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While it’s true that some people simply don’t have the circumstances to travel, others mistakenly believe that travel is too expensive. Because of this, people often ask how I afford to travel so often. And you may be surprised to learn that I don’t have a money tree or rich parents. Yet, I still manage to travel several times a year. So, how can you save money on travel yourself to allow you to take trips more often?
Despite what you’ve been led to believe, travel doesn’t have to be expensive. The key to travelling frequently is saving hard, choosing your priorities and knowing where to find the travel best deals.
So, in the interests of inspiring you to travel more often, I’m going to give you the low-down on the best travel hacks to help you save money on travel.
Do these 17 things to save money on travel:
1. Be prepared to search
It’s rare you’ll find a bargain the first time you research a destination. Sometimes, it takes months to find the right deal. When booking a trip to New York, 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 to save money on travel. But I actually enjoy the process and it feels great when I land a bargain. It may take some time, but the less money you spend on each trip, the more trips you can take, so it’s worth the time investment.
2. Avoid mainstream travel agents and book it yourself
Travel agents are the first port of call for many people. And sometimes they may be able to help you save money on travel, especially in the shoulder seasons of May and October. But the majority of the time, travel agent prices are more than I am prepared to pay. There are many ways you can build your own holiday online without having to pay travel agent commission or additional fees, so if you really want to save money on travel, book it yourself.
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 math and work out the cheapest option. Sometimes you’ll find a cheap package deal but, more often than not, you’ll find it cheaper to book your flights and accommodation separately.
4. Book an apartment or room on Airbnb
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, or if you’re riding the sustainability train, book a private room in a local’s home, rather than an entire apartment. 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 the inconvenience. Granted, it may not always be convenient but it’s a great way to save money on travel if you don’t mind travelling through the night. 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, if you forget something you really need, you can always buy it while you’re away. I find it helpful to plan outfits and stick to neutral colours to ensure everything matches. I also buy cheap toiletries at my destination, or at the airport, to save room in my carry-on. Travelling with hand luggage only can save up to £70, depending on the airline you fly with!
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 and burning calories. But where public transport is lacking or it’s too far to walk, I book transfers from the airport to my accommodation. This is also great if you arrive in the middle of the night when public transport is unavailable. Obviously, when walking around a city, be sure to stick to well-lit areas and do your research regarding the safety of certain destinations.
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 in tourist hot spots will charge tourist prices. So, 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. Be flexible with your trips to get the best results. Flying during the week, from Monday to Thursday, will save you a packet!
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 downloaded their app and enabled notifications to alert me to 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 America, it is a little harder to do here in Europe. But that’s not to say it’s impossible.
Most of us have a 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 points for every £1 spent. 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 accruing interest 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’ feature. If you don’t have a specific destination in mind and are open to trying new things, this can help you save money on travel.
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 luxury and go budget. I often find 2-3* hotels, with no frills attached, are sufficient for what I need. I’d rather spend my money 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.