If traveling was free, the whole world would be doing it! Unfortunately it isn't, but there are ways to make sure that we don't end up spending a fortune on our travels and I'm sure some of these tips below will definitely come in handy. So, as promised in my last post, here are some easy travel hacks which will ensure that you cut back on some expenses and save some money while planning your next vacation.
Find a better deal on accommodation:
I never book directly with the hotel unless I’m pretty sure that the price they are offering is the best I can get. There are many sites that provide hotel rooms at prices that are significantly lower than what you’d see on a hotel’s website. You have Agoda.com, booking.com, hotels.com and many more such sites that provide you boarding options ranging from a 5 star to a budget hotel. If you want to visit one aggregator site that will show you the best deals from all such sites then do look at Trivago or Tripadvisor, you will get a list of sites and the deals they are providing. I have personally booked through Ibibo and Agoda, and have found them to be quite hassle free.
Another option that is getting quite popular is Airbnb. You could go in for properties from here as well. It has many interesting accommodation options which are more personalized than a hotel stay. For instance, if you are looking for a beach villa in Mykonos, then be sure Airbnb can give you some great options to choose from.
If you are a solo traveler, or if you are backpacking your way around the world on a budget, then couch surfing is probably a great way to save the big bucks on lodging expenses. You get to stay with a local and you can also open your home to another fellow traveler to return the favour as well! It’s like a large community of travelers who remain connected and enable lodging facilities to each other. You can sign up and read more about it here - couchsurfing.com
You could also check out youth hostels and backpackers' hostels if you are ok with sharing your room with other fellow travelers. These are one of the cheapest ways to live while traveling.
If you can book your tickets well in advance, then that is the best way to save some money on travel. If you know you will be traveling to a particular destination and are sure about it, then booking your tickets at least 10-12 weeks in advance is recommended. The more you delay the more the chances of the ticket fares going up. Instead of just logging on to individual ticketing portals, it’s best to take a look at aggregator sites like skyscanner.com which will throw up the best deals available from all ticketing websites. Another trustworthy source to look up the cheapest flights is google flights. Also try booking the flights for weekdays instead of weekends. The weekend fares are usually higher. So instead of travelling on a Friday, try to book your ticket for a Wednesday or a Thursday.
Save on paying for excess luggage:
This is extremely important. Remember that you are going for a holiday not to settle down somewhere permanently, so as much as you’d like to carry your whole wardrobe along with you, don’t. One suitcase and one handbag is enough to accommodate all that you would need for a few days travel. I also always make it a point to carry less than the permitted baggage allowance (in weight) because you need to have some empty space for all the souvenirs and shopping that you will carry back from your travels. So if an airline allows me to carry 20 kgs worth of check in luggage I will probably carry 12 kgs. Make it a point to weigh your luggage at home before heading to the airport. If you are going to need a heavy jacket, don’t put it in your suitcase; wear it on board, same goes for the heaviest pair of shoes you want to carry. That saves you some allowance on your luggage and once you are inside the aircraft you can always place the jacket in the overhead compartment!
Cut back on the dining expenses:
While it’s pretty easy to get good meals at affordable prices at restaurants in Asian countries, the same cannot be said for some European countries, especially the like of Switzerland, Ireland, France etc. Well of course you must try out their restaurants, but maybe you don’t need to go to a fancy restaurant of a café for all of your meals. Usually breakfast is included in your boarding cost (do ensure that it is, if you pay for it in advance, you won’t feel the pinch while on your vacation), for lunch do something different, maybe a picnic one day or try some food from the street vendors/food carts instead of heading to the nearest café. You can pick up some sandwiches and beverages from the supermarkets and have a nice little picnic at a park. You get to experience something fun and also save some money in the process.
Save on transport and sightseeing:
Instead of hiring a chauffeur driven car, or taking taxis throughout your stay at a particular place, do some research on that particular city’s public transport system. Most European countries are well connected by metro rails and the same goes for Asian countries as well. Singapore for instance has a great public transport system with well connected metro trains and hop on and hop off buses, which will be way cheaper than hiring a cab. Same goes for Paris As well, it has a very efficient metro rail system as well as a tram system that connects the city. One can also use the buses in addition to these. The best way is to get yourself a Paris Pass which will cost you about Rs. 8000 for a 2 day validity and this entitles you not only unlimited transport but also lots of free entries to museums and galleries and some activities such as French Wine Tasting, a ride on the tour bus etc. Switzerland too has a similar card called the Swiss Card. So do check out if the country or city you are visiting has any such tourist friendly facility. You will not only save money on transport but also gain free access to attraction which you’d have to pay for otherwise.
Exchange that currency:
While you can carry your international debit card or credit card, do try to not use them unless you absolutely have to. It’s always a good idea to convert your currency back home before you take the trip. Watch out for a good rate and convert it on that particular date. This way you will know that you have a fixed amount you’d want to spend while vacationing and it will help you stick to the budget. And if you do need to convert your dollars/pounds to a third currency while abroad, avoid converting them at your hotel, you will never get a good rate.