Travelling doesn’t always mean having to spend wads of cash – there are many ways to save money on your next trip without turning into a miser. Here are 10 money saving travel tips:
1. Keep out of the tourist zones
You’ll be amazed how just walking a few blocks away from the “action” will mean cheaper prices in hotels, restaurants and entertainment. There seems to be an invisible line around popular tourist centres where if you cross that line the prices double, this is especially true in many European cities. Not only will you save money by steering clear of the touristy areas, you’ll also get to meet more locals and sample a much more authentic way of life.
2. Research, Research, Research
In the age of the internet there is no excuse for being unprepared for your trip. There are many great travel tips websites and travel forums which give you tonnes of advise about your chosen destination. You should also take advantage of money saving deals before you head off. Most cities now have ‘Tourist Passes’ and you can even get discounts on public transport by buying the multi-trip tickets before you arrive.
3. Avoid those pesky scams
When visiting those travel forums make sure you also read up the most commons scams of your chosen destination. Sadly every country has one, although some countries are more than notorious than others. Certain countries are known for certain scams – Tuk Tuk tours in Thailand, currency changing scams in Bali and Taxi scams in Eastern Europe. Sadly scams are becoming increasingly more inventive and although you may not be able to avoid all bad guys, knowledge is power and the more you know the safer you’ll be.
4. Try couchsurfing or staying with friends
There is no better friend than the one who lives in a country you want to visit and staying with them can obviously save you a packet. If you don’t have any friends then perhaps try “friends-of-a-friend’s-friends” just make sure they’re willing to put up with you for a night or two. These days crashing at someone’s pad has become even easier with the rise of ‘Couchsurfing’ websites. For those new to the popular trend it just means travellers share their couches with each other, although make sure you read all the reviews first to avoid awkward (or even dodgy) situations.
5. Avoid the middle man
A good money saving travel tip is to book directly with the hotel or airline, in most cases this is usually cheapest option. It means you won’t have to pay someone’s commission on top of your fee. A hotel or airline search site is only worth using if they don’t take commission directly from you. The minute they say “plus handling charges” or “plus booking fee” you know to look elsewhere. Also be wary of daily deal discount sites as they are not always the least expensive option, no matter how much of a discount they say you are getting.
6. Check your mobile before you go
One of the biggest hidden costs of travel is the mobile phone. Data roaming charges can really sting and there have been many recent incidents of people returning home to bills of thousands. If you travel abroad always make sure your data roaming is turned off. Even when this is turned off you still may have problems with insurance, different rates for local calls and phoning home, fees for receiving calls, fees for redirecting calls from your home phone and text message fees. Always, always talk to your mobile phone provider before you go about the charges or if you’re away for a longer time consider buying a pay as you go SIM card locally.
7. Credit card charges
Most major credit card companies charge a foreign transaction fee of 2-5% on any charge made internationally. When it comes to withdrawing money from international ATMs or paying with a credit card in a foreign currency there are often charges. Each time you pay in a foreign currency you are charged a conversion rate for turning your pounds/dollars into the other currency. It’s always best to travel with a credit card just in case, but be clear what the charges are and try to take cash with you for most of your transactions overseas. Paying with cash will also help you not to overspend.
8. Don’t get stung when changing your money
Although I advocate cash over card you will need to find the best place to change your money into foreign currency. Definitely don’t leave it until the airport to change your money as you will more than likely struggle to get a decent rate. Always choose a reputable Bureau de Change and always compare travel money exchange rates and also commission rates before you decide.
9. Book your flights early
The cheapest time to book a flight is between three months and three weeks before the flight, any closer to the take-off date and prices rise. Booking on a Tuesday afternoon is known to be the cheapest time of day to book and the cheapest time to fly is either on a red-eye flight, Saturday or mid-week. This has all been tested and worked into a fine art by several travel sites but you never know when the special deals will come. Sign up for flight deal alerts; compare sites and compare directly with the airline site. Hotel and flight combo deals are cheaper than booking separately and check the national holidays of your travel destination to avoid the more expensive flight dates. Also always make sure you clear your cookies before browsing and use a private browsing mode to stop the price mysteriously increasing every time you check back at the same flight.
10. Book airport parking in advance
If you book airport parking before you go, you can cut the cost of parking significantly by booking as early as possible. Prices will rise the longer you leave it. Even better, get a friend to drop you off at the airport or find out about public transport to the airport. You should also check out local parking garages near the airport which may be cheaper and offer a shuttle to the airport. Compare the price of a taxi to and from the airport with the price you will pay for airport parking as sometimes you’ll find it’s not worth taking a car at all.
If you’ve ever wondered what your hard-earned cash will get you in different countries then here’s a “How far you pound will go” infographic from Travelex: