We’ve written before how to save money for travel by getting your pennies and cents in a line ready for your next adventure. Now it’s time to turn our attention to how to save money on travel by giving each of those pennies and cents a run for their money. So here you have the best of what we’ve learned in our 55 years of traveling to squeeze that travel cash as far as possible.
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At The Planning Stage
- How to save money on travel starts right when you begin planning your trip. The decisions you make now will affect the overall cost of the trip and how hard your money has to work for you.
- Consider when you want to travel. Most destinations are cheaper out of season. Do you know when the low or shoulder seasons are? Would visiting out of season work for you, or does it involve too many compromises? Broaden your horizons and think outside the box when it comes to choosing your destination and when you want to travel.
- Research should also give you an indication of the less busy times on your travel journeys. If you have that flexibility available, then make sure you take advantage of variations in costs. I’ve heard that you should book flights on Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning. Be sure to tick that box on the search that asks if you are flexible in your travel dates. It’s always worth that flexibility to secure the best fares.
- Fly midweek. It’s normally cheaper.
- Be creative with stopovers. Somewhere you’ve always wanted to see en route? Why not carve out a couple of days there?
- Try to stick with the same airline or airline group to maximise your points and deals through frequent flyer programmes. Use the airline website to book where possible. That’s the advice we’ve gleaned from our local airport staff – and not just those working for the airlines.
- Is it cheaper to fly into an airport that isn’t the obvious one for your destination? We occasionally opt for Charleroi for Brussels instead of Zaventem. For a bargainous break when time is less important, we can also take a cheap train from home to London then hop the Eurostar to Brussels for less than £70 each.
- Engage all the power of apps to let you search out what is possible. I’m a fan of Hopper with its automated alerts for price drops. And then there’s that wonderful option on Skyscanner to search for that destination known as anywhere, surely one of the most exciting options ever to let your imagination take hold.
- Shop around for deals on things like holiday insurance. It doesn’t take long to find a decent bargain and it can make a big difference. But don’t skimp. This is not something you want to be useless when there’s a problem.
- Pre-book airport parking if you need it.
How To Save Money on Travel Transportation
- Check whether you are entitled to any discounts and remember to use them. Age related discounts vary from country to country, as do the age brackets involved. Also check out student offers, and discounts available to veterans or people with disabilities, where free companion fares are sometimes available.
- Traveling with friends or family? There are also options for groups of people traveling together. For example, here in the UK, if there are just two of you, you could opt for the Two Together railcard. It costs £30, and then discounts all journeys you make together by a third. So if you are crossing the UK during your stay, that would be worth investigating.
- Split costs where you can by sharing car rentals or being dropped off somewhere remote in a shared taxi.
- Invest some time in knowing how to save money. Our guide to cheaper travel in the UK will take you through the intricacies of how to travel more cheaply by booking in advance, traveling later in the day and using multiple tickets. Investigating your options in other countries can save you serious cash.
- Walk where you can. In cities like London, walking is often quicker and much more scenic. Local trains such as the Settle to Carlisle Railway drop you at trailheads in the Yorkshire Dales, where you can get a proper walk for the price of a day return.
- Also remember the power of the bike, with hire available in many cities, plus unexpected places such as at Brockenhurst Station at the edge of the New Forest National Park. Do some investigation before you head out.
- Hiring a car? Research prices carefully before you go. Also consider the duration of your hire; you may only need a car for part of your stay. Be aware too that the size of the car can be an opportunity to save money. We drove a tiny car around the Scottish Highlands, and marvelled at how little fuel it needed. Plus we could tuck easily into tiny parking spots where others had failed.
- Ask yourself how locals travel. Whether it’s cheap long distance coaches, city buses or the reason for that empty tram you just saw rattle past, there will always be something to learn about choices made.
How To Save Money on Travel Accommodation
- Decide on your priorities. If you want to be close to the action, then you might want to balance that proximity with a smaller room to save funds. Or if you like somewhere you can stretch out and chill some of the time, choosing a place out of the centre can provide more for your money. Don’t forget to factor in the costs of travel to and from the places you want to visit if you are staying out of town. Your choice may change if you return to a destination to do different things. We love glorious Ghent in Belgium, but will chose to stay near the station if we are touring, or in the city centre when we are likely to be spending most of the time exploring the city to the fullest.
- If you don’t need the full facilities of a hotel with restaurant services, a gym, a concierge and front desk services, consider if other accommodation would suit you better. Often you can find studio apartments that are cheaper than hotel rooms, giving you a kitchenette and potentially more space.
- Sleep while you travel. From night trains in Europe to the seats of the Caledonian Sleeper to the Scottish Highlands and Amtrak across the USA, there are plenty of choices to let your travel fare cover a night’s accommodation too. Don’t expect to feel entirely rested the next day, but take it gently, and the night has been a bargain.
- Become a frequent flyer. If you use hotels often, sticking to a chain can bring you added bonuses in loyalty points and a sliding scale of freebies. Signing up can also alert you to deals, as can following a chain on social media.
