Expert travel tips for every leg of your next holiday
Lucky enough to be heading off on an adventure? You can rest assured that we’re incredibly jealous - but that didn’t stop us heading out to ask experts from the travel industry for their best money saving travel tips to help you out.
From planning your trip to finding lunch when you get there, we’ve got the inside scoop on how to save money while traveling, straight from the mouth of globetrotting pros, including bloggers, travel agents, travel insurers and one self-proclaimed “travel hacker.”
So before you pack your bags and say sayonara to Aussie shores, check out what they had to say.
Before you go - planning your trip
First things first, most of our travel gurus suggested booking as early as possible to catch all the best deals on flights, accommodation, tours or attractions. Although there are savings to be found on last minute deals, if you go that route, you may be leaving yourself open to overpaying if a great deal doesn’t come up.
It also pays to travel in the off season, according to a couple of our sources. Not only will you avoid high prices, you’ll also, “avoid the tourist crowds, saving you time on waiting in queues,” says Sheri Adamson from TravelOnline.com.
Anthony A.K.A, The Travel Tart, takes this philosophy to the extreme, and says travelling to countries other tourists are wary of thanks to political upset can mean a great trip on the cheap. He travelled to Argentina a year after the country had defaulted on a debt repayment and the peso was at rock bottom, saving him bucketloads. “Once it’s safe, travellers can turn up with a much better exchange rate and everything from accommodation to food is much cheaper,” he says.
And one last thing before you head off: “Make sure you have travel insurance appropriate for you. Don't skimp on having the right cover for you and all the family,” says Denise Dean from Travelmanagers Australia.
Should I use a travel agent?
If all the planning is doing your head in, you might be tempted to consult an expert. But will it cost you more than the convenience is worth?
Not necessarily, says Director of Mosaic Travel, Rosie. “Agents have insider knowledge on money saver tips, and have access to package deals, where prices are cheaper if you book multiple things together.”
Dean adds that by booking through a travel consultant who knows their stuff, you might score luxurious freebies, like a hotel upgrade, or a welcome bottle of champagne at check-in. And best of all? “Your consultant comes to the rescue if something doesn't quite go to plan,” she says.
But Sam Williamson from WeSwap prefers to take a more grassroots approach. He advises travellers to join local forums and social media communities before heading off, to get the inside scoop on your destination. “If you message the locals and tell them that you're coming then you'll often find that they bombard you with money saving tips that only locals would be aware of.”
Getting off the ground - how to book cheap flights
Every Aussie tourist knows the pain of long, expensive flights - it seems to be part and parcel of living in the land downunder. But there are some tricks to keep up your sleeve when searching for a cheap plane ticket.
One thing all the experts agree on is that you should try to fly when noone else wants to. That means mid-week instead of weekend, and tear-inducing boarding times like 0500. It might hurt at the time, but these small inconveniences will be worth it for the extra dollars in your pocket.
But where do you find the cheapest flights out of Oz? Globetrotter Emma Lovell tells us Scott’s Cheap Flights is her newest go to for great deals. “My friend always goes to exotic and random places and that's how she gets it… As long as you're flexible with your dates, you can get any deal.”
And here’s a tip for anyone booking flights with a credit card in order to snag rewards points or activate free travel insurance - if a third party website charges a fee for using your credit card, head over to Flight Centre, Spending Hacker advises. “They will waive any credit card fees as part of their own price beat guarantee where they beat your best price by a dollar.”
Another quick tip for those who like to pack everything but the kitchen sink: weigh your luggage before you leave home. Dean told us some airlines have even started weighing handbags!
Hitting the road
Rather keep your feet on the ground? If a road trip is your next holiday of choice, then Drivenow.com.au comes highly recommended by Lovell, who’s heading off on a road trip soon.
“They get the best rates and I've used them in Australia, NZ and USA. It was easy to book and the deals were the best around. Cheaper than going direct,” she said. “They have deals for as low as $1 a day if you do the relocation deal.”
