Summer doesn’t seem too far away and we’re turning our attention to our summer holidays, so I’ve decided to unload my travel knowledge on you. (Sorry, not sorry.)
Over the past couple of years I’ve booked a fair few holidays and trips and I’ve picked up a few tips for saving money when you travel. I am an adventure booking wizard now!
What do you want to do?
Before you begin booking anything or researching flights or hotels, look at what it is you want to do when you’re there.
When you know what you want to do, you can figure out where is the best place for you to stay.
Staying outside of a city may be cheaper but it’s not always worth it
It’s often much cheaper to stay outside a big city and stay in a smaller town but you may find that you end up spending more on transport and that the extra travel is a frustration.
When I went to the Italian Grand Prix in 2013, I stayed in Bergamo but had a two hour trip each way in to and out of the circuit – so while I saved money on the hotel and public transport was cheap, I had to leave the hotel early (6am) and got to the hotel at about 11 at night, which was tiring as I was actually there working.
The following year I stayed in a hotel on the edge of Milan and it wasn’t that much more expensive but it was worth paying a little extra to reduce the two hour trip each way.
Hotel comparison websites are your best friends
There are a lot of hotel comparison websites out there and while most of them claim to be the cheapest, some are cheaper than others. It pays to spend a bit of extra time searching on a few websites to get the cheapest price for your stay.
Pay now vs pay on arrival
It’s often cheaper to pay when you book and you will find that if you opt to pay on arrival you will end up paying more in the long run.
Pay on arrival is great if you haven’t got the money when you book but it’s not the cheapest option overall.
You can save by booking your hotel and flight together
For the last two adventures I’ve organised I booked my hotel and flights together because I was able to save over £100 each time.
It’s not always worked out that way for me, so look at whether it’s cheaper to book hotel and flights together or to book your hotel and flights separately.
As you often have to pay for everything up front if you book your flights and hotel together, it can be a big hit to the old bank account and sometimes it works out better for your pocket to pay a little more and book flights and hotels separately as you can pay for flights one month and then your hotel the next.
Flight comparison websites are also your best friends
I love Skyscanner, it’s brilliant at helping you find the cheapest flights, the cheapest place to fly from and the cheapest days to travel.
I’m sure there are other flight comparison websites out there but I’ve only ever needed to use Skyscanner.
Occasionally it does throw up some interesting trips which involve travel times of over a day and involves four connections for what should be a four hour direct flight.
You can save by taking a non-direct flight
Talking of connections, sometimes you may find that a flight which involves a stop off can be cheaper. I don’t really understand how it can work out cheaper but sometimes it just does.
I can’t say I’ve actually done a connecting flight before, I would rather pay a little more because I’m impatient and live in fear of my luggage being lost.
Mix and match airlines / airports
You may find that you can’t get inbound and outbound flights with the same airline on the days you want to travel, or if you can their flight times might be awkward, so look at using different airlines for your inbound and outbound flights. If you do this remember to check their luggage restrictions.
Additionally you could look at flying in and out of different airports if the flight times are awkward when you’re coming home. In the UK we have a lot of airports, most of which aren’t that far apart, so sometimes it makes sense to mix and match airports. Just make sure you tell, tell and tell again the person who is picking you up!
Do you need checked baggage?
If you fly with a budget airline you will often have to pay to check a suitcase into the hold, so ask yourself whether you can manage with hand luggage only. You would be surprised at what you can fit into hand luggage; when I go to races I’m usually there for five days and I can fit everything I need plus my laptop into my hand luggage.
Cheaper flights may land at airports further out of the city
The budget airlines don’t always land at the main airport, or the closest airport to the city you’re staying in, so look at the cost of getting into the city / to your hotel from the airport before you book. It may work out cheaper for you to actually spend a bit more on flights and land at a closer airport.
Look at travelling in the middle of the week
Flights are generally cheaper in the middle of the week because most people don’t tend to want to travel in the middle of the week.
Get a lift to the airport
Airport parking can be expensive so beg / bribe or pay a family member or friend to drop you off. You can also look at getting a train or bus, but often a family member or friend is the cheapest way to do it. (I’d like to see a train that let’s you travel in exchange for cake!)
What do you really need from your hotel?
If you’re having a lazy beach holiday and plan to spend a lot of time in your hotel, it’s worth spending more on a nice luxurious hotel. If you’re planning on being out most of the time and just want somewhere to shower and sleep, you can save money by choosing a basic hotel.
Basic doesn’t have to mean crappy either, then the UK and Europe we have a lot of good budget hotel chains, and I’m sure the same can be said for the rest of the world. I’ve stayed in a few of IBIS hotels over the past couple of year and they have all been basic but exactly what I needed; they were comfortable, clean and had somewhere to eat.
Book tickets online
Quite often you can save money by booking tickets for attractions or public transport online.
Plus, you have the advantage of it being in English on your computer / laptop / phone, whereas it can be a bit overwhelming if you try to book something like train tickets in a country where you don’t speak the language. While most people do speak English, if you’re anything like me you may still worry that you didn’t understand them correctly or that they didn’t understand you.
Travel forums are also your best friends
If you scour travel forums or travel blogs you will pick up some good hints and tips on the best way to get around where you’re staying, if there’s a day of the week where entrance to something is cheaper, whether city cards are worth it, whether an attraction is work seeing and so on.
In the spirit of sharing, here’s my travel tip if you’re going to Paris: the Louvre is busy and overrated if you aren’t much of an art fan, in my opinion. When I went it was so busy you could hardly see things and the toilets were the dirtiest toilets I’ve ever used. If, like me, you’re not much of an art fa then it’s not worth it and I had more fun outside the Louvre than inside.
Share your travel tips below!