I was at the bank yesterday and the lady showed me a calculation of what they figure “the normal person” spends monthly. I laughed, said it was clear that this was based on a completely different kind of people than me.“Howso, are you a big spender?” she asked. She wondered if maybe I was a party-animal who spent my money on nightlife and other meaningless things (you know, expensive living in general). Quite the contrary. I spend next to NOTHING on the things that they had listed. I’m saving it all for travels and I mentioned that I’ve been to 11 countries (including 2 continents counting the US-trip next month) only this summer.
She stopped what she was doing for a second and I could tell that she could not believe her ears.
“Did you go by interrail or something...?”
No. I went by plane. :-) There are so many budget airlines nowadays that it costs less to fly from Copenhagen to London, than taking the train from Malmo to Stockholm, which is in the same country!
You just need to know a few basic tips and tricks.
Use price-comparing sites.
There are always tons of different ones and it depends what country you’re in, what fits your needs best. I usually use www.flygresor.se . There’s http://www.edreams.com/ for other European countries – but be careful – the price they initially give you, might change when they’ve added their own service-fees! This goes for edreams.com.
Always book Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.
Those are the days when you will get the best and cheapest deals. Never, ever book on weekends or Mondays. You’ll be surprised when you see how much of a difference it makes. A trip that costs $100 on a Monday morning, will most probably be down to $70 by Thursday, so stay cool and keep checking prices several times a day!
Go to the airport website of your destination and check operating airlines.
You might be able to find a budget airline you haven’t heard of before, and check their routes. The smallest ones aren’t always included in the results of price-comparing sites.
I found Niki Air for instance, a small airline in Austria with ridiculously low prices on some of their routes. My flight was flown by Niki Lauda himself, the former racing star. :-)
Same with Swiss airline Baboo (now Darwin) which operates from Geneva. I flew with them from Geneva to Florence a few years ago. It was the most comfortable plane I’ve ever been on, and they served fantastic gourmet food, air-style instead of the regular kind of plastic-tray airline food that we all know. :-) And it cost next to nothing! So – playing detective usually pays off!
Consider renting a car – or using domestic flights.
If you’re going from Copenhagen to Florida for instance, you might find that it’s actually cheaper to fly to a New York-airport first and take a domestic flight from NYC to your FL-destination instead. Same goes for most cities.
There might be a cheaper option if you choose a different airport.
For my Firewind-tour that starts next week, I’ll fly to Dusseldorf (Germany) and rent a car – then drive to my 3 different destinations in Netherlands, Belgium and Cologne, Germany, cause it’s cheaper than flying straight to the nearest Dutch airport – even with the rental car fees and gas cost.
A lot of times – taking the TRAIN can be a better and cheaper way to get from point A to point B. For my UK tour, starting next Friday, I’ll be flying to Manchester, but from there I’m taking the train up to Glasgow. Cheap, there are more departures to choose from and you actually see more of the country.
Trains nowadays are modern and fast, and I find it to be relaxing. Usually they have Wi-Fi as well, so I can just check my mail or write my blogs on the train.
Consider what’s most important to you.
The cheapest tickets are usually for days and times when most people don’t want to travel. It could be very late in the evenings or very early in the morning. I’ve sometimes chosen the late departures, spent the night in some cheap hotel near the airport or bus/train/subway station, then continued on my way.
Like with airplane-tickets, use a price-comparing site such as booking.com or hotels.com
Or, if you are going to a specific place, such as a venue – go to the venue’s webpage and find out their address. Then go to Google maps and search for hotels nearby. Check the prices and compare with booking.com and hotels.com (or whatever is equivalent in your country). That way, you will save on transport costs. You don’t want to book a cheap hotel outside of town and then spend time and money getting to and from your “place of interest”. Be smart about it, it saves you $$.
Read the customer reviews, those have helped me a lot. I’ve only once voluntarily chosen a crappy cheap hotel, well knowing what I was getting myself into. It was extremely cheap and I just needed a bed and somewhere to put my bag. You need to know where your own limits are and how comfortable/uncomfortable you want it to be. Choose the right comfort level for the price you’re willing to pay, or else anything is going to feel “too expensive” (for what you got for your money)
Airport-hotels are almost always the cheapest. Sometimes they even offer free shuttles to the city center, that way you will save on transfer-costs as well.
Consider hostels or hotels with shared bathrooms.
If you’re going to be out sightseeing most of the day, you might not need a fancy bathroom but can settle for a shared one and save yourself $$$. Some hostels I’ve stayed at, have even been better than hotels, such as Pink Hostel in NYC (for women only) where you can cook your own food in their fresh, modern kitchen. THAT saves money, cause you can just go to the nearest grocery store and get a cheap TV-dinner or noodles or something and microwave it, instead of buying an expensive breakfast (breakfasts are not always included in hotel prices).
Some hotel chains will get you points if you have a mileage card. Collecting enough points gives you lots of advantages, for instance a free hotel night or a free flight once you’ve got enough points. :-) I got myself a free flight from Tampa to Atlanta in October for my Delta miles. :-)
In part two: A lesson on how to pack light and just breeze through security and airports while other passengers are waiting at baggage carousels or desperately digging through their carry-on items to get through security…!
Also check out The Rock’n’roll traveller’s best tips part 2 and 3: