Haven’t been able to afford a holiday abroad this year? It’s not too late – and you probably don’t need as much money as you think you do. Whether you’re looking to take the whole family, go with friends, escape with your partner or travel solo, here are some tips for a vacation abroad on a shoestring.
Timing is everything
The peak of summer is often the most popular time to go on holiday. Prices will be more expensive for flights and hotels. By going out of season, you can usually grab some good deals. May and September are both ideals for a cheaper holiday in which you’re still guaranteed sun. You also won’t have to deal with the crowds.
December is usually an expensive time to go away because many people will be flying away or flying home for Christmas. You should also look out for holidays that clash with big events (for example, going to China during Chinese New Year or going to a Caribbean island when Carnival is on) as prices will be more expensive then too.
For individual flights, you may also be able to save money by booking on weekdays or at unsociable times such as early morning or late at night.
Avoid popular tourist destinations
If you haven’t got your heart set on one particular place, it could be worth trying out a country that isn’t your standard tourist hotspot. Such destinations are generally much cheaper. For example, instead of Bali, why not try Vietnam or Cambodia. Instead of Paris or Venice, why not try Prague or Budapest. Instead of the Caribbean, why not give a Central American destination a go.
You’ll still be able to find a pool resort or a classy hotel – in fact, you’re likely to get more luxury for your money than you would opting for a popular destination.
Consider an extended weekend away
If you can’t afford to take a whole week’s holiday, why not opt for an extended weekend away? This could be four days away – Friday to Monday. Many hotels and resorts offer weekend away deals for couples that could be nice for a short break. Obviously, you won’t want to be travelling too far as you could lose half the holiday to flights and jetlag.
Break up long-haul flights
If you’re planning on travelling far afield, you can sometimes cut the cost by as much as half by breaking up the flight. For example, rather than taking a direct flight from New York to London, it could be cheaper to go from New York to Iceland and then Iceland to London. You may end up waiting in an airport for a couple hours, but the inconvenience is likely to be worth the costs. Always check the time between flights when opting for this route – an hour between flights could be too risky, especially if the first flight ends up being delayed. Sometimes a longer stop gap can offer more assurance.
Package deals vs Planning your own itinerary
Which is cheaper – opting for a package deal or planning your own itinerary? It depends. Sometimes a holiday company will be able to offer you an all-inclusive deal which includes flights, hotel, transfers, food and maybe even a free bar. This could be a deal exclusive to that holiday company that you won’t be able to beat anywhere else. However, in some cases, it may actually work out cheaper to shop around for your own hotel, flights and transfers. This latter option is a lot of hassle, which is why most people don’t bother, but those that have the patience can sometimes tailor their own very cheap getaway – particularly if it’s a non-traditional tourist destination. You should use comparison sites and try ringing up multiple companies to get quotes. You may find that certain companies advertise deals that are too good to be true. Upon ringing up, you’ll usually find that they are – transfers or luggage may not be included, which when added may make a previously good deal not so attractive.
Don’t park at the airport
If you’re planning on driving to the airport, think widely before parking there. Airport parking can be extortionate. Occasionally, you can save money by booking a car parking space a few months beforehand – but there is a multitude of other ways that could be cheaper.
For example, there could be a town or village near the airport where you can park your car for cheap, or even for free. You could then get a taxi or a bus from this local settlement to the airport – this is likely to save you a huge amount. There are sites now in which homeowners can rent out their driveway for cheap. This could be another option for finding affordable parking nearby.
Alternatively, you could skip driving to the airport entirely and take public transport. This might not always be cheaper, especially if you’re taking a taxi. An even cheaper option could be to get a lift off of a friend or family member. Even if you have to pay them some petrol money, it’ll be far cheaper than any other approach.
Beware of flight extras
When shopping around for flights, be wary of budget airlines. They usually make up for it by trying to sell you as many add-ons as possible. This may include meals, fast boarding, extra legroom and late check-in fees. Some of these airlines will charge you extra for any baggage you take in the hold. Be careful of falling trap to expensive baggage costs – if you can share large luggage or fit items in your hand luggage, you could save having to pay this hefty hidden cost.
Research the cheapest way to convert your cash
Before converting your currency at the bank or post office, do some research into conversion methods, you may be able to save money on the transfer cost. Often you can compare conversion costs online. You can then choose to pick up the money or get ordered to your house (take into account the postal fee of ordering it).
Transferring your money at the airport generally, isn’t advised. That said, you may be able to save money by converting your cash once you get to your destination.
You should also look into pre-loaded currency cards. Every time you pay using this card, you won’t have to pay a transfer fee unlike using your regular card.
Avoid paying in your own currency if you can, even if most places accept it. Sellers will generally charge more for paying in US dollars, although they may make out that you’re paying the same price, particularly in less developed countries.
Avoid city centre accommodation
If you’re taking a city break and booking your own accommodation, avoid city centres. A hotel in the centre of Sydney could be five times more than one on the outskirts. You will have to get public transport into the centre, but it will still be far cheaper than staying in the heart of the city.
No fine dining
Okay, so maybe once or twice. However, you don’t want to be fine dining every night otherwise you’ll spend a fortune.
All inclusive hotels can save this cost. You may also be able to save money by booking somewhere with your own kitchen. Shopping at a local supermarket and cooking your own meals will be much cheaper than eating out in most places in the world.
If you are looking to eat out on the cheap, consider street food and simple cafes. Avoid the popular dining areas too, there may be cheaper restaurants in the back streets that have just as decent food.
Plan your transport
In many cases, you may have to plan how you’re getting around when you’re there. A hire car will be cheaper if you book ahead. Don’t automatically go with hire car services at the airport – another company nearby may be able to pick you up from the airport and take you to the hire car centre.
If you’re getting public transport, also look into local transport deals, especially if you’re going to a city. Some cities may have discount public transport cards for tourists allowing you to use buses, trains and ferries for a cheaper rate.
When is it ok to take out a loan?
You may be considering borrowing money to pay for a holiday. However, this should be a last resort – you’ll only resent the holiday afterwards with each loan payment. That said, if you’ve paid a deposit and suddenly disaster strikes and you can’t afford the remainder, this can be a good time where a payday loan can be useful. Similarly, if the holiday is booked and you’re short of spending money, it could be worth taking out a small loan then too.
Don’t dismiss travel insurance
It may initially seem worth taking the gamble and not paying for travel insurance. However, if disaster does strike and you lose your baggage or have to pay for medical costs, you’ll wish you paid those extra few dollars. Shop around for travel insurance and you should be able to get it for a very cheap rate.
Hopefully, this was helpful for you and you can use some of the advice!
Until next post!