easy or cheap. I ended up finding a classic Notting Hill apartment for $318 a night (here’s what it was like). But I could have slept on someone’s couch for $15. There’s actually a site called CouchSurfing.org that has 9 million members in 120,000 cities, where users can stay at someone’s house or apartment for free.
- House swap
Have you seen the movie The Holiday with Kate Winslet, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law, where Kate’s character swaps her English cottage with Cameron’s plush L.A. home? Well, it turns out the website they used, HomeExchange.com, is an actual website and has been around since 1992! There are currently 58,000-plus members on HomeExchange.com in more than 150 countries, and the site is available in 15 languages. To date, the site is responsible for more than one million property swaps! Here’s how it works: New members begin by listing their properties so that other community members can view them. There’s a membership fee of $9.95 per month that grants access to an unlimited number of properties, essentially allowing members to stay in the home of their choice for no additional cost beyond the flat monthly rate.
- Consider cruising
If you are one of the 80% of Americans who has never cruised, then you should seriously consider it. I used to be skeptical too…until I went on my first cruise and realized what a great bargain it is. You just have to stay away from the booze and the casino to get the best value. The cruise industry has so much inventory that they are constantly offering incredible deals (especially in the off-season) like $199 for a 7-night Caribbean Cruise with an oceanview room! That’s under $50 a day, which means it’s probably cheaper to go on that cruise than stay at home! Note: By the time you read this—this particular deal will be gone but there will be many others like it. Just click this link and keep refreshing to see all the current deals. You can also try CruiseCritic.com’s deals. Tip: If you’re really skeptical about cruising, go on a long weekend cruise, just to see if you will like it or not. If you do, then it’s time to book a longer one!
- Be flexible
The key to finding cheap flights is to be flexible with your days. If you aren’t flexible, then you aren’t going to get a great deal. It’s not that difficult to figure out that the most expensive time to fly is when everyone else is, too (i.e. holidays, Fridays, Sundays and Mondays). The same goes for times too. You aren’t the only one who also wants to leave after work and school so when doing your flight search, don’t put a specific time. Generally, the most expensive times to fly are peak business travel hours (8 to 10 am and 5 to 7 pm). Cheaper seats tend to depart early in the morning (5 to 7 am) or late in the evening (after 8 pm). Not only do you want to be flexible with dates and times, but be flexible with airports, too. For example, rather than flying into (or out of) Miami when going to South Florida, check out Fort Lauderdale Airport (FLL)—it’s 25 miles north and usually much cheaper. You can also check out West Palm Beach, which is another 49 miles away. To help you with all the major U.S. alternative airports (by actual driving miles), I created a website called AlternateAirports.com. Here are more ways to find cheap flights.
- Go where it’s cheap
The U.S. dollar is getting stronger and a lot of other currencies are getting weaker. As my colleague Wendy Perrin recently wrote, “destinations that until recently were an extravagance—Japan, Scandinavia, Brazil, Africa, Russia—are suddenly doable. Also more affordable are Argentina (where the U.S. dollar buys 31% more than it did a year ago), Chile (16%), Israel (13%), and even England, where the British pound currently equates to $1.50.”
As you can see, 2015 looks like it’ll be a great and affordable year to travel so make this YOUR year to see the world!
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Editorial Note: The editorial content on this page is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.