When I first starting traveling, I traveled with a backpack, stayed at hostels and flew in cramped economy seats. In the last few years I have learned how to travel in style without breaking the bank. Here are my tips for traveling in luxury even if you are on a backpacker’s budget.
1) Search for airfare sales or mistake fares on business class flights
Sometimes airlines offer sales on business class flights where the price is the same as an economy flight would usually cost. Another way to fly in business class is to book mistake fares. Mistakes fare are super low fares that airlines release on accident (either a glitch, error or currency conversion issue).
A good way to find these sales and mistake fares is to sign up email alerts and/or follow certain twitter accounts. I have signed up to receive email alerts from AirfareWatchdog. Twitter is better for booking limited time sales or mistake fares. Good twitter accounts that tweet fare sales include @theflightdeal and @secretflying.
2) Wait in an airport lounge instead of the gate
If you are flying on first or business class you will have access to an airport lounge where you can wait for your flight and enjoy free food, drinks and wi-fi. Some of the lounges even offer showers.
If you are traveling on an economy flight you can still access an airport lounge. Certain points earning credit cards offer lounge access or one time passes. You can also purchase cheap one day lounge passes on ebay.
3) Look for last minute hotel discounts or try bidding sites.
If you wait till a few days before your trip you can find discounted hotel stays. A great place to find last minute or same day hotel deals are with the Hotel Tonight and HotelQuickly (Asia and Australia only) apps.
You can also try bidding sites like Priceline to bid for expensive hotels.
4) Use miles and points/travel hacking.
If you collect miles and points you can use them for near free flights in first and business class and expensive hotel stays.
Most of my miles are earned by signing up for credit cards that earn miles or points which give a high sign up bonus. A lot of these credit cards have an annual fee but the fee is usually waived the first year. I usually cancel the cards before I have to pay a fee for the second year. Sometimes the annual fee is worth paying because it is worth more than the benefits of the card. (For example, the Chase IHG card has an annual fee of $49 but it gives a free night at any IHG hotel in the world.)
Even if you do not travel all the time or want to sign up for credit cards, there are numerous other ways to earn miles and points. These include online shopping, dining programs, online surveys and more advanced techniques such as manufactured spending. To learn more about travel hacking, read my post Travel Hacking Basics: How to Travel for Free.
5) Travel in the low season or shoulder season.
Hotels and flights are cheap during low season or shoulder season. For example, hotels in the Caribbean cost less in the summer and fall than they do during winter or spring break and European hotels are less expensive in the winter than in the summer.
Even if using miles and points, there is usually more availability during this time.
I usually prefer shoulder season for the best combination of lower prices and good weather.