Many people think they simply can’t afford to travel. At least not more than once or twice a year. And even that can be tough for some people.
I regularly get asked how I afford to travel as much as I do. But, let me tell you, I am not rich. I don’t have rich parents or a rich husband. I didn’t inherit a lot of money and I work part-time. But I still manage to travel frequently.
Despite what you’ve been led to believe, travel doesn’t have to be expensive. The key to travelling often is saving hard, choosing your priorities and knowing where to find the best deals.
So, in the interests of helping/inspiring you all to travel a little bit more, I decided to give you the low-down on the best money saving hacks/tips that have helped me.
1. Be prepared to search
It is rare to find a fantastic bargain the first time you research a destination. Sometimes it takes me months to find the right deal. When booking New York in 2014, I spent several months waiting for the right price. It took patience and perseverance but in the end, I saved a total of £800 on our trip.
Many people tell me they don’t have the time or the patience to trawl the internet for deals. But I actually enjoy the process and feel great when I land on a bargain. It may take a fair amount of your time, but the less money you spend on each trip, the more trips you can take.
2. Avoid mainstream travel agents and do-it-yourself
Travel agents are the first port of call for many people. And sometimes you can get a great deal, especially in the shoulder seasons of May and October. But 90% of the time, I find travel agent prices are almost double what I would normally pay. There are many ways you can build your own holiday online without having to pay travel agent commission or extra charges, which brings me to my next tip.
3. Book flights and accommodation separately
Package deals don’t always represent value for money. Looking around for the right deal can save you hundreds, so consider your options and do your research. Check flights on skyscanner.net and search for hotels or apartments in the local area. Do the maths and work out the cheapest option. Sometimes you will find package deals are the cheapest way to go but other times you will find it is much cheaper to book your flights and accommodation separately.
4. Use Airbnb
(Use this link to get £25 off your first trip www.airbnb.co.uk/c/zaitken1)
From an apartment in the heart of the city to a log cabin in the mountains, Airbnb offers privately owned properties all around the world. Whether you choose to rent the entire property for complete privacy or a spare room in someone’s home, you’ll enjoy a truly authentic experience. Not only do you save cash but you also get to enjoy your destination like a local, making for an even better trip.
5. Travel at awkward times
There’s a reason why the cheapest flights leave in the middle of the night. Most people don’t want to drive to the airport at 2am. But those that do, land the best deals. Granted, it may not always be convenient but it is a great way to save money if you don’t mind catching up on some extra zzz’s beforehand. I must admit that for many years I chose to go with the cheapest price regardless of the time, but as I get older, I am more than happy to pay an extra £30 to get a flight that leaves during the day! It just depends on how strict your budget is and what your priorities are.
6. Travel with hand-luggage only
Do you honestly need four pairs of jeans for that three-night stay in Barcelona? Travel light and take only the necessities. After all, you can always buy stuff while you’re away if you forget something you really need. I find it helpful to plan my outfits and stick to neutral colours to make sure everything matches. I also buy cheap toiletries at my destination to save room in my carry-on. Travelling with hand-luggage only can save up to £70!
7. Use public transport where possible
Taxis can be very expensive. So, unless there is no other option, I usually rule that out. I try to use public transport and walk as much as possible as it saves money while giving you a great feel for the city. But where the public transport is lacking or distances are too far to walk, I book transfers from the airport to my accommodation. This is also good if you arrive in the middle of the night when public transport has stopped. Obviously, when walking around a city, be sure to stick to well-lit areas and do your research as to how safe a destination is.
8. Avoid tourist traps
Of course, we all want to see Times Square, the Eiffel Tower and the Sydney Opera House. After all, these places are famous for a reason! But it’s common sense that restaurants and bars next to tourist hotspots will charge tourist prices. Don’t be afraid to wander and get lost. The restaurants off the beaten track are where you’ll find the most authentic experiences, for a lot less.
9. Avoid flying on a Friday or Sunday
Of course, everyone wants to travel on Fridays and Sundays. But the most convenient days are usually the most expensive. Try your hardest to be flexible with your trips to get the best results. Flying in the week, from Monday to Thursday, will save you tons!
10. Look out for ‘free’ things to do
Most cities offer free walking tours that help you see the city and learn more about its history and architecture (you usually just tip the tour guide a small amount). Look out for free museums and attractions. Most museums have a ‘free entry’ day or are free for students, so do some research in advance. For example, most of the attractions in Paris are free for EU citizens under the age of 25! If you’re in a rural location, you can get out into nature for free and hike! Or enjoy a day at a national park or botanical gardens.
11. Sign up for ‘travel alerts’
Some travel companies offer a text alert service, in which they notify you when they find fantastic deals. Holiday Pirates is a good example. I signed up for their Whatsapp alerts and get regular messages about low prices, error fares and flash sales.
12. Travel hack with reward points and loyalty schemes
Using reward points and loyalty schemes to pay for your flights and accommodation can be a very cost-effective way to travel. While travel hacking is HUGE in the US, it is a little harder to do here in Europe. But that’s not to say it can’t be done at all.
In this day and age, we all have at least one credit card. And making the most of every penny you spend on that credit card is the best way to start travel hacking. For example, I use the British Airways American Express credit card and get Avios air miles for every pound I spend on it. Throughout the month, I use that credit card for all my usual spending and pay the balance in full when I get my statement. That way, I earn Avios points for money I would have spent anyway.
Of course, you don’t want to go down the route of spending money just for the sake of gaining reward points, as this defeats the object. And you should always pay the balance in full to avoid any nasty interest surprises at the end of the month!
There are also many hotel reward schemes you can join, but ultimately you need to make sure the scheme is right for you and only spend money you would spend anyway.
I am by no means a travel hacking expert! So, if you want to know more, check out this awesome article from Nomadic Matt.
13. Be flexible with your destination and dates
If you have an open mind and like to explore new places, try Skyscanner’s ‘everywhere’ function. If you don’t have a specific destination in mind and are open to trying new things, this can save you a ton of money. The ‘everywhere’ option shows you all flights departing from your chosen airport on any given date. And if your dates are flexible too, you can even widen it out to show you the cheapest flights throughout the whole month or year. Fantastic!
14. Make your own food
The great thing about staying in a private home or apartment is that you often have access to a kitchen. Grab a few things from the local supermarket and enjoy breakfast and a coffee before you head out. And if you’re really on a tight budget, you can even make your own lunch to take with you and enjoy dinner at home in the evening.
15. Research deals at your destination
No matter what your travel plans are, there is usually a way to save money. For example, if you’re planning to travel the east coast of Australia, check out this post to see how I hired a campervan for $1 a day.
16. Stay in budget hotels and hostels
While it’s great to treat yourself to a fancy hotel from time to time, you will run out of money fast if this becomes a habit. Let’s face it, you only need a comfortable and clean place to rest, so ditch the luxury and go budget. I often find 2-3* hotels, with no frills attached, are sufficient for what I need. I’d rather be spending the money out and about on experiences than on a fancy hotel I won’t spend any time in.
17. Use city cards
Many cities offer a weekly metro ticket that allows unlimited travel within a certain period of time. So, if you’re going to use public transport frequently, this option may save you money. It may also be a good idea to find out if your destination offers a city pass that allows discounted entry to attractions, or access to several attractions for one set price.
I sincerely hope these tips help you to travel more frequently! If you have any questions, feel free to drop me a message in the comments and I will definitely get back to you!
This is not a sponsored post. All opinions are my own and all recommendations are genuine. All photographs are the property of and were taken by James and Zara Aitken.