Save Money on International Travel: Guide
Why is it some people always seen to be able to bag a bargain? Whether it's a train ticket to London, a flight to Bangkok or an all-inclusive holiday to Tenerife, they always seem to get the 'rub of the green'.
Don't get us wrong, you may be pleased to hear that your mate has just flown half way around the world for the same price that you paid for last night's meal, but at the same time you can't help but feel a little envious and wonder how it's done. We're here to help.
Gone are the days of simply logging on to lastminute.com with a smug grin and being able to book a bargain all-in trip pretty much anywhere with just a few clicks of a button. Nowadays, bargain travel hunting is more competitive and requires a little nouse.
In this travel blog we reveal the secrets of some super-savvy travel shoppers. Follow their advice and you could save yourself a small fortune on your next getaway....
How to Find Cheap Flights Online
There's a few common sense things to consider when booking your next travel adventure. Some things will be in your control and some of them not. Timing has a key influence on the pricing of flights and hotels. And, depending on where you are going to / from it's worth doing a bit of research to check that you are not paying a premium for something you do not need.
Example: It may not be the kids' summer holidays in the UK, but you may be flying to India, where a huge religious festival makes your return flight sky-high and not in a good way.
Month and Day
Consider the quietest times of year and the best time to nab a cheap flight. How do you know when is best to book? Check out Skyscanner, the hugely popular flight comparison website, and their awesome new feature called The Best Time To Book Cheap Flights
Use Key Dates To Your Advantage
If you have flexibility on the dates you choose, look days or weeks either side of public holidays and other such key dates. This applies from your departure country and the country you are flying to. Prices are likely to be higher at peak times but in any case, searching a long way in advance will give you an advantage where flights are concerned.
Hours Can Make A Difference
The time of day you choose to travel will help you in your quest for bargain travel. Flying at a time when most people are still at work, or in bed, could save you up to 30 or 40% per trip, for example. We recommend having separate tabs open on your browser and run separate searches by both date and by time.
Look Out For Hidden Extras
Searched by cheapest flights and found what you think is a steal, until you get to the checkout page and realise checked in baggage is extortionate to add on? It's a common mistake. Search wisely and look for flights that include all the things you would like, such as checked in baggage to your requirements and an in-flight meal if required.
Let Technology Take The Strain
Thankfully, you don't have to be standing by your computer frantically pressing the refresh button until RSI kicks in to find cheap flights. Many popular websites allow you to set alerts, that will notify you via email if the price of travel changes on the dates you are interested in. Monitor the price trend emails for several weeks or even months if you are able to. As soon as there is a considerable drop in price, you can decide when to pounce on the cheapest flights.
What Happens Next?
It's worth considering your plans once you have landed at your destination, if flying at typically unsociable times. If it's the early hours, and you can't check in to your hotel until the next day, you may have an increased wait or cost of getting to where you want to get to via taxi or other means. If you have somewhere to leave your luggage then you can dive straight in and start enjoying your travels!
Tip: Using a laptop or desktop computer is easier than using a smartphone when tracking down travel deals online. You have more room to browse and can have separate tabs open, each showing different data for comparison to save you time.
Comparison Websites For Cheap Travel Deals
There's a fair chance you have used Skyscanner or suchlike to browse flights, but where non-savvy travellers get caught out is with things such as currency, travel insurance and even airport parking. Caught up in the euphoria of successfully booking flights and hotels most travellers don't spend the time or effort that they should to save on these aspects of the trip. Especially as a few minutes comparing can save considerable amounts of money.
10 comparison sites
- Travel Supermarket
- Google Flights
- Holiday Extras (UK)
Book Cheap Hotels Online
You've read some of the best advice around for saving money on flights, and now you're going to learn how to save on hotels. As you will notice, flights are generally cheaper a long way in advance, and being able to pounce on a low price point while price monitoring can pay dividends. Hotels are 'generally' the opposite. Book them as late as possible, and by late we mean the same day you are checking in if it is not a peak time.
