It is easier than you think to save money on travel. And spending less money means you can travel more often. Everyone likes going on holidays but nobody likes paying for it.
Somewhere between the sandy beach and the 5-star luxury hotel, you can find amazing potential for cost savings. All you need to do is a little bit of research and planning ahead.
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How to save money on travel
1. Choose your destination
The easiest way to save money on travel is to choose your destination wisely. There are a few ways you can save on travel with this choice:
- Visit a location during off-season (e.g. a costal town during winter)
- Go to less popular locations
One of my most memorable holidays was when I went to Mallorca, a Spanish island, in Winter. Mallorca is famous for its beaches and its party scene during SUMMER. Hence, when we went there in January, few other tourists were around. Obviously, we could not swim in the sea, but in return, it felt like we had the island for ourselves. There were so many other things to see! Had we come during Summer, we would have just spent every day at the beach.
Another significant advantage of travelling to a Summer destination during Winter was that everything was reduced. We found cheap flights, a cheap hotel and enjoyed reduced admission fees everywhere.
Sometimes, you already have a clear destination in your mind or where you go is chosen by your family or friends. In this case, the following points will still help to keep your costs down without spoiling the fun.
You may be able to get cashback for your booking.
2. Find cheap transport
Flights tend to be one of the more expensive things on the travel list. However, flights also have huge potential for saving. Use sites like Skyscanner to compare prices and use budget airlines such as Ryanair. When I travel to visit my family, I save so much by spending six hours travelling to Stansted Airport to use Ryanair rather than flying via Heathrow which is less than an hour away from where I live.
On the day of travel, you want to be prepared. Bring packed food so you can avoid using over-priced airport restaurants and on-board meals. Yes, you can bring food past security, just ensure it does not contain meat, fruits, vegetables or any liquids. A peanut-butter sandwich, for example, is perfectly fine. Or a protein bar. Or pasta. There is literally no reason you should ever have to buy airport or airplane food.
Also remember to bring a refillable water bottle. You will have to empty it before you go through the security check, but nothing stops you from filling it back up afterwards. Most airports have free water fountains that you can use. You may have to look around a bit, for example, in Stansted airport the fountain is hidden all the way in the toilets of the Ryanair terminal. But still, walking there is better than spending £3 on a 500ml water bottle.
3. Find a place to stay
There are several ways to save on accomodation costs, depending on how you envision your stay. Booking a hostel bed instead of a hotel room can reduce your accomodation costs by as much as 90%. Hostels also offer the opportunity to cook your own meals, leading to further savings. If you do prefer to stay in a hotel, make sure to compare prices using a site such as Booking.com.
Airbnb is another option to save money compared to hotels. You will have more privacy than in a hostel and still have the possibility to cook for yourself, thereby saving money due to not eating out. AirBnb is especially suited to group travel and when you split the costs, its prices are comparable to that of a hostel. Airbnb is also ideal for families. When you sign-up to AirBnb you get £25 off your first stay when you use my link. Afterwards you can refer your friends to continue booking for £23 off per friend.
Save money when travelling secret tip: Couchsurfing
With Couchsurfing, you essentially have free accommodation. The website matches travellers with hosts, who will allow you to stay at their place for free. This can save you a lot of money but may take some time to organise as you are unlikely to stay at one person’s place for longer than 1-2 nights. For longer journeys, you would need to find multiple hosts.
It is also important to keep in mind that when you couchsurf, you are somebody’s guest. This means you should not return drunk at 2 am or bring friends over. It is mostly suited for solo travelling. On the other hand, couchsurfing is a great opportunity to learn about local customs and discover hidden places away from the mass tourism as your host is likely to be knowledgeable about the area.
Is couchsurfing save?
I used couchsurfing extensively when I was younger and did not have many negative experiences. One host asked me and my friend to sleep in the same bed as him. We replied that we were not comfortable with this and slept on the sofa instead. This happened only once out of the many times I used couchsurfing. Apart from this experience, every other host I stayed with was very friendly and respectful. One even treated me to dinner and to the cinema. Others spent their time showing me around the area.
You are responsible for your own safety and there are a few things you can do. Read the reviews for a host before you contact them, it helps if they have a verified profile. Tell someone where you are going and who are you staying with. Tell your family or friends that you will contact them at a specific time to let them know you are safe. If your host looks different from their profile picture, it is probably safer to stay at a hostel instead.
