It’s the summer travel season and we’re all looking to hit the road. But the Fed just raised interest rates, gas is over 3 bucks a gallon, and nothing’s going to be cheap. Lucky for you, I’m not just a Manic Impressive – I’m a Cheap Bastard too.
I once made it from Calgary to San Francisco on less than $40. Okay, things were cheaper back then, and I was hitchhiking with a full backpack and slept on the ground. But when I got down to my last two traveller’s checks (remember those?), I stuck out my thumb and made it back to San Francisco with several bucks to spare.
But that was then and this is now.
6 Tools Cheap Bastard Uses For Frugal Travel
The family frowns on hitchhiking and sleeping on the ground. So I’ve mastered these tools to vacation in a style they can enjoy.
We use credit cards for everything throughout the year (groceries, utilities, doctors, insurance) to rack up free airline travel. The bills are paid in full each month automatically with Auto-Pay, so we’re not paying interest and running up debt.
Last year we flew free to Maui, Nashville and Phoenix, and this year we’re flying free to Orlando, all with airline miles. We get rental cars free too. Just gas for the car and a few bucks in fees per airline seat.
Chris Guillebeau is the master of this. Check out his website for the latest mileage deals and tips on how to use credit cards to fly free.
William Shatner may be a hack actor, but he truly is the “Negotiator.” The Cheap Bastard secret to Priceline is the bidding feature. I know, it’s scary to book a hotel without knowing which one you’ll get. But we’ve stayed in Hiltons and Marriotts for pennies on the dollar by bidding.
You need to work it a little. They rate hotels by “Star” level (1 Star = Crappy, 5 Star = Luxury), so learn which hotel chains land in which “Star” levels for the area you want. Then check their “Express Deals.” We’ve gotten good deals here without bidding, but mostly you go here for research.
Once you know which hotels they have, pick the Star level you want and start lowballing. They’ll reject you flat-out if you’re too low. That’s okay. You’re establishing the going rate. They limit your bids to once per day per account. But Cheap Bastard is sneaky. He has multiple accounts, so he can bid multiple times per day.
Bid repeatedly, a few bucks higher each time. When you get close to their best rate, they’ll actually tell you how much to bid to get what you want.
A little research and you can master this site. This is how we got a suite at the Anaheim Hilton, a mile from Disneyland, for just $64 a night. Bid low, then creep upward until you land your deal.
A Coffee Grinder
Let’s be honest. I’m a coffee snob, I’m totally addicted to caffeine, and I bring my own coffee when I travel. Partly because I’m particular, but mostly cuz I’m a Cheap Bastard.
It’s crazy what hotels and Starbucks charge for coffee. A pound of whole beans costs me $16 and lasts about a month. You couldn’t last a week at Starbucks on $16. I travel with freshly ground beans, filters, and the skill to jerry-rig any hotel room system to brew my own. I get way better quality for a fraction of what most people pay.
So consider taking coffee with you on the road. You’ll get a better fix and save enough for a fancy dinner out.
The Nutri-Bullet Blender
Amazing what you can fit in a suitcase. I pack my Nutri-Bullet and portion my protein powder and fiber in little zip-lock baggies. Pick up strawberries and kale along the way and you can start each day with a healthy breakfast smoothie.
Hotel Mini-Fridges and Barbecues
Eating out with the family can run hundreds for a week’s vacation. So do what Cheap Bastard does. Make breakfast in your room and sandwiches for lunch. Use your hotel mini fridge for smoothie ingredients, yogurt, or milk for cereal, and the microwave in the lounge for oatmeal. Hit a grocery store when you land, pick up a cheap (bastard) cooler, get all the ice you need for free at your hotel, and cut your food expense in half.
Most hotels also have barbeques you can use. Take advantage. We often grill at our hotel, meet our frugal neighbors, and enjoy a nice sunset over dinner.
My friends Molly and Raul once flew to Hawaii with an ice chest of steaks, fish and ribs packed in dry ice. They ate in style their whole vacation for what you’d probably pay for one fancy dinner out.
Follow these dining tips and you’ll save enough to splurge on some nice restaurant meals without stressing over the tab.
Cheap Bastard Travels Well
I’m not the only Cheap Bastard around. Learn from the frugal, use your creativity, and you’ll be able to travel more, eat better, and give your credit cards a rest.
Now, take a moment and share your Cheap Bastard travel tips with the rest of us…