Monday, 6 July 2015

Tips for Travelling on a Budget

The other day, my sister's boyfriend asked me how Bob and I book our holidays and how we manage to get them as cheap as we do. I gave him some advice on the websites we use and how we managed to keep the cost down to an acceptable level. I also thought this could make quite a good blog post, so if you're interested carry on reading.
top tips for travelling on a budget
I would like to just clarify that this is focused on travel within Europe, and these holidays tend to be city breaks. I don't have much experience with booking beach holidays on the cheap (I usually select all inclusive with Thomson or something - not cheap) as I prefer city breaks and Bob can't swim.

USE SKYSCANNER TO BOOK FLIGHTS
We're usually flexible on where we visit, as most European cities appeal to us. When we feel like getting away, we select which airport we would like to fly from. We check airports near(ish) Bob's - so we check Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool and East Midlands. If you don't know where you want to visit, Skyscanner has a little tool that lets you select 'Everywhere'. Skyscanner then checks every airport for the cheapest flights from your selected airport. If you don't know which dates you want to choose, you can either select a whole month, or even a whole year to find the cheapest flights. It's so flexible, and you can find the best combination. Here are some screenshots to illustrate what we do!
skyscanner screenshot 2
Here we've selected flights from Manchester to Everywhere, on the cheapest month. We searched for return flights, but be careful as when you click on an outbound flight, the inbound prices increase. Check for one way flights too, and check from more than one airport.
skyscanner screenshot 1

Here you can see the cheapest flights were to Ireland, once we clicked on Ireland we could see the different airports and their prices. Dublin was the cheapest - which is good because I haven't been there yet.
skyscanner screenshot

Here you can see the different prices for the different days in June. Beware, when I clicked on the 18th of June (£11), the price of the return flight on the 21st of June (£16) rose to £63
Obviously Skyscanner is not selling the flights, and you do get transferred to the relevant airline's website to book on there. I clicked on some flights for my upcoming trip, and they were advertised as being £88 each. When I clicked on to the Ryanair website, they'd gone up to £100. Really annoying!

USE OTHER FLIGHT COMPARISON WEBSITES TO COMPARE PRICES
Skyscanner is our favourite website, so we will often ignore this advice and just book from there. Travel Supermarket, KAYAK and Expedia all search flights from many different airlines, so check on there too to ensure you're getting the cheapest deal. It's always worth checking direct with the airline for any discounts too.

DON'T JUST CHECK THE COST OF THE FLIGHT, BUT THE SPENDING COSTS WHEN YOU'RE THERE
You'll notice from the screenshots from above that flights to Switzerland and Norway are really cheap. This makes me want to book a trip right now! The truth is, Switzerland and Norway are some of the most expensive places to visit. Bob keeps going on about how his flight back from Oslo cost him less than the pint of beer he drank before he left! It doesn't matter how cheap the flight is if you're going to be spending hundreds of pounds a day on food, drink and sightseeing. Switzerland and Norway will just have to wait for me to visit. It's the opposite for some places, too. Flights to Prague are around £100, give or take, but Prague is a really inexpensive city to visit, and it's beautiful too.
brussels square
CHECK HOTEL COMPARISON SITES
I always use hotel booking websites such as Booking.com and Hotels.com to look for hotels. If you sign up to email newsletters from either website they're often advertising discounts or sales that are usually exclusive to people reading the emails. I check both websites (and sometimes I'll check hotel comparison sites such as trivago or HotelsCombined) to make sure I'm getting the cheapest deal. Once I have decided on a hotel, I'll check reviews on TripAdvisor and will even check direct through the hotel's website to see if their prices are cheaper. Booking.com has the benefit that you don't pay until you stay, whereas Hotels.com requires you to pay when you book.

CHECK AIRBNB
Airbnb is fantastic for accommodation when you're travelling, and it can often be miles cheaper too. Airbnb is basically staying in someone's home when you travel. You can either stay in a room in someone's house, or book to stay in the whole house. When I visited Japan, we stayed in Airbnbs in both Osaka and Kyoto and had a good experience. We stayed in a room in a young family's house and they were the friendliest people. I've never rented a whole house on Airbnb before, but we have one booked for our trip to Prague - I'm so excited! Get £16 off your first Airbnb trip. (If you click that link and sign up, you'll get £16 off your first Airbnb trip, and I'll get £16 off too).

EHICs ARE FREE
If you're travelling in Europe, you should always carry an up-to-date EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) with you. They're free to have and are valid within EU countries. An EHIC can get you free or discounted medical treatment. Make sure you get yours from the official EHIC website, as most websites will try to charge you when it's 100% free. Note, it doesn't cancel the need for travel insurance - you will still need to buy some.
iceland15
GET CHEAP TRAVEL INSURANCE
This is a tip I took from MoneySavingExpert, I will basically check this site before spending any money on anything. Through the tips on there, I bought annual European travel insurance for around £13. So far in the year I've got it for, I've travelled around Europe four times - so the saving is amazing! I also bought annual worldwide cover (for my trip to Japan) incase I decide to travel outside of Europe too. Don't forget, it's also best to check you aren't already covered by your bank first. Always buy your travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday!

