How to Travel on a Budget
Saving money when travelling with our travel budget tips
Because any cash in your pocket is a good thing
Booking any kind of travel, or simply a holiday, can be an expensive business, and nobody is particularly that flush with cash these days. Unless you have a money tree growing in your back garden, in which case please share it, then you will certainly be interested to find a few ways to cut costs on your travel plans, which not only means you can travel further and more often, but gives you more to spend whilst you’re away.
Some of the methods of saving money when travelling are simple, perhaps even common sense, but some are a little more hidden and unless you know what you’re doing, they might not be instantly obvious to you.
To help you keep that cash in your pocket, giving you the precious gift of travel, here’s a few ideas you might like to try.
Travel Budget Tips 1 – Grabbing a cheap flight
Saving money when travelling is often down to the flight, because this is usually the most expensive part of your plans. If you can save here, you’re onto a good thing, and shopping around is always the best bet. Skyscanner is a great first place to start, as this gives you all the options available to you, including dates, routes, split bookings, luggage options etc.
It’s a good idea to watch your flight first, rather than jumping straight in and booking, because flight prices fluctuate and if you wait a day or two, you might find the price comes down. Now do bear in mind that this is a risk, because there is chance the price goes down, but it could equally go up.
Saving money when travelling is down to the details, and if you can secure it at this point you will make the best of your savings.
Travel Budget Tips 2 – Be flexible
You’re not going to save money if you’re too rigid in your plans, so make sure you’re a little flexible in order to save. If you travel mid-week, you’re more likely to get a cheaper deal than if you are insistent to travel at the weekends. If you’re booking a package break, why not look at going for eight days rather than seven, because if you’re booking your flight and accommodation separately, this can often save money on your flight.
It’s also worthwhile being flexible with where you’re flying from, because some airports are cheaper than others, for reasons which will always remain a mystery. In the UK for instance, London airports are generally cheaper than the smaller, more regional terminals, which if you don’t live close to the capital can be a serious pain in the backside. You can get around this however, because if the combined cost of travelling to the airport, plus the flight, are still cheaper than a flight from somewhere closer to you, you could still do it and book an airport hotel to ease the travel tiredness.
It’s really a case of being as flexible as elastic, and thinking outside the box.
Travel Budget Tips 3 – Think about your baggage
Are you travelling lightly, or simply going away for a short time? If this is the case then you might be able to get away with only hand luggage, avoiding the need to book a suitcase onto your flight. This could save you a considerable amount, but you need to go for an airline who give you a generous hand luggage allowance, and buy your toiletries and liquids at the airport. It can be done, but if you’re not used to travelling lightly then it could be a challenge. That aside, this is one of the best ways to save money when travelling.
Try wearing some extra items instead of cramming your luggage, you can always take them off once you’re on the plane, or even cram them in your suitcase once it passes the weigh in. Remember too, to weigh your luggage, before you leave home, I’ve found one of those cheap luggage scales invaluable.
Travel Budget Tips 4 – Choose your time carefully
We all know that traveling during school summer holidays is expensive, so try and avoid this time if at all possible; even if you don’t have kids you’ll fall foul of expensive flight costs. Instead, travel outside of conventional holiday times, and you’ll find that flight costs are lower as a result. If you need to travel during these times, try and book as early as possible, as soon as the dates come out if at all possible, or book during sale times, such as the January sales.
Travel Budget Tips 5 – Book your accommodation last minute
A good way to save money when travelling is to book your accommodation at the last minute, or look at booking a hostel. Now, before you panic, hostels are not at all the horrific dormitory-style rooms they used to be, and nowadays they’re a lot like basic hotels; if you pay a little more than you may find you get a single room to yourself.
Booking last minute is another of those travel risks, but generally hotels would rather sell their empty rooms off cheaper than have them lying empty, so you could find you save money here, in fact you could find yourself in a seriously swanky hotel for a lesser price tag!
Saving money when travelling is down to flexibility and thinking outside of the box, and if you can do that, you’re onto a serious cash-saving winner.
Travel Budget Tips 6 – Try staying in someone else’s home
In the last few years, websites like AirBNB have taken off, and with good reason. You pay someone to stay in their home, and experience life much more as if you’re a local, and whether you cheaply rent someone’s sofa, spare bedroom, whole apartment or even palatial mansion, it’s usually at a fraction of the cost for similar solely commercial holiday lets, with all the comforts of home you don’t normally get with a hotel or holiday apartment
Travel Budget Tips 7 – Try a home swap
If you are really sick of the usual hotel chains and soul-less rooms, but still can’t afford the Air BNB option, then you might want to try a home swap. It can cost you virtually nothing, as you simply swap your home for someone else’s, and you get to visit new places while still enjoying the comforts of home.
