Booked a flight to Amsterdam after only a few hours of deliberating?
Are you okay? Are you having an early life crisis? Did you actually do research? Do you have the money for it?
I can’t tell if those were questions I was asking myself or imagining those are the questions that pop up in people’s heads when I tell them I booked a flight to another country with my boyfriend at 11 at night on a Monday.
The countdown begins until we leave for the Netherlands, to the city of 24 hour parties, Seattle-esque weather, beautiful Venice-like canals and a few other crazy things if you don’t mind doing a quick Google search.
I have an entry level job as a news producer and fill-in reporter, and my boyfriend starts his job as a strategy business analyst in a few months. In other words, we aren’t exactly in positions to BLOW cash.
And who is, when you’re young and just starting out in life! Gone are the days where I relied on the spoils my parents have provided for me my entire life; the bubble has been popped. We have nestled ourselves gently into the small cocoon of providing for ourselves and for our future.
So, I’m sure you’re wondering…how can you afford to just jet off on an international flight and gallivant about the Netherlands for a week?
Lean in, a little bit. A little bit closer. There you go.
I SHOP FOR DEALS.
Yes, yes, it’s not rocket science.
I am what can be defined as a BOUGIE PENNY PINCHER.
For those who have no idea what that means or have never heard of it, I have pulled the definition out from the Oxford Dictionary: Alex Edition.
Bougie Penny Pincher
[noun, boo–jee pen–nee pin–chur]
-an individual from a class of people who prefers, enjoys, and was raised on the finer things in life, yet whom, for life’s circumstances or an improved level of maturity, has learned the act of finding and pursuing quality indulgences with inexpensive consequences and lives accordingly to these new life rules
In other words…I know how to find a NASTY sale.
It also doesn’t help that I have a boyfriend who puts everyone to shame when it comes to finding good deals and ignoring screaming prices. I cannot tell you how many times he has talked me out of, shown me evidence, or bought me something that was not only what I was looking for or wanted, but was also heavily discounted or cheaper than where I happened to be looking for it. He is the KING of deal finding, a discount connoisseur, the first of his name. And I love him for it.
We have always had the travel bug and are constantly sending each other places to visit in the future or screenshots of distances we’ve looked up for weekend adventures. When you’re long distance, life has to be fun when you get to see each other, so we’re pretty good at making sure we always have new plans for adventure.
An international trip has always been a goal for us to complete, and we just had to find the right time to put all of our hard work searching and sifting through the internet to put the plans together.
So…how did we do it?
What do you get when you add 1 bougie penny pincher + 1 golden deal finder and a sprinkle of the travel bug?
For you, babes, it means you get a full rundown of our experience so that maybe you can book your very own vacation within your means!
6 STEPS TO PLANNING AN INEXPENSIVE INTERNATIONAL TRIP
- Cheap Flight Deals. Look for them.
Spend enough time searching the web to find your favorite source of information for cheap flights. There are several out there. This, babes, is where MOST of your money goes, especially if you’re only planning on staying a few days or a week somewhere. For international trips, the ticket prices from some airlines could be so expensive that it may not even seem worth it to book. And it isn’t worth it when there are SO many great deals out there. You want to be spending most of your money on the experience once you get there, not being cramped on a 12+ hour flight between snoring Susan and wailing baby Cody and his sleep deprived mother, Margaret.
Some of the deals I have done research on include search engines like Momondo, which is specifically a travel fare metasearch engine that you can spend hours on searching for inexpensive flights. With Momondo, a graph is provided for you to look at prices and how they vary on different days once you’ve picked a destination. The great thing about Momondo is that it will search thousands and thousands of airlines, even low-carrier airlines. It will not only show you the cheapest flight, but also the quickest flight as well as the flight the search engine believes to be the best option.
There is also Skyscanner, a flight comparison website that also has an app!
It will search thousands of airlines of your choice based on the dates and times you put in, and once you have found one you like, it then transfers you over to the airline to do your own booking. Seamless, almost effortless! The app will also send you price alerts every 24 hours for any flights you’re watching. If you’re like me and didn’t know what dates or times you wanted to go and only had a specific month you wanted to travel, not to worry. Skyscanner will show you the cheapest month, day, time, or week to travel to your destination. Don’t know where to go? Also not to worry. Not only is a map of popular areas to visit provided, but the ‘Everywhere’ feature will tell you cheap flights coming out of whatever point of origin you choose (This is when you realize it’s a great time to be living near a major airport!).
Google also has a search engine specifically for searching for flights! It’s called Google Flights.
Google Flights makes it a little easier to search for the cheapest dates and times to fly to your destination, mainly because there are less options to choose from. It is more of a streamlined experience, with the same benefit as Skyscanner. In this search engine, you can also check for Economy, Business and First Class seating in your search as well!
Other options to choose from are Hopper, an app like Skyscanner that helps you “watch” flights and alerts you when the prices will go down, increase, or remain the same. I liked this app for the incentives it would send me in the form of push notifications urging me to purchase a ticket soon or risk missing out on a deal. But as far as deals go, Hopper didn’t really provide the cheapest ones out of all of these options listed.
