Travel isn’t cheap. Luckily, going on an extreme budget isn’t the only way to save money for a trip.
Social media outlets, smartphones and apps are good resources for finding travel deals and promotions. Follow airlines on Twitter to find 1-day promotions — known as flash sales — that may get tweeted out, according to U.S. News & World Report.
Research supports that strategy. About 53% of U.S. travelers use social networks to look for deals, with 22% searching specifically for travel offers, according to a 2012 survey by research site Phocuswright. More than half of travelers who access the Internet via mobile devices use it to update social networks with trip-related posts.
That makes social media a powerful tool in searching for travel deals and discounts. Bankrate can help you harness this power to save money on your trip, with the following essential tips.
Zeev Sharon, co-founder of the website Hotelied, created his hotel booking platform with social media users in mind. Travelers can unlock discounts based on their social influence, how often they travel, their loyalty program status, their stay parameters and the amount they’ve spent on accommodations.
Discounts can be up to 50% off and often include perks like room upgrades, free breakfast, free Wi-Fi and spa credits — a steal for budget travelers and perfect for hotels targeting consumers who will come back more often or tell friends about the hotel.
If you ask travel blogger Suzanne Wolko, keeping up with social media contests is an effective budget travel strategy, especially by participating in Twitter chats, being social and following brands for which you hope to find a discount. She recommends checking the website Travelogx for a current list of travel-related Twitter chats, themes and hashtags to use.
Wolko suggests using the hashtags #ExpediaChat, #CruiseChat and #TravelSkills to compete for regular prizes. You also can watch for trending travel hashtags, often followed by something like #contest or #spon.
“I’ve won $250 from Expedia for a photo that I used for a hotel stay, $50 from a #CruiseChat (giveaway) that I’ve used on the road, a 2-night stay from Accor that I used during a RTW (round-the-world) trip to Australia and Paris, and 40,000 IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) points I used for 2 nights in Johannesburg,” Wolko says. “Using points, miles and Twitter has been a good strategy for saving money on my travels.”
Michael Sadowski, public relations and social media specialist for Intrepid Group, suggests following social accounts tailored to real-time travel savings.
“I use YYZ Deals by Chris Myden, where my best win has been flights from Toronto to Beijing for $700 round trip … direct! Oftentimes, these deals lead to trips you’ve always wanted to take but needed that extra push. It is also a perfect way to justify going home to visit your folks or away to visit friends,” Sadowski says.
On Twitter, he also suggests following @airefarewatchdog, @TravelZoo and @ExitFares, with the easiest way to keep track of these accounts being to create customized lists on Twitter and to bundle them under “travel deals.”
Sadowski sees a benefit in following these Facebook accounts because travelers can subscribe to receive page notifications, as the best deals are often time-sensitive.
Instagram, the photo- and video-sharing website, can be tricky, with each account limited to only 1 link. However, if you can offer some value, like sharing photos of a hotel on Instagram, you can often get a free or discounted night, or at least some perks.
Blogger Clay Winowiecki of the Headed Abroad travel website recommends telling your audience where and when you’ll be traveling and asking for a place to stay or a meal, or a recommendation for a budget hotel or restaurant. He advises using a hashtag for the city you’ll be staying in — such as #Rome — for a better response rate.
If this makes you feel like a mooch, he advises offering specialty advice in exchange for a meal at their favorite restaurant.
If you can’t save money, make money by holding an audience meetup and charging a small amount at the door. According to Winowiecki, charging helps fund your travels and better ensures attendance, provides for the event space and strengthens a bond between you and your followers.
For those with a small fan base, he suggests finding lists on Twitter dedicated to travel subjects that you specialize in.
“As a travel blogger, I’ll find travel lists and follow others in my field, interacting with the content they produce. You’ll often be followed back by not only those you follow but other Twitter users, too,” Winowiecki says.
As for using hashtags to gain more followers, Winowiecki advises viewing Twitter as a giant conversation, with important topics shown on the left as trending hashtags. Take part in those discussions for a larger engagement rate.