The Best Places You Can Fly for Cheap Right Now

best-places-to-fly-in-october

Eager to hit the road but not sure where to go? With fall in full swing, we felt it was only right that we research the best places to visit this season. It turns out budget travelers have plenty of options, and if they play their cards right they can hitch a ride on a jet plane for as little as $200 roundtrip. We tapped Billy Sanez, vice president of marketing for FareCompare, an airfare travel deals site, to pull up data on places with the best deals right now.

Austin, Texas 

The Texas capital has everything a budget-conscious family could want: historic attractions, world-class hotels, stunning scenery and killer barbecue (also: live music). The 2016 Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix happens there later this month too. “The weather won’t be as hot, probably in the 80s,” said Sanez, “and you’ll still be able to find great hotels … The only challenge there is you won’t have Uber” — the city banned the ride-hailing service in May.

New Orleans

If jazz and beignets dusted with sugar get your pulse racing, then the soulful city of New Orleans is the place to be. “It’s a little bit [of the] lower season for them,” Sanez said, “and actually you can probably get down there for less than $150 roundtrip from anywhere in the U.S.” Known for its vibrant nightlife and legendary music, New Orleans is a dream in the fall, perfect for picnics.

Seattle 

For those flying from the East Coast, especially cities like Boston, New York and Savannah, Georgia, a fare to Seattle can be had for less than $200 roundtrip, Sanez said. “Usually you’ll also see great deals for hotels.” That’s a good thing because you’ll be need cash for pinot in wine country and those aromatic molten chocolate cakes on Ballard Avenue.

Western Europe

We’ve reported on the phenomenon of cheap European flights, and this season the story’s no different. “You can get to just about any popular country for less than $600 roundtrip,” said Sanez, especially scenic London and Paris. “Germany, France and the U.K. will be a bit chilly, but it’s going to be like New York weather,” said Sanez. “In parts of Spain, Portugal and Italy, it’s going to be in the 70s.”

More Ways to Save on Airfare

With the holidays coming up, it’s important to look for ways to ease the strain on your wallet. A good place to start: travel rewards credit cards, which can soup up your trip with free checked baggage, hotel upgrades and miles. Just remember, you’ll need solid credit in order to qualify — lenders don’t like to see applicants who can’t manage their payments responsibly. So if you’re considering a new piece of plastic, be sure to check your credit before you apply. You can view two of your credit scores, updated every two weeks, for free on Credit.com.

Image: mixmotive

The post The Best Places You Can Fly for Cheap Right Now appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Score the Best Last-Minute Hotel Deals for the Republican Convention

republican-and-democratic-conventions

If you’re still planning to attend the Republican National Convention in Cleveland next week but haven’t booked your trip yet, hotel experts say you’d better act fast.

Just 24% of the city’s accommodations are listed as still available on Booking.com from July 18-21. The highest-rated available property is Stone Gables Bed and Breakfast, according to the site, which is conveniently located 7 minutes from the Quicken Loans Arena, where the convention will take place.

“Demand for accommodation within the city limits remains extremely high,” Booking.com spokesperson Joseph Moscone said via email, so it may be worth it to check venues outside the city proper for availability.

More Ways to Score a Room

If you’ve exhausted your options online or don’t have time to search around the web for the most affordable accommodations, don’t panic. You may be able to lower the price of a room by applying for your deserved discounts, like AAA or AARP.

You may also be able to put your travel rewards credit card to use by redeeming miles you’ve accumulated for a hotel room. Similarly, hotel rewards credit cards can help fund your stay. The Starwood Preferred Guest credit card from American Express (see a full review here), for instance, allows cardholders to earn double points at Starwood properties, such as the Westin, which can be redeemed for award nights starting at just 3,000 points per night. And Hilton’s HHonors Surpass Card, also from American Express, gives cardmembers access to room upgrades, which may nab you the type of room that you need if you’re traveling with a large group. (You can learn more about the best hotel rewards credit cards in America here.)

