9 Travel Hacks For Millennials With The Adventure Bug

Everything is doable with the right hack.

Going on a vacation is a wonderful, relaxing time to unwind and recharge from day-to-day stressors. But planning for it? Not so much. That is, unless you've got a travel hack (or nine) in your back pocket. 

A good travel hack can help you discover new places, live like a local, and make sure your dollar goes the distance. That's why so many people — millennials in particular — not only love, but swear by, their tried-and-true travel hacks

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To give you some ideas, we've compiled nine of the best travel hacks for 20-somethings to make sure that, no matter how you travel, it's always smooth sailing.

1. Know the best places — and practices — to compare flight prices.

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While most tech-savvy millennials are already familiar with common flight cost-comparing websites, there are still a few hacks they can use to yield better results. For example, budget-friendly travel expert Pauline Frommer uses momondo.com to compare prices among tons of airfare search engines, aggregators and booking websites to get the lowest prices across the board. 

But it's not just where you browse for airfares; it's how. Search for fares using an incognito browser, as most sites use cookies that track which flights and destinations you search. When travelers show a high demand for a specific flight, websites raise their prices to give a sense of urgency for customers to buy. Try this out for yourself and see what happens. The price difference could be minimal, or it could save you a surprising chunk of change. 

2. Make a flexible flight schedule.

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Your 20s are often your most flexible stage of life — free of a spouse, children, even pets. With this extra freedom often comes nice savings. If you don't need to have concrete departure and arrival dates, check airfare for a whole month to see when the very best prices occur. By planning in reverse, you may be able to save enough money to stay an extra day, or do an additional activity. 

Once you've got the lay of the land — er, well, sky, wait for the weekend to buy.  A study by the Airline Reporting Corporation analyzed 26 million fare transactions and found this was when ticket prices were at their lowest (when bought more than 21 days in advance). Friday, on the other hand, was the most expensive day to buy, as noted by the study. 

3. Don't just pack light. Pack "joyfully."

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When packing for a vacation, let The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up's Marie Kondo be your guide. Apply her "Does this bring me joy?" method to de-clutter your suitcase. That way, you'll only bring the clothes you're actually going to wear. And don't just pack light, pack versatile. That means asking yourself, "Does this bring me joy ... and can I wear it with at least two other pieces I'm already bringing?" To do this, focus on lightweight layers and classic staples in a complementary color scheme, and you'll be good to go. 

4. Take advantage of free travel tech.

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If you're a millennial, technology may already be your guide. Why not let it be your travel guide as well? While Yelp is a great local restaurant review source, you often run the risk of less-than-objective reviews. Instead, give Spot a try when you're exploring somewhere new. This app has curated the best restaurants, bars, coffee shops in various cities, complete with "expert reviews" from Zagat, Eater, and other publications with each listing. The app also has a "Friends' Favorites" section that can clue you in on hidden gems. With high-quality photos, you can also get an immediate feel for a spot's atmosphere, as well as its 'gram-ability. Because after all, if you didn't post your vacay on Insta, did you even go?  

If you're in the market for cheap nightlife and have flexible plans, check out the Gametime app for last-minute tickets to sports, music, and shows. Generally, these prices are better than those of other apps, but if there's anything millennials know how to do, it's price compare. So take a few moments to cross-reference with other apps such as Today Tix, SeatGeek, and whatever others you already use to ensure you've got the best deal. 

5. Avoid price-gauging tourist traps.

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While there will most likely be some tourist sights you shouldn't miss, try to avoid sticking around those areas when it's time to eat and drink. The most touristy parts of cities are also the parts where food, entertainment, and lodging will be the most expensive. Instead of staying at a hotel in a pricey area, look into renting a vacation home in a more cost-effective one (and yes, that could even mean the suburbs!). 

Staying in someone else's vacation apartment or house also provides a better alternative to hostels, where private rooms are few and far between. This option can be a better fit for a millennial's budget, and for their desire to have a more authentic experience of the locale. 

6. Pick your destination by exchange rate.

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If you're planning an international trip, but don't have a particular destination in mind, look into different exchange rates to see the countries where you'll get the most bang for your buck. That way, even if you have to splurge on airfare, you can make up the difference once you're there. This is "the biggest payoff when planning an international trip," according to Frommer, who recommended Mexico and countries on the Euro as budget-friendly destinations. 

7. Dine out for lunch, not dinner.

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Of course, you're going to spend money on food whenever you travel, but that doesn't mean you need to splurge on a special vacation dinner every single night. Instead, make lunch the main meal of your day. Many restaurants offer a separate lunch menu that, while eerily similar to their dinner menu, is only a fraction of the cost. Take advantage of these discounted prices by ordering more dishes and bringing leftovers (wink wink) home with you. Then, you can enjoy a second high-quality meal unwinding in the quiet comfort of your vacation rental before hitting a night on the town — with some extra change in your pocket. 

8. Figure out your ground transportation ahead of time.

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A great, but often underestimated, travel hack is saving money by using ground transportation. Whether that means taking public transportation over cabs or renting a car, take the time to research your destination's transit system and make a plan that is both convenient and cost-effective. For example, many cities offer flat-rate daily and weekly subway/bus passes you can use as much as you want. If you have certain must-see stops already in mind, you can even use Google Maps to plan out specific routes along trains or buses. 

On the flipside, if you're renting a car, you can save some cash by checking out websites such as Autoslash.com before booking. Autoslash searches for all available rental car coupons and applies them to your rental. The website also tracks the rental so if the cost happens to drop, they rebook you — saving you money without having to do anything

9. Enjoy the planning process.

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While this travel hack may not be a quick, problem-solving link or a best-kept secret, it's still a fool-proof strategy to make vacation planning easier — with research to back it up. One study published in the journal of Applied Research in Quality of Life found that people were actually happier when planning and anticipating a trip than when they were on it. While that's just the conclusion of one study and certainly doesn't apply to everyone, it can still help reframe your perspective on these otherwise tedious tasks.

So yes, the planning process can be long, intense, and even draining, but it can also be exciting and fulfilling in a way the vacation isn't. If you ever start to feel overwhelmed while comparing flight prices or assessing dozens of vacation home rentals, take a moment to remember why you're doing all this in the first place. Visualize the vacation you want for yourself, and then take advantage of all these hacks to make it happen. 

Cover image by Shubham Sharma on Unsplash

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