With the rising cost of living, everyone is trying to get more out of their money and maybe cut back on some of life’s little luxuries. However, after being unable to travel for the past few years, it still seems to be something we are no longer willing to sacrifice on. So how do you regain the freedom to travel without breaking the bank? From the cheapest flights to the most cost-effective accommodation options to saving money on food, drink, transport and everything in between, we’ve rounded up our top 12 tips for saving money on travel.
1. Fly, don’t drive
For a long time, the classic family road trip has been the most affordable way to vacation. However, with the rising cost of fuel, in many cases it is just as affordable and even more convenient to fly. This also relates to check flights at all surrounding airports, including those near you as well as those at your destination. For example, you might find a cheaper flight from the Gold Coast rather than Brisbane. It may pay off for a short drive on the highway.
2. Book in advance
This is basically the rule of thumb when it comes to getting great deals on flights, accommodation, or anything travel related. By booking as far in advance as possible, you can get the exact arrangements you want, often at exclusive, heavily discounted preferential rates. Flight schedules are usually released 9-11 months later and those who arrive first will get the cheapest airfares. The closer your departure, the more you risk having to pay a premium.
3. Mid-week departure
For the majority of airlines serving Australia, weekend flights are generally more expensive, with Friday evening, Sunday afternoon and Monday morning being the most expensive times to fly. You can mark air fares up to four times cheaper flying mid-week. Best of all, the second flight of the day tends to be cheaper than the first, saving you even more. Flying just before the weekend is also a convenient way to recover from jet lag or catch up on laundry before heading back to work.
4. Pack the light
The most obvious benefit of packing light is avoiding the extra cost of checked bags, but there are other incentives as well. This avoids being in a crowd when retrieving baggage and avoids any potential drama related to the loss of baggage. Packing light also makes it easier to get around, meaning you can take advantage of public transport options (another money saver) rather than spending on taxis or private transport. You’re also less likely to waste money on useless keepsakes that will only gather dust once you get home: photos are the perfect keepsake and don’t take up space.
5. Avoid high season
It might not always be possible, but if you can manage to be a little more flexible with your travel dates, you can avoid peak seasons and save a lot of money. Christmas and school holidays are the main culprits for the rise in prices. Luckily, in Australia, school holidays are staggered between states, so if you plan to travel within the country, consider finding the right time between the school holidays where you live and the school term still in progress where you live. Go on. Certain times of the year in your destination of choice can also drive up prices. Let it be the perfect Fiji weather or iconic events like cherry blossom season in Japan, traveling outside of these times can provide significant savings. Not only will it cost you less to get there and stay there, but you will also avoid the large crowds of tourists. Winner!
6. Get a group discount
Consider leveraging your buying power with a group of friends or family and head out together for a Villa, suite or multi-bedroom apartment. Although larger residences may seem more expensive, once you split the cost among all the guests, it can often turn out to be much cheaper than if each group booked multiple hotel rooms. These accommodation options not only offer more space, but they also offer additional facilities including private pools, kitchens and laundry which can also save on expenses, especially on long trips. If there are enough of you, you may even be able to get group discounts on tours and activities, which is another added bonus.
7. Eat in
While a nice part of vacationing is relaxing and splurging on restaurant meals, a really easy way to save money on vacation is to opt for self-catering accommodation and eat there. You may be able to bring your own groceries with you or buy groceries from a local supermarket, but not eating out at every meal will save you a lot of money. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be stuck in the kitchen every day, but a few cereals or toast in the morning and a few snacks on hand throughout the day can make a huge difference to your budget. It will also help you avoid overeating at each meal, which could lead to stomach upsets that could ruin your trip or lead to expensive doctor visits and medications.
8. Eat like a local
When you decide to dine out, avoid the hotel restaurant as much as possible. These restaurants are notoriously more expensive and generally do not offer an authentic representation of local cuisine. To really experience the destination and save a few bucks at the same time, you need to immerse yourself in the local delicacies. Shopping in foreign supermarkets is actually a really fun experience and you’ll discover all sorts of weird and wonderful things and maybe even a new favorite at a fraction of the price. In fact, some of your most memorable holiday meals are likely to be inexpensive picnics packed with only the best local produce and eaten at a scenic local point of interest. Many ingredients in Western cuisine are not local and therefore must be imported, driving up prices. Local dishes are usually only a few dollars and an essential part of fully enjoying your destination, so explore the local food scene and save.
9. Eat smart
Most accommodation rates include bed and breakfast, which can range from a few sad-looking danishes to a full assortment. If buffet breakfast is part of your meal plan then enjoy it by refueling for the day. It’s already paid for and the more you eat now, the less you’ll have to buy later. Better yet, carry a piece of fruit or a muffin with you and keep it as a snack throughout the day. Remember to eat your main meal at lunch and take advantage of promotions. Most cafes and restaurants offer hearty meals at a lower cost to attract customers during the less busy hours of the day. Come dinnertime, you won’t be hungry, which means you can opt for a lighter meal, saving money on what is usually the most expensive meal of the day.
10. Walk, stroll, discover, save
One of the best ways to familiarize yourself with your surroundings and discover hidden gems off the beaten track is to take the time to stroll. While it can be tempting to simply take a taxi from point A to point B, those journeys can quickly add up. Walking is a great way to experience more of your destination and enjoy some of your buffet breakfasts. However, for slightly longer distances, feel free to take advantage of the local public transport network. This is the cheapest and easiest way to move. Not only is it more ecological and more profitable, but it avoids wasting time in traffic jams. It’s the perfect opportunity to do some extra sightseeing and get a taste of what life in your holiday destination is really like. Even better, if you strike up a conversation with a local, you’ll likely learn some amazing travel tips that the guidebooks don’t give you.
11. Ask your resort
While it’s great to get out and explore your vacation destination, it’s not always possible to do paid tours every day – especially if you’re traveling as a family where tickets for 4+ people can really kick in to add up. Many resorts offer an impressive range of Free activities or can direct you to a number of free local options. The resort’s friendly staff can explain the daily program which often includes everything from volleyball and tennis to kayaking, catamarans and hobie cats, windsurfing, sailing and even introductory lessons in scuba diving. It’s a great way to discover a fun new activity every day, without having to spend a penny.
12. Get your tax back
Tax refunds are not just about year-end. Many foreign retailers charge an additional point-of-sale tax, which can drive up the price of an item. Even though the ticket price may seem quite affordable, when you pay at the checkout, these taxes can really add up. Fortunately, most countries offer VAT (value added tax) refunds at the airport to persuade tourists to keep spending their money and supporting the local economy. Typically, all you have to do is fill out a simple form to get your money back from these additional taxes. It might be one of the easiest ways to save money, but a lot of travelers tend to miss it.