Budget Travel


I love travelling - I mean, who doesn't? Since I travel a lot and I have limited budget to spend on this luxury, I need to get as smart as possible about managing the travel plan. Flights, hotel, local transportation, food, and shopping. In this blog I would like to share with you how to press your budget and go travel more often.


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Get a Cheap Plane Ticket!
Plane ticket is one of the biggest line item in my travel budget; so I gotta be smart with this one. When it comes to looking for cheap flights, I think I do pretty well - I've gotten round trip flight Chicago - Japan for $300, Chicago - LA for $90, and Chicago - China - Thailand - Chicago for $900. There is a few tactics that I play with when doing my ticket search! 

When I purchase a very straightforward itinerary like Chicago - Japan or Chicago - LA, I would go straight to Google Flights and play around with the dates. It's very easy now to find cheaper rates, because it shows up front what is the range of price for the different dates. It's kind of nice now that I work, because I can take any day off and not bound to travelling only during holidays. I like travelling during off-season, because travelling becomes less expensive and less crowded! Normally going on vacation during day in the week is cheaper than travelling during the weekend, but hey sometimes you can also get good deals during the weekend. When I plan a trip, I don't buy tickets right away, I normally stalk the Google Flight price everyday and follow the trend. Many people said that Tuesday is the cheapest and best day to buy ticket, and I kinda find it true, actually! If you want to track the price and let it notify you when price is low, you can also do so via Google Flight. It's very convenient and smart, and so this is my first way to go. 

Besides researching via Google Flights, I also follow a page called Secret Flying on Facebook. This page shows you what are the cheap flights and itinerary of the day. Some times the flight is cheap because of some error, but sometimes it's simply the trend. Last year, when I saw this page, I saw a trend that flights to Japan, Korea, and Russia were on the low side; that's how I planned to go to Japan and track the price closely. It's definitely one of my favorite Facebook page of all time. 

Lastly, when it comes to Europe travel, I rely on an application called Momondo. This application for some reasons work best for travels outside of the US (Asia or Europe), perhaps because it also includes other local airlines in Europe. Thanks to my brother's girlfriend for introducing me to this application. 

When it comes to complicated itinerary: Chicago - China 1 - China 2 - Bangkok - Indonesia - Chicago, I often rely on Travel Agents. I don't know how many people still rely on agents, but in my case I found them helpful in slicing up my itinerary to find the cheapest possible flight combination. When I went to Google Flights, I entered all of the above as multi-city itinerary, and everything came up around $1,400. Little did I know, If I slice it up to Chicago - Bangkok (RT), China 1- China 2 - Bangkok, I would save about $600 in ticket price. Of course when I work with the agent, I also do my own research. I do mention which airlines have the cheapest fare so far and go from there. I found this really helpful. 

And when you are stuck.. flight ticket expensive but you still have to or want to go.. get your mileage out! When you travel with Star Alliance or some flight alliances, and you have the membership, you can gain mileage each time you travel via plane. You can also get extra mileage via Credit Card. In my case, I actually use Chase's Mileage Plus credit card in almost every purchase I make so that I can get mileage that I can use to travel. This would be my last resort though. Flight ticket from Chicago is pretty cheap these days, so using mileage won't be worth it. 



Accommodation!
If you have a friend living in your destination, please be nice to them and beg them so that you can stay at their place during your visit. I've never done it but that would be the cheapest way to go. For me, accommodation does not really matter when I stay in some cities in the US, but it does matter when I stay abroad. The most important things for me are: safe area, clean, modern, and I can check in any time. Other than that, I'd go by price.
When I go to booking.com or airbnb.com, I will first define the area where I want to stay, cancellation policy, and then by price (low to high). I will stalk some of their pictures and book!
Depending on the destination, you may want to care about the experience or whether you need a shuttle or not. For example, when I went to Japan I know I wanted to experience the capsule hotel and traditional hotels. When I went to Orlando, I wanted a hotel that provides free shuttle to Disney or Universal, so I won't pay for car rental and parking. All and all, be thoughtful.


Local Transportation
When deciding what mode of transportation you want to use during your stay, it really depends on what you want and how many people is in your group. If you travel alone in a city, I think using public transportation can be fun. If you travel alone in some place like LA or Utah, then you got no option but driving a car. If you travel in big group (4-5 people) in New York, it makes sense to grab Uber rides, it all depends. The best travel I have done, though, are the ones where I take public transportation like train or bus, I feel more local and adventurous. Part of travel is undeniably soaking up the culture and people's life in the area. Travelling via public transportation is one way to see the commuter's daily life. When I traveled to Hungary, I took the train alone, and while I was scared I feel like I got sucked into the lives of people in Budapest. It's interesting and different. I am not saying that taking public transportation is always the cheapest (Japanese shinkansen is super expensive), but it can be interesting, definitely. 


Food and Drinks (Main Travel)
The way to save money on the main travel itself is to have a plan. When I travel, I always know what are places I want to visit, what food I want to try, and what are the best times to go there. Getting you to that place cost a lot, so if you have no plan when you travel, to me it's kind of a waste of time and money. When it comes to exploring the places, food, and drink, I also do my research by going to Google, Pinterest, Instagram, Yelp and find people's recommendation. Once I know what places I want to go, I lay them on Google Map and find the best route and schedule the trip. For food, I normally relies on Yelp. Unless the food is really special, I would stick with restaurant with $$.

Shopping - I normally don't do a lot during trip. I like to buy things that are memorable to me or uber cute (and tbh, I can't get away with this one whether I travel or not). That's how I save money.


Now you know my travel tips and tricks and how I can get the most out of my money when I travel. Please share with me if you have more tips! Enjoy your vacation times~


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E. Balbo Ave & S. Holden Ct (South Loop)
Chicago, IL


xx,

Catherine



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