If you're craving a break but feeling the squeeze, don't panic. It's possible to travel on a budget without compromising on quality
While we all love to get away and enjoy a break, the reality is that many of us struggle to save enough for that perfect holiday. But as they say when there’s a will, there’s a way, and that way means we have to be smart with our money and make small savings on every aspect of our holiday. With this in mind, we put together 21 great tips that can save you some money.
1. Choose your destinations wisely
If you’ve got an idea of the region you want to go to, consider looking at places that offer the same experience but at a cheaper rate. Take, for example, Seychelles, a premier destination with pristine beaches. It is no secret that Seychelles is expensive, but if you trace south from Seychelles, you’ll find Mauritius, an island nation that is also bursting with fine beaches yet offering a cheaper holiday.
2. Be flexible with dates and times
Choosing to go during the off-season is a given, and opting to travel on a weekday or catch a red-eye flight can also help save some money.
Beware of major events that may coincide with your trip and raise the prices unexpectedly. For example, travelling to Singapore in the autumn is often cheaper as it is off-season. However, when the Singapore Grand Prix rolls into town in either late September or early October, you’ll find that hotel prices shoot up significantly.
3. Compare flights
Once you have decided on where to go, the next step is to compare flights between different providers. On World Travel Guide, there is a flight comparison tool powered by SkyScanner which shows you the best and cheapest options available.
4. Consider indirect flights
This is a tough one to include. While it is true that indirect flights are usually cheaper than direct flights, they contribute more carbon emissions because planes burn the most fuel during take-off. Plus, you often have to wait for hours at the stopover airport which isn’t anyone’s idea of a dream holiday. So we urge you to consider indirect flights only if the savings are substantial.
5. Check out skiplagging
Airlines hate skiplagging. The term means you book flights to a destination with a stopover somewhere and you get off during the stopover, choosing to only complete part of the journey.
In December 2018, Lufthansa sued a passenger who had booked a return flight from Oslo to Seattle with a stopover in Frankfurt. On the return journey, the passenger got off at Frankfurt and flew to Berlin on another ticket. The case was dismissed by a Berlin court, but airlines aren’t likely to give up yet.
6. Compare hotels
Simplify the process of finding a hotel or a B&B with the best prices by going to our accommodation page and zooming in to your ideal location on the map. All in all, this price comparison tool features over 35 million listings in 226 countries and territories.
7. Book last minute
An alternative to booking quite far in advance is to book last minute when providers try to fill vacancies, though it must be said that airlines are less likely to give last-minute discounts compared to package tour operators and hotels.
Before snapping up a last-minute deal, make sure that your passport hasn’t expired and the destination doesn’t require a travel visa. If a visa is needed, ensure you can obtain one on time or on arrival. You can find the relevant visa requirements of each country on World Travel Guide.
8. Subscribe to newsletters
Many travel companies reward their loyal customers by listing savings and deals in newsletters, so sign up to a few that interest you.
If the frequency of these newsletters starts to annoy you, change your subscription preference or set up a new email address specifically for these travel deals. This way, your primary email address won’t be flooded with too many emails.
9. All-inclusive package tours
Sometimes it can be cheaper to experience a location as part of an all-inclusive package tour, one that rolls your airfare, accommodation and meals into a single rate. If you aren’t too bothered about the lack of flexibility to do what you want, then an all-inclusive package is definitely a wise option.
10. Keep an eye on your mobile costs
Let’s face it, we take our phone wherever we go but we absolutely dislike paying excessive roaming costs, nor should we simply assume that the destination is included in our data allowance. Case in point, quite a few British travelling to Guernsey and Jersey would wrongly assume that these islands are part of the UK, but in fact they are self-governing British Crown dependencies and they are not part of the UK or the EU. Consequently, your data allowance may not extend to these destinations.
To avoid eye-watering mobile roaming charges, put your phone on Wi-Fi only or purchase a local SIM card.