Home away from home - snagging bargain accommodation
Once you’ve reached your destination, you’ll need somewhere to rest your head and drop your suitcase. There are heaps of affordable options, from hotel deals, AirBnB, Home for Exchange, or even staying with friends and relatives. Charli Moore, travel blogger at Wanderlusters.com says house and pet sitting has allowed her to travel from London to Auckland, Barbados to Las Vegas and stay rent free.
If that’s not the experience you’re after from your getaway, then it might be time to get off the beaten track. Charlotte Weiss of The F Diaries says “the best advice I can give is find the smaller towns. Don't just go to the major cities, go to the smaller towns and villages. They'll most likely have the best food, the nicest people, and the cheapest accommodation!”
But if your goal is to tick some of the major cities like Paris, Rome or London off your bucket list, consider whether you need to be right in the heart of the city, or if you could commute from a neighbouring suburb, advises travel insurer Fast Cover. “You’ll save yourself some money and discover places and paths less taken.”
Travelling with the whole clan? Finding accommodation might seem like a mammoth task, but Adamson says having more people can actually be an advantage. “Although at first glance villas, apartments and holiday homes can seem like an expensive option, once you divide the cost between all guests it often works out much cheaper in the long run,” she says.
And if your family won’t quite fill up a villa, here’s a well-kept secret of the accommodation business, courtesy of Nathan at Asia Holiday Retreats: “Most villa owners will allow their villa to be booked partially at a cheaper rate. So for example, if you were looking for a villa with 4 bedrooms, you could also search for 5 bedroom villas and request a price for booking just 4 of the 5 bedrooms.” But you didn’t hear it from us!
Bon appetit! - eating abroad on a budget
We can think of quite a few destinations where one of the major draw cards is the food! And while it might be nice to sup on escargot beneath the Eiffel tower or hit up Singapore’s rooftop restaurants, your stomach - and your wallet - might not be able to handle it all the time.
To find cheap eats just about anywhere in the world, there’s one golden rule: go local. “Skip the resort restaurant and venture out onto the streets to find a local café or restaurant. Not only are these options far cheaper, they also offer a much more authentic experience of your holiday destination and its local cuisine,” says Adamson.
Hitting up the local grocery store is also a good idea - especially if you’ve snagged some accommodation with a kitchen. Fast Cover suggests being on the lookout for end of day specials at bakeries, markets and supermarkets, and buying your bottled water at a grocery store, rather than a street vendor or cafe.
Another good tip from Fast Cover? “Make breakfast or lunch your main meal, as restaurants usually charge more for dinner.”
Oh, and stay away from the minibar!
Cashed up - spending money overseas
Whether you’re sipping cocktails at a five-star resort or trekking through Nepal, you’ll probably need to cough up some extra dough once you get there, and it’s a good idea to have multiple ways to do that.
Travel Money Oz says travellers should stick to local currency where they can - and understand how money is used in your destination of choice. Questions to ask include, “Will you need to tip while you’re there? Will you pay more for a coffee if you take it away instead of drinking it in the café? Does the price you see include or exclude tax?”
Fast Cover, suggests you avoid exchanging cash currency, and instead use your travel debit or credit card. Just make sure you have a plan to pay your credit card bill at the end of each month - if you’re travelling for an extended period, this may start to get a bit tricky!
A prepaid travel credit card can be a great option for keeping your holiday spending in check and locking in an awesome exchange rate. If you opt for this choice, Mozo Experts Choice winner Travelex says to be careful you don’t forget about unused currency loaded on the card - once you get home, you can exchange it for Aussie dollars again.
We suggest carrying some local cash and a debit or credit card option, so that if something goes wrong with one method, you have a backup. Plus, you should tailor your money to your holiday - the hotel restaurant likely accepts plastic, a street vendor may not.
Now you’re ready for your holiday! But before you get too carried away, be sure to head over to our travel insurance price comparison tool to find a policy to protect you and your valuables. And if you’re hungry for more insider knowledge on awesome ways to experience the world without breaking the bank, check out our Best $20 I’ve Ever Spent series.