Use Apps For Best Rates
Popular hotel booking sites such as booking.com and Agoda actually provide different rates to signed up users of their app than what they do via their website. Another beauty of booking through an app is that all your data is stored via easily accessible tabs such as bookings, confirmation numbers and past hotels - enabling you to search quicker and easier.
If you use the same app to book your hotels you will receive updates of offers and rewards over time, adding to the savings you will make. This is one time we suggest signing up to email notifications so you are notified of the best deals.
Do You REALLY Need A Pool?
Consider whether you actually need a swimming pool or other such luxuries that may push the price up considerably. We have personal experience of booking villas with private pools in Bali, for example, but the temperature cooling the water down so much at night that they are uncomfortably cold to bathe in the following day. The same goes with sea views. If you plan to spend most of your days out on adventures, you may consider the comfort of the room more important than the amenities of the hotel itself. Shop smart.
Booking Multiple Nights - Try Direct
If you have your sights on a hotel you are sure you like, and want to book multiple nights, contact the hotel directly to see if they can provide a better deal than what the third party app you are using is displaying. This can work well with smaller vendors, that wish to save on the percentage fee they will pay to the booking app. Bigger operators may not be as responsive.
Try your luck, you never know. If it's your wife's Birthday, your honeymoon or any such special occasion it is also worth dropping it in to the special requests box to see if there's anything your hotel may consider to make your stay extra special. You have nothing to lose. Upgrades are usually given for one or two-night stays in our experience. For longer stays, the availability of such upgrades is slimmer. Remember to be courteous at check in to improve your chances!
Additional Tips For Cheap Travel
- Reach out to people that may have visited the country you are travelling to recently. They may provide some handy advice that will save you money or give you the heads up on money exchange, for example.
- Learn the best ways to travel around in the country you are going to with some little online research. In Japan, for example, it's best to pre-purchase a week long ticket for the bullet train if you are travelling around and works out far cheaper than paying as you go. It's worth researching.
- Use different hotel booking sites depending on where you are looking to stay. Agoda generally offers cheaper rates than booking.com in Asia, for example.
- Get a local sim card or use free Wi-Fi to book your hotels and flights on the go. Data roaming overseas can cost a small fortune.
Buying a local sim card with data will save you money
Update March 2020:
Cheap Travel During Coronavirus Outbreak
First thing to mention is responsibility. Not just for your own health, but for the consideration and safety of others. We've seen lots of reports of young people especially being quoted as saying 'if I die I die - I would much rather be doing something fun than sat at home. Global air travel is set to lose $100bn+. And, although big multinationals such as Google are restricting all non-essential travel - more adventurous folk are set to capitalise on some of the cheapest prices of the past decade. With the recent spread of coronavirus in countries such as Korea and Italy, you have to wonder whether now is the time to book. It is important to understand your travel rights with the coronavirus outbreak - should you become stranded somewhere or your travel plans disrupted after booking. You should pay attention regularly to updates on countries and safety precautions that are placed upon travellers. For example, Thailand has recently placed restrictions on travellers from certain countries travelling without a health certificate. Some countries require passengers to self-quarantine for 14 days. That cheap price won't seem such a bargain if you spend two weeks in self-isolation. And don't for one minute think that you can ignore the self-quarantine advice. Governments have numerous ways of tracking the whereabouts of individuals visiting their countries. From tracking sim cards, to CCTV and a whole host of other technological aids.
To summarise: Travel due to the coronavirus outbreak has to be in accordance with the law, and your own feelings. It is our personal viewpoint that the risks generally outweigh the rewards. Saving some money might seem attractive at first glance but it may actually prove more of a headache (not to mention the significant health risk). We have friends stranded in Italy, China and lots that have experienced travel disruptions throughout the world. Think this one through, very carefully.
An image of a display cow found in a shopping centre in Asia. Face masks are being worn to help fight against the spread of coronavirus / Covid2019