Spend well, save more: How to save money when you travel without missing out
I’m very excited to announce that I’m part of the Post Office Save More Squad! I feel like I’m on a really geeky superhero team! The Post Office is encouraging people to be more conscious with their spending so we’re able to save money with less effort.
Sounds like my kind of saving!
If you’re a regular reader of The Travel Hack you’ll know this blog is all affordable luxury and finding ways to have incredible travel experiences on a modest budget. The Travel Hack isn’t about sleeping in the cheapest hostels and living on bread and water, it’s about making the most of what you’ve got and being clever about how you spend it.
It’s a privilege to be able to travel, but a lot of the trips I take are actually much cheaper than people expect! My flights to Morocco in January were less than £50 return (which is half the price of getting the train into London!) The 5-night tour I took around Transylvania in January cost less than £300 and that included a night in an Ice Hotel and lots of attractions.
I often book last-minute cottages in the UK when I see the weather is going to be nice and many of the ‘holidays’ I take are actually just day trips around my local area where we pack a picnic and don’t spend a penny!
I love travelling but, unfortunately, my bank balance doesn’t always agree so I’m always looking for ways to cut back and save money! Over the years I’ve found lots of little ways to save money when travelling and I’m here today to share some of my top tips.
Follow the ‘Save More’ Squad on the Post Office social media channels to pick up some tips and fun hacks that will have you spending well and saving more on food, travel, holidays, bills and more. The Post Office Save Move Squad includes experts across food, utilities, home and money.
My top tips to save money when you travel without sacrificing incredible experiences
#1. Find the balance
I’ll often balance out the super cheap deals with more luxurious experiences. Yes, I found bargain flights to Morocco (hello 6am Ryanair flight with no luggage!) so I had extra cash to splash on an incredible riad. It was one of the nicest riads in the city and was worth every penny!
When we arrived in Morocco we’d eat at a market stall for lunch (£1.50 for a delicious tagine!) but then head to a posh restaurant for dinner (£80 for the most romantic meal you could imagine!)
It’s all about finding the balance between unique and memorable experiences and affordable options.
#2. Think about the bigger picture
Thinking about the bigger picture and seeing things on a bigger scale really helps me save money to travel. I could easily spend £2.50 on a flat white every morning. £2.50 isn’t a lot, right? But when you do that every single morning for a year, that’s over £900! I could get return flights to New Zealand and have a couple of hundred left over! Coffee is nice but New Zealand is nicer so I’ll stick with my budget espresso machine at home and save my money for the flights!
The first step when it comes to saving is realising what you’re currently spending your money on and looking at ways to cut back. I recommend using a banking app that tracks your spending and categorises it, making it easier to see where your money is going and highlighting areas you can cut back. I did this recently and realised I spent a small fortune at my local convenience store. I’ve now switched to a regular online shop with home delivery to save money without losing the convenience.
#3. Use the ‘Everywhere’ and ‘Whole Month’ functions on Skyscanner
Skyscanner is my absolute favourite for finding bargain flights. Did you know you can search for flights to ‘Everywhere’ and look at the prices for a whole month?
Let’s say you have nothing planned for June, you could search flights for everywhere in June. Once you find a destination you can then see how much flights cost on every day of June. Give it a try, you might be surprised at the bargain flights you can find! Doing this might also reveal that flying home a day later is actually way cheaper, so you’ll often see that it’s cheaper to extend your holiday by an extra day!
I did this last year when trying to decide where to go in December. I searched flights for everywhere in December and found really cheap flights to Warsaw so I jumped on them straight away for a cheap little weekender!
^ Tenerife is a great place for a budget winter sun holiday and there are some beautiful spots off the beaten path!
#4. Swap hotels half way through your holiday
If you really want to stay in a luxury, 5* hotel but your budget can’t quite stretch to a full week there then why not stay somewhere budget for 5 nights and then swap to the luxury hotel for 2 nights? Just remember to book the budget one for the start of your holiday and the luxury one for the end or you’ll be disappointed by the drop in standards!
