In our recent article How to have a weekend away that doesn’t cost a fortune we shared a few tips on how to take a break without breaking the bank. But how does that apply to longer holidays?
In the popular TV show Race Across the World, pairs of travellers can choose any route they like to get from the starting to finishing destinations. They are not allowed to use flights, phones or credit cards. Instead they are given cash equivalent to the amount it would cost for a one-way economy air ticket, and they must rely on this to pay for all travel, food and accommodation.
It’s a fun and exciting show to watch, but are there things that we can learn and apply in real life? Is it really possible to be creative about travelling, and do it on a next to nothing budget?
Your travel plans may not be as ambitious as a race across the world, but there are definitely things that you can do in general to minimise the cost of travel.
Let’s look at ten tips on how to do this.
Before you make any travel plans at all, decide how much you want to spend. Then be strict and stick to it. It is all too easy to start overspending, and running up credit card bills, but don’t do this as it can lead to months of financial difficulty long after your holiday is over.
By making a firm decision about your budget in advance, you can plan a trip that you can afford to take.
Part of being able to stick to your budget is to research your destination carefully before you go. Look for a destination you can afford and learn all about it. This includes checking out the local currency and exchange rates. Then look for the places that are good value to stay, and where there is plenty to do without spending a small fortune.
Also research different types of accommodation and read reviews from other travellers so that you get the best possible experience for your budget.
One key element of cheap travel is the time of year that you go. This can be more difficult if you are tied to school holiday times, but even then it is likely to be cheaper to travel at a time such as half term, away from the main school summer holiday.
Also remember that off-season varies between different countries so you should definitely get better value at some times of the year than others. Just make sure to check the typical weather patterns for the place you intend to visit.
You are likely to be able to get a better value trip if you avoid the main tourist hotspots. Most big cities are more expensive than smaller towns, so you could have a wonderful holiday in the country of your choice if you try some different parts of that country rather than just the tourist hotspots.
And if you are visiting a big city, try to get off the beaten track and find restaurants, shops and attractions that are not in the main tourist area.
Getting off the beaten track also applies to eating out. If you just stick to the main tourist areas you will inevitably be charged premium prices. For a more authentic and better value experience, talk to the locals and eat where they eat. You will find better and cheaper restaurants, and also get insider knowledge on supermarkets, stores, bars and events.
Why get ripped off for a mediocre experience in a tourist area when you could experience something much more enjoyable with a bit of local intelligence.
And on the subject of eating, don’t feel you have to eat out every meal just because you are travelling. If you are paying for two or three meals out a day this is soon going to break your budget. So some days why not just eat back in your room?: even if there are no cooking facilities you can take a few cutlery items and make some sandwiches or a salad. Or you could pack a picnic to take with you when you are out and about.
Organising your own food can not only work out cheaper, but also give you more time to enjoy the sights and experiences of the place you are in without having to sit in a restaurant for a couple of hours.
If you are staying in a hotel and there are places you want to visit, it can be tempting to sign up for excursions offered by the hotel or travel agent. However, it’s usually possible to sort out the trip yourself and you can usually save a lot of money by doing this.
For example, look into the local buses, which are usually the best mode of public transport. If you need to buy entry tickets to somewhere you are visiting, check out in advance the cheapest way of doing this.
If you are in a city and want to visit lots of attractions, find the local tourism office and see what kind of tourist cards are available. You are likely to be able to get one that offers you discount or free access to major attractions and museums, and perhaps also free public transportation. Another tip is to take a free walking tour which will give you a great introduction to the city and help you plan the rest of your stay there.
Whilst it can be cheaper to arrange some aspects of your trip nearer to your departure time, it’s a good idea to at least get flights booked well in advance. This gives you more control over when you travel. Bear in mind that flights are usually more expensive at weekends, so aim to fly between Tuesday and Thursday if you are able to.
If you have a long journey it can also be cheaper to fly overnight. Overnight travel also gives you the advantage of not having to pay for one night’s accommodation.
When planning flights, always check out comparison sites such as Skyscanner to get an idea of all the different options available.
Also make full use of air miles. There are some reward credit cards that give air miles as points and other loyalty cards such as Nectar that enable you to convert points into air miles. By careful use of air miles you could end up only having to pay taxes and charges on your flight.
You can often save quite a bit of money on accommodation if you are willing to risk either booking directly with the hotel – or host such as AirBnB – before you depart, or even leaving it till you arrive and sorting it out then. If you do leave it till you arrive, you can book face to face and may find lovely accommodation that isn’t always advertised online.
Much depends on the kind of place you are going to, and how confident you feel about making last minute accommodation arrangements.
Last but not least, always travel light. You will be very hampered in your aim to travel cheaply if you are dragging around huge suitcases with you.
Think back to your last holiday and be realistic about the amount of clothing and accessories you really needed. Most of us take far too much and don’t use it all.
The ideal is to operate with only hand luggage. This is a brilliant way of avoiding delays after disembarking from an airline, and also eliminates the risk of any potential lost luggage. Just make sure you have everything you really need and you are good to go.
We hope that this article has given you some useful tips about how to travel more cheaply in future. But if at any stage you need a bit of extra funding for your trip, remember that Munzee offers 24 month loans that may be able to help.
Check back here soon for more lifestyle and financial tips from Munzee Loans.