Russell Hannon is the author of “Stop Dreaming Start Traveling,” and he is an “Ultra-Economical Travel Expert.” What does that mean? He breaks down how to get from point A to point B at the lowest price point possible. He’s good at it because it’s basically what he does for a living. He specializes in lean management, a method of minimizing waste without sacrificing productivity. Whether it’s budget-travel destinations or secret travel hacks, Hannon uses his strategies to see the world without breaking the bank.
We sat down with Hannon to discuss his journey into budget travel as well as his best tips and resources.
How did you get into lean traveling?
Hannon: In my early career, I felt I couldn’t travel due to student loans and cost of living. When I started traveling, I’d only plan one trip a year, as I found it was too expensive to plan many distant trips a year. Because of this, I ongoing looked for tips and tricks to cut my costs and learned about ways to cut travel costs. During all of this, I was studying lean management, which is about finding ways to get better results in less time, using less money. I said to myself I should apply lean principles to leverage various money-saving strategies to multiply my savings when booking trips.
For example, building repeatable models that enable you to efficiently (quickly) and effectively get the best price by knowing: 1.which travel website or resources to use based on your situation (for example when you travel dates are firm), and 2. how to leverage that with other resources (best price guarantees that will match better fares and also offer you an additional credit you can apply toward future travel) to multiply your savings.
How do you ensure cheap travel and budget-friendly prices without compromising on quality?
Hannon: When I do compromise “luxury” I do it in areas that aren’t important to me. For example, when I take an outdoor excursion where I will be out late and up early, I’m fine with staying in a plain, inexpensive hostel. Whereas, when planning Valentine’s Day weekend escape, or if I’ll be spending most of my time in my hotel room, I’ll use different strategies to get the best possible price for 4 or 5-star accommodations.
What is the most expensive mistake travelers make?
Hannon: Short of traveling abroad without medical insurance (which is a must), I feel it’s first deciding where and when you want to travel, and starting your search from there. You really tie your hands this way in terms of being able to find a great deal. If you shortlist a handful of destinations that offer what you hope to get out of your trip, and you give yourself a travel window of a few months or more, you will always get far better fares, than if you first settled on where and when to travel, and start your search from there.
Does length of travel impact your travel decisions?
Hannon: If you were to break it down, the cost per day to travel – certainly the longer you travel – it’s much easier to get that average cost per day to be very low. When you’re talking a month or more, you can knock that down to be comparable to what you pay to just live at home. With Airbnb, if you rent by the month v.s. by the week, I just stayed in an Airbnb for two and a half months, believe it or not. I went on google and did a search. It turns out they had a website and so I called them directly. Airbnb charges about 15% as a booking fee, so they said they would just give us a rate per month. If you’re booking by the month, even if you’re traveling for two-two and a half weeks, it could be cheaper if you’re a teacher and have a summer off or if you’re retired. If you have friends and families you can stay with, that certainly changes the game.
What advice would you give people with average vacation hours?
Hannon: If you don’t have a lot of time off, nearby escapes are a way to get out and see things. I was at my last area for ten years before exploring, and some people travel around the world to see this! Some people like camping. Open up options that aren’t too far from home, especially in the warm weather seasons, to have short escapes without getting on a flight. To really stretch my vacation time, I try to schedule my trips during long weekends so that way I don’t have to use as many vacation days. If I’m traveling to another country, I’ll try to plan it on a weekend that’s actually a holiday so that way I’ve got one day off I don’t have to use for vacation days. Someone who has four weeks off a year, if you schedule each trip on a weekend that has a holiday, you could almost get a whole extra week of travel just by being aware.
Flying Thanksgiving is going to cost you a lot more, but some holidays there aren’t many people traveling. Like if it’s President’s Day weekend or some other weekend like Veteran’s Day weekend. There’s not this big influx of travel, so you’re not going to necessarily see a spike in travel cost. Those weekends–in comparison to the Fourth of July–you can cherry-pick those ones.
What are your favorite carry-on items?
Hannon: iPod, travel pillow, and a luggage jacket (duffel bags that unravel into jackets you can wear onto the plane). I can think of a few occasions when it saved me from having to check a bag in. Usually, you’re allowed to bring one carry-on item. I don’t wear a luggage jacket instead of a carry-on, but if that carry-on isn’t quite big enough, it helps me get everything onto the plane without having to check in a bag. It’s like an extra buffer or that extra storage space if you can’t quite fit everything onto the plane.
Do you work full-time?
Hannon: Yes, and I always have. The lean designations. Time is something I still lack because I’m still working, but generally, my audience is in the same situation and they’re still working. It really fits the mold of the people I’m trying to help as well. I’m in the same boat as the people I’m reaching out to.
Which countries should travelers take advantage of in 2019?
Hannon: If you want to go to Greece or Athens, you can go to Croatia across the Mediterranean, and it’s a lot less expensive. You’ve got the same waters; it’s just as beautiful. If you go to Eastern Europe, to Slovenia and such, it’s so much cheaper than neighboring Austria. You can find underrated places of beauty.
You can find out more about Hannon’s budget travel tricks on his website breakthetravelbarrier.com.
Interview edited for grammar, length, and clarity.
Some of the links in this article are affiliate links. We take our recommendations very seriously, and we may receive a small commission from certain sales (without any extra cost to you). This helps us continue to create free, high-quality content to serve you better.