How to save money when booking travel is one of my most requested blog posts. Clearly you guys love cutting corners as much as I do! After I saved my parents hundreds on their holiday across both flights and accommodation – I had a record number of requests asking for a post on how I did it. And when I managed to score flights to Germany for just £4.70, I had yet more requests for top tips on how to find great travel deals. I've now lost count of the times I've helped friends and family to save huge amounts of money on travel. So this post will cover all my best tips and tricks to remember the next time you book a holiday.
Whether it's a summer holiday, a year-long trip around the world or a weekend city break. A bit of careful planning can mean the difference between saving enough for a few extra glasses of wine or even two weeks spending money! As we all know, I've spent a long time travelling as a budget backpacker. Well, maintaining that 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. That means I've made all the same mistakes including accidentally booking the more expensive option and learning about the cheaper websites after. But the beauty of that is that I've done all the hard work for you!
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 distracted by what seems like a "good deal" that you don't realise you're actually being overcharged. Skyscanner and sites like Expedia can be great but always price up the flights and hotel independently via their own websites. 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. I booked flights to travel from Australia to Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and back to Europe for less than £500.
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". Using this 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! 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.
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 loads of emails. However, the last year has really taught me the value of these accounts, particularly during my month in Sri Lanka. During my trip, I booked all accommodation through Booking.com. After making so many bookings in such a short space of time, I was promoted to bonus member which meant I was eligible for a lot of extra discounts and bonuses. I saved loads through discounts on the properties I stayed at. I was also eligible for extras such as early check in/late check out, transport, discounts on activities etc.
We've spent years being told the package deal is the best on offer. Depending on where you are going, you can get some great deals this way. I know I booked 10 days in Ibiza for just £200 each for flights and accommodation in peak season around six years ago. But now I would always recommend booking flights and accommodation separately for the best deal. My parents were going to book a trip to Porto as a package until I had a look over their "deal". After a quick search, 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 reduced accommodations in better locations and always super easy to use.
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.
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.
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. I always try to look ahead at month-views of flight prices to see when the cheapest times to travel are. Sometimes I will fly into alternative airports to save money and time, like when I used to use Bremen airport for Hamburg. If you just want a holiday but don't mind where, play flight roulette and pick the cheapest location on Skyscanner (search Everywhere). Or look at flight sales for bargain flights. Looking for long-haul flights? Always check the flight cost from various locations in Europe – sometimes there can be added tax for flying into the UK. You may find it cheaper to fly into Europe, then get a connecting flight.
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 turned into an epic post but I'm hoping these tips and tricks will help you guys with planning your travels. Trial and error is my best teacher and I just hope some of my tips can help you guys to have your dream trip. Shop around when searching 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!
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?
Life can be pretty expensive as we get a bit older – with mortgages to pay and bills ever increasing, it's no surprise that so many twenty-somethings are being forced to sacrifice some of their favourite music events in a bid to pinch pennies. I've always been an avid festival goer - you guys know how much I love my glitter and fancy dress - but I've always been lucky and through my work and this blog, I have been able to attend most of them for free over the years. But not everyone is that lucky, and most are having to fork out a few hundred pounds before even arriving at the festival and seeing the costs mount up. By the end of a four-day weekend, you can easily have spent over £500 and for that price could have had a week's holiday in Europe. Is the price of festival tickets depressing you? I'm not surprised, before you even get to the venue you’re looking at a hefty dent to the wallet, with festival camping gear, fabulous outfits to rock and travel costs.
So many are trying the cheaper alternative of creating their own festival at home – why not give it a shot? A little planning, enthusiasm from friends and family and it’s sure to be a big success. If you create it, they will come…
A popular success story in the back-garden festivals sphere is Leefest. Lee Denny started his own festival in his mother’s back garden back in 2006 and this year the festival entertained over 5,000 people! Pretty impressive. In recent years, there has been a shift towards staying home more and making the most of the space you have for entertaining. Staycations have become common practice for those who simply want some time off work without the hassle and expensive of a foreign holiday. With this in mind, a back-garden festival could be a perfect alternative to next year's festival ticket-buying frenzy.
