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7 unexpected travel hacks to find deals and save money on bookings

Business Insider logo Business Insider 7/28/2020 hfreedman@businessinsider.com (Hannah Freedman)

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  • Travel can be notoriously expensive, but there are easy and unexpected ways you can cut down on costs.
  • From using an Amazon account to save on renting a car to earning free flight miles by staying at an Airbnb, these tips and tricks will help your hard-earned dollars go farther.
  • Read more: The best rental car deals right now.
Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

There's no way around it — travel can be expensive. Even basic trips require flights, hotels, or vacation rentals, and that's before you consider the money spent on dining out and seeing local sights. And sure, you can stay with friends or family to cut down on costs, but you still have to get where you're going. Even if you opt for a road trip, car rentals and gas aren't free. 

Due to the effects of COVID-19, jobs are up in the air, workers have been furloughed, and money is tight for many households. That means keeping to a tight budget and saving on future vacation plans is of particular importance for many Americans.

There are many well-known tricks of the trade for saving on travel from booking flights at off-peak times to signing up for credit cards that will help you earn free hotel stays. 

But there are also some unexpected ways you can save on the next trip that you might not know about. From leveraging an Amazon account to save on car rentals to earning flight miles for any stay at an Airbnb, use these simple hacks when booking a vacation to make sure you're not leaving any money on the table. 

Read on for 7 unexpected ways to save on travel.  

Use an Amazon Account with Avis

Car rentals can be notoriously expensive. But if you have an Amazon Prime account, you're already eligible for added savings. Amazon customers who sign into their account via Avis here can save up to 30 percent off on their rental.

As an added bonus, you'll also receive an Amazon.com Gift Card for 10 percent of the rental price. The discount is applied automatically after you've signed in.

You can sign up for Amazon Prime here and receive a 30-day free trial. After that, it's $12.99 per month or $119 per year. For students, the cost is just $6.49 per month.

Sign up for a Costco membership

Another smart way to save on travel is with a Costco membership. Not only can you book everything from hotels to cruises at a discount, but you can also find savings on rental cars

Even if you don't already have a Costco membership, it can be worth signing up. In fact, Business Insider Senior Story Producer Danny Bakst recently found that it was roughly $100 cheaper to sign up for a membership and book an Enterprise car rental through Costco than it was to book directly with Enterprise for the exact same days.  


Gallery: Age Pays: 118 Senior Discounts (Some Starting at Age 50!) (Cheapism)

You can sign up for a Costco membership here and it starts at $60 per year.  

Connect a Delta Account with Airbnb and Lyft

For mile-earning junkies, there are more ways to earn Delta miles to redeem for free flights than just flying the friendly skies. While most people already know that certain travel credit cards help you earn more miles, not everyone knows that you can easily earn Delta miles for any Airbnb stay or Lyft ride. 

Next time you're booking a home vacation rental, which are currently more popular than ever, be sure to book it via the Delta Airbnb portal and sign in with your Delta Skymiles account to earn one mile per every dollar spend on Airbnbs worldwide. 

Then, don't forget to log in here to connect your same Skymiles account with your Lyft account. After signing up, riders automatically earn one mile per every dollar spent with Lyft. Even better for frequent flyers, all rides to and from the airport earn two miles for every dollar.    

Check credit card offers

Similarly, beyond the usual every day points and miles your credit card may earn, it's worth always checking the monthly offers for additional ways to save. For example, I've been able to occasionally snag deals with my American Express card to receive $50 back for spending $100 with Airbnb.

Offers like this are typically sent out to cardholders in emails or found directly on the credit card sites where users must opt-in and specifically add the deal to their card to earn the money back or savings. 

Look for discounted travel gift cards on Amazon

You can buy travel gift cards on Amazon for everything from Airbnb and Hotels.com to Southwest and Carnival cruises. At face value, these are still great future-focused gift ideas (for yourself or someone else!) that will help loved ones going through a difficult time, support healthcare and essential workers, and aid the hospitality industry to be used whenever the time is right.

Those who vigilantly check Amazon may get lucky enough to find the gift cards offered at a discount. The savings depend on the discount, but spending any amount less than the value of the gift card is a win in our book.

You can also check sites like Cardcash.com where people frequently sell unused gift cards they don't want at a discount.

Check coupon sites for travel discounts

While you're checking sites like Amazon and Cardcash, don't forget to check coupon sites for savings, too. If you're like me, you usually think of checking for coupon codes more when buying a new blender than when booking a flight. 

But Business Insider actually has a coupons page where you can find discount codes for everything from Expedia to Hertz. It even has coupons frequently listed for popular hotel chains like Hilton and Marriott, so it's worth the extra minute it takes to search to make sure you're not missing any savings before booking your next trip. 

You can even scroll down to the "Today's Best Deals" section and click the plane icon to see the best current discounts for travel specifically. 

Opt for a CityPass over individual attractions

If you're planning a trip to a city like New York, Orlando, or San Francisco and plan to hit all the iconic spots, it's worth getting a CityPass ahead of time instead of buying tickets to every individual attraction. 

By grouping them together, CityPass is able to offer customers up to 50 percent off top tourist draws. For example, in New York, you can opt for a pass that includes the Empire State Building, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Top of the Rock, a ferry to the Statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial. The pass saves customers 42 percent compared to what they would spend if buying tickets to each of those places separately.

CityPass is currently available in 14 cities. You can see the full list here.

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