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Travelling is pricey - otherwise we would all go shopping in Paris or surfing the waves in Bali when there’s a good forecast. I can’t even begin to describe how many times I have mindlessly browsed the web, curiosity taking over me, in the hopes that I’ll find some crazy-good online deal. Here’s the thing; the more you travel, the more you get to understand “loopholes” in the system or “tricks” which take that extra zero off of your holiday bank statements.
And so the following is a compilation of hints, tips and tricks some well travelled gurus have disclosed to me over the years - some you may already have heard of, others will (hopefully) catch you by surprise.
The cheapest way to travel is to not have a destination in mind, full stop.
The more specific you try to get in terms of dates, cities and times, the more you will be compromising your budget - meaning that if you have any room for flexibility, use it to your advantage. Once you have established how much leeway you can afford, Google Flights is a good, unbiased(ish) place to start your quest. Let yourself become familiar with what your ideal vacation’s price tag is, taking a mental note of the airlines google wisely suggests.
Then close that tab and open up the following search engines for a more flexible search depending on your needs:
A very wise and tech-informed friend of mine once said that, although not officially confirmed, it’s not worth taking the risk of having your travel prices increase because you forgot to activate your private browsing.
Wether true or an urban legend, if there is even the slightest chance your cache is increasing your flight prices, you should switch into incognito.
It seems easy and straightforward to book a return flight with the same airline - it just takes an extra clic on your end. The thing is, although certain airlines may offer return deals which are most certainly worth your money, you should never discard searching for flights one-way first. This way, you perhaps fly out with a certain airline, but get a sweet deal on your return flight with a different one. Perhaps you even fly back on a different airport, particularly when you’re travelling to bigger cities with more than one (Websites like Skyscanner are a massive help for these situations!).
Every so often, airlines launch incredible deals for no reason, which make them hard to find for anyone who isn’t constantly checking flight prices. Some of these deals are predictable, like Ryanair’s black Friday sale (which is insane, by the way), but the vast majority are airline specific and don’t tend to show up on your multi-airline flight search engines. Luckily, some websites keep their eyes peeled so you don’t have to, so go check out the following if you’re desperate for some deals: Airfarewatchdog, The Flight Deal, Holiday Pirates, Scott’s Cheap Flights and Secret Flying.
Another worthy option for those of you who are good at keeping up-to-date with your emails is to sign up to airline newsletters. This way you’ll always be on the know of what deals are circulating around.
I found out about free tours recently and it’s fair to say I’m hooked. Most (if not all) big cities have companies who offer these types of tours which are much like a regular company-arranged visit but this time you decide how much the tour is worth. The concept is very well thought out - the better the tour guide the better the money they earn, meaning the system is very much a meritocracy in its own right.
The best thing about Free Tours is that they are accessible to everyone - there is no such thing as a minimum donation amount. This being said, these companies rely on human cooperation, so attending free tours and not paying at all is de-valuing someone’s time. freetour.com is a good place to kickstart your search!
One of the biggest expenses of travelling is accommodation, which is annoying when you spend your day touring around town and only arrive back late at night to do it all over again the next day.
That is exactly why you should be spending your time searching for accommodation which is not only in a good location (remember, this can save you money on travel!), but that is cheap and to good standards.
I swear by websites such as Hostel World or booking.com, but it by no means stops there. You have a series of other options which are also easy on the wallet, such as farm stays, camping or even religious stays in monasteries.
For those who really do not want to spend any money, there’s always the option of Couchsurfing or Hospitality Club - websites where homeowners offer travellers a free stay in their homes. The idea? To rely on human solidarity and curiosity to promote cultural exchanges.
For travellers who are not wanting to spend money but can offer other means of paying for accommodation and food, Workaway of WWOOF might be the solution. Offering people the opportunity to work for their stays, the opportunities are very unique and depend on the host themselves. A quick browse will show you that you may have to work 4 hours a day at a hostel in Costa Rica in exchange for accommodation and food - a fair and immersive way of supporting small businesses and individuals as you travel the world.
I have seen people do this time and time again; a facebook post asking for accommodation abroad - perhaps a friend with a spare sofa, or an empty backyard to camp at. Sometimes it can feel like a big ask, but you really have little to loose and a lot to gain.
Another thing I have seen people do is to use social media to meet people and get under the radar tours guided by locals. These tend to be cheaper than anything provided by big tourism companies, and usually caters to people’s individual tastes. You can do this by signing up to facebook pages, asking your social network or even reaching out to people via instagram - you’d be surprised at how receptive people can be.
May we never hear you say you wish you knew the tips and tricks to make your travelling a little less heavy on the wallet!