To differentiate between a normal garden party and a festival, you need to include a few festival must-haves. Lighting is a big part of this, so be sure to get some fairy lights to place in trees, across garden fences and dotted about the place to give a great ambience to the festivities. Lanterns are also a great shout, especially those with battery-powered candles so you don’t need to worry about fire risks.
A drinks bar will always be appreciated. There’s a couple of ways to go about this, but the best (surely) is a homemade tiki bar! This can be done relatively cheaply by upcycling some old pallets and wood, and then all you need to do is dress it up in grass skirts and decorative fruit – job done. Who will you trust as bartender for the night?
There’s also an addition to your home that can really up the ante for entertaining in the garden. Having bifolding doors can open up the back of your home into the garden, almost creating one big entertaining space for guests to mill in and out of. Also very handy if the weather suddenly turns on you!
Tipis are also key to the theme, dotted about the garden as little meeting places for people to mingle at. All you need are some cushions and throws to make it nice and cosy.
The good thing about a back-garden festival is that people won’t be expecting a lot of food. Little nibbles here and there will suffice to keep the revellers satisfied, or why not ask everyone to bring a dish? Here are some ideas to help you pull out all the stops:
Crushed pea and mint dip with carrot sticks – This yummy and refreshing dip will have the carrot sticks gone in no time. Even the vegetable haters will be reaching for one. This recipe from BBC Good Food is a must-try.
Quick fish cakes – Choose between skinless cod, haddock or pollock for this recipe from Jamie Oliver. The addition of herbs such as dill, chives or parsley (whatever your preference) will add a great flavour to the fish cakes.
Peanut chicken satay sticks – Chicken and peanut butter, what’s not to love? All Recipes uses a teaspoon of hot sauce in this recipe so be ready for a kick!
Spring garden potato salad – Even though it isn’t spring anymore, this delicious salad will still hold its own at the festival. Full of veggies but still that little bit naughty with potatoes and cream. Try this recipe from Food Network.
If there’s any burgeoning artists in your family or friendship group, give them the stage of your back garden to entertain your guests. If not, a kick-ass playlist will suffice. You can even get a Wireless Festival playlist on Spotify if you’re lost for where to begin. Plus, there’s always one guest who fancies themselves as a DJ so you could leave them with a laptop and a speaker to entertain everyone.
Other activities could include a little coconut shy or a limbo pole to bring out the competition amongst the festival goers. Face painting is always good fun too, even if the one painting isn’t all that skilled. As long as there’s a good amount of glitter thrown in, everything will be fine!
With good decoration, good food and good entertainment – your back garden festival is sure to be a success. Why not try and squeeze in one last end of summer hoorah before the autumn weather really kicks in - or, if you have a marquee available to you, why not host a winter festival?
One of the most common messages I receive from readers asks about how to budget for backpacking. I write about saving money and how to plan trips a lot on this site, but one thing I really want to focus on is how you can possibly know how much you will spend on a long-term trip. After all, at home you've been living month-to-month rinsing those paycheques dry until you're watching the days creep by towards pay day. The thought of not having a steady income and relying entirely on your savings can be scary for some - so it's important to budget correctly and plan realistically if you want to have the best time. I'm all about making the most of your money and every possible experience - I don't want to miss out on a single trip, meal or massage. BUT, I aways manage to do it on a budget because let's be honest - I'd rather keep travelling as long as possible than indulge in a week of full luxury.
So how do you budget for a long-term trip?
First of all you need to establish how long you want to travel for and where you plan to go - weighing up the cost of living/travelling in each country. For instance - travelling in Asia is the cheapest travelling I have found and I could easily do a year there on the money I would need for 5-6 months in Australia. But when travelling Australia I have been working along the way and earning a small fortune compared to what I could save at home in the UK. If you're on a break from work and only have a month - perhaps consider Europe which although expensive is a great way to see a lot of countries in a very short space of time. If you're looking to travel for six months on a tight budget, Asia is fantastic - you can see so many different countries and the cost of living well is very low. If you're looking to work abroad and fancy doing a year abroad - why not go for a working holiday visa in Australia, New Zealand or Canada and try a combination of working and travelling?
