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15 money saving travel hacks

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!

Flight hacks

 

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

Hotel hacks

 

 

 

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.

Money hacks

 

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! 

WHOA WAIT WHAT? UNDER 5€ FLIGHTS?

WHOA WAIT WHAT? UNDER 5€ FLIGHTS?

Look what I just found! Cheap flights for 5€

 

I wanted to give you guys a quick tip for cheap flights: I have found this site called Volotea that sells tons of flights for 5€ within Europe. What’s interesting is that they have opened lots of new routes that haven’t been well covered before. This opens up many more holiday options straight off the bat.

 

There are flights for the following countries:

United Kingdom

Spain

France

Italy

Albania

Austria

Croatia

Czech Republic

Germany

Greece

Ireland

Luxembourg

Malta

Moldova

Portugal

 

Volotea is selling 1 million flights for 5 € so check out where you could fly to next!

 

 

Read also:

£3 flights to Bucharest from London

Can an expat get a bank account in Malta? What you need to know

Affordable luxury in Istanbul: accommodation

Top 10 Cheapest City Breaks in Europe

 

 

Free holiday? How to get two trips for the price of one

Free holiday? How to get two trips for the price of one

How to get a free holiday: have two trips for the price of one

 

How to get two holidays for the price of one. Free holiday in Berlin

Visiting Berlin

 

I’m all about finding new ways around the old booking processes. I’m constantly looking to find the new routes or service providers that can not only save me two thirds of my travel budget but can also offer me two or three holidays all rolled into one. If I can save a dollar here and a pound there, I most certainly will, as long as I’m not worse off. But is it possible to get a free holiday? How do you save money with airlines? Where can I find the cheapest flights? Am I paying too much for my flights or accommodation? Stay with me as I will reveal my secrets and give you real examples of how I got two holidays for the price of one without compromising on quality. This is the story of our project “free holiday”.

 

Free holiday - our layover in Berlin

The most incredible bridge in Berlin

 

Two holidays for the price of one – our Christmas trek across the entire Europe

We reside in Malta at the moment. Malta is a small island in the Mediterranean Sea, close to Sicily which belongs to Italy. Our close neighbours are Libya and Tunisia in Northern Africa. You can imagine that booking Christmas flights for two people almost all the way up to the Arctic Circle in Northern Europe can be a scary prospect especially if you left it last minute. As we all know, airlines charge at least double for Christmas flights, especially if you leave it too late.

We started booking our flights only three weeks before our planned departure date. You can also imagine that to save money, we would have to fly at awkward dates way too early around mid December. Well we arrived in the cold Finland on 22nd of December. We even managed to squeeze in a trip to Berlin, with a stay in a lovely hotel suite. But the trick is that we did not have to pay any extra money for our holiday in Germany nor the suite, which means that with a little research, we were able to arrange ourselves a “free holiday”. How did we manage to pull this off right before Christmas? Here’s how.

 

Project “Free Holiday”: Know your flight route options

Over the years I have accumulated years and years of experience on the airlines operating within Europe. In the past, I used to pack my bag and go if I had managed to save extra 200 euros. Over time, I have become familiar with Europe’s low cost options, whether it be airlines, hotel stays or free accommodation options.

The first thing that you need to do, when selecting your route, is to get the best price possible for a direct flight or with one, reasonable change. In this case the flight was from Malta to Helsinki, Finland. The Finnish national carrier, Finnair is known to be one of the safest and most punctual airlines in the whole world, so I can recommend them to you any time. You can click here to search and book Finnair flights. Unfortunately for us, they were not the cheapest option this time around. I suppose we had to take the blame for this one, as we had left booking the Christmas flights way too late. Many flights were already fully booked when I started browsing. Better act fast and grab the least awkward flight option. Right?

No. Keep searching. Keep fighting for “project free holiday”!

Once you have established the ball park of the price for the best flight available, you start comparing. I run searches on these favourite travel comparison sites:

Free holiday - our layover in Berlin

 

So the search results for our Christmas flights started coming in and my mood lifted as the prices kept dropping. Sure, some flights would have 30 hour + durations. For most people a 35 hour duration would be a huge turn-off but I felt like I was about to hit the jackpot. Why is that, you ask?

 

From direct flights to a mini-holiday

When the travel comparison sites like SkyScanner give me a long duration with only one stop, I’m about to hit the jackpot. What do I mean, exactly? My plan is to intentionally split one leg of the journey into two. If you don’t take a direct flight, you can get two holidays in a short space of time. How do you do this in practice then? You leave your luggage with the airline at the city of departure, they will make sure your bags are carried all the way to your destination.

