Travel Tips travelsave

Published on May 10th, 2013 | by Daniel

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How to Save Money on Travel Expenses

If you approach it the smart way you can save quite a lot of money on travel costs. In this post I want to give some practical tips that you can use immediately.

Before You Go

One (obvious) thing to note is that your travel costs are directly correlated to the ways you travel. For example going to a place by bus is much cheaper than travelling by air 99% of the time. However, personally however I find it difficult to get work done on a bus.  As a workaholic “digital nomad” my time is dear to me, and allthough sitting in a bus to get from one country to another can be a wonderful experience, it takes too much time which I rather spend on other things. On the other hand it depends on the person and how you plan your lifestyle.

That said, there are efficient ways to travel and many inefficient ways.

Before I book trips I often use Wikitravel for reconnaissance, as the “get in” section is always very informative about the ways a place is connected to other places. I like to have a “base” from which I visit other places in the region, which has different requirement than if you do a string of visits through a loop or route. Either way you will book differently.

How to Find the Cheapest Air Tickets

Often the only option to get to a place in a reasonable time period is to go by plane. Personally I find this a convenient way to travel as the market is quite transparent. There are many ways to find the best way to fly from one place to another. There are good comparison websites for this, as Momondo or Skyscanner. Try them out. You can see which dates are the cheapest to fly on and which airline.

A good doublecheck is to use Google. For instance in google search type “flights from London to Rio de Janeiro” which gives you all the airlines which fly on this route (replace the city names as you may please). You can compare these airlines with the comparison websites from the last paragraph. Ultimately you should check on their airlines websites themselves before you book.

Compare Hotels and Apartments the Easy Way

If you are in a place for a short moment, it makes more sense to get an serviced apartment or hotel than a private apartment, which often is more time consuming to arrange and hard to come by for periods shorter than a month.

A well-known source for private short term apartment in a lot of cities is Airbnb (or its copycat, Wimdu). However, in general I find their prices not lower than serviced apartments or hotels, which provide better service on average. The positive aspect about Airbnb though is that the location of the apartments can be very good, and you often have a much more “local” experience. That said, I only consider using Airbnb when I will stay in places for at least a month. In that case prices are relatively lower and easier to negotiate. If you like to find a good private apartment, you can also do a google search on it and triangulate experience and reviews from different websites.

To plan my stay for short trips I use the excellent Hotelscombined website, which compares all hotels and serviced apartments from the biggest booking sites (Hotels.com, Agoda.com and Booking.com amongst others) on price and availability in one overview. Thus, you never miss out on the best offer as is often the case when you go to one or two booking site separately. I really advice you to check it out, as it never failed me.

Negotiate 

This is more for long trips, but can also be applicable for short trips when you deal with the owner of the property directly. Always negotiate about the price and/or secondaries (i.e. cleaning). I found this really applicable to Airbnb when I book at the last moment. The owner of the apartment does not have any offers for the month and still wants to salvage some money. You just want a good price. So this is an excellent opportunity to negotiate. In Airbnb you can send a private message to the owner to inquire. What I do most of the cases (to save time) I just put my budget in the message (which is lower than the monthly price) and see if the owner agrees or not. It never hurts to ask.

Of course, this not only works for Airbnb, Wimdu or other similar sites, but also any other private owners you are dealing with. If you are advanced at negotiating you can even try this at hotels or serviced apartments. Book the first night, and then after arrival negotiate for the nights after. The only risk in this regard is that the hotel is fully booked.

Plan Smart – Quick List for Cheap Travel

Planning smart is an obvious tip but its details are often overlooked. If you plan really smart – both for your travel as your lodging – it can save you a lot of money when you put in a little time.

For instance:

> Figure out when the low-season is and go then.
> For discounts book either far ahead or at the last moment (more risky though it works very well in low-season).
> Roundtrip tickets for faraway destinations are much cheaper than oneway tickets, so it makes sense to fly to one point, and plan your big trip from there. So book trips for groups of countries at once (ie South America).
> If possible travel slow. This gives you more time for everything, a better negotiation position and cheaper options (as you stay long-term).
> Travel in off-hours, so you will get to your destination much quicker. Transport will be often cheaper, including taxis. I take this quite far, for instance I plan my arrival time + luggage collection so as not the end up in rush hour from the airport to my apartment/hotel. For me time = money.
> Plan your lodging to be close to public transportation. When your location is far from public transport this can be a hidden cost, as you may have to walk far or you will have to take (more expensive) private options as taxis.

This list does not cover all options of course. And it really depends on your requirements for comfort and your overall budget. When you are more the adventurous type, there are also extremely cheap options as Couchsurfing or staying in Hostels. These can be real fun, but personally I find it hard to manage my business in these places.

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  • mandyallen

    A very helpful post with some good links to valuable sources for travelling at a low cost. Accomodation is always a problem if you want to stay cheaply, like your ideas here, thanks.

    Enjoy the journey.

    Mandy

  • Jessica Twang

    I had no idea that there were such things a serviced apartments! How neat. Thanks so much for that tip. One of the best tips you mentioned would probably be travelling in the off-season. Not only are travelling expenses cheaper (air flights, buses, etc) but sometimes restaurant prices are cheaper too! So not only do you travel cheap, but you eat cheap, too! A friend and I traveled to Florida during March and not only did we not have to deal with crowds of people, but there was no wait for a seat at a restaurant, we got to enjoy the same foods, and we got a great hotel for cheap. Can’t beat that!

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