How to travel cheap across America

After a lot of traveling across America, I learnt a few tips to make traveling cheaper. In this article I am sharing my experience how I booked my air ticket, hotel or car with best or minimum price.  Most of the time if we book air ticket, hotel or car rental at regular price it will cost almost double but if you do your booking smartly there are chances you will get them almost at half price. I have hardly purchased an air ticket above $250 whatever the distance be. Most of my tickets were below $200. Everyone can book at those prices but it will certainly require some patience and research.

Here are my ideas and how I traveled cost effectively.

Flight

Whenever I plan to travel, first thing I do is search flight tickets around the dates I am planning to travel. First thing which I always consider is flexible dates to get cheap tickets. As per my experience, usually if you travel on Thursday or Saturday early morning and return on Tuesday or Monday night, you will get the best cheap tickets. If you are travelling on long week ends, plan your ticket  for one day before the holiday and return one day after. If you don’t have flexible dates, still there are chances you will get cheap tickets if you try one of the below options.

Ways to buy cheap air ticket

1.       Check the fare on kayak.com or bing.com

Whenever you plan for your travel, first check the price on kayak.com or bing.com. If there is a deal going on you might get the cheap fare on these sites. But if not, you will get the idea of the current fare and at what price you want to buy your ticket. If you see a price around $200 for considerable long distance, I would say go ahead and buy but it is more than $200, give a try at other options and be patient to get the right price.

2.      priceline.com Name Your Own Price

If I am not getting the cheap ticket on kayak.com or bing.com, my first try is Name Your Own Price on priceline.com. First time I used when I travelled to Yellowstone from Chicago on Labor Day long week end. The flight tickets were more than $400 for all nearby Airports including Salt Lake City as this was long week end. I did not want to spend so much in flight ticket so I googled for options and I found Name Your Own Price. First time I bid with $150(very low price) to check if I can get the ticket. Obviously, the bid was unsuccessful. After 24 hours I got a mail from priceline that I can try again. This time I bid with around $170(total price around $220 including taxes), bid was still unsuccessful. Now I thought this will not work and probably I will not get the ticket and need to drop the idea to go to Yellowstone. After another 24 hours I got another mail from priceline that I can try again but this time I did not tried as I thought I will not get the ticket. After few days, I got another mail from priceline that somebody has successfully bid at $250 (total price including taxes) and if you want to give a try. As $250 was reasonable I bid for $250 and I got the successful bid and got the ticket with Frontier Airline via Denver. After that I have travelled two more times under $200 using Name Your Own Price on long week end

  1. Chicago To Salt Lake City on Labor week end – Price $250
  2. Minneapolis to New York on 4th July Long Week end – Price $205
  3. Minneapolis to New York on 4th July Long Week end – Price $220 (one of my friends booked for same dates later)

Few important things about priceline.com Name Your Own Price

  1. It’s not exactly a bid. It’s just you tell the price and complete the transaction and it will tell you right away whether your ticket is booked or not. So it’s just you are telling the price for booking. Only drawback is that you will not be able to know in advance the travel time and the airline they will choose for you.
  2. Travel date will be exactly as you specify and time could be anything between 6:00 AM to 10: PM on your given dates if your bid is successful.
  3. If the bid is not successful your credit card will not be charged.
  4. Good part about priceline is it sends you mail if someone gets a successful bid on price which you expect.

3.      Check Prices on http://farecompare.com/maps

I came to know about farecompare.com from google search. First time I used when I travelled to San Francisco on Memorial Day long week end. The airfare was too high to any airport to California. Then I checked the Fare on farecompare.com and I saw that there was a very cheap flight for Reno, NV. Reno is 3 hours drive from San Francisco. I got the ticket in $190 from Minneapolis to Reno.

4.      Subscribe for spirit airline coupons http://www.spirit.com

Spirit is a low cost airline . They send discount coupons very frequently like $50, $35, $20. If you get $50 off discount code its good enough to make your travel cost effectively.

