Of course booking a cheap air ticket and a cheap hotel doesn’t mean that your trip will be economic, because there’s all those extras to consider. How cheap is the airline ticket from Stansted airport if it costs you half as much as the airline ticket to drive to the airport and park the car whilst you’re away?
Then there’s the ever-green debate – are holiday packages cheaper than booking direct?
In our last part of the How to travel the world cheaply series I’m going to share a couple of tips and tricks that makes travel a little bit cheaper. Of course this is only my view but it would be great if you could add your tips in the comments below.
1/Getting to the airport
In the UK the low cost airlines typically fly from the ‘plan b’ airports that can provide lower cost ‘slots’ and as such these airports tend to be a little out of the way. Like Gatwick or Stansted is to Heathrow for example. The biggest problem is how to get to the airport relatively cheaply. One way to approach holiday parking is to book into a long-term (or mid-stay) parking facility. The facility will helpfully park your car (securely) and you can catch the free bus to and from your departure terminal. Easy peasy! If you want an even cheaper deal on airport parking have a squiz at Holiday Extras who advertise up to 60% savings on airport parking, lounges and hotels.
2/Package holidays – deal or no deal?
This is a big question that almost deserves its own blog post, but I should share that our recent trip to Venice was with Groupon Getaways and I think it really was value for money. We stayed at the well-positioned Amadeus Hotel and it was clean and handy to most of the attractions. I really had no complaint whatsoever. The flight on Ryanair was just as you’d expect for a budget airline despite Stansted being chaos (at five in the morning!) I still think it was a good deal. If you want to save your money for the actual destination and not spend it on getting there, then holiday packages can really pay off.
3/Travel Booking companies
The internet is brilliant for helping you track down the very best price for flights, accommodation and even for tours, but, and it’s a big but, it can be almost overwhelming. There’s so many different websites, how do you know which one offers the best service? I’ve used a variety of different websites including - Expedia, lastminute, Wotif, Skyscanner, Opodo and Kayak, and have found good prices, even airline tickets that are cheaper than from the airline itself, but the one I tend to book accommodation from is Booking.com
Once you have a profile set up in Booking.com it’s a painless process to find accommodation at the right price. What’s more, if you get onto their email only subscription list you will be emailed extra exclusive special deals, that’s well worth a look.
I learnt this lesson the hard and expensive way and returned from my 2010 trip Down Under to a £300 phone bill. Gulp! How to manage your phone and communications whilst you’re away on holiday is another huge subject that deserves its own blog post, but here’s the basic rules.
- When you head overseas make sure that you know whether you can phone home on your mobile contract without paying for it with half a kidney. There are a number of deals that offer roaming (data and phone) on the home package pricing. I have a deal with Vodafone that allows me to roam in Europe for about £3 per day up to a certain data limit, which is usually enough to quickly download email etc whilst on the run.
- If you’re choosing to go with the flow, make sure you turn your data services off before you leave the country. If you leave your phone on the Airplane setting you won’t get any calls at all and you won’t pick up all the data updates (such as weather, local time, text messages, twitter updates etc). Then when you want to use your phone as a phone you can simply ensure your data service is OFF and use it as a phone.
- If you’re travelling further afield, or may be away for a longer period of time consider leaving a voice mail message that informs callers you’re out of the country, and then replace your home country SIM with a local country SIM. Lebarra offer a cheapish one in Spain, and 2degress offer a cheap one in NZ. But don’t dismiss the big name mobile phone companies. I was surprised to find that the local country Vodafone SIM in Australia was really good value and in the end used it to hotlink with my laptop and avoided WIFI charges at my hotel.
- When out and about keep an eye out for free WIFI but don’t do anything silly by checking bank balances using it!) In Australia McDonalds has free WIFI and in Venice the local Brek restaurant was brilliant for offering WIFI with purchase.
5/Food glorious food
My best tip is to eat local. Forget the all-you-can-eat-English buffets at the hotel. Spurn the opportunity to have an English dinner at one of the touristy restaurants along the tourist strip. Be brave and try the local food and go where the locals go. A handy rule of thumb is to avoid any restaurant that has a Tourist menu, or menu in English (in a non-English speaking country). Not only will you eat more cheaply, and have a more authentic experience, but you will also be more likely to avoid food poisoning. I learnt this lesson very early in my travels when attempting a burger in Thailand 23 years ago (not McDonalds), and was horrendously ill. It stands to reason doesn’t it, that a country will cook its own cuisine far better than it will cook unfamiliar tourist foods.
Do you have any further tips on how to travel the world cheaply? Would love to hear your experiences and ideas below.