USE PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION
Two of my four favorite cities are a day trip for me. I visit New York City at least one weekend every month and Washington, D.C. at least a couple times every year. Free parking is difficult to find in places like this and if you do find it, you will have already paid for tolls before you get there. In New York City, an afternoon in a parking garage, a five minute cab ride or going in and out of the Holland Tunnel can cost more than 10 subway rides. For people who visit once or twice a year, driving in and/or using taxi cabs may be fine, but if you want to go every month, that adds up quick!
If you don’t live near a train station, drive to one and leave your car there! When going to New York, I park at the Newport PATH station in Jersey City. When going to Washington, D.C., I park at either the Shady Grove or White Flint station on the red line.
Cities like San Francisco offer public transportation passes with unlimited use. Take advantage of these! During my last visit, a one-way street car ride was $6, but a one-day MUNI pass was $7. Enough said.
GET FREQUENT FLIER CARDS
I’ve flown for free to southern cities like Charlotte and Atlanta as well as my beloved San Francisco on the west coast. Frequent flier miles add up! This is especially true if you fly internationally and are earning 10,000 miles per round trip. The key here is to pick one airline out of the groups that are available and keep using them, no matter which partner you are flying with. Although partnerships are constantly changing, I try to earn points with United States based airlines. I don’t fly often enough to earn free flights overseas, but cutting out the airfare portion of trips to places like Charlotte, Atlanta or even San Francisco helps.
Companies like The Parking Spot also offer rewards programs and have lots near most major airports. In addition to usually costing less than actual airport parking, they run frequent promotions which save you even more money.
GET REWARDS CARDS FROM HOTELS & CAR RENTAL COMPANIES
If you are traveling once a month and staying at the same hotel brand, points add up. I didn’t get any rewards cards of any kind until around five years (like the David Bowie song) after I first started to travel on a regular basis. Don’t make the same mistake! Most hotel chains and car rental companies offer rewards programs and let’s not forget Amtrak. For those who prefer to travel by train, Amtrak offers a rewards program. Now I know that the Americas are seriously lacking behind Europe and East Asia when it comes to train service, but in California and the Northeast, it’s a viable option. I’ve used it several times and have no complaints.
USE CREDIT CARD POINTS FOR TRAVEL
Most airlines and hotels offer credit cards, where points can be redeemed for flights and hotels. Even if you don’t choose one of these cards, most give rewards, which can be redeemed for travel. My main credit card does not offer the cash back option, so I use the points for a hotel or two every year.
CUT BACK ON DRINKING
My drinking days are ten years gone (like the Led Zeppelin song). When I’m out with friends or family and they order drinks, they are often as expensive as appetizers. For those who consider drinks to be just as important as food, cutting out the drinks may take away from the experience of travel. I’m not recommending this for those people, but for me, drinking does not add to the experience so it just makes travel more expensive. I’m also getting older and have a sweet tooth, so I don’t need to take in extra calories from something I don’t enjoy.
OFFER YOUR SKILLS IN EXCHANGE FOR FOOD!
Travelers are the most open minded people in the world. Many are well-educated and technology-savvy. These skills can be exchanged for food! Yes, I’m suggesting that it can be worthwhile to offer to handle the social media account(s) of your favorite restaurant(s).
Many new (and existing) restaurants have nobody to handle social media accounts, which are essential to growing their businesses. Handling the Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter accounts for that amazing Thai restaurant you visit every week in exchange for free Pad Thai or Thom Kha is time well spent. Add a Peruvian restaurant here, an Italian one there and you can cut down your food bill quite a bit and still eat well. Oh, and have more money for travel!
CHOOSE TRAVEL OVER “FAMILY LIFE”
This is a difficult decision for some. Many people can’t imagine life without their family, while others live for travel and everything else is secondary. Like Henry Rollins, the freedom to travel is more important to me than anything else.
Unless you’re Rick Steves or another celebrity who has the time and money to take their wife and children around the world, it will be difficult to dedicate your life to family and travel. Most of the people I know who are married with children travel twice during a good year. These same people still ask me how I travel so often, but like the Slayer lyric, “I’ve made my choice.” Money is meant to pay for travel!
I wrote this based on my own experiences. There are other options like Airbnb and CouchSurfing which can save even more money on accommodations. In addition to saving money, you can gain insight from a local. For those who live in an area that tourists want to visit, you can earn extra money for travel by offering your own place to travelers. Although I have accounts with Airbnb and CouchSurfing, I haven’t used them yet. I’m fortunate enough to have family and friends in good locations throughout the United States, Italy and Thailand, but I’m sure using Airbnb or CouchSurfing is inevitable as I travel more and more.