Well done! You decided to go travelling and negotiated your time off work, the last question remains how to make your travel budget last you a long way.
If you are not careful the greedy airlines, overpriced hotels or other tourist traps will eat all your money that you saved for such a long time before you know it.
At the end of the day you really want to have the peace of mind and some degree of financial cushion so that when an opportunity appears to do something that for years has been featuring within your top 30 of your bucket list, you are ready to go for it…simplifying the challenge to: PIN followed by green button.
One advice that many fellow travellers have given to me is to truly live the life in a moment when out there…and at the same the biggest regret for them was not to have done something because of money reasons.
If you have spent all the money already to get somewhere, why would you want to sacrifice the unique experiences you could be getting if only you had that financial cushion. Read on for the 5 top tips that saved me money over the years.
1. Shop around for best travel fares:
This requires some creativity, flexibility and basic understanding of worlds geography to make the most of it.
The role of a travel agent is rapidly being pushed out by greater accessibility to various deals everyone can use, so research the fares yourself. Go beyond the specific airline website and use services like www.skyscanner.com to find the best fare to your travelling destination with alternative airlines on the date you wish to travel. Every year new airlines open their connections to well established hubs and the only way they can increase their presence in the market is by lowering their fare – it’s time for you to take advantage of it.
This however may still not be the best fare possible. Try to be flexible and look outside your specific dates, Skyscanner allows you to look for fares even within the whole year. One feature that Skyscanner is missing is an option of researching a flight that has a stop over longer than acceptable (let’s say 10h).
If you are willing to break your journey and go out exploring in your stopover destination for few days you may save further and also experience another place. Win-win.
Another aspect worth considering is to use a combination of trains, buses and flights. Skyscanner allows you to do a search within a specific country. If you want to fly from A to B, you can look for a destination C or even D that is easily accessible by bus, train or another flight that you can take advantage of.
Great website to research all possible connections is www.rome2rio.com. At the point of writing this blog I’m on the plane from London to Naples. The return flight was too expensive (£200pp) but I found that if I fly from Naples to Milan (£20) and spend there two days I can get back to London for (£30). Total cost £50. Total saving £150 + unforgettable by bonus experience of visit to Milan!
2. Lower star accommodation doesn’t mean bad:
Many people may believe that the more stars the hotel get the more comfortable, cleaner, exclusive it is going to be. That is not always the truth. The star rating varies from country to country so objectivity is questionable (especially between 2-4 stars) so why wasting the money on something so “variable”.
The best measure is the review rating and the comments from people like yourself who can tell you exactly what your experience is going to be when you decide to book. Another thing worth considering when booking the hotel is the time you are actually going to stay and spend there.
If you are planning to only sleep in a hotel, you can save a great deal of money by finding a cheaper hotel that is as comfortable and clean but probably located on the perimeter of your location. A short bus ride will cost you next to nothing and at the same time will give you additional sightseeing experience.
Exclusivity and additional facilities like swimming pool, gym, spa may be a factor for you if you are planning to spend more time at your hotel. If you are looking for exclusivity and all “exclusive “ hotels are out of your price range you can always stay in a cheaper location for the night but hang out elsewhere. For example hotel A in good location with spa, gym and terrace has room rates at £70 per night for double and hotel B with room as clean and comfortable but no facilities in similar location has room rates at £40 per night for double.
Regardless where you sleep you still need to pay same price for cocktails at the roof bar at hotel A. I will let you decide what you can do with £30 saving. Services like www.booking.com or www.trivago.com are one of the many platforms allowing you to find the best price for your needs.
Another common myth is that hostels are cheaper than hotels. That is mostly true when you are a single traveler and booking a dorm bed, but if you travel with somebody you can often get better deals on double rooms in hotels or B&B’s.
Last hint on that is no matter what accommodation type you are going for always take and advantage of breakfast often included in the price of booking. Most hotels also allow you to make yourself a spare sandwich that you can have for lunch. If not you can simply buy one to get you going throughout the busy day. This way you can limit your eating out spending to dinner only.
3. Time it well:
It is no longer a rocket science to know that the sooner you buy a flight ticket the cheaper it is going to be, but what doesn’t really fall into the category of common knowledge is that some providers are artificially increasing their prices during the time of the day that matches the highest visitors frequency, e.g. weekends or evenings. Looking outside of those busy times may just strike you a fair deal.
This tip is also about being aware of any times where there might be an increased demand to travel to that location, and if you are flexible you may choose to navigate around it and save yourself a fortune by delaying your visit by few weeks. The best example for me is the visit to Poland during Christmas period when a return flight can cost a whopping £300+. Regular return fare outside of that period easily starts at quarter of that price and sometimes go as low as £30.
4. Take advantage of free attractions:
Free walking tours, museums, galleries, viewpoints, trips organised by hostels, are just few attractions that you can easily get involved in, have a great time, meet great people, and most importantly (from the article point of view) save yourself some cash to do the more exotic excursions that often require guide, staff, equipment, complicated logistics, etc.
5. Set your daily budgets and stick to it:
This is probably the most difficult one, since it requires some discipline and creativity. Since the attractions/experiences will vary from £10 for a snorkel hire in Spain to £300 for a skydive New Zealand, the daily budget really applies to food and drinks.
If you follow the advice of the second point and take an advantage of the available breakfast at your accommodation, the food cost can potentially be limited to a sandwich for lunch, coffee during the afternoon, nice but yet affordable dinner and few drinks in the evening (really useful if you are planning to jump from the plan the next morning:) ).
This will depend on everyone’s individual eating preferences and habits, but doing a research and setting a reasonable food budget upfront will allow you manage your finances effectively, and yet not compromise on quality and quantity of food.
Remember when you travel you really want to retain your energy levels and health as high as possible. See my next blog for more details on that.