How to Travel Even if You’re Broke

If the holidays tapped you out, good news!

— -- If the holidays tapped you out but you’re itching to go somewhere, see something or be someone, good news: Travel will not necessarily break the bank.

Follow these basic guidelines and your credit card will thank you.

1. Fly the cheap dates

I recently put together a list of cheapest dates to fly in 2017 but the ones to concentrate on now fall within the very cheap Winter Deal Zone:

- Do fly: Jan. 7 to March 5
- Do not fly: Feb. 11 to 24

February’s blackout dates can be attributed to Valentine’s Day (Feb. 14) and Presidents’ Day (Feb. 20), but there’s also spring break to keep in mind. This popular getaway period varies by region but there are a lot of tools out there that’ll help you nail down the precise dates, including When Is My Spring Break?.

2. Fly the cheap days

Good itineraries for U.S. travelers might include flying weekday-to-weekday, or taking off on Tuesday and coming home Saturday, which leaves plenty of time for an action-packed getaway.

- Cheapest day to fly, domestic: Generally speaking, fly when most people don’t want to fly, which is Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday.
- Cheapest days to fly, international: Usually weekdays are cheaper than weekends but compare fare on various dates to be certain.

3. Fly to cheap cities, cheap countries

Cheaper U.S. destinations: Boston, Dallas, Denver and South Florida are generally cheap, thanks to lots of low-cost carrier competition, but remember, in the Winter Deals Zone, many cities are cheaper and places you thought were out of reach can suddenly be doable. Some examples that were found Jan. 5 using my Getaway Map tool for roundtrip flights in February:

- New York to Dallas: $107
- New York to Oakland: $189

Note: Cheapest days to fly in February can vary though weekdays are generally cheaper than weekends for domestic and international flights. For U.S. travel, watch for higher prices in some markets beginning mid-month thanks to increased demand for Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day travel (and in some cases the start of Spring Break).

- Boston to Paris: $440
- Los Angeles to London: $409
- New York to Barcelona: $377
- New York to London: $384
- New York to Paris: $439

4. Always do a comparison

Always compare airfares on a fare comparison search site like mine, FareCompare, but there are many others. Reason: No single airline always has the best deal. If you don’t compare fares, you may miss out on a very special deal.

5. Always use carry-on bags

Carry-on bags are great because most U.S. airlines do not charge a fee for them, but that’s not the best reason for using them: Carry-on bags don’t get lost. They travel with you in the overhead bin (or at least they do unless you buy an oversize carry-on and pack it beyond the weight limit).

I’ve even used carry-ons in Europe and you can too. Just toss out non-essentials, don’t include any ‘maybe’ outfits, use the Sit & Zip packing method and leave all your valuables at home.

Rick Seaney is the CEO of FareCompare, a website that curates the best deals on flights from around the world. Any opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author.

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