Travelling is not just about the number of places you’ve been to, it’s also about the memories that are created, the experience of living in another place and being out of your comfort zone…but with the Aussie dollar not doing as well as in previous years, staying in your comfort zone is probably more tempting!
With some simple planning, having these experiences needn’t empty your pockets. And you don’t need to sit in your hotel room for fear of spending too much money if you leave it!
With these tips and research into the common travel mistakes to avoid, you are sure to have a more enjoyable, non-wallet draining holiday!
General tips for saving on travel
- Avoid offshore charges and don’t use your phone for data roaming (unless you have a local SIM card). Many hotels or cafes offer free Wi–Fi, so take advantage of that.
- Book online, or through a local tourist office rather than through your hotel – there may be a surcharge for the service.
- Compare, compare, compare! But don’t just compare the price, look at everything else offered too. Checking all the extras (or lack of) may highlight some items that you actually don’t need, and hence wouldn’t want to pay for. For example - do you really want to pay extra for priority boarding (unless you’re really late, the plane isn’t going to leave without you)?
- Bargain, bargain, bargain! If you don’t ask, you won’t ever know if the people you’re booking with are willing to reduce their prices or not! That hotel room you’re enquiring about may be in danger of being vacant if they don’t offer it to you at a discounted price - it won’t hurt to ask!
- Buy a pass for the city you’re travelling in - a travel pass will help you save costs on transport, and a sightseeing pass may get you unlimited travel on public transport and also discounts at attractions.
- Some attractions give discounts or free entry to people over 65, or to students. So make sure you bring your ID.
- Avoid buying cash from the bureau de change. Your own debit card or credit card is a better option (just make sure you pay the credit card off each month!).
- Cruises are good if you want to contain your costs. Accommodation, meals and entertainment are prepaid, and if you avoid the casinos, shops and alcohol, you needn’t spend another cent!
- If you don’t mind the uncertainty, why not book at the last minute? Empty cruise cabins and hotel rooms may translate to cheaper prices waiting for you to snap up.
- Loyalty programs are usually free, and their benefits may be worth the few minutes to join up.
- If you’re able, avoid using public or private transport and just walk! What better way to discover the new city you’re in? You can explore all its nooks and crannies, discover places not in the guide books, and you’re also getting exercise!
Saving on Accommodation
Again – bulk is good! The longer you stay in one place, the lower the rates usually are.
- Instead of staying in a plush hotel, why not rent an apartment? You’ll save on accommodation costs and also meals (see Food section below). And do you really need all the extra perks of that hotel? In the end, it’s really only a place to sleep and store your belongings while you sight-see. Try out no-frills hotels or even stay at an airport – Singapore’s Changi Airport is consistently considered the best place to do this.
- You will save on the cost of a hotel room if you are happy to travel overnight on a train, ferry or coach. You’ll get to your destination ‘faster’, and have more sightseeing time!
- If you are comfortable with it, ‘swap’ your house with another traveller from overseas. There are many house swapping websites you can check out on the internet.
- And if you are comfortable with sleeping on someone’s couch, air mattress or spare room, give Couchsurfing a go! (https://www.couchsurfing.org/n/about)
- The obvious - if you have relatives or friends who live in that area, stay with them! If the possibility of stretching the friendship too far is your concern, just stay for a few days or however long you (or they) think is an appropriate amount of time...you never know, it may be the start of a beautiful friendship!
- Not all campsites or mobile homes are necessarily cheaper, especially in high season.
- And do you really need to stay in the very heart of that glamorous city? If you are happy to travel a bit, you could just commute into that glamorous city from a neighbouring location. You’ll save yourself some money and discover places and paths less taken…
Saving on Food
- If space permits, bring reusable utensils or buy paper plates, bowls and plastic spoons. Make sure you also bring can openers and bottle openers (more on this later!). While you’re doing BYO, how about carrying around food that doesn’t require refrigeration like vegemite and peanut butter? And also consider bringing a few basics so you don’t have to search around (and possibly pay a higher price) in an unfamiliar city for salt, pepper, tea or washing powder.
- Immerse yourself in your new location and buy your food from grocery stores, local markets, supermarkets, and even chemists with pantry aisles. Have a picnic, and watch this new and different world go by…isn’t that what you came for after all?
- Soft, collapsible eskies and zip-lock bags to store food items are handy to have, as they’ll make it easier to carry food around. They’re light, don’t take up too much space and you never know when you’ll need them!
- If you are travelling around a lot, only buy what you can eat in that sitting (or what you are willing to carry) otherwise it defeats the whole purpose!
- End of day specials at bakeries, markets and even supermarkets with products close to their use by date (just like at home!) are a great cheap way of eating well.
- If you really do want to eat at a restaurant, consult guide books, tourism websites or local food blogs. They may post coupons with discounts or there may be prepaid offers you can take advantage of.
- It is also worthwhile to ask bartenders or baristas about the best place to eat at. Hotel concierges usually have a set list of touristy spots, which you should avoid eating at – the food may be inferior and more expensive.
- If possible, eat a large lunch, as restaurants usually charge more for dinner.
- Ordering from fixed price menus are a good option, and look out for kids eat free promotions.
- If the facilities are there, use hotels to prepare food. Try to get one with a full or half kitchen - especially if you’re not planning on moving around too much.
- The obvious – avoid the mini fridge and hence avoid paying exorbitant amounts of money for a bar of chocolate or bottle of water. Some hotel mini fridges track the items that are taken out and automatically charge you for them, so if you need to clear the fridge to be able to fit your own food in, ask the hotel staff to clear it for you.
- If you are staying in a hotel where breakfast is included – eat your fill! Take away a piece of fruit or bread roll for later. But if you don’t think you would be able to take full advantage of the breakfast offerings, you could just find cheaper accommodation and buy a bread roll from a bakery instead.
- Eating food from street vendors is one of the cheapest and sometimes most enjoyable way of experiencing a city, but it’s also a bit risky from a hygiene point of view. So be careful - make sure the food is hot, and check out the vendor cart or kiosk before you order – make sure it’s clean, and make sure it’s busy (a busy vendor means a high turnover of food, which means the food may be fresher, and another plus is that it must be good!).
- If it’s safe, drinking tap water is naturally cheaper than paying for bottled water. But if you have to have bottled water, buy it from a supermarket or store, and not from a restaurant or street vendor, as it will be cheaper.
- Now, on to bottle openers and alcohol. Keep away from it and you will save money! Otherwise, go to happy hour (and look out for bars that offer free food during that time), buy alcohol where locals buy them from, or go with the local wine, it is usually cheaper, and may be the best match for the local cooking anyway.