I often get asked, how do I afford to travel so much? Have I secretly won the lottery? Nope, I wish! Does my partner pay for me? Sadly he does not! The secret is that travel is my passion, my hobby, so when it comes to my spending this really is my priority and is what most of my income is spent on. When I compare a flight to Europe for £60 return versus let’s say a night out in London, I know what I’d rather pick. I believe anyone can afford to travel if they put their mind to it and below are some of my top tips for budgeting for travel, things you can do to save to be able to book your dream holiday and some tips for when you get to your destination.
Tips for saving and booking your holiday
1. Book early – I always try and book my trips as early as possible. Whilst it’s not always possible I try to plan any trips six months to a year in advance to get the best flight deals, accommodation prices and also to get saving. Once I have a set date, I find saving so much easier. It’s booked, it’s happening, it’s real!
2. Look for sales / deals – Keep your eyes peeled for airline sales. The BA, Emirates and easyJet sales are some of my faves. Recently I booked a return flight to Sri Lanka with Emirates for £370 in their sale … bargain!
3. Use flight comparison sites – I love flight comparison sites such as Kayak or Skyscanner. You can play around with the dates, times and check out the different airlines to find the cheapest and best flights for you. For example, using Kayak I’ve currently got my eye on a direct return flight to Dubai for £262. These prices do change so I’d advise to book as soon as possible and when repeat searching delete your internet history details so it can’t remember you!
4. Be flexible with dates / travel out of season – If you can be flexible with your travel, play around with your travel dates as travelling at the weekend or in peak season tends to be more expensive.
5. Consider the airline and indirect flights – I love flying but I know some people don’t and this is something I always debate with my partner. I love a flight bargain and quite often this may mean a cheaper airline and a stop-over. For me, I just sleep when flying and I’m short so leg room really isn’t an issue and I don’t mind a short stop-over if it saves me a couple of hundred pounds but my partner doesn’t enjoy flying and so wants a nice airline and just wants to get there … the debate continues!
6. Sort out your finances – It’s a good idea to check your outgoings, what do you spend your money on? Are there areas you can cut back on? Checking my direct debits, I once found out I’d been paying monthly for contact lenses that I was no longer receiving. I have a savings account for my travel, in it I transfer money every month and any extra money I get e.g. birthdays, Christmas, bonuses I put in there. I find it motivating to see all my savings in one place. A good old fashioned money box for loose change is also a good idea.
7. Cut back on non-essentials – This is one I constantly need to remind myself of, do I really need that Costa coffee in a morning when I can make a cuppa at home? Do I really need that new nail varnish? Do I really need that Dominos pizza (yes, I want it but do I need it!)? Making a packed lunch might be a faff but that Pret lunch is costing you. Instead of a night out can you get your mates around? Individually these might not save a lot but it could equate to a night in a hotel or a cocktail on that gorgeous beach you are dreaming of.
8. Decide what your priorities are – For me, I really don’t mind flying on a budget airline as all I do is sleep. Getting a cheaper flight means I can spend the money I saved on nicer accommodation. That said if I’m going on a holiday where I’m changing location every few days, as long as the accommodation is clean I really don’t mind if it’s not luxury. It’s important to think about what type of holiday you are going on and what your priorities are.
9. Research the cost of living – It’s important to research the cost of things at your chosen location. As I found when travelling to Oslo, I might have got a bargain flight of £40 return but at £10 a pint, I was skint when I was there!
10. Use Cashback websites – I’ve been using Quidco (but there are others) for a few years now and have made £700 through booking things through them. If you’re going to book things (like train tickets, Dominos pizza etc) online anyway, it’s always worth checking to see if you can buy it through their website to get cashback. A favourite one of mine is Expedia where you can earn up to 13% cashback and I have recently got 8% cashback on airport parking.
Tips for when you are on your way there and at your destination
1. Watch airport purchases – Be wise at the airport. Yes there can be some great duty free deals to be had but think about whether you really need it or whether you are just tempted because there is some money off. I do plan to buy my must have make up items there if I’ve run out but these are not impulse buys. Also try and buy your snacks before getting there and bring an empty water bottle to refill (good for the environment too!)
2. Use public transport – Whilst it is tempting to jump in a cab when you reach your destination try and see if your hotel offer free or reduced price airport pick up. It’s also worth researching if there is public transport as sometimes it’s just a simple bus/train ride away and a travel card might reduce costs.
3. Be wise with your currency – Don’t leave getting your currency to the last minute. Research the best rates local to you. I use Money Saving Expert. Also it’s worth researching into a bank account that offer good rates when withdrawing or spending money using their card abroad. I also find that when I have physical cash (rather than using my card) I am much more savvy with my money.
4. Use Wi-Fi / check your mobile phone provider about your data roaming – Don’t be hit with any nasty phone bills when you get home. Use free Wi-Fi that’s available and check what your network provider can offer. My current Vodafone package has data allowance to use in Europe which so far has not cost me any extra.
5. Eat and drink local – Try not to eat and drink in the tourist traps as these will often come at a premium. Also try the local wine and beer, this is generally much cheaper than the imported stuff and you get to experience the local things. If breakfast is not included in your hotel, why not head out and find a local cafe/bakery rather than pay over the odds to have a breakfast buffet at the hotel. My final tip here, is if there is a swish restaurant taking your fancy, check to see if they have a set lunch menu as I find that often you get great deals during the day.
6. Check out free things to do – Have a look to see if there are any free walking tours (quite often you just have to leave a small donation at the end) and if there are any free museums or attractions.
7. Research what your destination is known for – By this I mean I’ve made the mistake of buying heaps of new clothes before going to Asia only to find similar items cheap as chips when I get there. China and Japan are known for their technology so if you have your eye on something, it might be worth purchasing it there.
8. Haggle – If you are going to a country where haggling is part of the culture, don’t be afraid. Once you get into it, it can be quite a bit of fun. My tips are 1. Have a price in mind, 2. At least half their first offer 3. And settle somewhere in the middle!
9. Souvenirs – Watch out for buying tat! It’s easily done, you see something and then get it home and think why on earth did I buy that!
10. Treat yourself – My final tip is be prepared to treat yourself or splash out on something you might not have planned for or expected. You might see a memento that will remind you of your trip or a excursion you did not know was available. You don’t want to miss out on these opportunities as you never know if you will have the opportunity again.
This post was written in collaboration with #SagaTravelBudgeting. The Equity Release branch of Saga is running a campaign about the importance of budgeting for travelling. The campaign idea comes from research Saga has undertaken into what people use their money generated from equity release for: 38% of them used it to fund holidays. I am no Martin Lewis but above are my top saving tips for travel and as always my views and opinions are my very own.
Do you have any other saving tips? How do you budget for your holidays?