Saving Money on Planes, Trains, Buses, RV’s, Automobiles and Boats
Modes of Transportation
Booking Flights and Traveling on Planes
Even before you take off, if it’s a short trip, use Airport Parking Reservations to help you find a place to park. To book your flight and/or hotel, car, there are a lot of great travel portals. We like Booking Buddy, Expedia, Globehunters, LookupFare, and CheapOair, because they are easy to navigate and free! Like most internet sites, you can get fare alerts sent to you. You can filter your searches and all the fees are up front with the exception of baggage fees. You can also track trends including pricing over time and dates. Note: Not all airlines are registered with all travel portals. As we mentioned earlier, do your research. Sometimes you can see more flight opportunities, if you go directly to the airline you want to fly with.
Always, always check your itinerary carefully before you choose the Pay Now button! Be sure the dates you selected are correct. Some dates may appear in the European form! There have been many stories of people showing up at the airport with their eTickets in hand and the flight they paid for was a week later, or flying out of a different airport. Check and then double-check EVERYTHING before you click the PayNow button.
Of course you can always work through a travel agency. Some agencies have a certain amount of time to talk with a potential customer, so if you haven’t made a decision, they will may end your call and move to a paying customer. We suggest having all your travel arrangements in order and know what time you want to fly, the destination and your budget. If you have a AAA membership, they have a great trip planning service with maps, books and helpful hints. It’s generally worth the membership fee just to have the travel services.
Airfare prices are generally lower if you check on Tuesday or Wednesday, as opposed to Saturday morning when everyone else is checking! Just take five minutes, have the site bookmarked, and pull it down a few times a day. When the price gets close to what you want, grab it right then and there, because the price can change in the blink of an eye! Think of it as a game to get what you want, rather than an inconvenience from the airlines.
The best time to choose your flight is generally six weeks from your departure date. With gas prices fluctuating so much, buying too early could be just as bad a buying too late. The typical change in prices from your departure date are 21, 7 and 3 days.
Airfare Watchdog is a great site that will send you alerts.
Redeeming Airline Miles
The best time to use your miles is about six months before you actually plan on departing.
Check the airline website for the Frequent Flier (FF) page. Usually they will have a chart that outlines what miles can be redeemed for your travel purposes.
The best FF carriers are Alaska Airlines, JetBlue TrueBlue, SouthWest Rapid Rewards, American Airlines AAdvantage, Delta SkyMiles and at the end of the pack United MileagePlus.
ALSO: Off Airport parking is much cheaper. Look for coupons. We like the following companies: Airport Parking Reservations, for looking up reservations and we use Park ‘N Fly a lot when flying out of San Diego. We also use coupons in our Entertainment Book which we purchase every year! The book can save you thousands of dollars annually. The coupon book also has an excellent app to download, that brings up discounts on your phone wherever you are traveling in the USA. The book can range from $15 to $40 depending on the time of year and location in the country. You can order them online at shop.entertainment.com.
Packing and Weighing Your Baggage
Airline baggage fees are now the norm and you need to know exactly how much your bag weighs prior to getting to the airport or at least know it’s under 50 pounds (Spirit Air is a light 41 lbs. before you are overweight).
It is frustrating when you are in the airport digging through your bags and transferring the heavier items to the lighter weight suitcase just to avoid paying fees. It’s also a little embarrassing if your personal items are falling out too. We know, because we have been there!
Even though your ticket may say your luggage is included, it’s been our experience that you need to be prepared to pay for it anyway. Some airlines may refund your money, but it’s not easy.
Check with your airline for the baggage fees or it may be listed on this chart.
Get Locks for your baggage (TSA and for hotels/hostels).
Bags are stolen right from baggage claim! DO NOT waste time getting to baggage claim. We would rather spend a few extra minutes waiting for the bags to be loaded on the conveyor than to lose all of our belongings.
Carry on all your medications and items, that if lost or stolen, cannot be easily replaced.
The Adventure Traveler’s highly recommend you bring a pillow case, sheet or a few sarongs if you are traveling for an extended time and don’t know the quality of the rooms. Melissa always brings a lightweight sheet on flights. It can be used for a multitude of things.
