Travel money-saving tips and mistakes to avoid

A holiday can easily be one of your biggest expenses of the year, so it pays to do the sums both before and after you head off into the sunset.

A bit of financial organisation will not only give you the holiday you want, it will also take away the stress of planning.

Here are three steps where you can save.

Before you go

First and foremost, you should never go into debt for a holiday. If you can’t afford it, don’t go, or scale back your plans.

A two-month holiday around Europe sounds grand, but it comes with a grand price tag.

Of course, it’s different if you must travel for family purposes, but to saddle yourself with thousands of debt, merely for a holiday is irresponsible and avoidable.

With this in mind, if you do think you can afford it, set a budget early and do your best to stick to it. It’s always better to budget for a higher figure, as let’s face it, travel never gets any cheaper.

Sign up for emails from the large hotel chains. They very often have unadvertised deals that could save you hundreds in accommodation costs.

Check out if there is any discount for prepaying for attractions or travel passes such as rail passes. In the same vein, there may be seniors or concession discounts. Getting older has some bonuses.

Borrow don’t buy. If you need any travel-specific items like a winter coat, luggage or even an adapter, why not ask around friends and family before you invest in an item you may only use a couple of times?

Use your points. Check if you can use any accumulated loyalty points for any part of your journey. You may not have enough for a first-class flight to London, but you could cover the cost of a few nights’ accommodation. It can be a significant game changer on your budget.

When you book

If you want to save money, don’t book during peak tourism season at your destination. Look at the shoulder or out-of-season prices instead.

Book flights mid-week instead of weekend so you don’t have to compete with travellers slotting in with their work week.

Be as flexible as you can with flights. A 2am flight might not be ideal, but it could save you significant costs.

Think outside the square. It’s great to visit famous tourist attractions, but there are significant savings to be had by going off the beaten track. As an example, Paris is beautiful but pricey. But the good thing about France is there are plenty of stunning smaller cities that will give you the French experience at a fraction of the price of the capital.

And don’t always go for traditional hotels. There are plenty of options out there to save money while still having the time of your life. Look into monastery stays, house swaps, house sitting or homestays.

Research accommodation that includes cooking facilities. You will save a bundle cooking your own meals and your waistline may thank you for it.

When you go

While Australia seems to be shedding the idea of physical money, for many countries cash is still king. You will save yourself a lot of money in overseas transaction fees by using cash as much as you can.

If you do use a card, make sure it’s a travel debit card or travel money card to avoid those dreaded fees. Make sure you have the right currency loaded on the card as most providers will slug you an extra fee for a conversion.

Ask around. Sometimes asking a local can have surprising rewards including hidden restaurants and attractions. Don’t be afraid to strike up a conversation when you can.

Sort out your phone. Get a cheap mobile data plan for overseas. Download the transport apps for destination if they exist. Also download a free wi-fi finder app.

Do an online search to find free things to do in your destination. It could be a walking tour or open gallery. Don’t be afraid to embrace something new.

Work out the local public transport. It can be a considerable saving on taking taxis everywhere. Ask the ticket providers if there are any multi-day or multi-city deals.

If it’s in the culture, try to haggle. The whole idea can be mortifying, but it’s like a sport for the locals, so don’t take it too seriously.

And remember the golden rule …

If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

Do you have any tried and tested budgeting tips for travel? Why not share them in the comments section below?

Also read: When to hire a travel guide

Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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