Follow Clark Howard’s #1 rule to travel cheap

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cheap airline tickets booking on a smartphone
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Wondering how to travel cheap? Money expert Clark Howard has a lot of experience and advice to share when it comes to answering this question!

Follow Clark’s simple strategy to travel cheap

For those who don’t know him, Clark has a longtime connection to travel and the travel industry. In 1981, he opened his own travel agency, Action Travel. After six years, Clark sold the agency and retired at the age of 31 — which means he had a lot of time on his hand to travel.

Over the years, he’s used a strategy that has allowed him to visit almost every corner of the globe without spending a lot of money. His secret is surprisingly simple:

“My #1 rule of travel is buy the deal first and then figure out why you want to go there. By following that simple rule, I’ve been able to visit every continent except Antarctica and every state except North Dakota. And I’ve done it all on a dime.”

So now that you know Clark’s #1 rule of how to travel cheap, where and how do you find the deals? The consumer champ has three ways he likes you to approach that:

1. Don’t pick a destination

So how do you figure out where the deals are? Kayak Explore is one tool that lets you find great airfare deals on your budget.

You simply select how much you’re willing to pay and available destinations in your price range pop up on a world map. You can drill down further by season and month of travel.

“While I would recommend this strategy to anyone, it’s particularly great for honeymooners,” Clark says. “When you’re getting married, you already probably have a date in mind. There’s not much flexibility there. But if you can be flexible on destination, you can save big bucks.”

Kayak Explore
Kayak Explore

2. Sign up for cheap flight services

Another way to approach the question of how to travel on the cheap is to sign up for any of a variety of cheap flight services. Clark likes and subscribes to all three of these to get early word about the best airfare sales:

Scott’s Cheap Flights and Dollar Flight Club both operate on a freemium model. You can use a basic version of their services for free, but you have to pay to upgrade in order to access a more robust version of the service.

That brings up the question: Should you try to skate for free and get by on the lowest tier of these services so you can save all your money for booking actual airfare?

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Surprisingly, Clark says no. “If you love travel, pay for them. It’s worth it,” he advises.

3. Set up fare alerts

We know not everybody can be flexible and let the deal drive their travel plans all the time. If you have a place you know you need to go — maybe a wedding or a family reunion — your best bet is to set up fare alerts.

Fare alerts will let you know when the price on a particular route drops and by how much. This kind of pricing perspective can save you a lot of money.

“They’ll be able to give you historical averages, telling you this fare is lower than normal by X number of dollars,” Clark says.

Try setting up fare alerts on both Google Flights and Kayak.

Google Flight price tracking feature (2)
Google Flight price tracking feature highlight in green

Final thought

If you really want to save money with travel, the key is to be opportunistic — go where the sale takes you. On the flip side, if the sale doesn’t take you there, don’t go there!

“I’ve expected for the last year that I’ve wanted to go back to Hawaii. And I keep waiting for a special deal,” Clark says. “But there hasn’t been one. So I just keep going other places that are on sale!”

Meanwhile, our sister site ClarkDeals.com keeps a running tally of all the best travel deals here.

More travel stories on Clark.com

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