A TEACHING MOMENT: Always bring a pillow case and sheet. We were traveling in Bali and found out about a volcano climbing and sunrise excursion. This sounded like our kind of adventure. Our Balinese driver, made the arrangements for us. We spent the night at a local hotel, since we needed to be up at 2:00 AM to begin our climb.
Let’s just say, although we appreciated a bed for the night, we were never at a hotel without sheets or pillow cases. We had to use Melissa’s sarongs as a pillow case and a sheet. In addition to the one light bulb hanging in the middle of the room, the shower produced thick black slime from the water catcher on the roof and the tub was squishy and moldy. We also suspect I was bitten by bed bugs.
Traveling by Plane Hints and Tips
Consider connecting flights to reduce costs.
Travel mid-week or off peak times to get the best rates.
Make more stops to gain airline miles and it’s usually cheaper.
Take the redeye or very early or very late departures.
Use the “Add nearby Airports” check box when booking online. Smaller airports may offer better pricing.
Baggage fees can add a lot to the bottom line. Check out the rates on airlines BEFORE you book. The airline prices may look great on one airline but the baggage fees may end up costing you more than if you booked on a higher price airline with no baggage fees.
If you use an airline more frequently, get the airline credit card. By carrying their card, the desk agent may waive some or all baggage fees. Also, by using the airline credit card, they have special incentives like double miles for some airlines. Always be sure to pay your credit card bill before it’s due, to avoid credit card debt and fees. This is The Adventure Travelers secret to staying debt free! Never purchase more than you can you can pay, before your bill is due!
Most international flights offer meals and alcohol for free, but domestic flights charge for everything except non-alcohol beverages. We always carry healthy snacks. Our friend Gary, suggests that you purchase a non-BPA water bottle and bring it on the plane empty. Once on the plane, you can have the flight attendant fill it up. We also suggest a rugged type bottle that has a charcoal filter inside the bottle for extra purification. You can also use this when traveling in countries with water that is not so great. This will save you money in the long run, since you will not need to purchase water bottles at your destination and you are reducing the plastic waste, while maintaining your health.
If you have a tip or hint, please email us at TheAdventureTravelers @ gmail.com or comment below, because we are always learning!
For several years I commuted on trains. It was a relaxing and a stress-free way to download while still traveling. Here are just a few tips we have for work or pleasure:
Use overnight trains if you need a place to sleep and/or you are traveling to a new destination that requires a substantial amount of travel.
Always try to use a ticket agent rather than an automated kiosk unless you’re in a time crunch. Agents can give you some “insider” information if you ask the right questions and they can tell you what discounts you may be able to apply like AAA, AARP, or other club discounts or coupons. An agent can also help you plan a trip by possible combining fares with planes or other transportation.
Try to get a group rate by pooling together with others.
Avoid purchasing tickets on weekends and evenings.
Purchase way in advance, if you can.
If you use a website to purchase your tickets, check the booking fees to ensure they are reasonable and always double check before you hit the “PAY NOW” button!
Bring your own food to save money.
Prearrange your transportation and accommodations before you get to the train station. Desperate people will overpay for a taxi and a hotel room.
RV’s (Recreational Vehicles and Camper Vans)
After sailing to Mexico and the South Pacific, we sold our boat (for more than we bought it for) and used the proceeds to purchase our RV. In our experience, being debt-free is critical for the traveling lifestyle. It was very tempting to buy a deluxe RV, but we had a firm budget and stuck to it.
We started our RV trip with our “Exit Plan” in mind first. We thought, “what are we going to do with the RV when we are done using it to travel?” We found a company called, Outdoorsy.com that will help us rent out our RV when we are not using it. We win by renting out our RV and the RV renter wins by getting a truly amazing RV, with us as the renter. This cuts out the middle man “corporate” RV rental companies that nickle and dime the renter for every little thing, like renting a toaster!
Or you could purchase an affordable camper van and travel for less. Van traveling is challenging but there is an abundance of information and stories online about this type of travel.
After traveling in our RV for over 20,000 miles, we have seen every kind of RV, van, conversion van, tent, motorcycle, etc. that people are using to travel just like us. It can be very affordable to travel this way.
