In our daily busy lives, we are always dreaming about going on a holiday. We need time to recuperate or some sanity time away from the boss. But the money is tight and so you hold off taking that relaxing break. However, you can still get away by following some of my budget travel tips. This is how I manage to travel for months on end.
Perhaps you may have a low budget or want to extend the spending power of your hard earned money. Whatever the reason, you can afford to travel anytime as there are ways to travel cheaply or on a budget.
Whether you travel for one week or on extended multi month holidays, below are 17 tips I've used to travel cheaply.
Each airline has a regular email newsletter. They like to keep you up to date with developments and upcoming special deals. Sign up to these alerts with all your favourite airlines. Then you can base your travel dates during airfare sales.
You may prefer travelling on organised trips like coaching holidays, cruises or adventure treks. If so, then its worth researching one year in advance of your intended departure date.
Some tour/cruise companies will offer free flights on selected dates for the following year. Or offer heavily discounted airfares. But you must book and pay on selected tours/cruises before the year end. This means you are paying in full up to a year in advance. For example, European coach tour companies start releasing free flight deals in October /November for travel in the following year. It will require full payment at least by end of December.
Travel companies that have been offering free or discounted flights include:
Third party airfare websites also offer email alerts to keep you up to date with new deals.
Skyscanner has a cool Airfare Alert button. They send you an email every time the airfare changes to a lower price for your specific flight route. For example, I saved my parent $250 each when we set up a Toronto to Vancouver airfare alert. Three weeks later the airfare dropped by 50%.
Be aware that these flight booking engines don’t represent 100% of all airlines. There are hundreds of budget airlines. I have all the low cost airlines listed on this page for you, so you can check directly on their own websites.
You can fly free by using your credit card points. The US and Australian banks offer credit cards where you can accumulate frequent flyer/air miles with particular airlines.
In 2017, I flew around the world all on Qantas frequent flyer points. It saved me up to $3000. You can read here to learn how I get a free flight every year.
Taxi’s may be the quickest way to get to your hotel but it’s also the most expensive. Be open to other options.
The upside is they still provide a door to door service. The downside is that you will have to sit through all the hotels that fellow passengers are staying at. Unless your hotel is first on the list, then you’re lucky.
I find that airport vans are only economical if you are travelling solo. If you’re travelling with 2 or 3 people, then sharing a taxi might be best option as you’ll be sharing the cost. For example, the airport van from Melbourne city to Tullamarine airport is $20. But my friend and I shared a taxi for $45. So there wasn’t much difference in the price.
I love these as they are a great rapid service to the city centre. Then you only need to take a short taxi ride to your hotel.
These transfers are on a normal sized coach buses. The downside is that will take a little longer to get to the city centre as it has traffic to contend with. But quite often it’s the cheapest way.
For example, in Kuala Lumpur, the 50 minute bus ride from airport to city centre is only 10 ringgits (AU$4.00). In comparison, the 15 minute KLIA express train costs 55 ringgits (AU$20). The difference in price is the cost of a dinner!
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TG Tip: When doing a price comparison for your hotel, also check the rates directly on the hotels own website. Sometimes they have deals that they don’t pass onto the hotel booking engine sites.
Consider hostelling at hostels or backpackers. Yes, that means you will be sharing a room with other independent travellers or backpackers. And sharing a bathroom but it will be the cheapest accommodation you’ll ever pay. Saving money on accommodation means you have more money to play with during the day!
However, take note that some hostels do offer single and double rooms at a higher price but not as high as a hotel. This is an alternative if you prefer privacy or to stay away from snorers.
Being a frequent member of hotel chains can benefit you financially as well. The hotel chain will offer discounts to members only.
However, do compare the rates with hotel booking engine sites. The discount usually applies to the normal rack rate and not on any special rates.
Couch surfing is the cheapest way to go. You don’t have to pay at all. Just have the courage to stay at a strangers house, which could literally mean the couch! But not always. Recently I met an Albanian traveller visiting my city and she had her own bedroom in an apartment that was located right on the river. Beautiful location.
I always look for discounted day tours at the hotel/hostel.
Also check out the back of your airline boarding pass. When I travelled to Singapore, luckily I took a look at the back of the Singapore Airlines boarding pass. It contained discount vouchers for various attractions around the city. So we went to the Night Safari at the zoo and rode the large Singapore Flyer wheel for 50% off. Unfortunately, offers via this method are now rare. Mainly due to airlines downloading the boarding passes onto their apps.
This one I learnt about recently. It applies to six countries for the moment but I do hope they spread it around the world.
Basically you get a 50% discount for booking the first table at your selected restaurant. Simply download the First Table app. Choose a restaurant from their list. Pay the $10 booking fee and you'll get 50% off the food bill (maximum 4 diners).
I always choose hostels with a communal kitchen so I can make my own breakfast, lunch and dinners. Of course, I still treat myself to local cuisine a few times a week. But you save a lot of money by making your own meals, especially if you’re on a long extended holiday.
Or, instead of staying in a hotel, find equivalent priced apartments with kitchenettes. So you can still save money on breakfasts and dinners.
Eating out at restaurants every night can be quite costly. So I always make a note of where the food halls are. You can find most food halls inside shopping centres. Here you can dine on local cuisine for a fraction of the cost. I’ve had excellent meals in the food halls of Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Buenos Aires.
As soon as you arrive, find where your local supermarket is and stock up on munchies for your day tripping. Some supermarkets sell ready-made sandwiches and salads. This will be cheaper than dining in a restaurant every day. When I was in Hawaii, I was in no mood for cooking after lazing on the beach all day. So I found ready-made meals at the supermarket that I could heat up in the microwave. Saved money and time.
These are just a few of the main budget travel tricks that I use and work for me every time.
What tip will you try on your next holiday? Or do you have a budget travel trick yourself that you would like to share? Comment below.
A travel gypsy by heart, having already been to over 70 countries and still counting. Founder of Travel Groove, to share travel tips, tricks and knowledge with other travellers.
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