Here's Your Poverty Travel Guide!

Poor? 

Want to travel? Need to travel? 

Well look no further, I've got you covered. If there's anything these last two years have taught me, it's how to survive on Ramen noodles and travel on nickels. I'm going to write about travel a lot this year as vacation season ramps up, and I hope my other traveling friends stop by with some posts, too. While there are tons of sites dedicated to traveling, I think every layperson has a trick or two up their sleeve. 

My tricks happen to be ballin' on a budget. Certain skills of mine, like hustling upgrades at the gate, are things that take alcohol, charm, and time to learn, but these things you can put into place immediately. 

Today we're going to cover philosophy, hotels, and airfare. 

Philosophy

When you're scoring deals, you can't be a romantic. You can't have an airline you love, a particular hotel threshold...you have to check your bougie at the door. Sorry, poverty does not allow choice. I happen to be lucky that my standards are incredibly low when I travel. If the plane isn't held together with duct tape, and there hasn't been a hooker murdered in a hotel room in the past six months, I'm good. Your goal is to get there and have a place to sleep on the cheap so you can spend your money on experiences. If you can't adopt that mindset, back out now. 

Ready? Let's go...

Airfare

First and foremost, you're going to need time to map this out. Even though I travel pretty much bi-weekly, I still do this each and every Tuesday afternoon. Yes, Tuesday afternoon. That's when prices are slashed as planes aren't getting booked. I like to be a cowboy and do things at the last second because it's a thrill for me, but no matter what, always book on a Tuesday afternoon. 

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  • Don't solely rely on sites like Priceline, Orbitz, CheapflightsNow, etc. to give you the best deal. 90% of the time, going directly through the airline has been the better deal. 
  • Explore discount options. I know airlines like Spirit and Frontier are basically flying Greyhounds, but if you're just going somewhere for the weekend, pack a backpack, dress in layers, and deal with it for $27. Hell, I'll sit on a wing for that price. And truth be told, those airlines are so laid back, the atmosphere is really fun sometimes. 
  • Fly into the big cities. I can fly into Chicago for a tenth of the price it costs me to fly into Peoria, IL or Cedar Rapids, IA. Take your time and get creative. Sometimes you can score a sweet airfare and a train ticket to the smaller market, or even rent an economy car and drive the second leg. 
  • Don't be a snob about nonstop. So you add two hours to your travel and spend a minute in the Cleveland airport to save $100. That's $100 extra you have to spend on a good time when you get to where you're going. 
  • Unless you fly a lot, points are useless. I fly a lot. Points matter for me and enter into the game. If you travel once or twice a year, don't even worry about it. 

Hotels

Again, you have to assess your lowest level of comfort. Last October, when I was on the Georgia coast, I remember my assistant freaking out that I booked a $39 room at the Days Inn. I was like, "WUT. They're owned by the Wyndam, have big comfy beds, towels are washed in bleach, and they have a bitchin breakfast! So maybe drug deals and prostitution happen on occasion. Doors have deadbolts and I have nowhere to be after dark!

She died on the spot. Dead. RIP, bougie girl. I had a wonderful night and a glorious breakfast at that Days Inn, and here I am living to tell the tale! AND I got sweet Wyndham points! 

La Quinta Corporation
  • Airfare Tuesdays/Hotels Thursdays. Again, I like to cowboy it up and wait extra last second to book because they have to get the rooms they haven't booked for the weekend unloaded. Two weeks ago I got a SWEET room at the Sheraton for pennies. This is where I recommend the closeout sites. Hotels.com and Travelocity are my favorites. 
  • Unlike flying, you want to move out of the major metropolitan area. Pick a nice suburb 15-20 minutes away and save hundreds. I'm not even kidding. Another trick is to stay around the perimeter of the airport if you can stand the noise. You'll also probably score free hotel transportation doing this. 
  • If you're staying somewhere shady, don't go out alone after dark and make sure the locks work. Just safety and common sense. 
  • And just because something is 'cheap' doesn't mean it's garbage. I have stayed at several LaQuinta Inns that are a bajillion nicer than Hyatts. Days Inn has bomb-ass beds. Extended Stay America is dirt cheap AND has kitchenettes so you can save money on food and eat-in. High end hotels have pretty lobbies and $15 drinks. You're supposed to be out having experiences, not a hotel staycation. 
  • If you do go high-end, get the business pass for the Club Room. You will basically eat for free all weekend because they have snacks and drinks out, and a hot breakfast in the morning. It's usually an extra $50 a stay, but totally worth it when you think about how much eating in restaurants for every meal costs. 

So that's my first round of quick tips for traveling on a super tight budget. It's actually fun for me to see how much I can save and what I can score on the cheap. There's one gate agent here in Atlanta at the American terminal who knows me so well I get a thumbs up or a thumbs down when I walk by to see if my upgrade game is going to be strong or not. 

Obviously this is for quick weekend trips. Please don't try to plan a big family vacation like this, because that's just courting disaster. I have never dated or been married to someone who can travel like this. My ex-husband flew Southwest with me once and he kept itching like he was going to catch middle class or something. If you're like me and it's your jam? Go for it. I'm just saying not everyone is equipped to handle it and you want it to be fun, not create a Depression-era feel to the trip where your kids would rather jump into boxcars than do another four hour Spirit flight. 

Have fun and bring your sense of adventure with you! 

Jennifer Gulbrandsen