This means that you are free of dragging that suitcase around and are completely free to leave the airport in the layover city (just get a visa if it’s required). As long as you re-appear for your connecting flight the next day, you have a whole city to explore while carrying only a small bag on your back. You can even plan for a working holiday in a new country, if you wish. I have sat next to my boyfriend in a hotel lobby in Gdansk, Poland, working away during our flight layover. If you are able to work remotely, why pay the full price for a direct flight when you can enjoy a second holiday for free?

 

Free holiday in Berlin - our layover

Brandenburg Gate in Berlin at Dusk

 

Do flight comparison sites give the best deals?

Flight comparison sites are not know-it-all. However, I personally love using flight comparison sites, like SkyScanner or eDreams. You can set price alerts, which notify you if the price of a flight drops. Roughly 60% of my flights are booked through these two sites, especially to more exotic destinations. But they don’t know it all. Flight comparison sites don’t just roam the internet and give you the best price which is the truth, nothing but the truth and so on.

Comparison sites are a form of affiliate marketing, which means that they need to first partner up with the airlines they want to promote. And to promote an airline, the comparison sites need to get compensated properly for their marketing efforts. The unfortunate truth is that if we pay very low fares for low cost airline tickets, the low cost budget doesn’t allow for high affiliate marketing fees. This is the reason many low cost airlines are left out from the comparison sites. So now that we have  a comparison site result which we could happily settle for, how do you get even a better deal or even a free holiday? Read on and I will tell you.

 

Know your low cost routes

Now that you have managed to drop your flight quote from a direct flight to a one stop flight with the help of a comparison site, the work really begins. This is the tricky part, as finding the best deals may require some stamina and patience. At this point I usually crack open both the Ryanair and EasyJet apps. I also go through Jet2 fligts but as they focus mostly on holidaymakers from the UK, Jet2 wasn’t going to help us get in the right direction, towards Finland. I searched for routes that would take us as far up North as possible. Stockholm in Sweden came up, but as I’m careful about my travel spending, I knew the city’s price range was going to eat most of our budget up. Our operation “free holiday” was at risk. Therefore I had to find another solution.

When times are hard, you often end up with something completely surprising. The most exciting city Ryanair flew to was Berlin and the price was well below 60 euros. But from Berlin there would only be expensive connecting flights. At this point I had also exhausted a few of my favourites, Norwegian and AirBerlin. I ran searches on Google Maps to see whether the nearby airports could offer any relief to the pickle I found myself in. We had great flights at our fingertips but needed to get home for Christmas.

And just before I was ready to call it a day, I remembered a fantastic airline from the Baltic Countries called AirBaltic. I had flown with them before and thought the quality of the service was absolutely brilliant. There it was! With a 45 minute transfer time in Riga, Latvia, we were able to continue our journey to Finland for about 25 euros.

 

How to get a free holiday - Berlin Wall Art

Berlin Wall Art

 

In the end, we arrived in Berlin in the afternoon. I had found a great hotel deal in Berlin through Hotels.com, which is the only hotel booking site I use these days. We even got a very reasonably priced suite for the night. I will tell you more of my secrets on finding great accommodation deals and even free nights in this blog. But this will have to be another time.

Over all, we spent around 120 euros per person on flights from one of the most Southern countries in Europe to the Northernmost country and even had a holiday in Berlin, including a hotel suite stay. To keep in this budget, we used the local transport and Uber as much as possible (use the promo codeks1k1ue to get your first Uber ride free). We left the travel arrangements until 3 weeks before Christmas and arrived in the destination on the 22nd of December.

 

Did it work? Did we get two holidays for the price of one? Yes we did. Only because we arranged for a second holiday in Berlin, we were able to save hundreds of euros. I consider this a free holiday.

 

Any other important lessons I learnt from this process?

We could have saved much more, had I booked our bags at the time of booking the flights. AirBaltic charges you a higher rate even if you pay with a credit card through your profile well before departure. We could have also saved money by sending our luggage directly to the final destination through SendMyBag. Their international luggage courier service is often cheaper than paying the airline luggage fees. 

 

Here’s the airlines, booking sites and other services I recommended in this post:

Airlines

AirBaltic

AirBerlin

Finnair

Price comparison & booking sites

Hotels.com,

SkyScanner

eDreams.

Luggage courier

SendMyBag

 

Read also:

Holy cow! I just realised what I need to pack

Overbooked flight – Why I was over the moon

How to get a free city break in Turkey whilst in transit