What kind of trip?
What are your priorities when you travel - are you looking for a full cultural experience of staying with locals? Are you planning to party your way around the world? Or are you a thrill seeker who wants to try every adventure trip going? You need to factor in the cost of trips/alcohol/food/living costs and be realistic. Always over-compensate - what's that quote?
"When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money."
I couldn't agree more - take as much money as possible by giving yourself enough time to save and cutting costs wherever you can (check out my top tips here). I worked five jobs for a year before going away the first time - it was worth every miserable second when it meant I saved £10,000, didn't have to work for nine months and lived like a queen! I personally like a balance of cutting costs, partying a lot and adventure trips so I always think about how I can balance them. Sometimes I will stay in the cheapest accommodation possible and live off instant noodles so that I can justify an amazing road trip or island cruise. Other times I won't be interested in trips and will spend all my money on cocktails and my own private hut on the beach. When I budget for my trip I take that into account and over budget my living costs. I always try and budget roughly £1,000 a month no matter where I am - then I know that in Asia I will hugely underspend which balances out in Australia when I definitely overspend, likewise with Europe I budgeted more because I knew I was travelling around a lot very quickly which costs more - best way to cut costs when you travel? Stay still for a while in a cheap place and just live simple.
We all have those times when we accidentally splash too much cash, when we shop too much in the markets or take our card on a night out then look at our account the next day with horror. I know I'm definitely guilty of that at home and since I've ben travelling - but it's good to acknowledge it. If you admit you are possibly going to do it, budget for it and give yourself a cushion of cash to keep yourself out of the red.
Remember to account for any home costs while you're away - if you're still paying rent on a house or phone bills/credit cards you need to make sure you have the money available in the correct accounts at all times. You need to make sure you can afford to do this and don't end up in more debt as a result of messing up your money or under-budgeting.
Don't let budgeting put you off
Remember you will never have as much money as you would like. It would be great to live in that dream world where you have a constant supply to keep you going, but it may never happen. Don't let that stop you from travelling - I know people who have gone away with £1-2000 for a long trip and who have just figured it out along the way. I always think the less money we have, the better we are with it. And always remember - there are so many amazing options for working abroad these days - those working holiday visas I mentioned earlier, see if your own current working company can transfer you abroad, study abroad, teach English around the world, volunteer, work for accommodation. The options are endless and there is always a way to make your travelling dreams a reality. I've been both the richest and the poorest I've ever been since travelling and I can assure you I've lived the dream throughout both. If you're determined and committed to making it a reality, you will always find a way.
Need budget tips for your upcoming trip - leave a comment below with any questions! What are your best budget tips for preparing for a long-term trip?
I write a lot about budget travel - about how to make every dollar and very pound stretch that little bit further and how to make the most of what you have. Because that's what we backpackers do, we make every penny count towards the incredible life we build on the road. I know people who have slept in parks, lived on instant noodles and even taken up questionable jobs to make ends meet and to keep the experience going just a little longer. We all do what we can, I've been the poorest I've ever been in my life while travelling and still managed to keep my dream alive instead of heading home. Those are the moments that define us, when travelling stops being easy and things go wrong, when you don't know how you'll afford a bed for the night or how you'll pay for food for the week. This is when we really have to work for our travelling dream and damn, do we work. I've worked some of the hardest and most demanding jobs of my life since travelling, I've given them every hour of the day, every last bit of energy I had, and then some. I've worked two jobs when everyone else was partying, and in one job I was treated the worst I've ever been by another human. But it was all worth it, just to stay one more day and keep it going.