In Alaska, for example, you can pull off the highway anywhere (as long as it is not posted “No Camping”) and stay overnight or longer for FREE. We stayed in many amazing pullouts for multiple days along the river or lake.
This also includes BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land which is mostly in the Western USA, but is everywhere in Alaska. You can camp on these lands for free for up to 14 days at a time, which really saves you a ton of money.
If you do a little research online, you can uncover many places to stay for free, as long as you have an RV or van that does not require being electrically powered for days at a time.
Other free places to park for ONE night include: Walmart, Cracker Barrel, Cabelas, truck stops, Flying J gas stations, and many other places. I could write another book on this, however, if you do your research, you can find all the information on the internet. We prefer the upgraded ALLSTAYS app because it includes great filter options like low bridges, casinos, dump stations, propane, etc. A good place to start is here.
We have also saved thousands of dollars by using these money saving apps and websites below, while on the road. Remember, many parts of the USA like Alaska, have little to no internet connectivity.
The video below explains how Harvest Hosts works. It’s about $45 a year to be a member and you get unlimited free nights (one night at a time) to park your RV in amazing locations.
Always use your apps to plan when you are connected. We save screen shots of maps and information in case we have no connection.
To find the cheapest USA gas around, we also use the GasBuddy App.
A good friend of mine (a river raft guide) bought a very inexpensive van and gutted it. He installed a mattress and all the essentials and lived out of town in a free primitive (BLM) camping area. He was totally off the grid and living in nature. He drove five minutes to work as a river guide and all the money he made, was profit.
Rental Cars and Motorcycles – Depending upon how long you are going to be in a certain country, it may be best to purchase a used but reliable car that gets you from Point A to Point B. When you leave, you can sell it to recoup some or all of your money. A lot of people do this when visiting New Zealand. Our sailing buddies bought a car for their family of four in New Zealand for $5,000, used it for six months and then sold it for $2,000. There is no way to rent a car for six months for that kind of money.
When I worked in the corporate world, I would always use the following car rental companies below. I signed up for every rental rewards program they had to offer and received many free rentals and free upgrades every time I rented a car.
You may want to skip the rental car insurance if you are already covered under your own car insurance. Check with your insurance BEFORE you get to your destination. In addition, some credit cards cover insurance on rentals, but DO NOT depend on it unless you have documentation. We were charged outrageous rental fees in Costa Rica because there is only one government mandated agency that runs the show. Don’t get sucked into a cheap car rate rental in places like Costa Rica, because they find ways to increase the rates by 75%!
Always check the internet for corporate rates or coupon codes. This may be time consuming, but if it saves you $10 a day, that is money you can use for something else!
Also, the American Automobile Association (AAA) has great coupons and deals. You have to become a member, but over time, it is worth the price.
We traveled a lot by bus in the interior of Mexico. There are many types of buses but it mostly depends on your location and remoteness of the area you plan to travel. A bus may include air conditioning, snacks or chickens and no open windows. You must research and ask questions about the bus travel in the area you wish to visit. Some bus schedules are reliable while others are a “wait and see if it shows up” type of transportation.
Most travelers agree that conditions can be overlooked if the people and places are amazing. Our bus in Mexico was affordable, on time, had WiFi, very professional and extremely comfortable. We just asked locals where to find the bus station and took a taxi there.
Buses are so different in Europe and in other parts of the world. They are more reliable and easier to navigate. Right in our own home town, Melissa tried to take her grandmother on a bus across town and they never made it, because it was so confusing.
Some hints and tips about riding a bus:
Unless you are going somewhere very scenic, take a night bus because it’s a free place to sleep and you get to wake up in a new destination. However, make sure your travel items are tucked under the seat in front of you and next to you if you sleep. A sleeping traveler can be a crime statistic waiting to happen.
Confirm your seat and do NOT sit in the back of the bus next to the restroom. Also the seats at the very back do NOT recline.
If you are traveling in high crime areas (central america, etc.), hide money or cell phones in several places in case you get robbed.
