Top 15 ways to save money when travelling
The reason why we should all know the best hacks and tricks to save money, whilst travelling, is simple. I need to be better with my budget, so I can travel more. To be able to enjoy a touch of luxury here and there, you don’t need to book yourself into a 5 star hotel. You can still use many of their services but save significant amounts of money. For this money saving post, I partnered up with the finance experts in Finland called Pikalaina. In this post, we will share our top 15 favourite money saving hacks, for when we travel!
1. Book a package holiday – skip the hotel
Does the thought of a package holiday make you cringe? Did you know that scheduled flights to some sunny destinations can work out cheaper, if you book a package holiday including the flight and the hotel, but you stay elsewhere? You can check in your package holiday hotel, if you want, and spend a few days by the pool side. Once you are fed up and want to explore the destination, you are free to travel and arrange your accommodation.
2. Get a free night in Istanbul – your airline is paying!
Turkish Airlines has an interesting policy: if you are flying via Istanbul, you may get treated an extra night in the city, paid by your airline. How can Turkish Air just dish out free hotel nights? Read it all here.
3. Don’t just pack your luggage. Be your luggage!
Is your airline charging hefty fees for putting suitcases in the hold? There are some fun hacks to work around these extra fees. First of all, wear your most heavy clothes and don’t pack your big coat in the suitcase, carry it. Amazon is also full of amazing travel wear that could save you significant amounts of money in the long term!
4. Flight delay compensation from your airline
Is your flight late? A European Court of Justice ruling states that you are entitled to bag up to 600 euros of compensation, should your flight be delayed. Compensation entitlement begins from 3 hours delay. You can also make claims for flights all the way down to 2005. See the table on this post to determine whether you can apply for compensation from your airline.
5. Overbooked flight? Time to do a happy dance!
An overbooked flight is sometimes a dream come true, at least if you are in Europe. Legally airlines have to compensate for your troubles, should the airline overbook and you are not allowed on the flight. Some travel hackers take advantage of overbookings and turn up at the airport before the check-in opens. Once you are first in the queue and you ask the check-in staff whether you can volunteer for a later flight in exchange for compensation, you sometimes get lucky. Once I was offered 400 euros and VIP lounge access, if I agreed to wait a bit longer. As I don’t mind a bit of champagne myself, I didn’t take too long to agree! Read how much cash you can get in compensation for an overbooked flight here.
6. Transferred on to another flight? Don’t pay for a hotel yourself!
If you have been transferred to another flight, check with your airline if they can pay for your hotel, at least in Europe. In October 2017, I got stuck in Dublin, Ireland, as the storm Ophelia caused disruption in travel. Luckily I Whatsapped my insurance broker. But as I didn’t have a proper travel insurance with them, he instructed me to call the airline and ask for them to accommodate us. The airline was happy to arrange this, as long as we made it back to the airport and accepted which ever hotel they could put us in. We spent two nights in a spa conference hotel without spending a penny on food, transport or the room.
7. Here’s what we were up to when our flight was cancelled due to the storm Ophelia
The airline asked us to get to the airport despite the cancelled flight, so they can book us into a hotel
We got to explore Dublin’s hidden parks, such as this Korkagh Park
For two extra days we explored the edges of Dublin without paying a penny for transport, accommodation or food
We got to see the pet farm at the Korkagh Park. Here’s an owl chilling. One parrot even let me stroke it’s head
8. Book and rebook trick
Did you know that once you have booked your hotel room, you can still manipulate the price? Once you have a hotel deal in the bag, you may still be able to get a discount. Hotel rates fluctuate and as long as you book a room with free cancellation, you may want to grab the opportunity when a discounted hotel room comes along. Just book your room, check the room prices later, cancel your room and rebook it, if the price drop is significant. A good time to check is on the same week of travel, but within your free cancellation period. If you find a better room with a better price at the time of your cancellation, you just go ahead with it! At a very last minute, I saved around 200€ by switching hotels in Dublin on the last day of the free cancellation.