4. Save costs for luggage
If you book a flight with a budget airline, there are likely to be extra charges for luggage. Usually, you are allowed one piece of hand luggage for free. And let me tell you, this piece of hand luggage is all you need, unless you travel with children or plan to stay for longer than four months.
Save money when travelling extreme: storage
The weight and size specifications of your hand luggage are usually only checked once, before you board the plane. Nobody cares how many suitcases, backpacks etc. you have before or after. The simple trick is to bring foldable bags that can be stored in your main bag during the luggage check. Before and after, you can use these bags for your stuff. So where do you put your stuff while your luggage is being checked?
For clothes, you can just wear them. Nobody cares how many layers of clothes you have on. Airports and planes have air conditioning so you will not get a heatstroke. Plus, as soon as you are in the plane, you can go to the toilets and take off your extra layers.
Everything that cannot be worn can be stored in the pockets of your clothes. If you are allowed a separate hand bag or a bag for airport shopping, you can store your belongings in there. Hand bags are rarely checked so I recommend putting all the heavy stuff in there.
What to leave at home
A lot easier than wearing multiple layers of clothes is to just leave the redundant bits at home. Limit yourself to not bringing more than two pairs of shoes at most. This may sound harsh but you really do not need more than two pairs. As for clothes, many people forget that they do not need to bring enough clothes for the entire duration of the trip. Simply choose a few versatile pieces.
Nothing stops you from making a trip to the local laundrette to wash your laundry if needed. At the laundrette, you can often wash for £1 or less which is so much cheaper than the £25 for extra luggage. Some hostels also have washing machines.
If you would like to take toiletries with you, do not buy over-priced travel-sized packages. Instead, buy refillable containers and fill them with your normal creams and gels. They are really cheap and will save you a ton. You can buy airplane-friendly sized containers here. Make sure to choose reusable items whenever possible.
5. Do exciting things for less
You can easily save money when travelling by choosing your sightseeing activities wisely. Focus on what is important to you. You do not have to see every tourist attraction there is and you do not have to listen to guides that adversitise “must-see” places. There is literally nothing in your holiday that you MUST see. It is your own time and you are already restricted enough in your daily life so your holiday should be a time to be free. For example, when I went to Paris for a week, I decided to pay for a ticket to Versailles, but did not climb the Eiffel Tower. I am interested in history but have been on enough high buildings in the past.
Do your own research about interesting places you may want to see. Some may charge an entry fee, so only go if you are really interested. Paying the entrance fee is cheaper than missing out on going and then regretting that decision and booking another flight. If allowed, you can bring your own food and water to the venue to make up for the entry fee.
Take advantage of free-to-do activities
There are also plenty of things you can do for free. Depending on your location, you could visit the beach, explore the local area or go hiking. These activities are often more impactful than things you pay for. For example, my friends and I decided to climb up Arthur’s Seat, a hill in Scotland. There were stairs to walk to the top, but being the genius I am (sarcasm), I suggested climbing up from elsewhere. It ended up being a real climb and halfway through the weather changed.
It all was really dramatic and I still tell the story today. On the other hand, I hardly ever mentioned our visit to the Edinburgh castle, which we had to buy tickets for.
Bonus: save money when travelling by working
Rather than just save money when travelling, you could take your journey to the next level by earning a little extra income. The easiest way, unless you can work remotely, is to teach English. I have a Teaching English as Foreign Lanuage (TEFL) certificate. This means I am qualified to teach English to non-native speakers anywhere in the world. Teaching is a great way to interact with the local community and to really get to know the area you are travelling to. To obtain a TEFL certificate, you usually do not need any prior qualifications. Find out more here.
There are also volunteering opportunities that may help you save money when travelling. When volunteering you usually get free lodging and food in exchange for working. When I was younger, I spent my summers volunteering on farms in Switzerland and also spent a year volunteering in Italy working with disabled people. Like teaching English, with volunteering you will get to know the local community and the real life in your destination area better compared to normal holidays. WWOOF is a good site to find out more.
Save money on travel summary
- Choose a destination out of season
- Book a flight with a budget airline
- Find a cheap place to stay
- Reduce your luggage (hand luggage only)
- When sightseeing, only pay for places you are interested in and take advantage of free activities
- Work or volunteer to keep the costs down
Also, having a frugal mindset will help you save money no matter where you go.
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