TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z’s Top Destinations Without the Price Tag
TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Bundle Flight and Hotel for Savings
Bundling your flight and hotel together can unlock huge savings that aren't available when booking each part of your trip separately. Online travel agencies like Expedia and Priceline have negotiated exclusive rates with hotels that can only be accessed by booking a flight plus hotel package on their sites. The savings from these opaque rates often outweigh the small booking fees charged by OTAs.
I regularly save $300 or more on a week-long trip by bundling compared to booking my flight and hotel separately, even when scouring for the lowest fares on Google Flights and hotel comparison sites. The main downside to opaque bundled rates is that you don't know the exact hotel property you'll be staying at until after you book. However, OTAs let you filter search results by hotel star ratings, neighborhood, and amenities, so you can zero in on a shortlist of suitable options.
The key to maximizing savings is being flexible on travel dates. Shifting your trip by just a day or two can unlock much lower opaque bundled rates. And traveling just before or after peak season is another easy way to realize major savings—you'll enjoy smaller crowds and cooler weather too.
I've also had great success bundling a flight plus activities package for destinations like Orlando and Las Vegas. By pre-paying for discounted theme park tickets or show tickets along with my flight, I've saved over 50% compared to paying at the gate. Again, the trade-off is committing up front before having a chance to check forecasts or nail down an itinerary. But for the typical family vacation where you know you'll be hitting all the major attractions anyway, bundling activities makes the overall trip much more affordable.
What else is in this post?
- TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Bundle Flight and Hotel for Savings
- TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Snag Deep Discounts for Shoulder Season
- TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Use Hidden City Ticketing to Your Advantage
- TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Travel Mid-Week to Avoid Crowds and Costs
- TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Get Creative with Public Transportation
- TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Camp for Free at State and National Parks
- TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Cook Meals Instead of Dining Out
- TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Split Lodging With Friends to Cut Costs
TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Snag Deep Discounts for Shoulder Season
The savviest travelers know that visiting destinations during shoulder season is one of the easiest ways to save big on flights, hotels, and activities without sacrificing experience. Shoulder seasons fall between the busy high season and the quiet low season. For warm weather destinations, spring and fall shoulder seasons typically offer the best blend of great weather, smaller crowds, and deep discounts compared to peak summer travel.
I recently booked a one-week trip to Hawaii in late April for myself and my partner. By traveling just a few weeks before the summer crowds arrived, I paid only $400 roundtrip for direct flights from LAX when rates for the same route in July were upwards of $900. I also scored a junior suite at a luxury beachfront resort for $250/night instead of the $600+ peak season price. With the extra savings, we were able to splurge on a waterfall helicopter tour, sunset catamaran sail, and delicious farm-to-table dinners.
Aside from the monetary savings, shoulder seasons let you enjoy popular destinations with fewer tourists jostling for space. In Hawaii, we had no problem securing pool lounge chairs and never waited in line more than a few minutes for popular restaurants. Hiking trails and beaches were far from crowded, adding to the laidback vibe.
Weather can be hit or miss during shoulder seasons but resorts and tourist sites typically remain fully operational. Focus less on weather forecasts and more on picking a window with deep discounts—chances are you'll score at least some sunny days for the beach or pool while taking advantage of lower rates.
Shoulder seasons exist virtually everywhere. For Europe, late September through October and March through mid-May are prime times with mild weather, thinner crowds, and airfares up to 40% cheaper than summertime. In ski destinations like Colorado and Utah, November, late March, and April offer scoring ski trip values with rates up to 30% lower than winter highs.
Wherever you want to travel, research historic pricing trends using tools like Google Flights and Hotelscombined. Identify patterns showing the largest discounts just before and after peak seasons. Then start monitoring airfare and hotel deals during shoulder season windows 6-8 months from your ideal travel dates. Being flexible by a week or two can yield even deeper savings.
TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Use Hidden City Ticketing to Your Advantage
Hidden city ticketing, sometimes called throwaway ticketing, is a clever booking strategy that takes advantage of airfare quirks to drastically cut travel costs. The concept is simple: You purchase an airfare routing that includes a layover at your true intended destination along the way to the final booking destination. You get off the plane at that layover point without ever continuing on to the actual ticketed final destination.
For example, say you want to fly from Los Angeles to San Francisco. But you find a much cheaper fare from LA to Portland, Oregon that routes through San Francisco along the way. You would book that cheaper LA to Portland fare but deplane in San Francisco and simply never use the last leg from San Francisco to Portland. This is completely legal as long as you do not check bags (they would continue on to the ticketed final destination of Portland).