You could also search Kayak or the actual airlines themselves.
But, my PERSONAL favorite option—and the one I used to book this flight—is…
Wait for it…
SCOTT’S CHEAP FLIGHTS.
An email service that sends you daily flight deals it has found from the search engines I have listed above.
Who wouldn’t want this email? It may look like spam when you receive these twice or sometimes three times a day, but I am proof that the deals are real, just like your dreams of jetting off somewhere for a nice getaway.
And the great thing about this email is that…the work is done FOR you! I applaud you if you want to do your own searches for cheap flights, or believe that an email doesn’t cover ALL of the cheap deals out there. And it probably doesn’t. But the emails are sent daily, and it’s pretty much done a lot of the grunt work for you, even providing you with a link to book the flights immediately.
What I also love about Scott’s Cheap Flights is that the emails will tell you what airports you can fly out of, what airlines are providing the deal, how long the deal will last, what months the deals are for, and how much the tickets normally are, so that you can see how great of a deal you’re getting.
Subscribing to the email is entirely free, as well. There is a paid premium option—which we ended up paying for—which was about 39 dollars that sends us extra deals that non-premium members do not get. The extra deals are GREAT, but I should say that our times as a non-premium member were great as well. The deals were all still very tempting!
- Be flexible.
This is one thing I am not good at. When I say be flexible, I mean this; these deals are not for business class or even first class seats. Most of them are for basic economy seating. If you’re okay with that—as you should be after seeing the deal—then, good. It’s an expectation most don’t know and probably should expect before they book.
Second, don’t be too set on a specific day, week, or month. Just don’t. You have to be open minded when it comes to this. There are so many great deals out there for specific dates and times, mainly for non-touristy times to visit the destinations. Yes, you can search for times or dates on the search engines yourself, but it saves a lot of headache when you come into it knowing that you can get more bang for your buck if you sift for the BEST deal.
- Check your destination’s weather and seasons.
I cannot tell you how many times my friend and I found so many great deals to fly to Thailand at the end of August. Had we jumped the gun and bought a ticket, we would quickly realize that August is during Thailand’s rainy season. Not only would it be humid, but we would risk having our entire vacation filled with rainy days and nights. Not so worth it. So, yes, some of these deals may look amazing, but make sure you are researching your destination and the optimal time to go as well.
If it were up to me, a trip to Paris would mean daily brunches atop fresh white sheets, with a direct view of the Eiffel Tower to wake up to. It would mean cozy candlelit dinners with the best wine the city has to offer on rooftops where award winning orchestras serenade my night out in the city of love with the love of my life.
I have a huge imagination.
But these things cost money, something you won’t have if you spend it all. Make sure that you are enriching yourself in a full experience within your destination. And sometimes that means gorging yourself on a free breakfast at a cheap hostel so that you can spend less money on expensive cuisine and more on tours or traveling to neighboring cities or visiting museums. The two things about your trip that essentially shouldn’t matter are a) where you sleep (because who flew 12+ hours to go sleep somewhere cute) and b) food.
I’m not saying don’t indulge every now and then on staple food items or beer or wine selections. But what I am saying is you don’t need an Aperol Spritz with every meal. Learn where to penny pinch and where to go hard. It goes without saying that experiences are so much better than coming back from your trip and realizing that you spent more on a pillow and mattress and second helpings of Cacio e Pepe.
To my boyfriend and I, this is the best part:) one of our favorite things to do is to create an excel sheet and take turns typing in attractions to visit, the websites, pricing info, top places to eat, historical information on our destination, and more. It sounds like madness, but we have a science to it. It helps us map out what we want to do when we touch down and hit the ground running. One thing we both hate is time wasted and you don’t want that when it comes to vacation.
Make sure that you have at least an idea of what exactly you want to do or visit. Some people create a day to day itinerary, which you can use a free template from Travefy.com to make it easier. If you like apps, TripIt helps you keep organized with all of the documents you need, all of the scheduling, and your hotel/Airbnb information as well. Others just like to create Word documents, which is what me and my best friend are doing for our trip to Bali and Thailand next year. Excel Sheets are great, as well, as you can see. Whatever floats your boat, as long as ya stay floating. Planning is so important to help you get the best out of your trip. It also trains you into searching for the best deals based on your budget!
- Have fun!
The most important part of this journey is that you have fun. Make sure you’re going with amazing, open minded people who are down to immerse themselves in a brand new world of adventure. You want to look back on this and know you made the best choice. After all of the research. The sifting. The bargaining. The deal finding. The late nights of sending screenshots of places to visit. The angst of x amount of days before takeoff. The excitement. Traveling is one the greatest gifts you can give yourself. So make sure it’s done right.
I cannot wait to keep you guys updated with my trip to Amsterdam with babe. If you know of any places to visit while I’m there, please let me know!
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