Folks, in just a few weeks, I’ll be on a plane, flying to Paris to study abroad for a semester. I’m obviously super excited—but why should you care about my travel plans? Because, as a college student on a budget, I’ve spent the last few months of my summer internship at CheapOair learning how to navigate one of the priciest cities in the world—without breaking the bank. And now, before I fly out, I want to share some of the things I’ve learned with all of you!

Whether you’re jetting off for a whole semester or just a few days, there are a lot of factors that go into saving money when you’re planning your next trip. We’ve talked before about timing, but today, we’re going to discuss location. Did you know that where you’re traveling could be costing you big time? It might be! Here’s how to save money on your next big vacation—by figuring out where you should land!

1.) Consider the experiences you want vs. your destination’s local economy.


What exactly do you want out of a vacation? Are you looking for a European adventure, filled with museums, castles, and cobblestone streets?  Or maybe you’ve got your heart set on a trip to the beach, relaxing with your toes in the sand. Self-awareness is key here! Once you’ve figured out exactly what you want to experience on your trip, you can zero in on the most cost-effective destination to meet your needs.

How to do that? Consider the local economies of the destinations you have in mind. Paris, for example, might be a more expensive European destination than one of its Mediterranean counterparts, where the economy is less stable and the local currency is weaker. Heading to an alternative destination could save you big bucks, all while giving you the same essential experiences you had in mind originally. Perfect!

Some examples of this thought process in action? Voilà!

If you’re thinking about going to Los Angeles, consider San Diego:

Like LA, San Diego has the Southern California beaches that everyone loves. You’ll enjoy surfing, shopping, and gorgeous views, just like you will in LA, without all the paparazzi or traffic jams. Awesome!

If you want to go to Prague, consider Budapest:

Prague and Budapest both have this going for them—two European cities, rich in history and in unbelievable architecture. Travel experts have commented that Prague’s more user-friendly layout may contribute to a tourism industry that’s in high demand—all of its most popular sites are basically within walking distance of one another, a convenience you’ll be paying for. While Budapest’s sites may not be as neatly packaged, if you come in with a game plan, it’s a money-saving non-issue!

If you’re thinking about going to Italy, consider Croatia:

Both Mediterranean destinations have gorgeous coastlines, delicious local cuisine, and incredible views, but Croatia’s status as a vacation up-and-comer means it’s more budget friendly. While you may want your Italian vacation to include stops in major cities, Croatia focuses on showing off its gorgeous, secluded coastal getaways. Also, while Italy might win over your taste buds in carbs, Croatia will win over your taste buds in seafood. For calorie counters—and hard bargainers—this may be exactly what you were looking for.

2.) Consider flying on low-cost airlines, through less-traveled airports.


Most cities have more than one airport—a main hub that’s huge, busy, and sometimes pricy, surrounded by a few smaller airports. Consider targeting those smaller airports when booking your flights, and you might find lower fares follow! Even better? Those smaller airports tend to service low-cost airlines, which again, could save you big money should you choose to fly with them.

Another trick is to fly to a smaller, less popular city that neighbors the main destination you’re aiming for. Ground travel between neighboring cities might be cheaper—and in some cases, even faster—than flying directly to the city you’ll be visiting.

Some quick examples of this concept in action?

If you’re headed to New York City, consider flying into LGA instead of JFK:

JFK might be the major hub, but low-cost carrier Spirit Airlines operates out of the lesser traveled LaGuardia Airport. Not to mention, LGA is physically closer to Manhattan, so you’ll be in the city center post-landing in a fraction of the time. That’s a major win for both your wallet and your watch, am I right?

If you’re headed to Chicago, consider flying to MKE instead of ORD:

Flying into Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport can be a nightmare. The solution? Fly into nearby Milwaukee! Even though it’s a completely different location, the Amtrak Hiawatha is available for ground travel right from the Milwaukee airport to Chicago Union Station. It’s a slight detour in terms of timing, but if you’re not in a rush, look up train fares—it might ultimately cost less!

If you’re headed to Paris, consider flying to ORY instead of CDG:

Before Charles de Gaulle Airport was built, Orly was actually Paris’ main hub—and it still has its advantages. At only 9 miles from the city’s center, it’s closer to Paris’ main attractions and carries a lower price tag when traveling to and from the airport. Even better, you’ll find a lot of European budget airlines here, including the famous EasyJet. Travel like a real Parisian and save some money while you’re at it!

3.) Embrace the art of a successful layover.


Layovers kind of suck. We get it. But! Dealing with them could save you a whole ton of money, and there are ways to make the best of it.

Your first option for rocking that layover is to hold an airport slumber party. For real. Sleeping in an airport can actually be a really solid option. We’ve even broken down the best ways to do it for you.

Your second option is to explore the city you’re stuck in. You could turn your one-city trip into a two-city trip, all for the low cost of one plane ticket. Score!

Whether you’re flying domestic or internationally, there are a few airports that are notoriously common layover hubs. If you find yourself in any of these spots, we recommend getting out there to see the sites!

If you’re stuck at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport, you might as well give Atlanta a chance:

As the biggest airport in the US, Atlanta is an extremely common place to find yourself during a layover. Lucky for you, I’m an Atlanta resident during the school year, so I’ve got you covered in terms of the ins and outs of the city! Check out the super charming neighborhoods of Inman Park, Virginia Highlands, and Decatur. And of course, don’t forget to eat your heart out! A huge percentage of Top Chef stars came from restaurants in Atlanta. Get fat during your layover, because it’s totally worth the calories—I guarantee it.

If you’re stuck at the Frankfurt International Airport, you might as well give Frankfurt a chance:

If you’re headed for Europe or anywhere in Africa, it’s extremely likely you’ll have a layover in Frankfurt. Your first stop should be a visit to Romerberg, the central square in Old Town Frankfurt. This is the major hub for festivals, museums, and more, so it makes a great first stop on your city tour. If you’re hungry, head over to Frankfurt Klein Markt Halle, the the city’s popular produce market. Be sure to look up their hours and locations online before you go!

If you’re stuck at the Abu Dhabi International Airport, you might as well give Abu Dhabi a chance:

If you’re headed to Asia, a stop in Abu Dhabi is almost guaranteed. After you get your transit Visa, head out to The Souk Quary at Al Bery where you’ll find gorgeous Arabian architecture, clothes, perfumes, antiques, furniture, and more. Don’t forget to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque before you head out–it’s one of the world’s largest mosques and the building itself is a work of art.

Most importantly, be sure to keep an open mind when you’re traveling. You never know when a cost-saving opportunity might come up, and you want to be ready to grab it!

What money saving tips do you use when you’re choosing where to travel? Let us know in the comments!

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CheapOair Staff