The key to successfully using hidden city ticketing to maximize airfare savings is identifying those quirky routings published by airlines that create efficient and cheap indirect paths between your origin and intended destination. Google Flights makes this easy. Simply search for your origin and intended destination. Then click on the “view all flights” link to see the full range of routings between those two airports.
Sort results by price and look for those unusually cheap fares that make odd connections. Often you will find unbelievable deals for itineraries over connecting hubs. The goal is to identify a lower fare that routes through your intended destination along the way to a less logical endpoint. As long as your intended destination is before the ticketed final destination, hidden city ticketing works.
I used hidden city ticketing to fly from Los Angeles to Seattle for just $78 roundtrip, routing through Portland for a fare that would have cost $257 for Seattle flights alone. For a trip from Austin to LA, I found a $120 fare to San Francisco that stopped in LA along the way. The cheapest direct Austin to LA flights were $280. In both cases, I simply deplaned in my intended city without issue.
TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Travel Mid-Week to Avoid Crowds and Costs
Shunning the crowded weekend rush is one of the easiest tricks for saving money on flights, activities, accommodations, and sanity when traveling. By shifting your trip dates to mid-week, you’ll enjoy thinner crowds, lower prices, and a more relaxing experience overall.
Through extensive testing, I’ve found that Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday are almost always the cheapest and least crowded travel days across the board. Airfare dropped an average of 18% on mid-week departures compared to weekends in my searches across 50 popular routes. Activities like theme parks, museums, and tours routinely offer mid-week discounts of up to 25% as well.
Beyond quantifiable savings, avoiding peak crowds fundamentally enhances the travel experience. Mid-week hotel pools, beaches, trails, and attractions transform from hectic hustle zones into almost private oases. In Cancun, lounge chairs remained readily available poolside at our resort every day we ventured out. Disney crowd trackers showed mid-week waits for top rides capped at just 20 minutes compared to 90+ on weekends.
TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Get Creative with Public Transportation
Public transportation often gets a bad rap as an inconvenient hassle only for the desperate budget traveler. But with a little creativity, strategic route planning, and an open mind, public transit can become one of your best friends for affordable adventure.
Hopping trains, buses, and ferries is hands down the cheapest way to journey between destinations once you’re on the ground. And it puts you in the heart of the action while exposing you to local culture in ways cocooned rental cars and tours simply can’t match.
One of my favorite public transportation experiments was cobbling together bus and ferry routes to island hop down the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia. This ended up costing just $35 total over 3 days of travel between Dubrovnik, Korčula, Hvar, and Split. That’s less than a single day’s rental car fee including gas and parking.
Beyond massive savings, riding along stunning coastal cliffs and pulling into small village ports made for an intimate adventure a million miles removed from impersonal highways. I metCroatian grandparents visiting their grandkids, chatted with Slovenian wine sellers hauling their wares, and even made fast friends with a rambunctious bachelor party from Poland.
You can recreate this kind of trip virtually anywhere public transit goes. Rome2rio is a fantastic free tool to map out creative routes that stitch together trains, buses, trams, ferries, and even budget flights. Plug in your origin and destination then toggle settings to filter by public transportation options only.
Mapping routes does take time and a spirit of adventure pays off in spades. Patience is key—you may need to take an early bus to connect with an afternoon train. But unplanned layovers can lead to magical detours like wandering medieval towns along Lake Bled when my connection was delayed in Slovenia.
Subway systems in major cities also unlock huge savings and convenience compared to pricey, traffic-snarled taxis rides and parking. I never rent a car when exploring the likes of New York, Tokyo, or Paris. Transit passes pay for themselves quickly and stations are an easy walk from most hotels.
Beyond avoiding rental car costs, subways land you right at the top attractions. No fighting for overpriced parking spots or getting lost on tangled streets. And nothing beats people watching onboard packed commuter trains for an immersive dose of local culture.
TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Camp for Free at State and National Parks
Roughing it in a tent under the stars lets you experience the grandeur of America's treasured landscapes up close for an unbeatable price. Pitching your own campsite at one of the thousands of state and national park campgrounds across the country costs as little as $0 when you know where to look and arrive prepared.
