MONTRÉAL, Canada – We all want to travel at low prices. It’s fascinating to see the number of articles and serious studies written on the subject. Travel deals are still very popular and social media lovers are always quick on the trigger when time comes to share or retweet tantalizing opportunities for flights or discount hotels.

In addition to these bargains, “experts” in points and rewards, which come from credit cards or other loyalty plans, all claim, as dubious cult gurus, that it is possible to travel “for free.”

How do you separate the true from the false? There are a lot of possible pitfalls and obvious scams. Here are some tips to help you travel cheaply without getting in trouble.

There are several factors that are part of the total travel bill. Depending on our preferred mode of travel, it is possible to get away with a low total cost. Here are some key points to remember when evaluating travel deals: airfaire costs, the various elements that include cost of living and various small fees that can become overwhelming.

Cheap Travel and Travel Deals – Airfare

Airline tickets are obviously the most important expense when you want to travel cheaply. Those who live near a second-tier international airport, such as Montreal, or even some distance from any international airport, such as the people of Quebec City, also understand that flying is not only an investment in money but also in time. How much is our time worth? How much money are we willing to spend in order to save hours in transit?

Google Flights is probably the most comprehensive tool to visualize price differences between airline tickets. Use the search engine’s “calendar” function to see which dates are the cheapest.

Obviously, dozens and dozens of articles and studies have been produced explaining when – what time of day, what day of the week, when in the year, and how much time in advance – purchase of a plane ticket is done at the lowest price. The most complete of these has probably been published by Skyscanner – another website that allows to clearly visualize where the cheapest ticket is.

If you believe these articles and studies, to travel cheaply, you must buy a plane ticket on Tuesday morning very early in the morning and in early May for the purpose of traveling in November. This is obviously not very practical, and above all, in no way flexible.

In this case, how to amortize the cost of this ticket?

Cheap Travel and Travel Deals – Cost of Living

Cost of living is a concept that includes costs related to food, accommodation, travel and entertainment, among others.

When you choose your destination, you usually look at the price of the plane ticket. This sometimes represents a catch. For example, airfares to Bermuda or the Maldives are often very inexpensive. However, the cost of living at the destination is extremely high in both cases. It’s a little bit like buying a Ferrari and saving on gas by driving at 20 MPH at all times…

To counterbalance the cost of airfare, one must choose destinations where the cost of living is low. 

To summarize, the country where the cost of living is the lowest in the world is India.

The only problem is that India is far away. Unfortunately, if you only stay for a few days, the benefit of the reduced cost of living is not very significant on the total budget. It is, therefore, a question of staying there for several weeks.

It’s simple: do you have time? Accept that you will pay a little more for the plane ticket in order to find yourself in an affordable place. You’re running out of time but have money? Look for the most affordable airline tickets, and indulge once there, no matter the destination!

Cheap Travel and Travel Deals – What about payment methods?

Advice about payment methods is everywhere on the web. Some say that when traveling, it is better to use a credit card that offers a lot of points. Others claim that we must always pay everything in cold hard cash. Others, finally, have an irrational fear of bank charges, conversions and transactions. Travelling on the cheap while fighting financial institutions, only for ambitious people!

Take $50 out of your bank account from a local ATM, and watch the charges go up: your bank takes three dollars, the local bank takes six, and voilà, you just paid a 20% fee.

Withdraw that same $50 with a cash advance on your credit card and your total fees increase at a glance. That 20% is probably not that bad, compared to credit card fees. Don’t forget that Visa and MasterCard love it when you ask them to convert currencies, because they choose the rate!

Obviously, if you withdraw too much money at once and find yourself with a surplus of local currency, when you return home you will have to go through a currency exchange booth at the airport. And then, the costs multiply very quickly; more quickly, in fact, than any other transaction.

To travel cheap, there are still interesting solutions.

First, some Canadian banks, such as Tangerine Bank, have partners around the world. This means that you can withdraw money from your account without paying ATM fees.

Second, use your credit card to make purchases wherever you can. Not only does this allow you to keep an eye on your expenses, it is also a protection against fraud. In addition, some cards also offer automatic travel insurance. For example, renting a car using a credit card may give you damage insurance, depending on the terms of use.

Forget “travellers cheques,” and do not waste your time getting converted cash from the bank before departure. Also, never travel with too much cash as this is a risk in case of theft or loss. Finally, always leave a few bills of American money in your hotel room, preferably in the safe. If unfortunately, you find yourself without your wallet and credit cards, the hidden dollar bills could save your life – figuratively, or maybe even literally.

Cheap Travel and Travel Deals – What About Loyalty Cards?

Before you get into the credit card bonus points rat race, ask yourself these two questions:

  • Is there an annual fee?
  • Will I use this card enough to meet the requirements?

Do not forget that these loyalty cards, whether it’s hotel cards that offer points, airline “miles” cards and other rewards, have demanding requirements to meet. For example, if you do not use your Aeroplan card for 12 months straight, you lose all your points! Is it worth traveling with Aeroplan partners, even if you pay more? The answer is not the same from one traveller to another, but tell yourself this: if a traveler who spends about 150 days on the road per year is having difficulty using his card to his benefit, will you? (Yes, I’m talking about myself, here.)

Same goes for credit cards that offer points, flights, discounts and other offers of the kind. These cards all have, without exception, an annual fee. If the card has a fee of $300 a year, and your main annual vacation is to spend five days in an all-inclusive resort in Cuba, do you think you will be able to save money in the end?

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