NEVER PAY TO BOOK YOUR SEAT
This is something that really gets my goat when flying with budget airlines. You can often pay to choose your seat before your online check in, but I have never done it before. Usually during the online check in process you can select your seats for free to ensure you're sat with your  travel group. However, Jet2will automatically allocate you seats from the back of the plane to the front, so if you're travelling in a pair and the next two available seats are on different rows, you have to pay to sit next to your partner. There is no free seat selection at ALL. You have to pay! Unless you leave it for an hour or so and keep checking back, eventually someone will take that seat allocation and you will hopefully be lucky enough to be allocated two seats next to each other. It took about three hours worth of checking until Bob and I were sat next to each other. Ryanair are also cheeky and give you the option to pay, or have your seats allocated for free. There's no way of checking which seats you've been allocated before printing your boarding pass. I risked it, and Bob and I were sat next to each other thankfully.

ONLY TAKE HAND LUGGAGE
Budget airlines throughout Europe often make you pay to check luggage in, but the hand luggage allowances are often quite generous (except for EasyJet - you can't take a handbag and a small suitcase which is stupid). I always take way more than I need and I've never had any trouble fitting everything in to a hand luggage approved bag. Plus, you also don't need to wait at the luggage carousels - bonus!

RESEARCH WAYS TO GET TO THE AIRPORT
Luckily for us, Bob's dad usually takes us to and from the airports and we are SO grateful for that as transport to the airport/airport parking can cost a BOMB. Usually, the earlier you book, the cheaper it will be. Whether it's train tickets or airport parking, it's best to get it sorted early. Read this MoneySavingExpert article, as they explain it way better than I can. Seriously, that website is a LIFESAVER.
paris sacre coeur street
YOU CAN'T TAKE LIQUIDS THROUGH SECURITY, BUT YOU CAN TAKE FOOD
This is yet another tip I read on MoneySavingExpert, and actually some of my university friends did this when we went to Turkey. I never think to take a packed lunch to the airport with me. I think for me, the stress of making sure I've got everything I need with me means I have more on my mind than making some sandwiches to take on the plane with me. It is a great tip though, as food in the airport and on the plane is SO expensive (and often gross).

RESEARCH THE BEST WAY TO GET FROM THE AIRPORT TO YOUR ACCOMMODATION
Usually a quick Google will tell you the answer, but check to see how much a taxi costs, whether there are train, metro or tram links. Also check whether your hotel or Airbnb have a pick up/drop off service, as I know some offer them.

GOOGLE FREE THINGS TO DO
Usually some very helpful person on the internet has written a little travel blog about the place you're visiting, and has some very helpful tips about free things to do. Whether it's a museum, a beautiful walk or a bar that lets you sample the beer, there will always be something free to do. Googling "free walking tours in ___" always gives companies that operate free walking tours (you just pay a tip at the end if you enjoyed it). These usually have great ratings on TripAdvisor, and the ones I went on in Paris and Prague were absolutely excellent.

RESEARCH PLACES TO EAT BEFOREHAND
Wandering around the streets looking for a suitable restaurant can take time, and you can often end up in an expensive restaurant without even realising it. TripAdvisor can always recommend restaurants and even has symbols (£ or ££) to indicate how expensive it can be. We often find a few restaurants before we leave the UK, but we always rely on TripAdvisor whilst we're away. You might be surprised at how inexpensive some beautiful looking restaurants can be!
prague
STOCK UP ON SNACKS FROM CORNER SHOPS
I am a fiend when it comes to snacking. When I get back to my accommodation on an evening I always crave chocolate or crisps, and the mini bar becomes a real temptation. I often try and visit a little corner shop to stock up on anything I might be craving just to avoid the extortionate prices of the mini bar. Another great idea is to buy a picnic from one of these shops to cut down costs on lunch.

CHECK FOR ANY AGE OR NATIONALITY DISCOUNTS
I'm always surprised when I find out I've been discounted entry fee on a specific attraction due to my age or the fact I live in an EU country. Most attractions in Paris offer a discount if you're under 25 and a member of the EU. I got in to the Louvre for free because I was 21 and had my driving licence on me (it has an EU flag on it) whereas my 21 year old boyfriend didn't get in for free because he forgot all his ID that day - duh! The Arc de Triomphe is also reduced for students up to the age of 25. Check online before you go - there could also be a discount for booking in advance.

WALK! OR IF NOT, CHECK FOR TRANSPORT PASSES
In some cities, it is perfectly easy to walk around and see everything. We walked all around Prague and didn't find that anything was out of walking distance. However, when we visited places like Vienna, Paris and Berlin we found that it was just so much easier using the public transport. If you'd feel better not walking, check to see whether a day pass, 48 hour pass or even a week pass would be better for you. If you only plan to use public transport once or twice a day, it might be better to just buy a single ticket.

I have exhausted my brain for tips - if you have any please leave them below as I'm always looking for ways to reduce my spending whilst travelling! I hope these are of some use to you! I am in no way a money expert so please always check everything to make sure you are happy with it before booking.

Rachael Amy

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9 comments

  1. Great advice I will keep your list for next time I travel, many thanks!

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    1. Really glad you found the tips helpful! :)

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  2. Great advice I will keep your list for next time I travel, many thanks!

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  3. Brilliant advice! I do much of the same when I'm travelling and sky scanner definitely is the best for flights. I do always check expedia and the airline itself though because you never know who was a 24 hour sale on. I do the same with hotels too - you can save yourself a fortune shopping around!

    Rachael at broomfie.blogspot.com

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    1. You really can save so much! Glad you agreed with the tips! :)

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  4. Great tips! :) xx

    Lauren | shynature.blogspot.co.uk

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  5. Wow, this is an AMAZING post :) thank you so much for writing it! I am so tempted to print it out and stick it on my wall :)

    Dannie x

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    Replies
    1. Aww, thanks! I'm glad you found them helpful! :) x

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