11. Out-smart the ATMs
If you are still making a special trip to the money changer before your holiday, it’s time to switch to a prepaid debit card from an online bank that offers you attractive exchange rates when you withdraw money from a local ATM at the destination.
When the ATM asks you whether or not you want to convert your money, always select ‘without conversion’, ‘no conversion’ or ‘debit in local currency’. This means that your card operator will run the conversion and not the ATM operator.
Another thing is to avoid using a non-bank ATM, like one that belongs to Travelex, Euronet and Cashzone. These ATMs tend to charge a higher fee.
12. Airport parking tips
Parking your car at the airport while you are away can be expensive but by using a peer-to-peer parking app, you can rent a parking space from a private individual, thereby reducing the cost.
Alternatively, check if any of the airport hotels offer great park-and-stay deals. This arrangement is common in the US – and the hotels even give you a ride to the airport – but is less popular in Europe and Asia.
13. Don’t pay extra when you don’t need to
Saving a little here and there can quickly add up. Beware that airlines will try to push additional extras such as priority boarding and seat selection. Many travellers are becoming savvy and refuse to pay for such options even if they travel as a couple or in a group. Instead, they swap seats with fellow passengers once they are on board.
Additionally, enjoy a nice meal before you go to the airport. Airport and airline food and drink are significantly marked up, so avoid these extra costs if you can.
14. Keep your baggage light
Excess luggage charges are expensive, so pack light or weigh your bags at home to ensure they stay within the limit.
15. Walk as much as you can
The cheapest form of transport while on holiday is, undoubtedly, relying on your own two feet. Many European cities are quite compact, and with a careful bit of planning, you can see most of the sights without ever having to pay for transport.
16. Organise your own outings
Creating your own itinerary tends to be cheaper. For example, if you’re visiting Copenhagen, rent a bike to explore various neighbourhoods and only pay to visit attractions that are important to you.
If you’re visiting a sprawling capital or a foreign city which you aren’t familiar with the language and culture, consider choosing locally organised tours. On World Travel Guide, there is a section called ‘Attractions, tours and tickets’ under each city guide. On the page, you will see a range of activities on offer, with each of them rated by your fellow travellers.
17. Travel around by coach
Apart from renting a bike, taking a coach or a bus is a cheap and sensible transport option when it comes to navigating a city, especially if you plan to visit another nearby city or region.
For example, if you are in Tel Aviv and plan to visit Jerusalem, which is 67km (42mi) away, the cheapest option is to take a coach from Tel Aviv’s Arlozorov bus terminal. There are many bus services throughout the day.
18. Buy a city or travel pass
City passes, often available for 24, 48 or 72 hours, include public transport, entry to major sights and other discounts, allowing you to explore the city economically.
In Reykjavík, for instance, the city card even includes free entry to thermal pools – soaking in one can certainly help to soothe away your aches after a long day of sightseeing. Before you go, it is worth reading the bathing etiquette on our Iceland travel guide.
19. Don’t settle for expensive food and drink
Many travellers end up having meals and drinks at their hotels or around tourist hotspots, which are usually more expensive than the backstreets. In Singapore, for instance, ordering a small bottle of Tiger Beer along Orchard Road, the prime shopping district, can cost you at least S$8. But once you walk towards Dhoby Ghaut and Rochor, you will find small food courts selling the same beer for a few dollars less.
Water is another area where you can save money and reduce the environmental impact at the same time – instead of buying water bottles, travel with a reusable water bottle and top it up at your hotel.
20. Work as you travel
If you want to take an extended break, then a great way of paying your way on a budget is by working as you travel. Regions in South America and the Far East are hotspots for English teachers. TEFL and CELTA are examples of companies offering both accreditation and opportunities to potential teachers.
21. Buy travel insurance
Things can go wrong and accidents do happen, like your baggage may get lost or a medical emergency may cost you thousands of dollars extra. But if you have adequate travel insurance, you can limit the amount you pay, should something unfortunate happen.
Remember, a budget holiday is about saving a little here and there, but it all adds up to a bigger saving in the end if you are flexible.
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This article was updated in January 2022.