If you’re not counterfeiting U.S. currency in the corner of your apartment, peak holiday travel can put an agonizing strain on your finances. Airlines, hotels and car rental agencies celebrate the “season of giving” by publishing nightmarishly high prices for their same mediocre services.
The 2017 Singles Winter Weekend is just a few months away. And while a weekend jaunt to the middle of the country sounds relatively cheap and painless, some folks might become discouraged once they sit down to crunch numbers. Travel expenses accumulate quickly!
But with some extra effort, you can attend for cheap, or even (nearly) free.
If you have an itchy ring finger and a case of winter wanderlust, here are some ideas to help you attend the upcoming singles weekend on a budget.
Anyone who attends a congregation with lots of singles should have no problem reaching Edmond for cheap. Pile into a van and split the travel costs!
I’ve found Hotwire.com to consistently be a benchmark low for rental car prices. I usually check Hotwire’s price and spend my time trying to find a lower price.
One very helpful tool is AutoSlash, a free service that tracks your car rental reservations for price drops, and re-books you if the price goes down. You can also book rentals directly through AutoSlash, or input an existing reservation from any major car rental agency, and AutoSlash will track them automatically.
I don’t often use this service, but it has saved my friends hundreds of dollars on a single reservation in the past.
Price Flights From Nearby Airports
Whenever you’re searching for airfare, you should be using Google Flights. It’s very powerful, and extra helpful when searching for flights from multiple airports.
Airports serving the same city can have dramatically different ticket prices to the same destination. In some cases, the difference can be hundreds of dollars. As a conservative example, if you live in the Orlando area, you’re within 2 hours of 4 airports. At the time of writing, a flight from the Orlando airport to the Singles Winter Weekend costs $500 round-trip. But with an inconvenient 75-minute drive to Tampa, you could book a flight for $400 round-trip.
It’s a good idea to explore the prices of nearby airports for both your origin and destination to see if it’s worth the extra effort and money you’ll spend on gas. Fortunately, you can search multiple airports simultaneously with Google Flights, and it will calculate every route permutation so you don’t have to search one at a time.
Note: If you haven’t flown in a while, know that legacy carriers like American, Delta and United have introduced a fare called “Basic Economy.” This fare is usually a few bucks cheaper than regular economy, but is tangled in restrictions. For example, you’ll have to pay extra to bring a carry-on bag and choose your own seat. So be on the lookout!
Airbnb is an incredibly fun way to save money while traveling. You can rent full apartments and houses from locals, often for far less than a hotel. Not only will you receive much more space than a hotel room, you’ll get amenities like washing machines and a full kitchen.
I found plenty of apartments and homes available in Edmond, like this really cool one! It holds six guests, and costs $623 for the duration of the Singles Weekend. If you were to fill it with six people, you’d each spend just $104 on lodging!
There are much cheaper and less fancy options, too. I stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Edmond two years ago and saved a ton.
If you’re new to Airbnb, you can get $40 off your first reservation with a referral link (like mine!).
Have a Good Credit Score? You Can Travel for (Nearly) Free!
Let me add an important disclaimer here: If you are uncomfortable using credit cards, or are afraid you can’t handle the responsibility of spending less than you earn, this method is not for you.
A credit score above 700 is the golden ticket to free travel. There are armloads of credit cards with jaw-droppingly valuable sign-up bonuses that you can use to travel for practically free. Applying for a credit card will yield a small dip in your credit score. This negative change is very temporary, and your score will soon increase if you use your new credit line responsibly.
Here are a few cards with waived annual fees that can make travel to the Singles Winter Weekend much more affordable:
Chase Sapphire Preferred: This is the single greatest option for anyone new to points-earning credit cards. It comes with 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from opening your account, and another 5,000 points for adding an authorized user. You’ll need to meet the minimum spending requirement before you receive your points.
Points earned with the Chase Sapphire Preferred are worth 1.25 cents each when you redeem them through the Chase online portal for things like airfare, hotels and rental cars. So this 55,000 point bonus can reduce your travel to the Singles Winter Weekend by at least $687!
You can also transfer the points to several airline and hotel partners for even greater value (but that can be a little complicated!).
The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes with a $95 annual fee, waived the first year. You can cancel the card (or downgrade it to a no-annual-fee card) within a year to avoid paying anything.
Capital One Venture: This card earns points that are essentially cash back, but only redeemable for travel purchases. Each point is worth 1 cent, and can be used for things like airfare, hotels, car rentals, Airbnb, airport parking, and nearly any other travel related expense you can name.
It comes with 40,000 miles (worth $400 towards travel) after you spend $3,000 on purchases within three months of account opening. The $59 annual fee is waived the first year.
Unlike the Chase Sapphire Preferred, you can purchase your travel immediately upon receiving your Capital One Venture card, and reimburse the cost later, even if you haven’t yet received your bonus miles. That’s because the card gives you a 90-day period to redeem miles for previous travel purchases. As long as you complete your minimum spending within three months of opening your card, you’ll be able to erase travel purchases you make today.
Worried About Minimum Spending?
If you think you’ll have trouble meeting credit card minimum spending requirements, make sure you put all of your daily spending on your card. You can even pay large chunks of your car, homeowners or renters’ insurance in advance (just make sure you can pay your bill once it comes!).
You can also buy gift cards you know you’ll use in the future to quickly meet minimum spending.
The Singles Winter Weekend is almost here! And if finances are the only thing preventing you from attending, don’t just sit there. Take some action! There are plenty of ways to drastically reduce the cost of your trip to Oklahoma, like road-tripping, sharing an Airbnb, and earning a sign-up bonus from a travel credit card.
If anyone has additional money saving travel tips for fellow singles, I’d love to hear them in the comments!