It’s been quite a while since I last blogged about ways of saving money when you travel, but I’ve had a lot of requests after I saved my parents hundreds on their upcoming holiday and had then booked flights to Germany for £4.70! Yes, you did read that right. When it comes to booking trips, I’m the queen of finding a good deal, and then finding an even better one. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve saved friends, family and readers money by teaching them the tricks of the trade and showing them all the ways I use to cut back on spending by booking wisely. Because that’s all it really comes down to – there is no conspiracy out there to hide these great deals from you – good planning, smart booking and taking the time to look.

Whether it’s a summer holiday, a year-long trip around the world, a weekend city break or just a day’s outing – a bit of careful planning can mean the difference between saving enough for a few extra glasses of wine or even your spending money! As we all know, I’ve spent a long time travelling as a budget backpacker and maintaining the lifestyle long-term means sometimes cutting corners in a bid to travel for longer. I only know the things that I know through a very long process of trial and error, of accidentally booking the more expensive option and learning about the cheaper websites later on. But the beauty of that is that I’ve done all the hard work for you! So here are five tried and tested ways that I always save money on my trips:

Compare Independently

Everyone loves a comparison site – they make it nice and easy to see all the deals in one place. But sometimes it is easy to get so wrapped up in the publicity of a good deal that you don’t realise you’re actually getting overcharged. Be smart – Skyscanner and sites like Expedia can be great but always price up the flights/hotel independently as well via their own websites and check you actually are getting the best deal. My favourite site for booking flights at the moment is Cheap Flights which helped me save hundreds when booking flights to travel from Australia to Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and back to Europe for less than £500.

Go Incognito

I actually cannot believe that people don’t know about this – it is vital to getting good deals. On your web browser (whether you use Safari or Firefox or Chrome) there is an option to “open a private window” or “go incognito” – by doing this is means the websites you visit cannot track the deals you are looking at. So you know when you look at a deal, then five minutes later when you look again the price has gone up? That’s because the websites are tracking what you are looking at! It’s crazy stalkerish but you can get around it by using the private windows. It means the prices stay more constant and they don’t reflect you viewing any other sites.

Accounts Get Bonuses

I hate that I always have to sign up and start an account when booking something – we all know the real reason we have to do that is so the companies can send us crappy email after crappy email. However, the last year has really taught me the value of these accounts, particularly during our month in Sri Lanka. During our trip there, I booked all of our accommodation through Booking.com – it was fantastic, easy and meant we paid on arrival so it it wasn’t as good as it looked online we could refuse to stay there. After making so many bookings in such a short space of time, I was promoted to being one of their bonus members which meant I was eligible for a lot of extra discounts and bonuses. Normally I wouldn’t think much of this but we actually saved a great deal of money through discounts on the properties and got a lot of extras such as early check in/late check out, transport, discounts on activities etc.

Book Separately

We’ve spent years being told the package deal is the best on offer, and potentially years ago it was if you fancied a quick holiday in the sun. Depending on where you are going, you can get some great deals this way – I know I booked 10 days in San Antonio, Ibiza, half-board with a lovely apartment for my gals for just £200 each for flights and accommodation for our 21st birthdays in peak season. But that was six years ago and now I would recommend that you always look at booking flights and accommodation separately unless you manage to find an amazing deal. My parents were going to book a trip to Porto as a package until I had a look over their “deal” and after a quick search for separate flights and hotel I managed to save them over £200 despite moving them to a better and more central hotel! It took me all of five minutes and has given them a big chunk of spending money. Booking.com is fantastic for finding reduced accommodations in better locations and you can easily search according to your preferences.

Agents Give Freebies

When I was first traveling in Australia, I decided to plan my East Coast trip and was looking at four weeks of beaches, activities and transport on a serious budget. It was a daunting task and after doing a lot of research, I decided to book through the tour desk in my hostel. I had been to three other travel agents and had priced it up individually online myself – but this actually worked out the best option. By booking through a travel agent, we actually saved hundreds of £££ and were gifted free meals throughout most of our trip. We also got great discounts on our activities such as Fraser Island, white water rafting and even had a few free extras thrown in. You can read my full post on planning your trip here, and my guide to budgeting your trip here.

Book On Tuesday or Wednesday

I read an article about this a few years ago, about how Tuesday and Wednesdays were the cheapest day to book flights – I wasn’t sure whether to believe it. So I did a bit of research and started searching for flights to various locations using my regular websites on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, then compared them to other days of the week. What did I find? There was a real difference – depending on where you were flying to it could mean the difference between flying for a few quid or spending much more on your next trip. I’ve just booked the cheapest flights I’ve ever found thanks to booking on a Tuesday, trying different websites and airports, and looking at the month-view. I’m taking my first trip of the year on a £4.70 flight to Hamburg in just two weeks, all because I was smart about booking.

Be Flexible

This one is hard if you only get specific days off or if you have to book time off well in advance, but being flexible about when you travel or even your destination can really make a difference. When planning a trip, I always try to look ahead at month-views of flight prices to see when the cheapest times to travel are and whether they will work around my schedule. Sometimes I will fly into alternative airports to save money and time – when I fly to Hamburg I will be using Bremen airport which is just 30 minutes further away from where my boyfriend lives but has saved me around £50. I’m even open to different destinations – if you just want a holiday but don’t mind where – it’s worth looking at various destinations or even flights sales to see where you can get bargain flights to and then work out the accommodation later on. When I was in Asia, this was basically how I planned my travels – around the cheapest/easiest travel. Choosing flights in Europe carefully can save you a lot of money – my cousin says he’s always finding one euro flights from his home in Bordeaux.

Deal Sites

These can be a goldmine or just another suck on your money. If you thinking more of days out than a holiday, you could check out sites like Groupon for budget deals. I always check them for any spa/hotel deals and make sure I get the email updates for Norfolk and London. My sister uses sites like these to get great deals and has often done dinner and a West End show for cheaper than just the show tickets thanks to the deals. But do be cynical – read the small print carefully and make sure you are actually getting the best deal because most of these are non-refundable. You can also check out buy and sell groups on Facebook – often people will sell on deal vouchers like this if they can’t use them for a reduced price.

This has turned into a bit of a monster post but it just shows you all the useful tips and ticks this Cash Lady has picked up over the years for booking the perfect holiday on a budget. Trial and error is my best teacher and I just hope some of my tips can help you guys to have your dream trip. I can’t recommend shopping around enough and definitely devote some time to searching – it can seem tedious when you first start, but the more you do it, the faster you’ll be and the more you’ll save!  Don’t forget to let me know if I’ve managed to save you some money and how.

Have these tips helped you to plan your next trip? How much have you saved using these pointers? Whats the cheapest flight you’ve ever booked?