The 2 Biggest Expenses on Surf Trips & What to do About It

Best Airline Credit Cards for the Surf Traveler

As surfers we are bound by the common burning desire to find great waves so we travel to epic surf destinations on surf trips.  Most of us live in parts of the world that simply don’t get great surf all the time, unless you live in Bali or Hawaii, two of the best places to surf in the world.  Lucky you.

Stoked as we are for the opportunity to travel and surf we naturally go adventuring to satisfy our thirst for great waves and an epic experience.   “There is no better reason than to travel then to travel and surf.” a wise friend once told me, if you are reading this, I think you agree.

As with any worthy pursuit there are typically a couple challenges….however, with the right resources and information they don’t have to be such a big deal, we will show you how we have used to fly around the world for surf trips FREE (business class to if you prefer more room).  Keep reading.

For most of us, saving the cash to pay for a surf trip can take some time and be frustrating.  Its not easy but its worth it. We have heard it can take a person nearly 2 year to save up for a 5-14 day trip.  Yikes.  Consider this quick read at some point:  If You Don’t Think Your Time Is Precious, You’ll Hate Yourself Later.

The 2 biggest expenses on surf trips are airfare and accommodation

Funky Cottage Live Swell Surf Trip Raglan NZ

We scored this “Funky Cottage” overlooking Manu Bay in Raglan, New Zealand for less than $100/night (fits 4 easy) – What a steal.

So what are some ways to reduce the 2 biggest expenses of a surf trip?

We will start with smart ways a savvy surf traveler would consider to obtain discounts on airfare because we got to the destination first:

Travel Hacking – the art of accumulating airline miles, vouchers and travel points to help fund expensive airfare.  

Sure you have probably heard this before, but are you actually doing it with consistently with commitment?

Lets take a look a one example, earning miles with airline credit cards:

At the end of the day all of your living expenses (food, gas, utilities etc) and purchases will be settled with cash.  Does it make sense to purchase theses items with a credit card that generates valuable airline currency (aka miles) and later settle the bill with cash?  In the end the dollar amount paid is the same, however, the benefits are greater to the savvy surfer that takes advantage.


–  You earn valuable airline miles and build a vault over time that can be exchanged for deeply discounted and free air travel

–  Its the low hanging fruit to fast track your next free flight by taking advantage of “sign-up” bonuses

–  The credit user builds and strengthens their personal credit profile with responsible usage by using and paying off their statement each month  (we encourage responsible usage)

Taking more surf trips is possible with airline miles

Example of a 50,000 milage bonus with an American Advantage CitiCard.

The above image is a screen shot of my personal American Airlines milage account and a 50k bonus boost from AA CitiCard.  Following this strategy with multiple airlines can really result in a significant inventory of miles, potentially more than you could consume yourself.  At that point you can hook up family and friends.

Its ok I know what some of you are thinking, a little voice is in your head telling you “I don’t have good credit,” “Those cards have annual fees I don’t want to pay” among other distractions that may pop up and hold you back.

If you don’t have great credit that is ok, this is just a “low hanging fruit” method to build a bank of miles, there are others. And if this is your situation what are you doing to repair your credit and put yourself in position to take advantage of more surf travel?

As for annual fees, there are strategies to get them waived, we show you how in the Surfers Ultimate Guide to Free and Discounted Flights. 

Airline Boardbag Fees

OOh snap!! Don’t forget those damn discriminatory surfboard bag fee’s that can really add up sure can make any sane person go bonkers for a bit.  Its a reality for traveling surfers and can those fees can add to a few hundo per round trip.

At this time, there is no perfect solution for that (except, choose your airline wisely as some don’t have board bag fees or work on our influence skills with the checkin agent).  Derek Dodds at WaveTribe has already done the research on boardbag fee’s for us if you want the up to date score – Airline Boardbag Fees

Do you think if you took advantage of simply strategy to get your airfare discounted or free the boardbag fee’s may not so painful? Thats why we created the Surfers Ultimate Guide to Free and Discounted Flights to help fellow surf travelers get stoked and closer to the next surf trip by reducing travel expenses. Click the book cover below to access this valuable information….. for people who implement this it could be worth ten’s of thousands of dollars saved on air travel, it was for us.


Accommdations for Surf Trips

So that brings us to our second biggest expense:  Where you choose sleep and stay.  

Its true that traditional accommodations like decent hotels can be a drain on the travel budget and don’t offer great value considering the often shoebox-sized space and uninspiring staff.  Many traveling surfers naturally turn to “surf camps” as an alternative that will cater more to the desired experience.  Yet despite most camp operators being located in developing countries (such as those in latin america) the costs can spook most people out.

Surf Trips to the Best Surf Towns

A bit less popular, yet an alternative that we at Live Swell love are surf trips to surf towns.  We feel that surf towns make some of the best places to travel and surf.  Along with consistent waves, the best surf towns offer unique places to stay (aka surf rentals), welcoming and insightful locals, great surf culture, eating, mellow vibe and heaps of nearby activity should the surf crap out.

How people connect online and travel today has changed dramatically. In our more recent travel experiences we recognized the growing social acceptance of surf vacation rentals and, more importantly, “shared space” aka Airbnb type accommodations.  We loved it so much, later we bought one in the Outer Banks – the  Chill Surf and Beach Bungalow OBX.

Surf Rentals Just Make Sense!  Why?

It became clear very quickly that more space, amenities, affordability and a local connection added a lot to the travel experience.  We could rent a whole house that sleeps 4-6 people for nearly the same price as one hotel room and have a private backyard with a grill, large living space, private rooms, relevant amenities and a kitchen.  Yet here is the kicker to accommodate the same number of people we would need multiple hotel rooms.

Logically from a cost perspective, identifying a rental home can result in massive travel costs savings, but what we found is that there was so much more added value from this type of experience.  Like even if it were more expensive, we would still choose this type of accommodation.

– We felt our experience was more like that of a local vs. a tourist

Our hosts made major positive impacts to our stay, like pointing out the areas best surf breaks, how to access them, lesser know local hotspots for eating and nearby activities etc.

The majority of like-minded hosts live in surf towns or have rentals in them 

Consider the “social value” of a positive connection with a fellow surfer?  Could they have specific information that could facilitate more epic experiences given your limited time? Could you make a friend for life?

Our host Ross Henderson, in Raglan, did just that….not only do we consider him a friend, he took time out of his day to actually show us all the surf breaks and how to enter them.

Where to find the best surf rentals?

Airbnb – is the goliath of the shared space and vacation rental scene with some real unique places to stay

Staying with local hosts can make your surf trips

Mike with Ross, our Funky Cottage Host, and local surf veteran of 40 years. He dialed us in allright.


Its certainly not for everyone, but for surf travelers that are open to unique experiences in the best surf towns staying at a surf rental with a like-minded host, just may be a great way to keep more cash in your pocket and have a better or different overall experience.

We started Live Swell to enhance the surf travel experience.  We are committed to find ways to help folks travel and surf smarter, more and differently.  If you have some ideas you would like to contribute reach out to us here.


2 Comments on “The 2 Biggest Expenses on Surf Trips & What to do About It”

    1. Hi Shelly, great we started with the idea of trying to add value to the surf travel experience and intend to provide more actionable info so folks can travel and surf more.

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