If you’re considering applying for a travel rewards credit card or something similar, it’s a good idea to check your credit score first, as this will help determine what kind of rates you may qualify for. You can view two of your credit scores, updated each month, for free on Credit.com.

At publishing time, The Starwood Preferred Guest Card from American Express is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: Arpad Benedek

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Is It Really Cheaper to Use a Travel Site?

travel credit cards

Unless you’re living large and traveling first class wherever you go, chances are you’re looking to score the best possible airfare, hotel and car rental deals whenever you need or want to travel.

But finding these travel deals can be daunting. You can spend hours searching airfares posted on aggregators, like Kayak, and online travel agent sites, like Travelocity and Orbitz, then comparing them to prices listed on airline and hotel websites, all the while wondering if the deal notification emails you’ve signed up for will send you an even lower rate tomorrow or next week.

Really, it’s enough to make you need a vacation.

While you’re probably never going to know whether you got the absolute cheapest deal available (though our anecdotal research showed that you almost always get a deep discount on hotel-and-airfare combos through online travel agent sites compared to booking them separately through individual hotels and airlines), there are some tricks you can use that can help ensure you get a deal that fits your own personal needs.

If you want to earn maximum airline miles and hotel points…

You can almost always use your airline’s frequent flier or loyalty number when booking on an online travel site, but you’re less likely to be able to use your loyalty number for hotel bookings. So, if that free upgrade to a luxury suite in Istanbul is on your radar, booking directly with the hotel to get those points might be your best bet. One way to work around this is if you have hotel rewards credit card or an airline miles credit card. You might not earn as many points as booking directly with the hotel or airline, but it can help you earn points for future travel. (You can check out the winners of our recent ranking of the best travel credit cards in America.)

If you want maximum flexibility…

If you’re the kind of traveler who wants to change rooms or even hotels midway through your stay — whether because of a problem or just on a whim — booking through a travel site might make things trickier.

Some hotels don’t allow changes on bookings made through a third party, so it’s a good idea to check to see if your chosen booking site will help you.

“Certainly we have heard … from time to time that’s an issue,” Travelocity spokesman Keith Nowak said. “That’s why we put into place our customer first guarantee.” If there’s a challenge at the hotel, Travelocity guarantees they’ll make it right, Nowak said, whether it’s finding a new hotel or correcting a situation at the current hotel.

If you need to travel to specific places on specific dates…

Say you’re booking your own business travel and need to be in downtown Dayton, Ohio, on a specific date and within a two-block radius of your client’s offices. In this case, a tool like Name Your Own Price from Priceline, which lets you choose your price and then finds the cheapest, closest match, but not necessarily on preferred days, may not your best option. Comparison shopping on travel booking sites and your favorite airlines is probably the best way to find what you’re looking for.

If you’re flexible and want a good deal…

This situation is where a site like AirFareWatchdog.com can be your wallet’s best friend. AirFareWatchdog gathers deals and sends you alerts, so if you see something you like you can book it.

“We have a staff of people who look at very many websites and when we find a low airfare we let people know about it,” George Hobica, president and founder of AirFareWatchdog, said. The deals can be so good — like a recent $65 cross-country flight, he noted as an example — you might be enticed to take a vacation you hadn’t planned before.

“Sometimes you didn’t know you needed it, but you see a crazy-low fare like that and you think ‘Well, now I need that,’” Hobica said.

If you find the whole thing daunting…

If you don’t know exactly where or when you want to travel, or if you just find the whole idea of sifting through numerous deals and options too daunting a task, there’s always the option of the old-fashioned travel agent, which really isn’t that bad a deal.

