DESTINATIONS
EXPERIENCE
DESTINATIONS
EXPERIENCE
Wondering how to travel cheap in 2022? These easy budget travel tips will help you out. Photo by Eva Darron.

7 Budget Travel Tips: How to Stretch Your Travel Dollars This Year

BY KAELI CONFORTI
After two years of delayed travel plans and working from home, many of us are antsy and dreaming of a change in scenery — the novelty Zoom backgrounds just aren’t cutting it anymore. Those with the flexibility to now log in remotely from
a different U.S. locale
or international destination can make the most of their work from home freedom by spending more time in more places, a workcation if you will. (Even some countries are getting in on the action, offering
digital nomad visas
and other programs to help location-independent entrepreneurs make the most of their time abroad.) 
Sound like a pricey proposition? It doesn’t necessarily need to be. In fact, it’s often easier to access budget travel perks and best practices when you’re traveling more slowly and spending more time in a place. 
Here are seven budget travel tips to help you travel affordably this year, whether you’re planning a weekend getaway or a long-term adventure.

1. MAXIMIZE YOUR CREDIT CARD STRATEGY

Choosing a travel rewards credit card that meets your needs is one of the most useful budget travel tips. Photo by Clay Banks.
Not all credit cards are created equal. Paying for everyday purchases with travel rewards credit cards can help you earn enough hotel points and airline miles to use toward free flights and hotel stays. While some cards offer lucrative sign-up bonuses and give you the chance to transfer points to travel partners, others feature exclusive benefits based on the airline or hotel chain they’re co-branded with, allowing access to perks like complimentary upgrades, airport lounge access, free checked bags or late check-out, depending on the card. (We’ll take all of the above, please and thank you!)
So, how do you know which one to get to first or add to your spending arsenal? First, consider what you spend money on most — like dining out, shopping, gas, groceries or business expenses — since different cards will let you earn more points for certain spending categories. Also consider whether you’re comfortable remaining loyal to a particular airline or hotel chain (or frequenting a select few and their travel partners). There’s a lot of information out there, but points-and-miles specialty sites like
The Points Guy
and
Upgraded Points
can help break it all down and keep you informed of credit card loyalty program trends.

2. STAY ON TOP OF COVID-19 TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS

We’re still living in a world where we can say things like “in these unprecedented times” and…in these unprecedented times…it can’t hurt to be prepared. Having some points and miles set aside in case you need to fly home unexpectedly or quarantine during your trip can be a real budget and sanity saver, especially if you have to scramble to reschedule plans at the last minute. 
While we used to be all for a spontaneous adventure, they’re just not possible now and even the most fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants travelers need to plan their journeys ahead of time. Before you leave on an international trip — and we mean well before you leave — check
Travel.State.Gov
to search COVID-19 restrictions by country so you’ll know if you need to show proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test results (which can really add up if you need one quickly), and how long you’d be expected to quarantine should you test positive for COVID-19 while you’re there. Keep in mind that you’re required to provide negative COVID-19 test results to re-enter the U.S., regardless of your vaccination status, so be sure to plan for enough time and budget to secure the proper testing. Again, it’s typically cheaper if you’re able to shop around and book your test in advance.

3. PURCHASE THE RIGHT KIND OF TRAVEL INSURANCE

Yes, one of our budget tips is to spend money to potentially save money. While it’s always a good idea to buy travel insurance in case of emergencies, some countries now require travelers to secure enough to cover them in case they test positive for COVID-19 before they’re even allowed to enter. While most travel insurance plans won’t cover trip cancellations due to fear of traveling (unless they come with a Cancel For Any Reason stipulation), you’ll generally be able to file a claim if you suddenly fall ill before or during your trip, need to seek emergency care or quarantine abroad, or have to interrupt your travels and return home early. The devil is in the details — some policies even vary by which country you’ll be visiting — so make sure you read the fine print and know exactly what is and isn’t covered before you purchase a policy to avoid disappointment.