- Make the most of credit card reward points to maximise your savings. And when it’s time to look for a new credit card deal, check out who is most likely to have offers that suit your style of travel.
- If you’ve used a last minute consolidation site to snag a bargain, give the hotel a call direct to see if they can match or better it. They won’t have to pay commission to the consolidator, and you may get a sweeter deal.
- Don’t keep changing accommodation. You may get better rates on longer stays. Often you can happily day trip from a central base.
- Stay over on a Sunday if that’s possible to secure a better deal.
- Don’t forget that sites like booking.com also cover accommodation such as holiday cottages. We’re heading off next month to a three bedroom cottage that is costing us less per night than a nearby hotel.
- That’s a good example of the benefits in being flexible in your choice of accommodation. We’ve tried most options now, and keeping an open mind can lead to new and varied experiences.
- If you are available for a longer period of time, don’t forget to check out the potential for house sitting. If you have good references, a sense of responsibility and expertise with pets, you’ll be in demand.
How To Save Money on Travel Food and Meals
- Consider booking self-catering accommodation. Studio apartments give you the opportunity to eat there at least some of the time, saving yourself plenty of money for other things.
- Check out times for bargain dining. London, for example, offers a lot of fixed price pre-theatre dining. This gives you a chance to eat well for less if you have dinner early. Also check out chain restaurants which can feed you well. We’re fans of Leon and Wahaca.
- A substantial brunch can keep you happy until an early dinner. If you are on the road, check out options like Beefeater or Toby Carvery restaurants in the UK. Normally situated on the outskirts of cities and along main roads, you’ll find plenty of choices for breakfast until 10am.
- Not all street food is bargainous, but rather a lot still is. And there’s something to be said for the vibrant buzz of dining local and on the move.
- Don’t forget the potential of supermarkets and chemists for quick, easy and cheap lunches. Most UK supermarkets and many elsewhere have a lunch counter, where you can often pick up a meal deal of a sandwich, snack and drink for very little cash.
- A bag of something still warm from the bakery also makes a great lunch, especially if there’s a spot with a view from which to enjoy it.
- Do your research beforehand about cheap cafes and restaurants recommended by locals and travelers alike.
- Don’t be afraid to create a room picnic. It’s easy to snaffle a good selection for dinner and dine in before heading out. Even better, take your picnic to the woods or a beach and watch the sun set while you dine. It makes cash available for the nights when you want to splurge on a great restaurant experience.
How To Save Money On Activities And Entertainment
- Entitled to a discount? If you are older, younger, belong to a relevant membership organisation or have simply looked for offers online, you could be entitled to a discount for popular attractions.
- Prepared to go early or go late? Some popular places allow free admission later in the day. So if you are focused on seeing a few specific exhibits, that may well work for you.
- Is there an alternative? The open top tour buses in London are fabulous. But instead you could take the regular number 15, sit on the top deck and use this free guide to tell you about the sites you are passing. You’ll see Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Monument, St Paul’s, Blackfriars Bridge, Fleet Street, the Royal Courts of Justice (the Old Bailey), Waterloo Bridge, the Strand and Trafalgar Square. Keep the Citymapper app open on your phone and you’ll know exactly where you are at all times.
- Enjoy a walk. There are self-guided tours available in many cities, and you can see everything at your own pace.
- Check local websites for freebies and open days. Sarehole Mill in Birmingham, one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s inspirations for The Hobbit, has regular days when it is open to the public for free, and you can bring your own picnic. So keep your eyes open for free stuff and enjoy it to the full.
- Not all attractions are obvious. The Library of Birmingham has the paneled Shakespeare Room, a secret roof garden, talkative lifts and a massive archive of film, all of which are accessible for free. Investigate what’s available at your destination.
- Look out for bargain tickets for shows and theatres. Many cities with a vibrant arts scene hold preview events and also sell empty seats at bargain prices. Our guide to scoring cheap theatre tickets in London will show you how to find the best bargains.
- Know yourself. If your control of your debit card can be a little wayward after a good evening, then lock it in the safe and take out just the cash you need.
Best Travel Bargains Ever
- To save even more money on travel, talk to the people who live there! From the sources of free wifi to the best places to get cheap and good food, there’s nothing like local knowledge to bag a bargain. And you’ll make new friends as well.
- Have an idea of your budget before you go. And make sure it includes space for anything you want to bring home, whether that’s lemon-scented lotions from Naples or chocolates from Belgium. Then you know you have plans for the money in your pocket.
- Don’t forget to check out last minute consolidators and subscribe to alerts that will let you know flight bargains and mistake fares. Then be prepared to act quickly to secure that bargain.
- Be ready to save now to have the luxury of travel later. We’ve shared our favourite techniques for saving money for travel by earning extra cash, saving not spending and the mindset that makes prioritising travel easier to achieve.
Read More: 50 travel hacks from 50 years on the road
Bagging A Bargain? Why not pin this for later!