9. Hotel price match trick
Hotels and booking sites often claim to offer the cheapest room prices. Some go as far as backing this claim up with a price guarantee – if you find the same room cheaper elsewhere, they will refund you the difference. Again, a good time to check would be on the same week of your trip, as many hotels lower their prices to fill the unsold rooms. Just grab a screen shot of the price you see on another site, send it to customer support and request a refund, based on their price match guarantee.
10. Don’t be afraid of using a luxury hotel even if you are not staying there
This video is from the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Barcelona, but we were not guests there
This is one of my favourite travel tricks in the book. I may not want to splash my cash on luxurious hotel nights (well, yes I would actually). As I prefer to travel often and with a limited budget, rather than saving up for a longer period of time for my next holiday, it means that I can’t be staying in top hotels. However, as long as you are happy to be a paying customer in other terms, most hotels still welcome you with open arms to use their spas, restaurants and cool rooftop bars. I recommend that you dress for the part though, so you feel more comfortable asking the hotel staff whether you are ok to use their facilities. As long as you look and feel the part, most top hotels are happy to get extra income from the food, drinks and other services they are selling to you.
11. Hotel’s star system may be leading you on
Do you actually know what the hotel star system stands for? Unfortunately the system is not standardised around the world and is mainly used to describe which facilities the hotel offers. It could suggest there is a 24h recetion or a tennis court, no matter how poorly it is being maintained. Even the smallest and hairiest jacuzzis pass as spas, when it comes to some hotels. A high star rating doesn’t always mean that other customers have been happy with the hotel itself. When using travel comparison sites, use the customer ratings instead, to make up your mind.
12. Quality villas vs. quality hotels
Want to save money but not keen on compromising on the quality of your stay? Top end villas may work out way cheaper, especially for a group, than a top hotel. Usually the bigger your group is, the bigger is your saving.
On the road
13. Get free Wifi everywhere – with this app
There is a cool app that can give you the Wifi passwords of cafes, restaurants, schools and universities, libraries and shops for free. And what’s so amazing about this WiFi Password Finder app is that it works, even if you are offline. To read my app review and how to download the free WiFi Password Finder app, click here.
How does the free WiFi app work?
Before you travel, connect to a WiFi and open up the map on the app. When you move your finger around the screen, you can see lots of internet connections popping up, along with their passwords. The WiFi passwords are added to the database by the users of the app and sooner or later you find yourself getting excited about sharing the passwords with other travellers too!
14. Use your off-line maps and avoid paying for data roaming or sat-nav
Did you know that your Google maps also works off-line, which means that you don’t have to switch your data roaming on or get a sat-nav for your rental car?
How do the off-line maps work?
Your map will also work off-line, as long as you open up your travel destination when you are first on WiFi. Before you travel, just open the destination’s map on your screen and scroll around the area. Next time, you can browse the map and get directions without a working WiFi connection too.
15. Your phone operator is trying to kill you!
As this claim may be somewhat exaggerated, you want to avoid getting a heart attack after seeing your mobile roaming bill. The best way to avoid it is to contact your mobile operator before the trip. If the price of the mobile roaming package does not please you, you can often buy a local prepaid pay-as-you-go sim card once you get there. However, in countries like Brazil, you cannot get a sim card if you don’t have sufficient documents that usually only locals can obtain, so it’s a good idea to search for more information before you travel.
16. Paying in pounds or euros? Why knowing this matters
According to the Finnish finance expert Pikalaina, we don’t usually know what to answer when we are asked which currency we would like to pay in. Did a shop keeper ask you which currency you want to use? You should always choose the local currency, not your own. Why? If the retailer does the conversion for you, the rates will usually be higher than if you let your card do the conversion. So remember – always ask to pay in the local currency.
17. Choosing your destination based on the exchange rate and what you can get for your money
There are obvious destinations to avoid, if you want to make your penny stretch far. These holiday destinations include Switzerland, Scandinavia and the Nordic Countries, Lapland and many cities in the US, for example. Although London’s price tag has fallen in the recent times and we were pleased to find that the hotels were quite affordable, London is still not cheap. If you want to know which destinations are the cheapest holidays in Europe right now, click here!