Travel Hack Tip: Hotel breakfasts are usually overpriced but you do sometimes find they’re included in the price of the hotel. Holiday Inn Express hotels (which are really cheap!) have breakfasts included and they’re great, so stock up and sneak a few cheeky snacks out with you!
#5. Research things to do an make yourself a rough itinerary
Be sure to plan a rough itinerary for your holiday. Not only will this help you make time for all the things you want to see but it’ll help you be more conscious about you’re doing and what you’re spending your hard earned cash on.
When you’re on holiday it can be so easy to overspend because you’re not consciously making decisions. You pop into cafes and bars and restaurants without thinking and go into museums and galleries and any attraction you pass. But you could have bought a tourist card that would have given you entry into all the museums for a fraction of the cost. And you may have visited all the touristy bars which are overpriced and inauthentic.
Researching and planning an itinerary helps you see the best of the best and not get sucked into the tourist traps. I recommend using a combination of things to plan your trip such as travel blogs, TripAdvisor, local recommendations and I also like the app Spotted by Locals. You do have to pay for it but it’s handy if you don’t have lots of time for research. Each city guide is curated by locals and has lots of recommendations that you won’t see in a guidebook.
^ Staying in an Ice Hotel in Romania was a fraction of the cost of the more popular ones in Scandinavia
#6. Book flights in advance
Remember the days when you can book a last-minute Ryanair flight for a penny? Yea? Those days are long gone!
Prices very rarely go down over time, especially for flights, and they only ever rise so the earlier you book your holiday, the cheaper it will be.
One of my favourite things about booking in advance is that you can spread the cost of your holiday across a few months. You might book your flights 6 months in advance, then book your hotel the following month, book a couple of activities or tours the next month, buy some new clothes for your holiday the next month. You’ve then got two months to save your spending money and it’s a lot less daunting than forking out a huge chunk in one go.
Just remember to keep track of what you’re spending or you could end up spending a fortune without realising it!
#7. Don’t get caught without travel insurance
Don’t forget your travel insurance! Don’t get caught out of pocket for any unplanned medical, theft or flight delay costs. Travel Insurance Direct have got you covered with their great value, comprehensive deals so you’ll be covered for any accidental and unplanned expenses!
#8. Use your legs
Another good reason to plan an itinerary is so you can group together the things you want to see and walk between them all rather than catching cabs back and too! Whenever I visit a city I’ll walk everywhere and often clock up 20,000 steps in a day! It’s great exercise, it’s free, you’ll see more and you’ll save money.
Travel Hack tip: I recommend using Google Maps to create a personalised map of everything you want to see. Plot everywhere you want to go onto the map and all the locations will appear as dots across your map. You can use the map offline and it’ll help you see everything in a logical order.
#9. Visit swanky restaurants at lunch time
If there’s a fancy restaurant on your radar then consider visiting at lunch time rather than dinner time. The lunch time menus are often a lot cheaper so you’ll get the same experience at a fraction of the cost.
Travel Hack Tip: The best way to get restaurant recommendations is by asking the staff at your hotel. They’re the locals so they know best and can help you avoid the tourist traps. If you’re staying in an Airbnb then ask your host for some tips!
#10. Alternate the fancy restaurants with street food
Many people recoil when I say the phrase ‘street food’ but hear me out. You’ll often find the best food at the small market stalls. It’s fresh, delicious, authentic and, best of all, it’s cheap! You’ll get the chance to try loads of different types of food and I’m always a bit braver about trying something new when it’s from a food market. It doesn’t matter if I don’t like something if it only cost £2.50, but I’m less likely to risk it when it’s a £30 meal in a restaurant!
If you’re a little unsure about where to start with street food then I recommend taking a food tour. Many cities have street food tours now and they’re a great way to start your holiday, but any kind of food tour will give you an insight into all the local delicacies and your guide will tell you all the best places to eat.
Travel Hack Tip: When choosing a food market opt for the stall with the longest queues – it’s always a sure way to find the best and freshest food.