Bring plenty of healthy snacks and water/Gatorade for hydration (and ensure there is a working restroom on board). Our bus in Mexico was stopped by immigration and confiscated all our fresh fruit!
Place your luggage in the overhead rack across from your seat, so you can keep an eye on it at all times.
Try to get a window seat, so you have somewhere comfortable to rest your head when sleeping.
Bring a small pillow or blanket.
Always bring a small change of clothes, medicines and a few personal items even if it’s a days excursion. You never know about breakdowns or scheduling mishaps.
Boats or Yachts
Start with a trusted Yacht broker if you are going to purchase a new or used boat. We used Suncoast Yachts in San Diego, CA. A good broker can also point you to a good charter boat company. This type of travel or transportation requires some detailed research.
If you want to charter or travel by boat, choosing the right one is a task that requires a lot of time and research. This type of travel can be expensive, so when thinking about boating, these are a few basic questions to ask yourself:
What is your budget?
How comfortable do you want to be?
How far do you want to go?
Will you need to be connected to the internet most of the time?
Are you hiring a captain or do you have enough experience?
Is the boat seaworthy enough to get you to your destination?
Has this boat had a recent marine survey for safety?
Do you need crew to help with the boat?
Do the people on board know and understand how to navigate?
Do you know where to get water, food, gas, propane and supplies?
Can you repair your boat if something goes wrong?
Are there communications aboard for emergencies?
These are just a few thoughts and they can be used regardless if you are buying a canoe, kayak, cabin cruiser, catamaran or a sailboat.
When we purchased our Island Packet yacht, we researched for years before finally making our decision. The most important question we had to answer was, is this boat seaworthy enough to cross the Pacific Ocean? Our boat sailed through some serious and dangerous weather and I never once thought about the integrity of our boat.
We sailed over 10,500 miles in just shy of 11 months and we saw every type of boat you could imagine. We all had one thing in common, we were all in the same place, enjoying the same view, regardless of how much money we paid for our boat.
Of course, you can read about our adventure on our blog (with videos coming soon!).
There are ways to make and save money while boating. Of course, if you feel confident as a captain you can:
Provide sailing and/or fishing charters
Teach others how to care and maintain their boat
If you are creative, you can stage and photograph boats that are on the market. Connecting with brokers is a great way to start.
There are many ways to book your cruise. I would suggest AAA or Costco if you are a beginner. Both of these companies do mass volume and usually get a discounted price.
You can search the internet or ask the aid of a travel agent who specializes in cruises. There are a vast array of cruises to choose from as well (mass market, premium, luxury, specialty, etc.)
The cruise may state that once you’re aboard, it’s it all-inclusive. However, many cruise lines may charge an a-la-cart fees including:
Alcohol – Bring your own, if you can.
Internet Access: Look to see if they offer free Wi-Fi.
Laundry Service: You would have to pay for this regardless.
Ship Photos: Staff photographer snap away photos of you and everyone else, in the hopes that you will want to purchase them while on your cruise.
Shore Activities: It is best to purchase your activities yourself either via your mobile device or once you arrive on shore. If you purchase activities by yourself, you may not be covered by the cruise company if they leave the destination without you.
Tipping: Huge expense, could be 10% or more of the total cruise cost. All employees count on these tips to make their living, so please budget it into your overall costs.
I wouldn’t be the person I am today, if I didn’t ride my bike from Oregon down through the Northern California coast at when I was a teenager. It began my entire traveling passion. I experienced hardships but that only made me stronger and smarter.
Here is a great article that may help if biking appeals to you. It is perhaps one of the least expensive modes of travel, with the exception of walking or running.
A TEACHING MOMENT: Biking long distances. If you’ve read the introduction, you know a was an avid long distance bicyclist. Now my knees are not as good as they used to be, so I can’t do this any longer. We have seen many bikers riding up in Alaska and it looks exhilarating and miserable at the same time. You are definitely closer to nature, but that also means nature is closer to you. Rain, headwinds, bears, and all sorts of other things create some hardships, but in the end, if this is your path, it will be worth it.
Just get out there and GO!
Check out our Next Blog Post Using Technology to Travel and Save Money