Travel agents by and large have access to the same rates as the online booking sites (sometimes better) and will take care of the booking and planning for you. This may come with a fee, typically $20-$50, but you may find that the convenience of using a travel agent is worth it, and you can make up the expense in other ways. And if you run into any problems before or during your trip they can often help you out with those as well.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: iStock

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How We’re Hacking Our Summer Travel

summer_travel

We climbed out of $51,000 in credit card debt. We credit this achievement to one thing — discovering our why. (We learned from incomparable motivational speaker John Rohn that anything is achievable as long as we first know “why” we want to achieve it. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t get this memo until well after we paid off our credit card debt, but it’s still a great quote to fall back on.)

One of Our ‘Whys’ – Travel

We can’t travel enough. Travel expands our world and gives us with new experiences. We’ve traveled at length both nationally and internationally. Two years ago, to focus on growing the Debt Free Guys, we made the decision to limit ourselves to domestic travel only, mostly to visit family and for work. We can’t not visit mom for three years!

Our three-year international travel hiatus is almost up. That said, we’ve planned, documented and are financially preparing for our 2016 contiguous-48 travel. This year’s travel theme is “family milestones” — a 50th wedding anniversary and a 100th birthday.

First, we’re taking a much-needed vacation in May. This go-round, we’re visiting both Los Angeles and Palm Springs, Calif. As much as we’ve traveled California, John’s never been to LA and neither of us have been to Palm Springs. We both love the mid-century modern architecture and are excited about the latter leg of this trip.

Making Our Travel Cheaper

In June, we’re flying to Dickinson, N.D., to celebrate David’s grandmother’s 100th birthday! We visit Dickinson annually and it’s a nice change of pace from our normal and David’s grandmother has a lot to teach us about life and even money. She’s wise and sharp as a tack.

John hopes to someday beat David’s grandmother in pinochle, which he has yet to do. Despite being 100 years old, she can still count cards. For her 101st birthday, we may take her to Vegas.

When we visit David’s grandmother, our strategy for keeping costs down typically is staying with her. This visit will be different. David’s grandmother has nine children and countless grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Hers will be a full house (no pun intended — that’s a different game).

DFG Summar TravelTo avoid stress, contain costs and maximize our rewards, we’re using our hotel points in Dickinson rather than in bigger cities where hotel points won’t go as far. We can stay at a hotel in Dickinson for half the number of hotel points it costs to stay in Philadelphia. Such is the economics of supply and demand.

When we stay at hotels, we’re prone to use room service to satiate midnight hunger. Several years ago we learned to avoid the excessive room service costs with delivery from nearby restaurants. The same food costs half as much, even with a hefty tip. We search online for restaurants within one mile of our hotel.

In July, we’re flying to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to first visit John’s friends in the City of Brotherly Love, after which we’ll drive to Hershey, Penn., otherwise known as Chocolate Town USA, to visit John’s family. This trip is to celebrate John’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary.

The round-trip flight will be sponsored by airline miles acquired from travel hacking. We’ve mastered the art of using our credit cards and paying them off each month, so we don’t pay credit card interest. (High credit card balances can also hurt your credit score. You can see how your credit card balances are impacting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) Paying our balances off in full has helped us accrue points and travel cheaply on our numerous trips. (You can see what some of the best travel credit cards in America offer here.)

Finally, in September, we’re flying to San Diego, Calif., for a personal finance conference. Since the trip is part of our work as the Debt Free Guys, we’ll be sure to deduct our flight as a travel expense when it comes time to do our taxes next year. And we’ll be sure to enjoy the city during our stay.

So, to recap, here are our Debt Free Guys’ travel saving tips.

  1. Use hotel points in smaller cities to stretch hotel points further.
  2. Use restaurant delivery rather than room service.
  3. Use credit cards to acquire airline miles, not credit card debt.
  4. Get a tax deduction on business travel expenses each year.

Try using some of our strategies for planning your summer travel. Every bit of savings helps and, for us, goes towards our investments for maximum return.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: BeylaBalla; Inset Image Courtesy of David Auten and John Schneider

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How to Have a Not-So-Expensive (NSE) Weekend Away

camping

When we were paying off $51,000 in credit card debt, vacations were a big strain on our budget. We dedicated as much of our disposable income as possible to paying off our debt, not adding to it. For a while, we took no vacations at all.