#11. Don’t dismiss organised tours
Most people would think organised tours would cost much more than doing things independently but that’s not always the case. I recently visited Transylvania on a 5 night tour and it cost me £299 with all accommodation, transport, airport transfers, one night in an Ice Hotel and many activities included. I know Romania is a very affordable country but when I looked into organising this myself, I couldn’t have done it for this price.
But let’s not forget that it’s not always about money. Organised tours take away the stress and pressure and make your holiday so much simpler! Tours are particularly cost effective if you’re travelling solo or as a couple. If you’re travelling in a small group then it can be cheaper to hire a car and do the trip independently.
^ One of my favourite holidays last year was to Cornwall. You don’t need to travel far for a great holiday!
#12. Start your holiday in style with an airport lounge and Meet and Greet Airport parking
OK, this one won’t save you money but it’s a little luxury and a lovely way to start your holiday without breaking the bank!
Most airports have lounges you can pay to access, even if you’re not flying business or first class. It’s often around £30 to enter an airport lounge and you’ll get all your food and drink, wifi, comfy seating areas, magazines, newspapers and it’s generally a lovely space to relax before your flight. If you’re anything like me, I’ll spend £20 on food and drink and magazines at the airport before I board my flight anyway so I don’t mind paying an extra tenner to sit away from the crowds!
Meet and Greet Airport Parking is a little luxury I can’t do without, especially when I’m travelling with the kids. When booked in advance it isn’t too much more expensive than regular parking. It’s worth every penny when you arrive back in the UK and it’s late and raining and you have to wait 10 minutes for a transfer bus and then have to drag your suitcase around a soggy carpark trying to remember where you parked your car. In that moment I would pay any amount to have my car waiting for me outside the arrivals door!
#13. Don’t forget about holidays close to home
Just because a destination is less than an hour from your home, it doesn’t make it any less of a holiday!
We’re spoilt for choice when it comes to holiday locations in the UK but most of us dismiss anywhere too close to home! You’ll save time and money thanks to the quick journey and it generally makes the whole holiday much simpler, especially if you’re travelling with young children or pets.
Travel Hack Tip: I like to look on Airbnb to find last-minute bargain accommodation and you’ll often find unusual glamping options that can be as little at £50 a night! If there’s good weather forecast for the weekend, why not book a spontaneous trip away?
^Glamping just 20 minutes from home!
#14. Use price comparison sites but also look into booking your holiday direct
Price comparison sites can be great for finding the best deals for flights, hotels, car hire, insurance etc but don’t forget to also look at the prices of booking things directly through the company.
I was recently booking flights to the Isle of Wight and thought I’d found the best price at £88 through a flight comparison site. But when I checked the airline’s website the same flights were just £54!
#15. Delete your cookies and browsing history before booking
We’ve all been there; you’re looking for flights but haven’t quite made your mind up if you should book. You come back to the flights a couple of times and then a day later you decide to book and….what….the price has shot up!?
Prices do rise, particularly for flights, but the internet is a clever beast and if it recognises you’ve looked at the same flight multiple times it will increase the price.
But if you delete your cookies (which is essentially the record of everything you’ve been doing online) you’ll be starting from scratch and you’ll often see the price of the flight has dropped back down to what it was before.
If you’re not sure how to delete your cookies, just Google it along with whatever internet browser you’re using, such as, ‘How to delete my cookies on Google Chrome’.
#16. Visit cheaper destinations
OK, this is an obvious one but something many people forget about! You can find cheap flights to so many destinations, but not everywhere will be so affordable when you arrive. I once found £25 flights to Oslo and booked them in a flash without realising Oslo is super expensive and that quick weekend trip cost me a small fortune!
Research your destinations before booking flights to see how much things costs. Places to Morocco, Romania and Poland are great for British visitors as we’ll mostly find them very affordable. Now this might not be the most accurate way to check how much your holiday will cost but I usually find that checking the price of a pint in each destination is a good way to gauge how much other things cost or at least compare the prices to home.
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