People always ask me how it is that I can afford to travel so much; I do a mininum of five trips a year, and always seem to be planning my next vacation. To be honest, thereâ€™s really no secret recipe or formula. Iâ€™m far (very far) from rich. I donâ€™t have a rich sugar daddy funding my travels (though, thatâ€™d be real nice). Iâ€™m not in the business of robbing banks nor involved in any mob activity. What I do is simple: I just prioritize and plan ahead. Here are some of my trips for travel on the cheap:
–Cheapie ticket websites are a must. For travel in the U.S. I’ve used sidestep.com with much success, for example. For inter-European air travel ryanair.com and easyjet.com have the cheapest tickets I’ve seen (shoutout to Sky Europe as well). For Asia, airasia.com is pretty decent all around. What you save in price, you sacrifice in comfort but unless it’s a long-haul flight I really don’t mind.
–If you’re looking for cheap tickets, try to fly in and out of major airports and train/bus/drive/take another cheap flight to your departure/main destination airport. In my experience, booking a plane ticket straight through to Nantes, France (lived there for a year) was a lot more expensive than flying into Paris and then taking the high-speed train (2 hour ride) to Nantes. A Canadian friend of mine who wanted to go to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia found it cheaper to fly from Canada to Hong Kong and then take a cheapie flight from Air Asia to Kuala Lumpur. For Euro-tripping, flying into London is typically the cheapest option as Heathrow is a major hub. Nairobi, Kenya’s airport is a hub if you’re going to Eastern or Central Africa. If you have the time to burn, then it’s a good cash-saving option!
–Book EARLY and be flexible with when you travel. Way back in September of 2010, I just booked a cheap ticket to Singapore (got it at half the usual price). The catch? I didnâ€™t actually fly out there until a couple of weeks ago- May 2011. I would have loved to have gone, say, last December, but it wasn’t worth paying double the price. And so I waited. Prices always go up for tickets.. Book early to avoid disappointment as the cheap seats sell out first. I went to Germany and Turkey last Christmas 2010 but booked the tickets five months before at a really low price. Curious, I looked online at the cost of tickets when it got closer to my trip. The same itinerary cost $500 USD more than what I had paid months before. Nuff said.
–Try to avoid travelling during peak season. You’ll pay through the nose for it.
–Save yourself money (and time) by planning a good itinerary. Did you know that taking the Airport Express bullet train from the Hong Kong airport is quicker, cleaner, AND cheaper than taking a taxi at the airport? Researching ahead of time and/or asking someone in the know can keep those bills in your wallet. Need help? I’ve found Lonely Planet’s web forums (lonelyplanet.com/thorntree) to be a GREAT resource for recommendations and sample itineraries. Travelblog.org is a great resource for reading people’s accounts of their travels to a particular place.
–If you’re going on a short or weekend trip, ditch the checked luggage. I only take my carry-on. Checking a bag with most airlines these days will net you ridiculous fees ($25 USD for you to take my bag on the plane?! Hell no!) Why waste precious minutes of your trip at the luggage carousel when you don’t have to?
–Once you get to your desired destination, do the free walking tours. Europe is amazing for these. I’ve done free walking tours in Dublin, Berlin, Edinburgh, Prague, and Budapest. They really help you to get your bearings in a new city and the tours are usually lead by energetic younger people. Sandeman’s New Europe tours are in almost all the major cities in Europe and they are awesome. Best thing is that they are totally free- although if you fancy, you can tip the tour guide at the end. It’s also a great way to meet people- in Dublin, I met a couple of Israelis on the walking tour and ended up having dinner with them and tagging along with them to a performance of Riverdance. In Budapest, I hit it off with two guys from Colombia and we ended up travelling to Vienna together.
–For accommodation, don’t be afraid to “hostel it”. I’ve stayed in hostels to cut costs (this is a particularly good idea when you are travelling alone and have no one to split the cost of a hotel room with). Hostels (particularly in Europe) can be really nice. I usually try to stay in the newest ones. The best hostel I’ve ever stayed in was in Prague. It was called the “Czech Inn” (corny, I know)… The runners-up for me were the Reykjavik Downtown Hostel in Iceland and the Wombats Lounge Hostel in Vienna. If you’re travelling solo, it’s a great way to meet people, as most hostels have common areas. Hostelworld.com is a pretty good hostel booking site. Be sure to check the ratings from people who have already stayed there.
-Get the most bang out of your buck. If you’re going for a hotel, do your homework and get thee onto tripadvisor.com and check the ratings. Donâ€™t spend your hard-earned dollars at a hotel only to have them make a fool of you. I recently discovered Trip Advisor and it has been a lifesaver for when that hotel that purports itself to be 4-star is actually in the 2-star range. You do NOT want to be paying 4-star money for a 2-star room! It is also good to look at the photos of the hotel that guests have taken themselves. Hotels will misrepresent themselves until the cows come home and put up really nice (read: outdated) pics of rooms and other facilities that make the hotel look really good. It’s good to see a true representation of what the hotel is working with- sans good photo angles and lighting. Also, don’t be afraid to stay in one or two-star places- there are some really good, clean, no-frills ones out there. Use Trip Advisor to verify.
–Use Priceline.com where possible- and pay what you want! Priceline has a great feature where you can actually “Choose your own price”/bid on hotel rooms in major cities. I did it the last time I was in Paris and got a sweet 4-star hotel in La Defense area for a fraction of the actual sticker price. You can plug the amount you’re willing to pay, how many hotel stars you’re looking for and the areas you’re willing to stay in into a search engine and it will try to match your requests. Phenomenal!
Happy and safe travels!
Hey! Me again. Just in case you’ve been dwelling in a cave with no internet connection, perhaps been a next door neighbor to the Bin Laden’s, check out Oneika’s blog here.
Some other travel links you might be interested in:
If you’re travelling to snag and rainbeau and a ring: https://swirlingandmarriage.com/
And this is the new one I’m checking out: https://importedchocolate.wordpress.com/