It was then that we discovered “not-so-expensive” or NSE. NSE is our way to do the things we love, but focus on the things we love more. We love wine, but don’t need a $40 bottle when we’re home by ourselves on a Friday night. Our alternative is an NSE box of wine, which gives us more wine for our buck. Rather than cable TV, we use the NSE streaming alternatives.

While we love to travel, we wanted to pay off our debt even more and NSE options were a great way to do both. Two of our favorite NSE weekends away were nearby our home in Denver, close to all the Rocky Mountains have to offer. One NSE weekend was spent in Winter Park, Colorado during the summer off-season. Another was an NSE Staycation at our friend’s home in Buena Vista. Both options gave us the break we needed, but didn’t break our budget.

Here are six keys we still follow today, even now that we’re debt free. These NSE weekends away give us mini-vacations, so we can save for bigger vacations.

1. Visit Friends and Family Within Driving Distance

Gas prices are way down from their 2006 peak and a two-to-four hour drive is no longer as expensive as a plane ticket. Try not to overstay your welcome, though. House guests are like fish; they stink after three days. If you want to stay longer, consider spending a couple of nights in a hotel. You can thank your hosts with a small gift or treat them to an NSE dinner.

2. When in Rome ….

When traveling, it’s easy to get sucked into the tourist traps. Instead, plan ahead and go on the website of the town or city you’re visiting to find local events and activities. You’d be surprised how many free or cheap activities some places offer and you get to experience the unique, local flare of your host city. For example, a colleague of ours puts together an annual list of over 400 NSE activities in the Denver metro area each summer. That’s a goldmine for any family who wants to visit Denver on the cheap. What NSE activities can you find where you’re visiting?

3. Eat Like a Local

Tools like Yelp are great for seeing what restaurants are rated highly and what restaurants are highly priced. We have a more edgy trick up our sleeves: You can use a dating app that identifies locals, like Tinder or Grindr, (give full disclose to your significant other first) to ask where to get the best meals at the best prices. You’ll be surprised at how helpful and friendly locals are, and you may find a tour guide for a day or two.

4. Meals Don’t Need to Be Expensive

Weekends away often blow the dining budget. Don’t forget quick-casual restaurants and tools such as Groupon and Living Social to control dining costs. When staying at a hotel, request a room with a kitchenette to cook simple meals. With proper planning, you can bring many ingredients from home.

5. Buy Liquor at Home

If you’re like us, you imbibe more when traveling. You can buy your libations at home rather than your vacation destination where prices often include a tourist mark-up. Drink a glass of wine or two before you hit the town and you can cut your drinking bill in half.

6. Consider Alternative Accommodations

The rise of the part-time landlord has been a boom for businesses and travelers alike. Websites like AirBNB or VRBO could help your find affordable apartments, rooms, or even whole houses for rent in your travel destination. Using these seven tech savvy tips could help your score an even cheaper stay. You may want to choose a place with a kitchen so you can have breakfast in bed with your special someone. Some cleaning and other hidden fees can negate the NSE value. (If you treat these places like your home and clean before you leave, you may able to save $50 to $250 in cleaning fees. It’s also helpful to take pictures of your rented space before you leave to keep everyone on the up and up.)

Being on a budget doesn’t need to eliminate your fun. With proper planning and a little thinking outside the box, a NSE weekend may be just what you need. If you need help finding non-traditional NSE vacation destinations, we’ve compiled 6 travel tips and reasonably priced destinations for you. You’ll likely love a break in any of those six destinations and you won’t break your budget.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: omgimages

The post How to Have a Not-So-Expensive (NSE) Weekend Away appeared first on Credit.com.

