While the price of flights may have come down in the last few years and sites such as airbnb have made accommodation a bit more cost effective, holidays and trips away can still put a hefty dent on your bank balance. My top eleven (ten just wasn’t enough!) money saving travel tips are intended to help save you from being ripped off and include some clever ways to save a few pennies (or even hundreds) without having to sacrifice any enjoyment.
From researching and booking your getaway, to spending time in the airport and arriving at your destination…everything can add up. A few small changes could either save you money or help you get the best bang for your buck. It’s not about being stingy, it’s making your hard earned money go further and in a lot of cases, enjoying a better experience in the process. If you add in the expense a couple of kids will tally up in the airport, then you’ll be on to a winner if you follow these tips.
Booking flights can be a bit stressful, you look up your dates and they seem reasonable. Someone is waiting to find out if they can get time off work. I’ll see what the flights are like now, hmmm gone up but only twenty quid, I can live with that. Holidays approved, yay! Oh wait, pay day isn’t until next Friday. Let me just check the flights are still there, UGH we’re into the next hundred now! Hold on, he’s not even coming now because it’s too expensive? FFS!!
Don’t let this happen to you. Airlines and booking engines track how many times you visit their site which basically means that the more you look, you could be inadvertently driving prices up. You know how lots of pages come with a pop-up warning about cookies like this one above? Well that’s how they track what you’re up to. Go into your history and clear your browsing data and cookies, so when you go to book a flight you’ll seem like a new user and reap the benefits (or just use an incognito window).
The cheapest days to travel are usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday and cheapest time to book… Tuesday afternoon.
Airport Lounges are big business and while it might sound like an extra expense, if you add up what you spend in the airport on magazines, meals, snacks, a couple of drinks at the bar… you’ll probably even exceed the cost of a slightly fancy experience in one of the lounges. Prices start from around £15/€20 and include wifi (that won’t lock you out after 45 minutes), newspapers and magazines (not just the free ones), snacks like crisps, nuts, biscuits, fruit, crackers etc, sometimes hot food, tea and coffee, soft drinks and get this….unlimited alcoholic beverages. If you’ve never been into an airport lounge you’ll find it a bit surreal, you help yourself in a lot of them…choosing drinks from the fridge or pouring your own wine. Call me unsociable, but I quite like not having to talk to people…especially when travelling alone.
If you’re traveling with kids, lots let under 10s in free which basically pays for your spot! “Free” wine for mam and dad, juice and crayons for kids, everyone is happy. Everything is usually included for 3 hours, so make the most of it…arrive early and get into the holiday spirit. It’s nice to set up a little base (with electricity sockets!) and not have the fuss of queues and overpriced dodgy fry ups, plus you’ll be able to keep an eye on the departures screen and not that I’d endorse it but those snacks and mini cans are basically begging to be brought on board. Check here to see what’s available at your airport.
Airport Shopping. If you’re travelling through Dublin airport, have a look at The Loop website before you go. You can buy online to collect in the airport, or even browse and buy in the airport to collect on your return journey so you don’t have to worry about excess baggage! Prices are about 20% cheaper than the high street for fragrances and 15% for cosmetics, they even have a price promise – “Never beaten by downtown prices or double the difference refunded” (check the website for T&Cs). I think the real bargains are to be found with the travel exclusives though and I really just can’t resist anything mini.
Water. Considering the fact I reckon I’m a seasoned traveller, I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve been stung with a massive bottle of water at security. It’s just one of those things where the old saying that you learn from your mistakes just doesn’t seem to ring true for me. If you’ve still got water in your bag when it’s time to go through to departures, instead of chucking the entire bottle just pour it down the sink and keep the empty container. If you’re extra organised just bring an empty bottle with you to the airport (it’s lighter too!). There’s always drinking water fountains dotted around the terminal plus the cabin crew should be able to fill ‘er up on board too. Winning.