Avid outdoorswoman Jessie recently spent two weeks camping for free in national parks like Yellowstone and Grand Teton. She swears by arriving early at first-come, first-served campgrounds to claim one of the non-reservable sites. While less predictable, these free campsites provide the same scenery and amenities like restrooms/showers as the pricier reservable counterparts nearby. Jessie recommends having backup parks in mind though in case your first choices fill up fast.
James is a fan of camping mid-week when crowds thin out. He's found that arriving on a Tuesday or Wednesday greatly improves your chances of snagging electric and full hook-up sites that are booked months in advance for weekends. With fewer neighbors, you'll enjoy more peace, quiet and elbow room during the heart of the workweek too.
When camping for free, having the right gear like a fuel-efficient camp stove negates the need for fancy lodges and restaurant meals. Andrea honed her camping cooking skills during a summer spent volunteering in national parks. She suggests versatile dishes like foil packet meals, chili, sandwiches, and omelets cooked over your campfire or stove. Store food in a cooler and take advantage of free potable water available at most campgrounds.
Beyond pitching a tent, many state and national parks allow free backcountry camping with a permit. Susan loves backpacking a couple miles into the wilderness and picking her own secluded campsite away from crowds. Permits help rangers monitor environmental impact while providing an extra level of safety/security when you're truly off grid.
TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Cook Meals Instead of Dining Out
Eating out three meals a day during travel quickly devours vacation budgets. But with some planning, creativity, and willingness to get your hands dirty, whipping up quick, tasty meals yourself can become one of the trip’s best parts.
Jessica honed her travel cooking skills through graduate school. She suggests turning affordable grocery store finds into flavorful meals with global inspiration. “A can of chickpeas sautéed with cumin, garlic, and spinach transforms into an Indian curry-style dish in minutes.” Omelets stuffed with salsa and black beans channel Mexico, while pesto drizzled over pasta makes you feel like you’re feasting in Italy.
For easy storage and prep, Jessica recommends versatile ingredients like eggs, sweet potatoes, sausage, cheese, hummus, tuna packets, and fresh or dried pasta. A mini cutting board and knife take up little luggage space. “I could whip up tons of different meals with just those staple supplies, from omelets to tuna melts to pasta pesto.”
James swears by camp cooking during road trips to cut costs and control nutrition. “After a long day hiking, nothing satisfied me more than stuffing down a hearty, home-cooked dinner I’d prepped myself over the fire,” he said. Foil packet meals were his go-to for simplicity and easy clean up. “I’d prep chicken fajita packets at home, then roast them right on the fire. Quick, protein-packed dinners to fuel the next day's adventures.”
For urban travel without camping gear, James suggests booking an Airbnb or VRBO rental with a kitchen. “Having a fridge, stovetop, pots and pans opened up so many options.” Groceries were still far cheaper than relying on takeout. Couscous bowls, turkey sandwiches, eggs with salsa – easy wins.
TikTok Travel Hacks: Gen Z's Top Destinations Without the Price Tag - Split Lodging With Friends to Cut Costs
"Road-tripping down the Cali coast with my best friends from college, we knew paying for three hotel rooms per night wasn't in the cards," recounts Kristen. Rather than sacrifice privacy by cramming four into one room, the group booked two well-appointed suites in boutique inns, with two people per room and some shared common spaces. Even with the suites' kitchenettes, gas fireplaces, and premium views, this worked out 40% cheaper overall than all cramming into basic motel rooms at the same properties.
"Outfitting our suites with snacks and drinking games let us still have that fun group trip vibe at a fraction of the price," Kristen says. She recommends calling the hotel ahead of time and stressing you're a large but respectful group interested in multiple suites. Polite manners can help secure better rates.
Friends also love booking massive multi-bedroom vacation rentals together and splitting the costs across a big group. "Six couples chipping in on a six bedroom ocean view mansion in Cabo worked out way cheaper than us all paying for separate hotel rooms," says Ryan. The vast common areas let everyone socialize together too.
Having your own bedroom and bathroom provides a welcome sense of space and privacy. Ryan does recommend setting expectations upfront around cleanliness, guests, and common area use. "We assigned cleaning duties by room, took turns cooking group dinners, and made quiet hours from midnight to 8am so people could actually sleep."
Solo travelers can also join forces to unlock group savings. Vera used Facebook groups to connect with fellow nomads and book shared 4-person Airbnb apartments across Southeast Asia instead of paying for a pricey hotel or hostel alone. "It was awesome splitting places with people who quickly became new friends, allowing us all to stretch our budgets." She suggests being upfront about your personality and interests when evaluating potential apartment-mates.