5 Easy Hacks for Spending Less on Travel
Whether you’re a keen backpacker or a casual holidaymaker, everyone likes to get the best deals on travel. The more you save, the more time you can spend sunning yourself on a beach or exploring a new city—so the quest to do the most you can for the least amount of cash is almost never-ending.
It’s easy to think that simply flying with budget airlines and making use of public transport are enough to help you undercut your fellow global explorers, but that isn’t quite the truth. Have you ever used an app to book a flight as if you were in another country? Or researched the best days of the week to fly to get lower rates? Here are a few tactics you might not have tried before that can knock big sums off the price of your getaways.
1. Book Your Flights and Hotels With a VPN
With a what? A virtual private network, or VPN, is a useful app most often used by people who are trying to watch international streaming services. With one installed, you can connect to the internet as if you’re in a whole other location.
Why is that useful? Because sometimes service providers offer different prices to people in different regions. Research has found that using a VPN can knock literally thousands of dollars off the price of a flight, all because airlines will offer cheaper rates to people either in less affluent countries, or who are booking from the airline’s own destination.
As an example, a round-trip from Kuala Lumpur to Los Angeles with United Airlines that cost $2,426 for someone booking in the USA was available for only $1,304 when using a VPN server based in Poland. The same flight, with the same airline, but more than $1,000 dollars less. And this isn’t the only example. If you aren’t already using a VPN to search for cheaper flight prices, now is a good time to start.
All you need to do is install an app and select whereabouts in the world you’d like to pretend to be; the VPN will do the rest.
2. Make it Last-Minute
There are a lot of differing opinions about which days are the cheapest days to book, and it’s true that you’ll usually get better rates if you book and fly mid-week rather than at the weekend. However, the price differences can be pretty slim, and if it means rearranging your whole trip to save a trivial amount, you have to wonder if it’s really worth it.
Last-minute booking can feel counter-intuitive—after all, isn’t it the early bird that catches the worm? Well, not always. The cheapest time to book is 6-8 weeks before you actually want to travel, when hotels and airlines are slashing their prices to try and fill gaps in otherwise booked-up hotels and flights.
Package holiday discount sites are usually keen to brag about the fact that they can offer you as much as 75% off the cost of a holiday, but they aren’t always too specific about how to find the biggest savings. Rather than trawling through page after page of holidays trying to find the one that’s 70% off instead of 30%, think about when you want to travel and wait for the crucial eight-weeks-to-go moment.
3. Use Smart Travel Apps
VPN apps are great when you want to save money on bookings, but once you’re away there are several other types of software that it’s worth travelling with. Apps don’t add any weight to your bag, many of them are totally free of charge, but they can save you a ton of money on your trip.
You could avoid paying to be led around on a city tour with a group of strangers by installing city guide apps like Detour, which includes audio guides to popular sights, offbeat destinations and foodie hotspots around the world. Likewise, save money on phrasebooks, guidebooks and maps by seeking out free apps that include offline versions—for those times you can’t get good signal or simply don’t want to spend money on international data.
Google Translate even includes a photographic function that can translate menus if you point your camera at them, while CityMapper takes the stress out of navigating new locations by offering you routes that include all kinds of public transport and ride share options.
4. Go Hand-Luggage Only
Chronic over-packers might think it’s not possible, but if backpackers on round-the-world trips can travel with just one small bag of belongings, so can you. It’s easy to get carried away packing for a week in the sun, taking a different swimsuit for every day and a selection of shoes for all occasions—but how much of that stuff actually gets used?
Perfect the art of packing light and not only will you be able to avoid wasting time queuing at the luggage carousel, you can also save the cost of checking in a cabin bag. Ever had to pay to store luggage at a hotel or transport stop off on the first and last day of your trip, because check-in and check-out times clashed with your travel? Not a problem if you’ve only got one backpack to carry around.
Travelling hand-luggage-only might sound like a tactic that involves cutting down on creature comforts, but you’d be surprised how much you can fit in a carry-on.
5. Use the Sharing Economy
Last up, a tip that might sound a little vague but which can be applied to so many situations. It won’t save you hundreds off the price of flights, but it can help with lots of little things that soon add up.
The biggest saving here is likely to be on accommodation. Maybe you don’t want to go quite as far as sharing a room with strangers in cheap hostel accommodation, but sharing economy mainstays like Airbnb are an absolute must-check before you book a hotel. You can still have the place to yourself but often for a much lower price. In many instances, options like Airbnb or Homeaway also come with access to your own kitchen, which can save you from having to pay for three meals out every single day.
At a lower level, ride sharing can reduce the price of getting from A to B with taxis, and higher up the frugal chain are things like EatWith and Camp In My Garden (which are exactly what they sound like.)
From saving a little on a car journey to a whole lot on a flight, there are plenty of things to consider when you’re planning your next adventure. It might be enough to spend on an extra meal out, or it could pay for several extra days of travel—whatever the result, it’s worth the minimal time and effort it takes to get the discount.
Last modified on July 17th, 2019
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