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?