How to Have a Not-So-Expensive (NSE) Weekend Away

camping

When we were paying off $51,000 in credit card debt, vacations were a big strain on our budget. We dedicated as much of our disposable income as possible to paying off our debt, not adding to it. For a while, we took no vacations at all.

It was then that we discovered “not-so-expensive” or NSE. NSE is our way to do the things we love, but focus on the things we love more. We love wine, but don’t need a $40 bottle when we’re home by ourselves on a Friday night. Our alternative is an NSE box of wine, which gives us more wine for our buck. Rather than cable TV, we use the NSE streaming alternatives.

While we love to travel, we wanted to pay off our debt even more and NSE options were a great way to do both. Two of our favorite NSE weekends away were nearby our home in Denver, close to all the Rocky Mountains have to offer. One NSE weekend was spent in Winter Park, Colorado during the summer off-season. Another was an NSE Staycation at our friend’s home in Buena Vista. Both options gave us the break we needed, but didn’t break our budget.

Here are six keys we still follow today, even now that we’re debt free. These NSE weekends away give us mini-vacations, so we can save for bigger vacations.

1. Visit Friends and Family Within Driving Distance

Gas prices are way down from their 2006 peak and a two-to-four hour drive is no longer as expensive as a plane ticket. Try not to overstay your welcome, though. House guests are like fish; they stink after three days. If you want to stay longer, consider spending a couple of nights in a hotel. You can thank your hosts with a small gift or treat them to an NSE dinner.

2. When in Rome ….

When traveling, it’s easy to get sucked into the tourist traps. Instead, plan ahead and go on the website of the town or city you’re visiting to find local events and activities. You’d be surprised how many free or cheap activities some places offer and you get to experience the unique, local flare of your host city. For example, a colleague of ours puts together an annual list of over 400 NSE activities in the Denver metro area each summer. That’s a goldmine for any family who wants to visit Denver on the cheap. What NSE activities can you find where you’re visiting?

3. Eat Like a Local

Tools like Yelp are great for seeing what restaurants are rated highly and what restaurants are highly priced. We have a more edgy trick up our sleeves: You can use a dating app that identifies locals, like Tinder or Grindr, (give full disclose to your significant other first) to ask where to get the best meals at the best prices. You’ll be surprised at how helpful and friendly locals are, and you may find a tour guide for a day or two.

4. Meals Don’t Need to Be Expensive

Weekends away often blow the dining budget. Don’t forget quick-casual restaurants and tools such as Groupon and Living Social to control dining costs. When staying at a hotel, request a room with a kitchenette to cook simple meals. With proper planning, you can bring many ingredients from home.

5. Buy Liquor at Home

If you’re like us, you imbibe more when traveling. You can buy your libations at home rather than your vacation destination where prices often include a tourist mark-up. Drink a glass of wine or two before you hit the town and you can cut your drinking bill in half.

6. Consider Alternative Accommodations

The rise of the part-time landlord has been a boom for businesses and travelers alike. Websites like AirBNB or VRBO could help your find affordable apartments, rooms, or even whole houses for rent in your travel destination. Using these seven tech savvy tips could help your score an even cheaper stay. You may want to choose a place with a kitchen so you can have breakfast in bed with your special someone. Some cleaning and other hidden fees can negate the NSE value. (If you treat these places like your home and clean before you leave, you may able to save $50 to $250 in cleaning fees. It’s also helpful to take pictures of your rented space before you leave to keep everyone on the up and up.)

Being on a budget doesn’t need to eliminate your fun. With proper planning and a little thinking outside the box, a NSE weekend may be just what you need. If you need help finding non-traditional NSE vacation destinations, we’ve compiled 6 travel tips and reasonably priced destinations for you. You’ll likely love a break in any of those six destinations and you won’t break your budget.

More Money-Saving Reads:

Image: omgimages

The post How to Have a Not-So-Expensive (NSE) Weekend Away appeared first on Credit.com.