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 make a hefty dent on your bank balance. These money saving travel tips are intended to help prevent you 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.
Money saving travel tips: Flights
Booking flights can be a bit stressful, you look up your dates and they seem reasonable. But you wait. Your bf/friend/sister is waiting to find out if they can get time off work/get paid.
“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, she’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.
So how to save money on flight tickets? What about the best time to book?
According to travel search engine KAYAK.ie, Irish travellers can save up to 56% by booking flights at the right time. Their data should help you save money on airfare with some useful booking hacks;
- The best time to buy tickets to London is two months prior to departure, while for most other destinations it pays to plan 3-6 months ahead
- Travellers can save up to 61% on hotel booking by knowing when to time their reservations
- Biggest savings for both flights and hotels to New York City come when booking in the final one to two months before travelling
- More planning is needed in order to score savings to other popular long-haul destinations – with flights to Bangkok and Las Vegas offering their best deals when booked 5 months in advance
- The largest savings for Barcelona and Faro can be made when booking six months ahead of departure
Money saving travel tips: At the airport
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 spend more that you would on a lounge visit. Prices start from around €25pp (in Dublin airport) and include wifi (that won’t lock you out after 45 minutes), newspapers and magazines (not just the free ones), snacks like crackers and cheese, crisps, nuts, biscuits, fruit, sometimes hot food, tea and coffee, soft drinks and of course wine, beer and spirits. Bubbles are usually extra!
If you’re traveling with kids, lots allow 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 without having to listen to constant announcements.
If you travel a lot, a Priority Pass is well worth it. You buy a yearly membership that give you access to over 1,000 lounges in 500 cities across 130 countries, regardless of airline or ticket type. I’ve got the Standard Plus plan which costs €249 and allows ten free visits a year, plus I can bring in a pal for €24. (Drop me a DM if you want to get 10% off your membership).
Money saving travel tips: 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! They have a price promise too – “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. This credit card sized Clarins eye shadow palette I picked up in Dublin airport was the best €15 I ever spent and the only one that ever travels with me.
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 are drinking water fountains dotted around the terminal, plus the cabin crew should be able to fill ‘er up on board longer flights too. I’m never without one of these double insulated bottles since discovering them last summer. They keep liquids cold for 24 hours and hot for 12. And they’re not exclusively for water, if you know what I mean #wineoclock
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, or even adding on after you’ve already booked. 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, as it stands, Ryanair allow a second personal piece of luggage like a handbag, backpack or laptop case. These rules are constantly changing, so keep an eye on the emails popping up in your inbox for updates and avoid excess baggage costs.
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 one or two minute 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
Consider travelling from Ireland to France by ferry and taking your own car, instead of flying and hiring a rental when you land. Costs can add up when you factor in insurance etc. Brittany Ferries have deals starting at €66pp each way (based on four sharing a car and cabin) from Cork to Roscoff. Bonus – you don’t need to worry about baggage allowance, another way to save money travelling by car!
…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, UK & Ireland and America and make sure to keep it in your hand luggage. If you’ve got a spare charging cable for your phone, leave that in there too! Previously, I’ve brought the wrong adaptor and had no choice but to pick up expensive new one at the airport. Avoid that with one of these…
Usually 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 kids), risk it for a biscuit and ask nicely at the gate or on board if there are extra seats. This whole thing about getting the middle seat unless you pay for allocation is BS. Nothing worse than paying for that 11C you wanted only to be beside an armrest hogger eating cheese & onion crisps, loudly.
…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. Booking Fast Track in Dublin Airport will also get you 10% off your shopping in The Loop! 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).
Priority boarding? It depends. You aren’t exactly going to arrive at your destination before the rest of the flight, are you? Since Ryanair have done away with unassigned seating, I really can’t see the draw. Although, recently, they’ve changed the rules regarding baggage for priority customers. Again, it’s different with each airline and the regulations are always being modified.
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. The exchange rate in some banks and the airport usually isn’t the best, plus you’ll be charged commission. Check the T&Cs with your bank for using ATMs while away versus how much it’ll cost to use your card to pay for stuff. Sometimes contactless comes with an extra fee. It’s worth checking credit card rates too, they often offer extra insurance on purchases.
Don’t leave home without it, but make sure you’re getting a good deal. I always choose multi-trip rather than individual policies, it works out much cheaper. Expect to pay about €75 for an annual worldwide travel insurance policy for unlimited trips with winter sports cover included. I’ve just renewed through SuperValu’s Real Rewards programme, earning 500 points for something I was going to buy anyway!
If you get sick while abroad, you don’t want to be stuck without travel insurance for costly medical bills. In addition to your own private policy, make sure you have the free European Health Insurance Card (more details here) for travel in Europe. It entitles you to necessary healthcare in the public system of any EU / EEA member state. You need both as few countries will cover all medical costs and you’ll also likely need help with extra accommodation or travel costs.
I hope you’ve found my money saving travel tips helpful. Please leave a comment if you have any questions! If you’re heading off long haul, you’ll want to read my no nonsense guide to beating jet lag before you go.