Excess baggage can really bump up the cost of your flights. Decide realistically how much you need to bring and if it warrants a check-in bag, it’ll be cheaper to add at the time of booking that to end up paying excess at the airport. It sounds obvious, but wear your heavy shoes and clothing like a big coat (you can use it as a blanket on the plane)…I’ve seen lots of people ignore this rule wasting money and space. Know your airline! For example, Ryanair now allows a second personal piece of luggage like a handbag, backpack or laptop case. If your bag is too big they’ll charge you about fifty quid to put it in the hold. Aer Lingus, on the other hand, will kindly take your oversize hand baggage at the gate, throw it in the hold and it won’t cost you a penny. Remember this kind of stuff when booking, it could make all the difference to your final cost.
Airport parking is so much cheaper when booked in advance! But, if you’ve left it until the last minute and your preferred car park is full or too expensive consider the other options. At Dublin airport, the car parks for terminals 1 and 2 are literally about a 30 second walk from one another, so it’s often the case you’ll get a cheaper parking spot in the other terminal car park yet still be close to where you’re going. Don’t be put off by the long term parking options, the buses are regular and will get you from car to departures usually within about ten minutes and can be much more inexpensive than the short term car parks. Sign up to the newsletter for offers and discounts on parking or enquire about bundle packages if you’re a regular traveller.
Travel by boat is often thought of as a cheaper option to flying, but the deals seem to only extend to foot passengers. When you add on the price of a car to your ferry booking the price can really jump up. A clever way to avoid the extra charges is to hire a car at your destination instead of bringing your own. A quick quote with Irish Ferries and Hertz for a 3 day trip showed a saving of €130 travelling by foot and then picking up a rental car in Holyhead. Nautical attire isn’t essential, but it’d be rude not to…
Travel adaptors might not seem like much of an expense but if you travel a lot and you’re a bit forgetful, like me, the costs can add up. Get one decent universal adaptor that will work in Europe, in UK & Ireland and America and make sure to keep it in your hand luggage. I’ve brought an American adaptor to Austria and only travelled with the European iPhone plug forgetting I had a connection at Heathrow and of course my battery was just about dead, both times I had no choice but to pick up expensive new adaptors to add to the collection I already have at home! Be prepared for delays and the unexpected!
Seat selection is offered as an option on most short flights now at an extra cost. Unless you really need to sit with your travel partners (like if you’re traveling with a baby), risk it for a biscuit and ask nicely at the gate or on board if there are extra seats. This usually works in my favour and I often get to move to the emergency exit seats with extra legroom or almost empty rows down the back. Nothing worse than paying for that 11C you wanted only to be beside an armrest hogger eating cheese & onion crisps, loudly.
Fast track or express lane passes for security usually only cost a few Euro and can save loads of time, so it’s definitely worth it during busy periods if you’re in a rush. Sometimes there are sales people trying to flog these at the connection centre in busy airport terminals and they’ll usually do a deal for a few people (I assume they work on commission). If you’ve got a paper boarding card, you’ll almost always get a fast track sticker which you show to the attendant. KEEP THE STICKER! Sounds obvious, but just peel it off and keep it somewhere safe (like on the plastic part of your passport) until your next trip through the same airport. Crafty.
Priority boarding? I just wouldn’t bother. You aren’t exactly going to arrive at your destination before the rest of the flight, are you?
Currency. We all know holiday money isn’t the same as real money, but it certainly feels real when you get your bank statement the following month. If you need to change a substantial amount of cash, find somewhere that doesn’t charge commission like the Post Office or the Bureau de Change in M&S. Banks and the airport will usually have a worse exchange rate PLUS commission and you’ll be charged each time you use an ATM while away, sometimes by both the provider and your own bank. When buying stuff, point of sale with Visa Debit or your credit card usually offers the lowest charges, but different banks and credit card companies vary wildly so always check T&Cs first.
Alternatively, you can do what I did and max a Visa while on an extended trip to LA with a “I’ll worry about it later” attitude and continue to pay it off for years to come. Either way, either way.