For most of my life I’ve suffered from a serious ailment – a chronic case of the travel bug. After a few weeks at home, I feel like I need to travel. But I prefer not to spend too much on my holidays because that makes me feel guilty...and indulgent. Having a tight budget does not mean that you can’t travel. It just means that you will have to travel more efficiently. I often get asked for tips on how to travel on a budget. Here are some ways to do just that.
How to travel on a budget
Save money - General
- Travel during off-peak seasons if you can. The prices are much lower than during peak season. And it will be less busy, meaning that you can enjoy yourself much more. If you have school-going children like me though, this will be more difficult. Don't forget to take into account the peak seasons of the place you're travelling to as well.
- Look out for discounts and special offers on websites like Groupon, Daddy's Deals and other discount deal websites.
- Always compare prices. I cannot overstate the value of comparing which is so easy to do these days by harnessing the power of the internet.
- Do internet searches for specific money-saving tips regarding your intended activity or destination, for example, ”Free walking tours in Paris”
- If you are a student, no matter how old you are, your student card can be a valuable tool to get student discounts at tourist attractions.
Save money on flights
I always look for the cheapest flights on Skyscanner and Travelstart. You’d be surprised at how huge the price differentials between airlines can be. Once you’ve identified the cheapest airline, check the prices on their website too. Often, Travelstart’s prices will be better.
Save money on accommodation
- For international hotels, I look for highly-rated hotels within my budget on Tripadvisor and usually book on Booking.com or Hotels.com. You can find some amazing value deals there. Be careful to read the fine print regarding tax exclusions, breakfast inclusions and cancellation policies. Also, check prices directly with the hotel you’re interested in for their direct booking prices.
- When visiting new destinations, you don’t have to stay in a mega-expensive 5-star hotel especially since you’ll be too busy exploring a new place to spend much time in your hotel room. Staying in a cheaper hotel will allow you to save on accommodation and put that money to better use elsewhere. I prefer not to go lower than 4-star though. If you want to indulge, save the best hotel for the last and not the other way around. On a typical visit to another country, we may travel to at least three different cities. I’ve had (unplanned) instances where I move from a great hotel to a sorry excuse for a hotel, when moving from one city to another and it was truly depressing – for a few hours at least. Of course, if the main purpose of your holiday is to relax at a nice hotel, then that’s a different story.
- If you still want to experience a five-star hotel – or a seven-star, if you’re in Dubai, go there for a drink or high tea as a special treat. You still get to enjoy the views, the ambience and the “Been there, Done that” rights..
- Airbnb is gaining popularity as a cheaper way to obtain holiday accommodation – by renting peoples’ home or space in their homes instead of book hotel rooms. I haven’t tried it yet so I can’t say much on it.
Travel Hacking and Loyalty Points
The word “hacking” normally has negative connotations but travel hacking is a (legal) method of collecting frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points – at an expedited rate - and using loopholes in the system to travel for free or for much less. As South Africans, we don’t have many opportunities to travel hack but there are some, like loyalty points.
I'm a big fan of loyalty points. If it's free, sign up for it by all means. If it comes with a price tag- well then, weigh the cost vs the benefit. Most airlines and large hotel groups have loyalty schemes. If you are going to use them anyway, why not accumulate some points while you’re at it. One of my favourite local travel loyalty programs is Tsogo Sun's SunRands. It's free and the earn rate is good. That makes me feel more positive about them. Internationally, IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) has a great loyalty rewards scheme.
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