This article is about the “Low End” of Travel Hacking. Finding what you can for as cheap as possible. Some tricks and tips for the low end of the market, but some of these can apply equally well to both the high end and the low end of the market. This isn’t comprehensive by any means but it isn’t intended to be.
- Couchsurfing — Here you can find people who are willing to provide somewhere to stay for free. As in zero cost free. Sometimes the hosts will only offer a couch but if you are lucky then you might get a bed. Be warned that the website intends to link travellers with other travellers. There is an expectation of shared camaraderie, not just a room to stay in. If you are looking for free rooms in a city while you visit for work or a conference then you may be rejected or receive an icy reception if caught lying. Play within the established etiquette and enjoy the experience. I’ve hosted and done a few meetups but only had positive experiences.
- AirBnB — often much cheaper than a hotel but without the service and extras that hotels tend to provide.
The more flexible you are the cheaper the deals. If you are not so strict on destination or dates then you can pick up some good deals. Getting the exact best deal for a particular location is a tricky one. There is always the feeling that perhaps if you can time it just right the price will be perfect. This is very hard to do. However, I will outline a couple of options to make the task easier.
These websites are typically run by a single person or a small team that have a knack for data mining and picking out very cheap deals. You sign up to their email list (free or premium) and receive emails of incredible deals. Certainly the deals offered can be hundreds of dollars / pounds cheaper than normal however you must accept that the best deal may not leave from your city (but perhaps a neighbouring city) and the dates will be something that you have no control over.
There are a number of websites that show you prices across the entire month rather than just a single day.
- Jack’s Flight Club
- Scott’s Cheap Flights
Single City, Multiple Periods
To make the process of finding cheap flights easier you need to see the prices across several days or possible across several months. The following sites show you the prices to one particular city across the period of a month or more.
- Skyscanner – Set the location as your city and the destination as desired. This allows you to see particular destinations over multiple days and helps you to figure out the cheapest time of a given month.
Multi-City, Single Period
The following websites are useful because you can see a single destination across multiple periods. There is great when your dates are fixed but your location is flexible (Christmas time, Easter, Bank holidays).
- Google Flights – You will be used to searching for flights in Google but I recently discovered that it is possible to click on Google maps while browsing for flights. This showed me the cheapest flights across multiple cities for a particular period. I haven’t figured out if this is possible for multiple time periods. It is possible to adjust the dates but that it is slow going.
The following websites ( / options) give a rough overview of multiple cities across multiple periods.
- Ryanair – On the front page click “Find More Deals”.
- Skyscanner – Set the location as your city but the destination as “Flexible Everywhere”.
- British Airways Holidays – It might sound odd but sometimes BA offer deals on flights and hotels as a combination. This can require flexibility and patience as BA isn’t known for being the cheapest.
Flights in a foreign currency
- Cheaper flights — Buying flights in a foreign currency. I’ve yet to thoroughly test this but check out this article from The Points Guy: “Can You Save Money Purchasing Airline Tickets in Foreign Currency?“
- Exchanging foreign currency — Where is the best / worst place? It doesn’t really matter, but airports and train stations will be a bit more expensive. Check out this article from The Points Guy: Where Should I Exchange Currency for an International Trip?