Jetsetting While Ballin' on a Budget

We millennials love our travel — don't we? There's something about hopping on a plane and jetting off into the sunset, that's just magical. That is, unless you're stuck between the chatty empty-nester and the sleeping armrest hog. The fact of the matter is, our generation cares more about experiences than material items — call me old fashioned, but I want to experience with a Louis Vuitton luggage in tow. The sad truth behind this fact is we can't afford material items like houses, boats and fancy cars, even with a low six-figure salary — what with an über-inflated housing bubble, crippling student loan debt and our obsession with pour-over coffee!

Despite the dark side of #millennialprobelms (which appear to correlate with #firstworldproblems) we're utilizing what little free money we have to experience other cultures and see the world. The statistic below was pulled from a recent Forbes article:

"Topdeck Travel, popular provider of group travel for 18-30 somethings, surveyed 31,000 people from 134 different countries: 88 percent of them traveled overseas between one and three times a year; 94 percent were between 18-30; 30 percent traveled solo..."

While I have yet to travel overseas (only because Hawaii doesn't count), I do enjoy regular trips within the continental US throughout the year — some of which I enjoy completely on my own. Look Mom, I'm finally fitting in! Ok, back to my point — I have a trip coming up to Seattle (my love) and I booked 100% of my trip through various apps... because I'm a millennial and I dislike talking to human beings. Also, because I'm not rollin' in dough, I am constantly shopping for a deal.

 Bridesmaids (2011) Universal Pictures

Bridesmaids (2011) Universal Pictures

Because I'm Mrs. Iglesias and I want to help you, Stove, out - here are my favorite apps that allow me to travel without going broke:

Hopper

My most recent finds and one of my true loves. This app is incredibly easy-to-use and serves one purpose — to help you get the best deal on your flight. Open this baby up, enter your departing city and destination, pop in some dates and let the little bunny hop (and crunch the numbers.) The rabbit, now in glasses will inform you if it's the time to buy, or if you can get a better deal by holding out. My favorite feature — adding it to your watch list. When shopping for my upcoming trip, the rabbit-man told me to wait and then one day, he popped up in my notifications and was like, "Yo son! Treat yo-self!", or something similar. 


Booking.com (For the planner)

Booking.com is helpful if you're planning your trip in advance, as the deals can be quite attractive a few weeks (or more) out. Making reservations is incredibly easy and takes practically no time at all. I had a change request after I booked and their customer service team contacted the hotel on my behalf and took care of it. The app allows you to scope out property details, contact the hotel and flip through a virtual city guide in addition to handily storing your booking confirmation and local weather forecasts.


Hotel Tonight (For the last-minute trip)

 [Sidebar: I know a lot of people that prefer Airbnb to hotels, but I am not one of those people. Too many horror stories of hidden cameras, heeby-jeebies of staying in someone else's home and the lack of a concierge do not appeal to me. I'm a hotel guy. Plus, bathrobes.]

With a stunning UI, great rates and referral credits, it's no wonder HT is my preferred hotel booking platform. Because the app only allows you to book a week into the future, it often gives users a great deal as hotels lower their costs to fill rooms. For example, you can stay at the Thompson in Seattle, a stunning boutique-feeling hotel with a killer view, for $126 per night instead of the average $239.* (Book within the app enough and you may be eligible for even deeper discounts.) Ratings, visitor photos and amenities are all featured within the property listing, making any piece of information you'd need to know readily available. Seriously, have you downloaded it yet?


Yelp

Yes, we all know Yelp — but did you know about their app? Oh... of course you did. Well, actually use it! So many places now offer additional discounts (or even free desserts) for checking in within the app. Is a molten chocolate lava cake worth 32.5 seconds of fiddling with an app? The answer is hell yes it is! You already know that you can use Yelp to find things to do, sights to see and places to eat, so you may as well use it to find places that offer a little extra incentive, right?


And a few quick tips for the road...

It never hurts to ask

Remember me talking about finding deals earlier — it's not always as easy as opening an app. Call customer service and ask if they have any lesser-known promotions running, offer student discounts or price-match competitor listings. One of my favorite properties to stay at in Seattle offers guests a discount if you find a lower price for the same property on another travel website. So you're already saving a few bucks by getting the cheaper rate, but book with them directly, reference that rate and you'll save even more! When it comes to getting what you want (free parking, upgraded rooms, room service credit) it never hurts to ask — the worst they could say is no, but in my experience, that's rare


Engage the locals

Strike up a conversation with front desk staff, servers or even the people at the table next to you (so long as you're polite and not interrupting — seriously, read the room.) Find out what attractions are must-sees and which you can live without. Is there a better view than the jam-packed vista on the tour shuttle route? Is there a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with the best tapas? My bet — yes, there are better views and better eateries — so put your GD phone down and use your voicebox. 


It pays to be loyal

It's always worth looking into loyalty programs. Do you have a credit card with airline miles? You may also get preferred pricing at certain hotel chains, restaurants or partner airlines. Your favorite hotel may offer discounts or even free nights after so many trips. Hell, even my basic credit card covers my rental car insurance so I'm not paying an additional $15 bucks a day. Read some of the fine print and partner programs, it's actually quite useful.


Pack like a PRO

Shameless plug here, but c'mon, how many times have you gotten to your destination and realized you forgot something, or worse, gotten back home only to find you left your iPhone charger at the hotel? I created a free guide last summer that will help you avoid forgetfulness altogether while packing — and how to better enjoy your trip. Download it, print it, use it, love it.



*At the time of publication. Please use the app to find current pricing and availability.

Travel, Lifestyle, How-toDavid Self