Ways to save money when traveling

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Friends and family are always asking how I am able to travel so frequently? There is no great secret, I travel on a budget. I prefer three modest trips over a luxurious one. Also, I prefer to save so that I can spend on activities and experiences. Areas that I always look to save on is flights, accomodation, transport and meals.

*I’ll link a YouToube video for those that do not like reading 🙂

1. Flights

Depending on your budget a flight can take up as much as 30-50% of the total cost of your trip, fortunately there are many ways to save on them.

  • Book as early as possible. The earliest you can book a flight is one year ahead of departure, but this is not always feasible. About nine months ahead of time create a flight alert on an app such as Skyscanner or Kayak, or on Google flights. This allows you to track and familiarise yourself with flight prices. You’ll also be able to recognise a “special fare” when offered by an airline. Keep on tracking until about three months before departure and book at the lowest fare. Flight prices tend to increase sharply from about two months or less before departure. 
  • Use apps such as Skyscanner, Kayak or Google flights, everybody has their favourite, to search for flights. They allow you to search through most of the airlines, hundreds of flights and various route options depending on your search criteria. They will find you the best fares and if you compare with your flight alerts will make sure you don’t miss out on the best deals. Use more than one as some apps omit certain airlines. Remember to always check the fine print especially when you are booking through 3rd parties. Specifically check baggage allowances and charges related to changing or cancelling flights.
  • Use connecting flights instead of direct ones.
  • Book different airlines for legs of a trip and book your own connections.
  • Some cities have more than one airport, so choose the less expensive one, but remember to include transport costs in your calculations.
  • Check for the cheapest day to fly on, it is usually cheaper on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Also on 25 Dec and 31 Jan.
  • Fly very early in the morning or late at night.
  • Clear your browsing history between flight searches or search incognito and search in the local currecny.
  • Don’t be afraid to use local low-cost airlines. Remember to check baggage allowances, often they only include carry on.
  • If possible travel during the off season.

2. Accommodation

We all have our personal preferences with regards to accommodation and there are so many options available. I used to be heavy on backpackers but has since migrated to self-catering.  One rule that has remained the same for me throughout is that a holiday should not be spent in a room, but outside exploring and making memories. I’ll share a few tips on how I save on accommodation.

  • Travel out of season. You’ll save loads not only on accommodation, but also on the costs for activities. 
  • Use apps/sites such as booking.com or Trip Advisor to get the best deals. The earlier you book the cheaper it will be. Also apply the travel alert tip I mentioned in the flights section.
  • Compare the price on the app with the price on the official site, often there is a difference.
  • Register and log in before you search. Sites such as booking.com offer special/additional discounts for registered members.
  • Search booking.com on the morning of your stay for a single night. Most properties offer discounts when they realise they will not fill their beds for that night. These can be as much as 50%. This only works for one night, if you search for two nights or more this discount will not be activated.
  • Search for cheaper days, usually weekdays and Sunday nights. Book expensive hotels during the week and opt for cheaper accommodation over the weekend.
  • Use AirBnB especially if you are more than 2 two travellers. AirBnB has revolutionised self-catering. You are able to book a 2- or 3-bedroom apartment/house for the price of a single hotel room. Plus it offers privacy, free Wi-Fi, facilities to cook meals and do your own laundry. All ways to save while travelling. Very NB! Always check the house rules and read reviews.
  • If you do opt for AirBnB, check for longer stay discounts. Hosts usually offer such discounts when you surpass a minimum amounts of nights
  • Choose the cheaper room.  Opt for the room with the side view instead of the sea view. Unless you are on honeymoon, then always choose the sea view 🙂
  • Join loyalty programmes. Major hotels such a the Hilton, Hyatt and Marriot all have them. I am part of Hilton Honors. It is free to sign up and you receive preferred rates, free Wi-Fi plus other benefits depending on your level.
  •  Negotiate. This works especially well during low season. Speak to the owner, manager or reception and see what they have to offer. Even if they can’t reduce the rate, they might be able to add a few extras to sweeten the deal.
  • Travel overnight. If you are looking to save on a night’s accommodation take an overnight train or bus to your next destination.
  • Try Couchsurfing, It is a global homestay and social networking service. The platform is a gift economy and hosts are not allowed to charge for lodging. I’ve hosted many visitors over the years and its always been a delight. Try it out if you are in need of free accommodation.

3. Transport

Usually travellers tend to neglect what they spend and are able to save on transport, but the costs add up quickly. For the biggest savings always try and go local if it si safe to do so.

  • Use public transport. These include subways, busses and similar. In Africa, these come in many shapes and sizes. Moto taxis in Rwanda, bodo bodo’s in Kenya, converted trucks etc. Learn the routes and stops and you’ll instantly start saving. Your reception or host is the best place to ask.
  • Walk. Choose a good location for your accommodation and you’ll be able to walk where you need to be. Its great exercise as well.
  • Don’t use tourist taxis. They are always overpriced. If you are not comfortable with public transport opt for UBER or research the equivalent. They are safe and offer significant savings compared to tourist taxis.
  • Share with other travellers or couples. If you share an uber with someone else, you instantly save 50%.
  • Rent a bike or bicycle. Often it is cheaper to rent a scooter/bicycle for a day than continuously paying for transport. Remember to check licencing requirements and don’t leave your passport as deposit.
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  • Use a tourist/student/week pass. In larger cities these are available for busses, trains and the subway. Usually it allows unlimited transfer at a reduced rate for a specific period of time.
  • Airport transfer. Confirm if your hotel/accommodation offers free airport picks ups or at least at a better rate than advertised elsewhere.
  • Hitchhike. This is a free alternative. Often in Africa persons will provide a ride for a limited fee. Negotiate before accepting the ride and make sure it is safe.

4. Meals

Local, local, local and if you’re not sure go local. The biggest mistake, in my opinion, that travellers make when visiting abroad is eating what they know. This is expensive and robs you of an extremely rewarding cultural experience. Even if you don’t like the first thing you try, have a crack at something else. You will find one or many local meals you like and have an amazing culinary journey getting there.

  • If you are fortunate to know some locals, ask for recommendations. If not, ask at reception or fellow travellers, consult TripAdvisor or your guidebook.
  • Move out of the tourist area. Take a walk or public transport to explore the next blocks past the busy tourist area. General rule, if a place is busy their doing something right, most likely the food.
  • Book accommodation that includes breakfast and fill up.
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com
  • Have a smaller lunch like fresh fruit and water or do street food.
  • Pack your own lunch and fill your water bottle at your accommodation.
  • Leave the fine dining for home, as well as international fast food chains.
  • If you stay in an AirBnB or other self-catering shop at a grocery store and cook your own meals. Be adventurous, download local recipes and give it a go.
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

This is quite a lengthy and daunting list, but I assure you once it becomes habit, you’ll save without breaking a sweat. Remember the goal. The more you save, the more you can travel.

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