I got an email yesterday that reminded me my next trip is less than 30 days away! I went to London and Paris in March and have two additional trips planned this year, with possibly one more in the works.
Last year was the first year I really traveled as much as I wanted to, which is weird because I never really considered myself someone who likes to travel. But before last year, I always wondered HOW people could afford to travel so often, if at all.
I’ve since realized that what other people do is simply not my business. But, I was jealous and wanted to travel, too!
All of these questions led me down a path of social comparison, feeling behind, etc. None of that is necessary — I’m here to share what I’ve learned in the trenches.
In the last year, I have learned about three apps that save me money when I’m traveling. But before I begin, I want to say that I am NOT a penny-pincher when it comes to…well, anything.
I do have a budget, but there’s a standard for my life that I’ve set, and I’m not willing to sacrifice that standard to save a dollar. Just putting that out there, because I know there a likely a million other apps out there that are on a different level in terms of saving money.
No shame in your game if you can travel on a dime, that’s just not my jam. Everyone spends money on different things!
It’s worth it to me to spend money on travel, because when have you ever regretted spending money on an experience? I haven’t. Plus, I always pack so many activities into a trip that I’m not trying to calculate numbers once I get to my destination.
But that’s just me — so let’s get to the apps.
Hopper (Booking Flights)
I stumbled across this app when I was booking my trip to Denver last year. I couldn’t find a non-stop flight and this quickly popped up on my Instagram feed. At first, it seemed to good to be true, but I booked my first flight on it right away.
Basically, you can search for trips you want to take and Hopper will tell you when the best time to book is, and you can book the flight right through the app (you can still use any rewards systems, too).
In the app, you can set up trips you want to “watch”, by setting your departing location and your destination. You can select specific dates or a range of dates if you’re flexible. You’ll get alerts when flight prices change and the app will specifically say “wait to book” or “book now”.
Of course, these same flights are available outside of the app, but this means I don’t have to keep searching for flights — the app does the work for me.
So far, I’ve booked flights to Denver, New York City, London and San Francisco through the app and I feel like I’ve gotten great deals — my round-trip, non-stop flight to NYC was $200, and the same goes for Denver. I believe my round-trip, non-stop flight to SF was $130. My London trip was $500.
Now, I should note these prices don’t include baggage fees and they are non-refundable. I still think this is totally worth it — plus, the app is free and there are no hidden fees. The prices you see in the app are the prices you pay.
Right now, I’m watching trips to Nantucket, Venice, and Long Beach. Notice a theme, here? 🙂
You can also book your hotel through Hopper (in select cities), but this is not a feature I’ve used so far.
Hotel Tonight (Hotel Reservations)
I heard about thmis app through one of my favorite food bloggers, What’s Gaby Cooking, and downloaded it immediately.
With Hotel Tonight, you can book top-rated hotels at a discounted price. You can book up to 100 days in advance and stay up to 14 days. Basically, these are not cheap hotels. But, you’re getting them at a discounted price.
I know a lot of people choose the cheapest hotel they can find, and I commend this. However, I usually travel alone, and safety is my biggest need on these trips. So, I’m looking for a hotel in an area where I feel safe, and can get a good night’s sleep.
I never spend much time in my room, but I do need to feel safe and sound once I get there!
Just as with Hopper, you can choose cities and dates to “watch” and the app will alert you when prices look good. Once you start searching, you can browse all of the available hotels, see the prices, photos, and even reviews from other Hotel Tonight users.
You can also “save” any hotels that look good so you can refer back to them at any time.
When you book through the app, you earn points to unlock additional features and perks. For example, Level 1 is location-based discounts, Level 2 is an extra 5% off, etc. I’m currently at a Level 4, which gives me an extra 15% off.
I booked my NYC hotel through the app, which gave me a $1300 leg up — I stayed in Times Square during the holiday season, so go figure! Without the app, the hotel would have been twice as much for my stay.
If you decide to try Hotel Tonight, you can use my code: HPHILLIPS96 to get 20% (up to $50) off your first booking!
Today Tix (Event Tickets)
A friend pointed me to this app when I was heading to New York last year. I honestly never thought I would be able to afford a Broadway show, but I saw two on my trip and the tickets were around $60 each using the app.
The app has tickets for plays, comedy, and other entertainment in multiple cities around the globe including San Francisco, London, Seattle and Melbourne, among many others.
As with the other apps I’ve shared so far, you can look on a calendar (it all depends on the show) and see the prices for each night — weekdays are always cheaper! You can even get same-day tickets, when available of course.
And you can choose where you want to sit, depending on the price you want to pay. I always go for the cheapest option, simply because I’m not worried about getting the best option. I’m just happy to be in the same building as the performers!
I’ve only booked three Broadways shows through the app so far, and with these, you meet a Today Tix employee in the front of the theatre and they have your ticket. At first, this gave me anxiety — what if I missed the person!?
Trust me, you can’t miss them. Every time I’ve done this, there’s been at least 10-15 other people also waiting for them, too, and it’s even been a time to meet people (if you’re the kind of person to chat with those around you).
Once you see a show, you can offer your rating, and you can also search for top-rated shows, which are rated according to other Today Tix users. I love this app, even if I’m just looking to see what shows are available!
There you have it, my three apps for affordable travel. All of them are free to use, so try them out and see what you think. Are there apps you use for travel? If so, let me know in the comments so I can use them, too!
If you’d like to see more writing from me, I curate and edit an email newsletter focused on local news and entertainment in Austin, Texas, called Inside Austin. It comes out every Tuesday and Thursday, but once I hit 3,000 subscribers, it gets a third day of publishing. Sign up to get Thursday’s newsletter and/or read past issues!
Thanks for the tips! I have a yearning to go….
You’re welcome! I’m trying to think of another place to go this December but haven’t thought it out yet…