Not all New Year's resolutions are about sacrifice.
Sure, that extra five pounds you've put on since Halloween is going to take some work. And your commitment to living in a tidier home will likely involve actual cleaning.
But if "travel more" is on your list, you've got at least one 2018 to-do that's all gravy.
Of course, you may also have resolved to fix up your finances in the new year – or at least not to totally blow your savings on airfare.
But take heart! These two worthy goals don't have to be mutually exclusive.
Here's how to fill your 2018 travel itinerary with affordable – and amazing – destinations.
Oh, The Places You'll Go: Choosing Where to Travel
Planning a year of vacations is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. After all, there's a whole planet's worth of places out there waiting to be explored. How do you choose?
Well, let's start at the beginning: Where do you want to go? What are you into?
Although staying on top of travel deals and special offers is a great way to globetrot on the cheap, starting with a basic travel bucket list is useful. After all, even the cheapest trip in the world is a waste of money if you don't find it enjoyable.
So take some time to consider what makes a destination ideal in your eyes. Will 2018 be the year you finally try your hand – er, foot – at skiing? Or are you looking to lodge your toes thoroughly in the sand, cubes clinking in your tropical cocktail the only ice in sight?
If you've got an uber-expensive dream destination in mind (e.g., Paris), don't be afraid to include it. It may be better to save up and drop a big chunk of change on a once-in-a-lifetime trip than to spend the same cash piecemeal on several smaller, less-memorable weekend getaways. It's all up to you, of course — that's the fun part!
Once you've got a general idea of where you want to go, you can get started on the real project: Figuring out how to get there as inexpensively as possible.
How to Travel Cheap, No Matter Where You're Headed
You've got your bucket list in hand and you're ready to make some arrangements. Here's how to find the most affordable spots to knock off your list this year.
Keep Up with Fare Sales
If a far-flung destination requires you to participate in the miracle of human flight, plane tickets might be one of the heftiest line items in your travel budget.
But there are ways around that insane four-figure fare.
Even if you don't fly often enough to rack up spendable miles, it's worth signing up for the frequent flyer program each time you fly on a new airline. You may end up earning more miles than you think, and either way, it's free. Also keep in mind, if you're booking airfare with a credit card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® offers 2x miles on your purchases.
Plus, you'll have the option to be added to the airline's promotional newsletter – and in an increasingly competitive market, many carriers are offering impressive fare sales on the regular. This is especially true for airlines that have built their brands specifically around affordability, like WOW, Spirit, and Norwegian. (Just keep in mind that those airlines also make it easy to rack up extra charges for baggage, seat choices, and in-flight munchies.)
You can also sign up for third-party discount fare alerts and newsletters, such as Johnny Jet or Scott's Cheap Flights, which is one of my favorites. In any case, keeping tabs on fare sales will give you the chance to jump on a sweet deal to one of your bucket list destinations as soon as it hits your inbox.
No Fare Sale? No Problem: Get Nitty-Gritty with Flights
Don't want to wait around playing fare sale roulette? You've still got plenty of options.
Long gone are the days of simply navigating to an airline's website and purchasing your tickets through them directly. Today, you've got a whole arsenal of apps at your disposal to help ensure you get the very best fare possible, especially if your travel dates are flexible.
Google Flights is a powerful program in its own right, but you should also do some comparison shopping on Skiplagged, Skyscanner, and Hopper. Play around with a few different airports and travel dates – what you find just might surprise you.
Check Out Accommodations
After airfare, lodging is likely to be your biggest ticket item. So if you're stuck between a couple of potential destinations, let the cost of accommodation break your tie.
My very favorite way to stay in any city is Airbnb, where you can regularly find whole apartments for a fraction of the cost of a characterless hotel room. With filters for extras like kitchens, gyms, and washing machines, you can also save money on peripheral travel expenses that might be much pricier when offered by the suit-and-tie concierge service.
Depending on your circumstances (and scrappiness), you can also look into other cheap lodging options like dorm-style hostels. You could even stay free if you find a workable option through Couchsurfing or Home Exchange!
Compare Cost of Living
Airfar and lodging are taken care of – but you've still gotta eat. And although there's no such thing as a free lunch, there certainly are cheap ones... depending on where you go.
Obviously, every destination has its fancy joints and tourist traps. You can overpay whether you're in New York City or New Mexico. But there are significant cost-of-living differences that could save or squander your discretionary travel money, especially if you're planning on doing some of your own cooking.
Check out your destinations ahead of time on websites like Numbeo and Expatistan to see if there are significant differences in the cost of your morning coffee or happy hour libation. The user-sourced data isn't exactly scientific, but it's still a valuable resource.
Don't Dismiss All-Inclusive Options
I'm generally skeptical of all-inclusive group getaways. I like being able to organize my own schedule.
But for some, having all the sight-seeing logistics taken care of is a benefit – and the cash-saving potential is undeniable, especially for traveling couples.
You don't even have to go through a big travel agency to find great deals. Check out the discount getaways available on Groupon. I've seen five-night, airfare-and-lodging-inclusive trips to Europe or Asia for less than $1,000* per person – a price which is, in a word, bananas.
So now that you're ready to get there on a shoe-string budget, where will 2018 take you?
Safe and happy travels, no matter where you wind up!
All content provided in this blog is supplied by Jamie Cattanach and is for informational purposes only. Barclaycard makes no representations as to the accuracy or completeness of any information contained in the blog or found by following any link within this blog.
*Prices indicated in this article may vary according to season and guest demand. Please check corresponding website(s) for current pricing and availability.
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