There are many websites dedicated to house and home swaps. There may be a small joining fee, and a bit of research and emailing and interaction between interested parties to help build up trust between you, but it’s well worth the effort. Often-times, it even includes swapping vehicles so there’s no need to even get a hire car. homeexchange.com is one of the longest running and still one of the most trusted.
Travel Budget Tips 8 – Use your smartphone
Do some research and stock up on money saving apps, that offer tips on cheap eats and accommodation on whichever area or city you are in, and with a lot of cafes and restaurants offering free Wifi, simply grab a cup of coffee and spend some time finding where to earn back the cost of that coffee by finding the best cheap eateries nearby, as most advertised places now come with a plenty of reviews from previous customers.
Travel Budget Tips 9 – If you fly quite a lot, then be in a Frequent flyer program
It can take a while and quite a few flights to earn enough points to become a silver, gold or platinum member, though not if you’re doing the long haul, like New York or London to Sydney. Then getting to silver is not that difficult, especially if you do your research and book the right bucket fare flights to get the maximum number of points, even silver status often gets you access to the lounge where you can save yourself a small fortune not having to fork out for expensive airport food, and it really does make travel and flying so much easier and fun.
It does take a bit of work finding the bucket fares that give the maximum points, and often these flights are more expensive, but not always. I like to try booking flights through travelocity as they actually give the bucket fare codes of the flights before you book, so you can maximise your frequent flyer points.
Travel Budget Tips 10 – Always try and book a round trip
Round trips usually work out much cheaper than booking one ways, so always look at booking a return trip, unless you really have no idea when you want to return or where you might be heading to next. Of course, this rule is not always the case and occasionally you can pick up some one way absolute bargains
Travel Budget Tips 11 – Got a VPN? Use it.
There doesn’t seem to be any hard and fast rules for this, but sometimes you can book cheaper flights, by putting yourself in the country where you want to go to (virtually) before booking your flight, and sometimes the opposite is actually true, and it’s best to book your flight from the country you’re in. Make sense? If not, don’t worry, as I still can’t always quite get my head around how airlines complicate things so much with all this. Other factors to keep in mind is which currency is best to pay for flights and accommodation. Usually best in the local currency.
And cookies, no not the delicious munchie kind, but the ones websites use, which means travel websites know you’ve visited before and checked out certain flights and so their algorithms will often up the flight prices the second or third time you visit, (presumable hoping you’ll jump on the flight as you see it’s price increasing, or maybe the fact you’ve come back for a second look means you’re keen to book, so they reckon they can get more money out of you.) Whatever the reason, be wary of this, and if you can’t find the cheap fare that was there earlier, try searching with a different browser, or clearing out your history and cache and also using that VPN and putting yourself somewhere else (virtually)
Travel Budget Tips 12 – If your flight has a stopover, try and take the opportunity to stay a few days.
This is a great tip for expanding your horizons and seeing more parts of the world cheaply. Being originally from Ireland, but living in Australia for the last 21 years, I’ve made the 24+ hour journey between Europe and Australia many times. Booking a ’round-the-world-flight’ on a number of occasions has led to me spending 3 or 4 days in lots of places, from Tokyo, Helsinki, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Santiago, even Rapa Nui (Easter Island) when I was somehow able to wrangle a side trip thrown in for free. Visiting all of these places on their own would have meant expensive airfares if travelling there was the main purpose, but because I was just travelling through, visiting these places basically just cost the couple of nights accommodation. With a little research, round the world tickets are usually not much more expensive than a return flight, you just need to be a little bit flexible with your dates and places you’d like to visit, but so so worth it.
Travel Budget Tips 13 – Make the most of those included breakfasts
A lot of hotel and hostel accommodation includes breakfast, usually in the form of a buffet. If you’re on a really tight budget, you can easily stock up with enough food to get you through until the evening, if not the next day. Trust me, I’ve stayed some places for a week or 2 at a time when money was tight and not had to spend a cent on viddles because of stocking up at the breakfast buffet. Immoral? Maybe for some, but better than going hungry 🙂