Winter travel doesn't have to be a Christmas-day flight to Grandma's condo in South Florida. Many of us see the holidays as the season of obligation, but just imagine: Where would you go if you weren't obligated? It's now possible to travel most anywhere, and it doesn't have to decimate your budget. So in between packing your deck of cards and wrapping your gifts, give a thought to a trip that you want to take.
Exploit Airline Website Glitches
Use AirefareWatchdog (AFW), a fantastic travel site that sorts through almost every single airline worldwide. They not only pick up on the most random and obscure fares, but they also report on airline websites glitches. For example, we spotted a Delta Airlines computer glitch, in which certain fares leaving JFK weren’t being charged a fuel surcharge. Fuel surcharges and taxes comprise the bulk of an airline ticket, so the deals were pretty awesome. We saw the glitch on AFW and ended up booking a flight to and from Prague for a whopping $408…including tax. The glitch was fixed a few hours later, but not after the flight was sold out. The best way to find these deals is to check daily for AFW updates on Facebook and Twitter.
Hostels Aren't Always Hostile
Contrary to popular belief, hostels aren’t always packed with drunk twenty-one year old, wide-eyed Europeans ready to get their party on. When we went to Buenos Aires, Argentina, we stayed in a nice private room in a tango-themed hostel. The room was on the small side, but it was clean, comfortable, and we had a private balcony. To top it off, they booked tours for us, fed us a sprawling breakfast each morning, and offered free tango lessons—all for a paltry 85 pesos per night (US $21). The most comprehensive way to find hostel accommodations is through Hostels.com.
For Longer Stays, Try House Sitting
One site that that has some great options is Mind My House, where you can browse listings and respond with an initial application. Some listings are more competitive than others; most of the jobs last between one month and a year. A recent search found a gig in Nepal for three months, taking care of a small puppy—not a bad deal for free rent.
Couchsurfing: Not For The Faint-Of-Heart
Focus On Grub
Continental breakfasts are pretty standard at hostels and hotels, depending where you stay. The first rule of thumb for eating cheaply is to discover the local delicacies. Every country has a specialty—in Iceland, it’s $2 hotdogs, in Argentina it’s asado (barbecued meat). Unless you’re a foodie, you can often get away with paying only $10 to $15 per day on food (again, depending on the region).
Travel, like most other things, can be very affordable if you know how to do it. The biggest component is ditching common misconceptions and embracing the low-cost options that are out there. Hey, the Europeans have been doing it for ages—it’s about time we caught up!