Whether you agree with us backpackers being able to claim back our tax or not, you need to realise that we don't just do it on a whim. These claims come after a year of working our asses off and often being treated like crap - without any control over what was happening. Now I'm not saying all employers are like this in Australia - some are incredible and give you amazing opportunities, but there are also a lot who take advantage of the fact that we are travelers. The ones who give us no hours at all or refuse to give us time to sleep and when we ask for a day off, threaten us with the sack, or the ones who refused to pay friends of mine after they had completed the work. The fruit picking farmers who take advantage of the fact that you're desperate for that second year visa by forcing you to work for an unfair wage, refuse to sign you off because they don't like you or even try it on with you. My own experiences with farm work were pretty dire, I'll talk about that more in a later post, I've had landlords refuse to pay back bonds and stop returning my calls. And don't get me started on the hostel owner from hell who used to scream in the faces of my friends who worked there and treat them like dirt on his shoe. My point is, we as backpackers get messed around when we're over there. I know it's not the only side of the story and there are lots of businesses who have been messed around by bad workers who were backpacking, but after my experiences I don't feel guilty for one second for claiming every cent back.
So when it comes to this time of year and you start getting those reminders through about claiming your backpacker tax back, oh boy do you smile. Because now more than ever, you realise how it was all worth it when the money you're getting back will pay for your entire West Coast trip. Considering how much I managed to see and do while I was in Australia - a month in Sydney, six weeks on the East Coast, four months in Darwin, three months in central Queensland for farm work and three months in Melbourne - I also managed to work a lot. If you've worked in Australia and claimed your own tax back at any point, you'll understand why I feel like I've had a bit of a windfall and am grinning from ear-to-ear. All that time when I was getting overtaxed for my sales job has paid off because now I can see it like an extreme savings scheme that has just paid out. It's an amazing feeling to know that I already have a nice pot of money, plus my savings, waiting for me when I return and that I can start planning my incredible West Coast road trip straight away. There's something very satisfying about paying for your whole trip yourself - I'm always proud of the fact that I've funded my entire adventure despite what some people might think. But it is lovely when you get a bit of a bonus like this, it's like a pat on the back for all your hard work in making your dream come true. Because let's face it, we all dream of winning the lottery, of picking the right scratch card or just getting plain lucky and coming into just enough money to pick up and take off without a second thought.
What's that quote? "If travel was free, you'd never see me again" and how true that is, if it wasn't for the expense I would have probably traveled the entire way around the globe by now. There are so many countries on my bucket list but I know the one thing standing in my way right now is money, without it I'm just not free to achieve all I want in life. The truth is, when it comes down to it I don't need much. These days I carry my life on my back and don't have expensive tastes - I've spent much of my travelling time sleeping in wooden huts and travelling with the locals. The problem is that travel does add up when you're jetting all over the world. Even if you're staying in budget accommodation and eating from street markets, to keep it going for any length of time you're talking thousands and if you have a taste for the more luxurious then you better start stacking the notes. Everyone at home has been talking about winning the lottery lately, it's like some new version of the American Dream - as if a windfall would answer all of our problems and take us off to a new life of utter freedom. And who's to say it wouldn't, these days money spells freedom and that's all any of us really want, freedom from the mundane, working life, freedom from the rubbish weather at home and freedom from expectation. Money buys you an escape, and therefore buys you freedom.
That's why getting this tax back is so amazing and why it makes such a different for travelers - because it means that instead of the dream being over it can extend for just that little bit longer. For me, it means going back to Australia with dollar in my bank, enough to fund the next exciting part of my travels. For others, it means months of travelling Asia or South America, a boost to your New Zealand fund or even a chance to travel Europe. So many travelers I know are so grateful to get their tax back because it means they can continue living their dream just that little bit longer before returning home, to reality. It gives us freedom to continue living the backpacker life for as long as possible, and to make the most of every cent before we go back to a life of saving and living for payday. If you haven't already applied for your tax rebate - why the hell not? I worked for about nine months of my first year and I'm getting more than the average tax back of around $2,600 - so it's definitely worth doing. Don't be put off by the paperwork - it doesn't take long and it's more than worth it for the cash! Either head to the Australian Government website to claim it back independently (super easy) or go through TaxBack.com if you want someone else to do the legwork for a small charge. Either way - don't miss out on claiming back your money because you're lazy - that's your next travelling fund right there!
What are you spending your tax rebate on? How did you claim back your tax - can you recommend a way? Have you claimed from other countries?