4. SAVE MONEY ON CAR RENTALS

Know where to look for car rental details for budget travel. Photo by Austin Neill.
We’ve all heard horror stories of car rental companies’ recent price gouging or surprise charges. Don’t fret! Check to see if your credit card covers the primary collision damage waiver so you won’t have to worry about paying more for one through the rental car company or filing claims through your own car insurance if something happens during your trip. Otherwise, use websites like
AutoSlash
to track down deals or consider renting through
Lyft
, booking short-term or hourly rentals through apps like
Free2Move
and
ZipCar
, or using
Turo
to rent cars owned by people in your neighborhood. Depending on your travel plans, you could also try to score free (or nearly-free) one-way RV and car rentals by driving them for relocation rental sites like
Transfercar
or
Imoova
.

5. KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR TRAVEL DEALS

While travel deals and discounts aren’t as extreme as they were when travel started to open back up last year, there are still a lot to be found! Follow your favorite airlines, hotels, tour companies, and other travel brands on social media or sign up for their email newsletters to get travel deals straight to your inbox. If you have a particular destination in mind, set up alerts through
Google Flights
,
Skyscanner
, or
Kayak
to keep track of when prices drop. 
Being flexible when it comes to your travel dates and preferred airports can also save you money, as better prices may be available a few days before or after your desired flight or to airports in nearby cities. As with any deal, however, check the fine print before booking! You don’t want to get stuck with unexpected flight fees or baggage charges, for example, that pop up right before you pay making the so-called “deal” not nearly as attractive as other airlines’ standard rates.

6. CHOOSE ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATIONS WITH MORE AMENITIES

Staying in a Sentral apartment suite offers you ample space to spread out. Plus, all come with a well-equipped kitchen. Photo by James Baigrie.
One of travel’s biggest expenses is accommodation. Cool hotels cost a lot, especially when you compare them to your monthly rent. Ouch. From this perspective, traveling and staying in a place longer than a few days or week stay doesn’t feel attainable. But that’s often not the case! Traveling with a group or visiting a place longer lets you take advantage of a wider variety of accommodation options, like apartments, and reduce how much you spend per night when opting for multi-week or month-long rentals. 
Along with more space and separate rooms, staying in a home or apartment also offers access to kitchens and laundry, so you can save on eating out and washing up. Stay in a centrally-located apartment, such as a
Sentral community
, and you’ll save on transportation — like those surprisingly expensive Uber rides — as well since you’ll be well-positioned for walking and public transportation.
Sentral Union Station
in Denver,
Sentral Michigan Avenue
in Chicago,  
Sentral Wynwood
in Miami, and
Sentral East Austin
are perfectly situated in the heart of their respective cities.

7. LET DEAL-TRACKING WEBSITES DO THE HEAVY LIFTING

If you’re short on time (or lack the patience to spend every waking moment scouring the internet for amazing travel deals), leave it to those who do it best. Sign up for newsletters from deal-tracking sites like
Scott’s Cheap Flights
,
Matt’s Flights
,
Secret Flying
,
The Flight Deal
, and
Airfare Watchdog
. The sites email you whenever domestic and international flight sales and mistake fares — when an airline accidentally lists the wrong price and, in most cases, honors it — are available from your favorite airports. Most of the sites offer a free option, but you can usually unlock more premium economy, business-class and first-class deals, plus other perks like trip-planning assistance, by upgrading to a premium-level membership.

WANT TO SEE WHERE YOU CAN TRAVEL TO — AND STAY LONG-TERM — WITH SENTRAL? TAKE A LOOK AT OUR DESTINATIONS TO START YOUR TRAVEL PLANNING.
SHOW ME SENTRAL’S DESTINATIONS

MORE TO EXPLORE:
The Places Making Remote Work Easier Than Ever
How We’re Redefining the Concept of Home
Houseplants That Will Survive Your Absence