There are a handful of questions we all ask ourselves on a bi-weekly basis. What is the meaning of life? Where do I want to be in five years time? Should I do more volunteering? How do I ask my boss for a raise without it backfiring? And, at the top of the pile, how can I save money on travel?
Now, we’re not going to pretend we’re some wise old woman from the Himalayas that has all the answers to all these things. Not a chance. We don’t. But when it comes to heading overseas and staying on budget without sacrificing any of the fun, well, we’re the voice of reason. Searching for money-saving tricks has almost become an unhealthy obsession of ours, which is partly because travel has shot up on our priority list over the past few years (much like it has for every other human on planet earth).
It’s that feeling of escaping the humdrum of everyday life and the stress of the wake, work, sleep, repeat routine, and switching it out for moments of exploration, joy, happiness and the chance to create super-precious memories. The problem has always been the lack of money trees growing in our backyard.
It’s not so bad if you're going away in a group of people where you can all chip in to cover the cover the cost of this and that. But if you’re going for a solo adventure, there’s unwritten need to swallow the uneconomical pressures of car rental, accommodation costs, getting about in cabs and all that sort of stuff. That’s why we’ve come up with this extensive list.
So, without further ado, here are our top tips, tricks and bits of advice to help you turn your trip for one into an incredible money-saving journey.
1. Sign-Up To Sweet Email Alerts
The one we’re a member of is Jack’s Flight Club, but there are so many to pick from - Opodo, Airfarewatchdog and Liligo to name but a few. And the way they work is so, so simple. Every week, you get numerous emails straight to your inbox with a list of cheap as chips flights to some far-flung destinations. Yup. these companies trawl the internet to find seriously cheap offers that are utterly perfect for those with a) a love for spontaneous trips and b) a bucket list that they are desperately trying to work their way through. Oh, and we’re not just talking about a saving a few bucks here and there. No way. We’re talking about saving hundreds and hundreds of bucks - at least - without having to do anything but check your inbox every so often.
2. Flexibility Is Your Best Friend
There are two ways flexibility can save you big bucks and the first is all to do with your destination. If you’re up for being flexible on your destination then the world really does become your oyster. You’re travelling alone and that means you can go wherever you want without consulting anyone, so Use search tools like Kayak, Skyscanner, or Adioso, or an app like GTFO, all of which allow you to search flights to “anywhere.” Then set yourself a flight budget and see what you can snag within that figure. Trust us: you’ll be shocked at how far you go. The other thing you should be flexible on is your dates. Even swapping an afternoon flight for an early morning one can save you a large chunk of change, so just imagine what you could keep in your pocket if you flew on a Wednesday morning instead of Friday evening. Flexibility is your bestie.
3. Pinch A Penny With Points
With the rise of Airbnb and all the choice that comes with it, the most costly part of going on a vacation is the flights. Hands down. That’s why we’ve focused on it in the first two points. But there’s another way you can reduce the cost of flying from here to there and it’s called points. Yup. Good old points, especially if you have something that’s geared towards this sort of saving, such as Chase credit cards for travelers. It’s arguably the best transferable points program on the market. It’s a rewards program that comes with a sign-up bonus (meaning a quick points boost) and it earns double points per dollar on all travel and dining purchases. But it’s not just airline purchases you get rewarded for. It’s hotels, Airbnb, taxis, Uber, and a whole lot more. Yummy.
4. From Rome 2 Rio
We know this may sound like a pretty niche travel route, and you’d be right, but it’s not actually a travel route at all. It’s a search engine and probably the best transport search engine in the world, in our opinion. The way it works is super-simple: you put in your departure spot and it will tell you how to get to your destination by all different transport methods, telling you straight up which option is the cheapest. It’s incredible. It’s nothing shy of incredible. It doesn’t matter where you’re going from or how far you are travelling, you get some idea of the best options out there.
5. Look Out For Freebies
Every city in the world is a hub or culture in some way or another, boasting a plethora of museums that could blow your mind in ways you never knew possible. The problem is, most museumgoers have to stump up a sometimes-not-so-reasonable fee. For example, the Louvre costs over $21 and the Museum of Chicago costs $36 for the do-everything pass. But not all museums are so steep. In fact, many of them are free. It’s just about knowing where to look and where to head in order to breeze in and out of an incredible museum without shelling out anything. Head to Washington D.C and there are 19 free museums and the National Zoo to visit for nothing, head to London and you can see everything from the National History Museum to the Tate Modern for zero expense. If you know, you know.
6. No How To Be Accommodated For Less
Backpacking in some hostel that rivals the one from The Beach in terms of uncleanliness is no longer the done thing, even for those travellers on a stricter than strict budget. Instead, there is a new trend of upmarket hostels that have all the comforts and chic touches of a boutique hotel for a fraction of the price. These are places that buzz with a community vibe as well as dance with some serious luxuries. Take the Tattva Design Hostel in Porto. It has a rooftop terrace complete with BBQ grills, and a DIY crepe station at the breakfast buffet and the cost for a bed is as little as $14.20. Of course, if sharing a space isn’t your cup of English tea, then there is the king of disruptive brands, Airbnb, which allows you to book a room in someone’s home or an entire place, giving you the chance to explore somewhere from a truly local base for a slice of what it would cost in a hotel.
7. Hand-Luggage Only
One of the best ways to save yourself a sack of cents and pennies is to pack light. No unnecessary pairs of extra shoes, no jumpers and no more than one pair of jeans. Why? Because you want to avoid those horrid baggage fees by travelling with a carry-on bag and nothing more. Seriously. The fewer bags you have, the less money you will have to fork out on airline fares and the easier you will be able to hop on and off public transportation when you arrive at your destination, with walking about made a million times easier too. Flip the coin over and you’ll find your cheap $47.60 flight to Rio becomes $110 and it’s all because of your big suitcase full of clothes you won’t wear.
8. Look For Enjoyable Exchange Rates
One of the secrets to having an amazing vacation for a fraction of the price is looking for currency exchange rates that will see your dollar stretch as far as it possibly can. In fact, we can’t stress this enough. Finding locations with the best exchange rate to cost-of-living ratio can add up to huge savings. It’s about taking your pretty decent US dollars and taking them to some favourable destination, whether that be travelling around the UK, Europe, Mexico, South America, South East Asia or wherever. Having a good exchange rate fall in your favour will see somewhere as beautiful as Portugal become impossibly cheap - food, lodging, travel, taxis, drinks, everything. Coming from the US, your mind will be blown, we promise.
Travel is that dream we all have. We all want to be more worldly and hold a host of amazing experiences in our storybook. The problem has always been the cost attached to it. But that belief is quickly fading and a new era of cheap adventures is sprouting up. It’s just a matter of knowing how to pinch pennies in everything you plan.