Photo Credit: Raqhelle Millbrooks
Raqhelle Millbrooks Shares Budget Travel Tips To Help You Save
With travel gradually resuming, airlines are eager to recoup the money they’ve lost over the past year plus. If you’ve seen flight and hotel prices lately, you’ve noticed many of the low rates brought about by the pandemic have skyrocketed. If you’re not into travel hacking, now is a great time to learn. We caught up with Memphis-based budget travel blogger Raqhelle Millbrooks to learn some of her best budget travel tips.
As a teen, Raqhelle’s travel bug was ignited when she visited South Africa as part of a youth mentoring program. She soon found herself a struggling college student needing to maximize her dollars while also saving to pay her tuition every semester.
“Knowing I had less money to travel pushed me to begin monitoring and finding flight deals and to research budget friendly travel activities that would allow my money to go further,” she told Travel Noire.”
Raqhelle’s number one tip? Research, research, research! She says two things a budget friendly trip will always require are research and planning.
“To find flight deals, I use Google Flights or Sky Scanner. When searching for budget friendly activities, I check social media calendars, Instagram hashtags, and even Pinterest for budget travel itineraries.”
Although some people hate the idea of a fully planned itinerary, researching restaurants and things to do ahead of time can certainly pay off. Planning ahead allows you to have a better idea of how much you’re going to spend.
Raqhelle recently visited St. Louis, and looked at restaurant menus and activity prices before she went. She returned having gone only $50 over budget.
“For my next trip I am able to add an extra cushion for unexpected expenses, or if I’m dying to try a new wine bar or make other random purchases.”
Likewise, when it comes to flights, Raqhelle says planning ahead is one of the best ways to catch deals. You should aim to book your flight at least three months in advance, as this is when they are likely to be cheaper. For international trips, you can find the best deals during the country’s off season. It is also important to practice flexibility.
“If you are flexible on either the destination or your trip dates, you are more than likely going to find a great deal,” she explained. “Since I love to travel and am I willing to go anywhere a cheap flight takes me, I scour Google Flights and Sky Scanner for deals throughout the year. With Google Flights, I set the destination to a general region, such as ‘Caribbean,’ ‘Central America,’ or ‘Europe, to see the top deals for cities in those areas for random dates throughout the year.”
Raqhelle also recommends subscribing to a flight deal website, such as Scott’s Cheap Flights or Secret Flying. Companies like this take a lot of the legwork out of finding cheap flights by sending deals straight to your inbox.
For accommodation deals, Raqhelle is a big fan of Airbnb.
“I use Airbnb religiously. You can find places that fit your budget perfectly by adjusting your price range and amenities. On top of that, I usually find them to be more spacious than hotels. With hotels, unlike flight deals, sometimes it is easy to find last minute deals on Priceline, but I also enjoy the perks and ease of filtering with Booking and Kayak. Some of these sites also offer discounts if you book with them frequently.”
Then there are hostels. By far the most affordable option, you can save major coin by opting for a hostel stay. For $30-50 a night you can still have your own private room in many places around the world but at a fraction of a cost.
Raqhelle recently signed up for a Chase Sapphire Preferred travel rewards card.
“The Chase card is one of the top travel cards to get started with and has benefits you can use on a regular basis. If you make $4,000 in purchases within four months, you get 60,000 bonus points to redeem for travel. With these extra bonus points, I have been able to purchase two international flights for zero dollars”
With any travel rewards credit card, Raqhelle recommends using the card to pay for your regular purchases and monthly bills to meet the required threshold, and paying it off each month.
The Chase card includes benefits such as free rental car insurance, a DoorDash pass, and double points on all travel and dining purchases. They also partner with Expedia for additional flight, hotel, and rental car deals. Points not redeemed for travel can be redeemed for cash.
Perhaps most importantly, Raqhelle suggests that anyone looking to travel more frequently get in control of their budget and start a travel fund to building their savings.
“Get a better grasp of your budget by knowing your income, expenses, and spending habits,” she said. “I use You Need a Budget personal budgeting program (YNAB) to track my spending and give every dollar a job. I then set categories for all upcoming trips and assign monetary goals to reach by a specific date. YNAB can tell me how much I need to budget per month to be on track to reaching my budget goals for those savings categories. With YNAB I have major control over my spending habits and can maximize my money on each trip.”
A side hustle can be a great way to contribute additional funds to your savings.
“Having a side hustle can allow you to use your main income to handle bills while your extra income goes towards your savings. I’ve done Lyft, research studies, and trip planning for others to make extra cash for a new travel adventure.”
Budget traveling is definitely something anyone can do, says Raqhelle, with just a bit of work and dedication.
“I hope more people begin to realize that travel is accessible and attainable if you set your mind to it. In order to turn your travel dreams into reality, make saving a priority. Using the tips I’ve provided, you can be well on your way to enjoying your next adventure, affordably.”
“Also remember that there are cheap destinations right in your own back yard worth exploring. Stay-cations or micro-cations to Tennessee, St. Louis, Myrtle Beach, and Orange Beach can be quite affordable. International travel can be just as budget friendly, with affordable locations in parts of Central and South America. And many other places can still fit within a specific budget if planning ahead.”
Raqhelle is looking forward to her upcoming travels, as she has a trip planned for almost every month this year. Her future vacays include New Orleans, Guatemala, and Ecuador. Follow Raqhelle for more budget travel tips at www.raqhtheworld.com and @raqhtheworld.
Related: The Travel Clan Aims To Show Black Travelers The Real Africa, On A Budget