Have you ever wondered how all the pro players afford to travel to events? Have you ever wanted to travel yourself? As someone who’s managed to travel to all but five events in the US in the last five years while being a broke college student, I’ve picked up some useful tips and tricks you can use to minimize your travel expenses and attend more events.
There are a couple of ways you can fly for cheap. As a general rule of thumb, Spirit Airlines is the go-to cheap airline. They’re not exactly luxurious, but they’ll get you from point A to point B.
“Just sit back, relax, and pretend you’re flying Delta.”
- Spirit Airlines Pilot
Sometimes the planes won’t fill up entirely. If you have a flexible schedule and don’t have tight deadlines for takeoff and departure times, you can take advantage of Priceline’s Name Your Own Price tool. Here you can bid on unsold airline tickets at the last minute to the city of your choice. The airlines still want those unsold seats filled and they’ll be willing to take offers at about 60% of the fare’s price. The only real downside here is you will only have minimal control for when your flight will leave.
There’s this other neat company that you may not have heard of called Skiplagged. They specialize in getting you better deals than other websites can by taking advantage of this thing called hidden city fares. Let’s say that you want to fly to Chicago and a round trip flight would cost $300. There may be a flight to New York for $250, but that flight to New York has a layover in Chicago. If you were to instead book the flight to New York and then just skip the second leg of the flight, you can fly to Chicago for $250 instead of $300 and save the $50. Skiplagged finds these hidden city fares for you and gets you deep discounts.
Airline fares fluctuate throughout the week. If you don’t mind waking up a little early, you can save pretty big by knowing that the cheapest time to book a flight is around 6 am on a Tuesday. You can also get flights cheaper if you clear your cookies before going to book. Another tip is to use a proxy when you book, as airline tickets are often cheaper if it appears you are booking from a different city than the one you’re leaving from.
My final tip when it comes to saving money on flights is to not check your bags. Pretty much all airlines charge $25 each way to check a bag, but you can truncate this expense by simply bringing it as a carry on. Southwest is the only airline that doesn’t charge this fee and will check your bags for free. For all other airlines (except Spirit), unless your bag is too ridiculously huge, no one is going to stop you from taking a regular rolling suitcase through security, even if it’s bigger than it’s technically supposed to be. Sometimes the flight will be too full for them to stow all the carry ons. When this happens the airline will be happy to check your bag at the gate, completely free of charge. The only real downside to this trick is that you can’t bring liquids (like toothpaste) through the security checkpoint. There’s an easy way to circumvent this that I’ll talk about later too though!
Unfortunately the baggage trick doesn’t work when flying with Spirit. If you fly with Spirit, you have to accept that they’re going to get you on checked baggage. You can fly with only a backpack on Spirit for free. Anything more than that and you’re going to have to check it. You can save money by checking it online before your flight. If you try to check it in person, they’re going to charge you $100 each way so make sure to do it early if you’re flying with them.
Alternatives to Taxis
In 2016 the last thing you want to do is take an expensive cab ride to or from the airport. Yes, Uber is a cheaper and overall better alternative, but I’ve got a few other tips that can save you even more money than that.
The first thing you should do before getting an Uber is call the hotel you’re staying at. Often times they will have free shuttles to the airport. If you don’t mind pretending to be staying at some other hotel and your hotel doesn’t have a free shuttle, then one of the other ones in the area probably does.
Shared ride services like Supershuttle can also save you money. These are probably best when your hotel is a significant distance from the airport. For hotels that are closer and don’t have a shuttle available, Uber is the cheaper option. If you don’t mind reading maps, many cities have excellent options for public transportation that can turn a $40 cab ride into a $2-3 fare.
I also have a few tips and tricks for when it comes to hotels. Remember that hotels are in the service industry. As a general rule of thumb, if you ask, they’ll probably do it in the name of making your stay more pleasurable. This means that if you can’t take your toothpaste or razor through the security line, just call down to the front desk and they’ll be more than happy to bring up either of those up to you completely free of charge.
For one reason or another, there will be times when you won’t be able to check in yet. Maybe the room isn’t available or the person who booked the room’s flight isn’t until later in the day. When this happens you’re not going to want to carry around your luggage while you wait. Luckily, you can always ask the front desk of any hotel to hold your bags for a few hours. It’s completely free of charge and you don’t even have to be staying there.
Embassy Suites has happy hour from 5-7 every day where you can get unlimited free alcohol and snacks. It’s definitely a nice amenity if you’re still deciding which hotel you want to stay at. I may or may not keep an Embassy Suites card in my wallet to flash at happy hour for the times I’m not staying there too!
Late checkout is an amenity that you should take advantage of. When a hotel says that you have to checkout by noon, what they really mean is just give the front desk a call down and ask if you can check out at one instead. They’ll be happy to oblige at no additional charge.
Some lower end places like Motel 6 will try and skip on amenities. Unfortunately, they even choose to see shampoo as an “amenity” rather than a necessity. In times like this, you can simply walk across the street to any regular hotel and ask them for some shampoo. They’ll assume you’re staying there and be happy to comply, just so long as you don’t mind spitting back a fake room number if asked.
One final tip is an alternative to hotels altogether. Airbnb is to hotels what Uber is to taxis. People offer their house or condo up for people to stay at a rate that is usually much cheaper than hotels. It’s definitely a service worth looking into!
Hopefully this article will save you lots of money over your dueling career. If you think it might, consider picking up my book Road of the King to learn lots more useful tips and tricks. You can get it by clicking here.
We’re young! Travel while we still can! I hope to see everybody at the YCS this weekend in Providence, Rhode Island! Take advantage of these and you’ll save thousands in your travels! Until next time, play hard or go home!