I am a big fan of travel. Sometimes I like to splurge, but for the grand majority of my leisure travel, the budget is modest. And by grand majority I mean…my partner and I travel abroad on average 11 times per year, only one or two of those trips will involve saving up larger amounts of money for. All others are kept low budget and usually cash-flowed instead of saved up for. In this blog post I gathered my best tips to make the travel affordable.
Where I change the form from ‘I’ to ‘we’, assume I am talking about my partner who actively plans majority of our travel.
Shop seat sales
Every airline and train line puts seats on sale sometimes. For European travel we usually look at Ryanair and EasyJet. For further afield, we usually start with SkyScanner or Kayak to map out the flight route and then check the airline websites directly. We also use air miles where possible. The catch is that you should be prepared to travel at odd times every once in a while, mid-afternoon on a Wednesday and alike.
Tuesdays and Thursdays are good days to travel and from personal experience, Tuesday is a great day for cheap flights. The closer to the weekend, the more expensive tickets usually get. My strategy, to utilise the weekend, is that we often fly out on Thursday night and come back on Sunday evening or fly out on Saturday morning and fly back on Tuesday. As long as we manage to avoid Friday – Sunday, the flights average out to be around 20% cheaper for a weekend break.
You can pack 5 days worth of travel into a single small backpack.
Doable, I promise. Save up on the larger carry-on. As example, budget airlines such as Ryanair, charge for a standard sized carry-on and only allow a small bag on board. I tend to travel with a Kanken backpack (not sponsored). Head on over to my YouTube channel to see my recent video on using that bag for a 4 night trip to Porto.
Bring a water bottle and some snacks
This is a no brainer, airport food and beverages are expensive. In UK at least, you can walk up to any restaurant in the airport and ask them to fill in a water bottle for you, if you have one. You can also bring your favourite solid snacks to the airport too, I have been known to cross boarders with carrot sticks and hummus. Avoid bringing liquids, they’re subject to standard security restrictions.
Definitely don’t bring juice. During my last trip I overheard a security agent talking to a woman and it went some what like this:
Agent: Madam, your bag is full of liquid
Woman: No, it’s not
Agent: Madam, it is. I just saw the contents on the screen
Woman: No it isn’t
Agent (pulls out about a million of Capri Sun pouches, one eyebrow up)
Woman: This is not liquid, it’s just kids juice
Agent: If you squeeze the pouch, will it pour out? Well then it’s liquid
Woman: But it’s not in a bottle!
Get to the airport on the cheap
There is a good number of transport options to get to the airport in most countries I have been to, and we’re edging on upward of 30 now including some dodgy ones. If you are living within a city, public transport is the cheapest, usually with coaches being on the very bottom of the pricelist. In my case the only exceptions are: Gatwick (I live in southern edge of London’s Zone 4, it’s cheaper to take a Southern train, but not Thameslink or Gatwick Express) and Wroclaw to my parents (I get my brother to fetch me or take a train which is cheaper than coach in Poland). Importantly, whatever I have said above should be underlined with: research public transport options and use public transport. It’s fast, safe and comfortable. If you are in a country where this is not the case, except for the US, you are in a country where it might not be safe to travel unassisted. This is not a joke.
Opt for 3 star hotel closer to the centre
City breaks are my favourite sort of times away. Short, sweet and packed with interesting things. But, they’re not packed with fancy accommodation. Although I point blank refuse to stay at hostels, usually the highest I will go with hotels is ***. That level ensures that a hotel is clean and relatively safe, and that’s all I need. If a city is remarkably inexpensive (Budapest is a good example) sometimes you can find a **** within the *** price bracket and then it’s entirely up to you if you want to splurge. What I won’t do is to stay so far away from the city centre that I will need to commute to do sightseeing daily. If I do have to use transport, I always opt for public transport. One of my best experiences is using trams in Hong Kong instead of uber. If you get a chance, try it!
Map out your activities before you travel
Travelling somewhere without an idea of why you’re travelling there is like…why bother?
Research your destination in advance. I once went to Southampton (the original one, in the UK) only to find out it doesn’t have a beach. Disappointment doesn’t even begin to cover finding that out on arrival. Now, before I decide if I am going somewhere, I check what the place has to offer. Is there a beautiful old town? Does it have an unusual skyline? Is it a hub for nature hiking?
In advance of any trip I also plan out (ok, my partner mainly plans out) what we are going to do per day. This doesn’t mean that we’ll run around on schedule, it just means that we have something to every day, giving us a choice of whether to do it, or not.
Book activity tickets before you travel
If there is anything specific you want to do, such as visiting a theatre, a concert hall, or a theme park, always shop for the entry tickets in advance. Not only usually you’ll be able to snag them for a better price than buying at the venue or on the day.
Tourists are good, but too many of them make the prices go up. Try travelling off-season, winter months can bring some really good price drops and still offer winter sun. This is of course not always possible, especially if you are a parent of school-age children. However, if you get the opportunity to travel off-season, give it a go.
If you are in a city, don’t dine at the hotel, including breakfast
This is my favourite tip because not only it saves me a bunch of money every time I am travelling somewhere, but also gets me eating with ‘the locals’. Internet is a blessing and a curse, because the chances are somebody has been where you are before you and wrote a review about it. Read those reviews, choose restaurants and bars according to your budget criteria and be informed about your options.
There is a whole host of other little things I do, for which this blog post is already too long. Have i missed something big which you find important? Leave it in the comments area!
My next blog post will be a Valentines one, but it won’t be a happy one. Stay tuned on 14th.