Cheap Flight Tools and Tricks

The starting point, the largest cost, and often the pain point of international travel planning is the flight. Looking for options can be overwhelming, and many times it has made a trip completely undoable– but sometimes it’s the one thing that actually ends up working out. And when that’s booked, you usually have no choice but to save up and go! Haha! (More on this mentality later)

These tools and tricks have been the reason I’ve been able to see so many places I never thought I’d see:

1. Book during shoulder season/off-season for your destination

Shoulder season is the 1-2 months that overlap between off-season and peak season. The gamble here is that you could have the disadvantages of off-season (weather, closed businesses, etc.), but oftentimes you’ll experience the advantages of peak season without the crowds. Off-season is a bit riskier, but most destinations have enough redeeming qualities to warrant a little rain or cold.

2. Fly into a nearby country with a larger airport

This works especially well in Europe/Southeast Asia where travel is common among the region. If Marrakesh, Morocco is your dream (as it is mine), but the $1,100 price tag is a bit steep for your budget, start your trip exploring in Spain and hop on a cheaper flight over. This is what we did to see Bali, Indonesia- my dream destination that I thought was completely out of my league.

3. Befriend Google Flights

My absolute savior. Stalking flights early and often is somewhat common-sense, I know, but it’s the best way to feel confident about your purchase. Plug in places or dates and scan for those green numbers that indicate a lower price than usual. They have a calendar view if you’re flexible on dates, and it’s super easy to navigate. 

4. Sign up for Scott’s Cheap Flights & Pomelo Travel

These services send out daily flight deals from major US airports. Scott’s Cheap Flights were the reason I got such a cheap ticket to Paris- an awesome surprise as we were looking at both Asia and Europe for that month. The only downside is having to pull out your wallet right away– the flight deals don’t last long and it’s recommended to book within a few hours of seeing the price, sometimes even on the spot.

5. Utilize Skyscanner’s “Everywhere” option

Skyscanner, a service similar to Google Flights, will accept “Everywhere” as an option. Just plug in your dates and see what’s available.

6. Set up flight alerts

I’m not big on flight alerts, but it’s great for super busy people. Alert services like Hopper or Google Flights will do the work for you and send you statuses on how much your flight is and when you should book.

7. Know what’s included

Don’t go for a budget or big name airlines if you have to pay another $100 for a carry-on. Many smaller airlines still offer free baggage in their prices, so make sure you check before booking with whatever’s “cheapest.”

8. Use airlines with free stopovers

A stopover is exactly what it sounds like– the airline will stop in a destination free of charge on the way to/home from your destination. This is a great way for countries to get tourism and for us travelers to essentially get a bonus destination in their trip. We use Iceland Air’s program last January and it definitely won’t be my last timing taking advantage of it. Read a full list of airlines to keep an eye out for.

And as always, there’s things I know nothing about, like credit card rewards and frequent flyer points. When I’m more of an adult I’ll be sure to update. For travel inspiration, follow my Pinterest boards. I promise it’ll never run dry.

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Cheap Chicago Activities/Chicago on a Budget

Bianca Bialk

To be blunt, Chicago isn’t the easiest for the budget-conscious. We can’t just go off hiking or swimming or spend really any time outside at all for about seven months of the year, so most of our activities are spent inside an establishment. Meaning we often spend money to be there. It’s the price we pay for warmth, ya know?

Last year I found myself repeating the same cycle weekly. I would go to work every day, go to the bars on the weekends, and hole myself up every hour in between. This year, I, one) refuse and two) will use this list as a reference sheet when I complain about not wanting to do anything because I’m broke.

Behold, my list of ways to stay on-budget and still do fun things in Chicago:

Tried and True

  • Lincoln Park Zoo – If zoos are your thing, this one’s free. It offers views, walking trails, and since you saved money on admission, you can go waste it on all the food and restaurants nearby.
  • Garfield Park Conservatory – Maybe you have an Instagram aesthetic to uphold, and maybe you just like plants. Either way, it’s donation only and offers a warm respite from Chicago’s cold and dry air!
  • Lincoln Park Conservatory – See above.
  • Millennium Park – Chicago’s #1 tourist destination (maybe)! Is it FUN? Not really, but we all go anyway.

Once In a While

Bianca’s Budget Finds (Grand Finale)

Chicago Budget Activities

    • Breweries:
      Lagunitas – Lagunitas’ Chicago taproom has a $10 tour M-F at 1pm & 3pm that gives you a couple beers and, more importantly, the opportunity to LEARN 👍
      Ballast Point – Get one of their flights for about 2 glasses worth of beer for $9. 

      Hopewell – Hopewell is priced similarly to many breweries, but they allow you to bring your own food in for a cheap(er) night out. They also allow dogs (!!) and encourage game-playing.

      Great Central Brewing – All pints are $6 – just a plain GOOD deal.
    • Comedy:
      – Monday Night Comedy at Gman Tavern – Free comedy shows at a bar, and if you sit in the first table in the front, you get a pitcher on the house! Free PBR for public humiliation? I will take it.
      Cole’s Comedy Open Mic on Wednesdays – Never been but I enjoy laughing on occasion.
    • Pop-up/Facebook events – If you keep your eye out on social media, there are TONS of brands that host events throughout the city (rooftop yoga, pop-ups, giveaway-type events, etc.)

I’ll probably continue to update this list as I exhaust all budget options, but here it is for now. What did I miss?

Outfit details:
Jeans: Forever 21 (only available in black) | Purse: Amazon | Shoes: Soludos | Bandana: Madewell (sign up for Madewell Insiders for free shipping and early access to sales!!)