As a semi-pro traveler, one of the best pieces of advice I can give people to help them travel more is to be flexible about your destination. Too often, we’re dead set on a destination and then we force everything else so we can go exactly where we want when we want to. By doing this, we sacrifice having potentially horrible weather, dealing with crowds – but most of all, paying a lot more than you should. Instead, cheap travel inspiration should start with a travel deal and let that create a vacation inspiration.
Where to find flight deals
When I have dates available to travel, the first thing I do is look at Kayak Explore. Using this tool can help you see prices for flights all over the world for specific dates or even an entire month. Many flight search engines provide similar information. For instance, Google Flights allow you to browse cheap flights for any destination or timing. Even if you have a destination in mind, using these resources helps you get a good idea of how much you could be saving by going somewhere else in the same range of time.
Another way to track flight deals, especially if your travel dates are flexible, is to sign up for airfare alerts from travel companies like Scott’s Cheap Flights and AirfareWatchdog. For instance, Scott’s Cheap Flights can send you a weekly digest of flight deals from your home airport. Though you can get travel inspiration by browsing flight search engines, using these travel notification services will help you find out about deep discounts and error fares even when you’re not actively looking. And that’s where the best savings are.
Getting inspired to travel to new places
Once you’ve done some browsing and signed up for some newsletters, the ideas will start coming right into your inbox. So one day you might get an email about slashed prices on flights to Langkawi. Your first question will be, “Where the fuck is Langkawi?” But you might look it up and discover this gorgeous pristine archipelago (in Malaysia, by the way) that you didn’t even know existed rivals the shores of Hawaii and the Bahamas. The first step is always to look up pictures of the destination and simply ask yourself if it looks like somewhere you want to visit.
However, photos alone won’t inspire you to travel somewhere. To really consider a travel destination you have to do a bit of research. Typically my next step is to search for “things to do” in that place. Are there nice nature hikes? Historical castles? Beautiful museums? Amazing food? This is typically how a place I had never even heard of an hour ago becomes a must-visit. The best part is that I already know that getting there will be affordable. Not only does this get you inspired about new and exotic destinations, it also saves you a ton of money.
Avoid unmet expectations
Another advantage to being open to visiting completely random places in the world is that you avoid a lot of disappointment. A byproduct of social media and travel blogs is that many of the same destinations get circulated over and over. But there are a lot of beaches and a lot of mountains and lot of big cities in the world. When you only ever see and hear about the same three places, you’re more likely to want to go there. You want Bali and Cozumel, but Langkawi… maybe not so much. The downside to this is the common tragedy of expectations versus reality. If you’ve dreamed about a place forever and it doesn’t meet your expectations, it’s easy to feel crushed.
On the other hand, if you’ve never even heard of a place and you got there for close to nothing, things can only go uphill from there. Your new favorite destination is just waiting to be discovered. Then you can be the envy-provoking asshole getting the word out about why everyone needs to visit North Macedonia.
This method helps you get to your desired travel destinations, too
I know what you’re thinking. You have a limited amount of money and time off, so as nice and cheap as Azerbaijan might be, it’s really not your top priority right now. And that’s absolutely fair. But you also have to consider how being flexible can get you exactly where you want to go far more affordably.
For instance, the first time I went to Italy, I had very specific cities in mind I wanted to visit: Rome, Venice, and Florence. Sounds reasonable, right? However, I didn’t considered the possibility that a flight to Milan might have been half the price as a flight to Rome. And once you’re already in Italy, a train or bus to your city of choice is probably less than 2 hours and $40. Little did I know then, despite my initial inclinations, Milan would one day become my favorite city in Italy.
Being flexible and creative can still get you where you want to go and save you a ton of money on it. At the very least, you can take advantage of forecasting tools on booking websites which indicate whether flights are abnormally low or high or average over a long period of time. This can help you pinpoint the best time to get you to your dream destination.
But if you’re even a little open-minded, when you’re looking for cheap travel inspiration, you should work backwards. Don’t start with where you want to go. Let the price of travel inspire where you want to go.