I'm a college student who makes about $10,000 a year, if I'm lucky. Most students my age who want to travel beg there parents to pay for a trip to Cancun, take out huge loans to do a study abroad in a single country, or simply stay close to home and never see the world. Needless to say, when I tell fellow students I have travelled to over 18 different countries in the last two years without breaking the bank or begging my parents for money, they are shocked. They often ask "how did you do it?" In this article I will share the number one secret to inexpensive travel - how to find cheap plane tickets.
Last year a close friend of mine and I decided to travel from Panama City to Torreon, Mexico. We wanted to see every country in Central America in six weeks and we wanted to do it for as little as possible. The first step in this trip was finding inexpensive airline tickets. We were based in Salt Lake City and could not find round trip tickets for under $600 dollars. However, after spending weeks searching we found round trip tickets for only $230 - and literally saved ourselves $470. I used the same process to find round trip tickets to England for under $300, China for under $350, and countless other states and countries. Here are the methods for finding inexpensive tickets:
1. Choose a website (I prefer kayak) and select the dates you would like to leave. Get a general idea on how much it should cost. A general rule is to find out what the average price is and cut it in half - that is how much you should be able to find tickets for.
2. Be flexible with your dates. Most websites allow you to search 3 days before and after the date you want to leave. Prices often are slashed by as much as $400 depending on the day and time of day you leave on. Again, as a general rule Weekdays (Monday - Thursday) are generally the most inexpensive.
3. Check out other airports. I departed from LAX when going to Panama - I drove with a friend from Salt Lake City to his house in LA. We split the gas - it cost about $30 each. Saving over$ 300 (cost of the plane ticket if we had left from Salt Lake City).
4. Check multiple times daily. Airline ticket prices constantly fluctuate. Decide the price that you are willing to pay and do not buy tickets until you see it drop to that price. This process can take up to weeks, but is well worth it.
5. Buy tickets as far in advance as possible. Airlines have the cheapest prices 22 days before the flight. They raise prices at 21 days, then again at 14 days, then again at 7 days. They know that many business people have to book tickets just days in advance. This is a huge advantage to people who have months or even weeks to plan ahead. The farther in advance you plan, the more time you have to find the price you want for your ticket.
6. Give up you seat. We have all been at the airport and heard over the loudspeaker someone say "flight ____ is overbooked, we are offering an incentive to volunteers willing to give up their seat." If you ever hear this, and are able to, give up your seat. You will be able to fly on the next flight and will get usually between $100 and $400 towards a flight. A ticket you paid for can literally be free if you give up you seat.
In my experience, the above steps will help you get the cheapest ticket possible. If you use the above steps you will finally be able to visit that country or culture you have always wanted to. It will help you get out of the monotony of daily life and bring a passion and fire to it.