Note: Carry-on bag is not free in Spirit Airline so while booking please make sure your total price including carry on is less than the price you are looking for.

5.      Frequently check price on http://www.kayak.com and http://www.bing.com and set alerts with flexible dates

If you are not getting air tickets at a reasonable price, set the alerts on kayak and bing. I would also suggest to try priceline bidding again, there might be chances your bid get success.

6.      Subscribe for delta weekly alerts

Become a Delta Skymiles member and subscribe for weekly alerts. Delta sends weekly cheap fare alerts for travelling on Saturday and return on Tuesday. If you are ok to plan your travel a week before, this might be helpful as sometimes tickets are very cheap.

7.       Travel Credit Cards

When you apply for a new Travel Credit Card, most of travel card give sign up bonus  usually 30K to 50K points, which is worth to buy at least one or two flight tickets.  Till now I found Chase Sapphire best travel card and it gives 40K bonus points which has value of 50k if you buy flight tickets.

  • Chase Sapphire – This is best card which currently provide 40K bonus points
  • Delta American Express Gold – This currently provides 30K signing bonus points. Click here to apply for Delta American Express Gold card.
  • Citi Thank You Premier Card – Currently this card does not have better deal. Wait for better deal

Hotel

Booking cheap hotel can save you a lot. Most of time I use one of the below options to book the hotel and I have stayed in 5 star hotel, resort in just $60-$70.

1. Priceline bidding – Most of the time I book my hotel using priceline bidding if my plan is certain. In all big cities you can get a 4 star 5 star hotel in just $50-$60 using pricline. Here are few best deals I got using priceline bidding

  1. I got 5 star Hayat hotel in Washington DC in just $60
  2. Resort in Phoenix in just $65
  3. Courtyard by Marriot in just $50 in San Francisco
  4. d.      Fairfield Inn at Denver Airport in just $45

I recommend, start your bidding with just $40 for a 5 star hotel and if you do not get successful bid, you can lower the star and increase a price by another $5. I would never bid more than $60 below a 3 star hotel.

2. HotelTonight.com – if you are travelling one of the big cities given on http://www.hoteltonight.com/ site and you are fine to book the hotel on same day after 12 PM, you can your hotel really cheap and nice hotel. HotelTonight.com has an app for iPhone/iPad or Andriod SmartPhone and you need to install that app on your smartphone to do the booking. The good thing is when you register first time on HotelTonight using its app you will get a $25 Credit when you register first tune using coupon code usharma. When I registered with HotelTonight that time there were 3 offers and I got $55 credit and using that I got a 3 star hotel in Phoenix in just $20. The other time I got a 3 star hotel in Chicago suburbs in just $35.

3. Top Secret Hotels option on www.travelocity.comThis is also a good option to book a nice hotel at cheap price. Only thing here is you will not be able to get the hotel name in advance until you complete the booking. But you can see the customer reviews before booking and if reviews are good 99% chances are that you will get a nice hotel.

Car Rental

1. Do Advance booking on any car agency site directly which giving you best offer at current moment. Best part is you need not to provide your credit card details and even you need not to bother to cancel it most of times.

2. Priceline bidding

2. Keep checking price on http://www.carrentals.com

More on Travel Credit Cards

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13 comments on “How to travel cheap across America

  1. Josh here from the BlinkPack blog. Don’t forget that the country has some pretty great options for dirt-cheap bus travel like Megabus and Greyhound. From Atlanta, I have made it to the northeast, the midwest, and the coast for about $20 each (one way). Love the blog — keep up the good work. Cheers!

  2. Great post…Do you read/follow FrugalTravelGuy.com? If not, I’d suggest it. We are traveling a little on my business miles but mainly on his tips on ‘churning’ credit cards for hotels.

  3. Thanks for liking my post FRESH. This is great travel information you have shared. I am now going to read your posts about Alaska, as it’s always interesting to learn other’s perspectives.

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