For months on end you slog your guts out working crummy jobs to save as much money as possible. You while away the hours stacking shelves or getting groped as you pull pints in some bar, always thinking of the paradise waiting for you. After working a job you thought would never end, you're finally handing over your uniform and catching that flight to the other side of the world. The dream is finally becoming a reality and already you never want it to end, so how can you keep it going as long as possible? It all comes down to the money - all us backpackers say "if travel was free, you'd never see me again" and I can tell you it's true. Travellers are always looking for the best ways to cut corners and make sacrifices so we can have just one more adventure, just one more day in paradise. We'd rather sleep on someone's floor for a week than stay in a hotel if it means spending another week living a life of complete freedom and excitement. When you're starting out on your travels, it can be difficult to know how to save money and where you can cheat to make your cash last that little bit longer. After 18 months of travelling solo and backpacking across Asia and Australia - one of the cheapest and one of the most expensive places to backpack in the world - I think I've picked up some good techniques for saving money. After all, I planned to go for a year and managed to keep going an extra six months AND came back with lots of money saved! Here are my top tips for backpacking on a budget:
Like this post? Why not vote for me as the best budget travel blogger of 2016? It takes two seconds and all you have to do is follow this link. Thanks!
Looking for other ways to cut costs? Check out VoucherShops. Or, in case couch surfing, eating veggie or fruit picking gets boring - there's always the chance you'll marry a millionaire or get a royal flush in the World Series of Poker!
Being a seasoned backpacker not only opens your eyes to all the wonders certain regions of the world has to offer but also helps you know where to look for cost effective experiences. The ability to save money in certain areas can help you prolong your travel and get the most out of all the experiences along the way. Not everyone has an eye for detail when it comes to saving money but with the explosion of travel blogs, it has made it easier for us to look for useful resources online to aid us in saving that extra bit of money.
Many have blogged over the years about how London has ruthlessly depleted their budget through its expensive amenities, but if you seek cost effective travel and visit budget-friendly events, then you can experience a lot of culturally astounding places for a minimal cost. So, without further ado, here are a few tips for people visiting London to help them experience a lot for as little money as possible through the eyes of a seasoned backpacker:
Stay at a Hostel, Not a Hotel
There are many useful websites that you can source respected hostels to stay at while in London. Back up your research by going on Trip Advisor to look at the reviews of the respective hostels you are considering staying at, and you cannot go wrong.
Take Advantage of Public Transport
Using the tube or the buses in and around London will save you a considerable amount of money in the long run. It can be time consuming sometimes to use the night buses however it’s better than incurring huge taxi fares, as so many have fallen victim to over the years.
Visit the Free Museums and Galleries
There are a plethora of free museums that you can visit in London such as the National History Museum and the British Museum. There are also many galleries that allow you to view their exhibitions for free. London online zine Time Out regularly post all the free gallery listings for London, and is definitely worth checking out before you visit London.
Eat at Buffet Restaurants
Places like China Town in London is revered for its all you can eat buffets that are extremely affordable. In most of the establishments you can also take your own alcohol – an altogether more affordable way of dining out.
Incorporate Out-of-London Travel in Your Budget
Travelling to our capital wouldn’t be complete without trying to sample the surrounding areas of London. Something that most backpackers try and do is set aside some money for vehicle hire at some point during their trip.
At busy aviation hubs such as London Stansted, they have Mid stay and valet parking services, that allow travellers to pick up hire cares from the airport terminal car parks. Many use the process, because it is extremely easy and efficient. Within an hour or so, you can be on your way, taking in the sights away from London and its surrounding boroughs en route to your final destination. Additionally, valet services mean you can return the cars to the departure terminals, too and the hire companies will pick them up for you. Which means there’s no lugging your bags on the Tube or buses before saying good bye to London and travelling home.
Hopefully, some of the tips to save money when visiting London will inspire some other cost efficient ideas for when you’re planning your travels. Feel free to leave any other money saving ideas In the the comments sections directly below this article to aid your fellow travel enthusiasts.
How else can you save money while visiting or travelling through London? What tips can you apply to any cities?
Image credit: www.ontheluce.com