For all the dreamy wanderers like me, who love to travel but can’t afford to, here are some cheats to travel without burning a hole in your pocket.
Yes, there are many of those that are commonly known and yet many aren’t … and no, I am not talking about frequent flyer miles or hotel loyalty points. Not all of us can afford to fly so frequently with the same airline or stay in expensive chain hotels.
This is more about how you can control costs with a little work and a lot of planning.
All ticket fares and room tariffs are lowest if you book more than 8-12 months in advance.
Ofcourse, that is not always possible, so look for the next best option of travelling just before or after the peak demand dates. Eg. – Diwali is a lean period for the Indian hotel industry as most people celebrate the festival at home. But, for airlines, it is still a busy period as most people are flying home to be with their families just before Diwali. Alternately Christmas and New Year are busy periods all over the world. It is after the frenzy and revelry is over, that the hospitality industry notices a sharp decline in demand and the room tariffs are slashed all over in a bid to avoid empty hotels and flights. So, instead of travelling during these major peak periods, book your flights and hotels for dates just after the peak period, and avail of attractive discounts.
Most hotels are at their lowest occupancy levels just before and after city-wide conferences or festivals. Avail of the price advantage by finding out these dates in advance and then booking during the lean periods.
Flights and Hotels
Spend time researching the destination. Find out what is the cheapest way to reach there.
Use low cost carriers, or break your journey down to reduce costs. Often direct flights are higher priced than the ones with stop-overs.
Use airlines that are part of a global alliance or consortia, to be able to transfer points to a domestic or international carrier, as needed. Often banks offer attractive offers and loyalty programs on co-branded credit cards.
Book flights on days that are relatively cheaper than other days. Wednesdays are usually low demand days in airline industry, and hence, flight fares are known to be lower mid-week, as compared to the weekend or at the start of the week.
What do you look for in a hotel room? A good room? Good Food? Good recreational facilities? How about you avail of these but from different providers.
Choose hotels (or alternate accommodation options, like homestays) that provides basic, no frills accommodation. Services like restaurants, room service, laundry etc jack up the tariffs unnecessarily and you can easily avoid that by making your own arrangements for those. A basic, no-frills hotel usually has limited rooms and staff, hence, their costs are low. This helps in getting rooms at a good price, since, room tariffs are low as well. Talk to the owner/manager, ask them to send you details like location and area information, discounted rates, inclusions and real site pictures (and not the one that were professionally shot and edited) Make sure you are getting what you are paying for.
Once you are satisfied with the quality of the hotel, and the responses and attitudes of the management and staff, go ahead and book the cheapest room available.
For our recent family vacation to Kerala, we had deliberately selected a “basic, no-frills” accommodation.
This being an “only rooms” hotel, rooms were swanky, spacious and very clean; but there were no other facilities at all.
Make your own Itinerary
Find out which are the famous and not-so-famous attractions, things to do, places to visit and then look for the most cost-effective ways to reach there. Check roads, distances and routing; and prepare your own list of places to visit as per your liking, instead of booking a private/group tour that has a pre-fixed route.
Read reviews written by travelers of a similar profile as yours, and draw your own conclusions accordingly. If you have children travelling with you, it would do good to read the reviews written by young parents or people who traveled with kids. If you are a keen history buff, you probably would not want to read inaccurate and misleading reviews written by someone who has no interest in history.
Use public transport instead of cabs wherever possible. Not only does it cost cheaper, but also gives you a free city tour and snapshot of the local lifestyle. If you are staying for more than a couple of days, purchase weekly or monthly passes or smart cards. They are refundable and cheaper in the long run. Routes and time schedules are easily available at most Tourist Offices and Information Booths.
Use cheaper modes of transport, to travel within the city.
A taxi may be faster but it would be far more economical to take the bus or ferry that offers an insider’s view of the city.
Food & Beverages
Since you have chosen a hotel that does not have dining options in its premises, you need to find out what are the dining options nearby. Location of your hotel will also play a pivotal role in this. If you choose an area, that is known to be posh and has high-end restaurants that are frequented by the well-heeled, then, the food, even at the smaller cafes and eateries, is bound to be higher priced. Instead choose areas that are relatively cheaper and have ample dining options in the vicinity. This not only provides you a variety of restaurants and cuisines to choose from but also helps keep costs in check.
Since, our hotel at Kerala had popular local eateries and high-end resorts with recreational facilities in the vicinity, we had no dearth of dining and recreational options.
Needless to say, we saved majorly on accommodation and enjoyed the choicest local delicacies at the multitude of local cafes. For Swimming & Spa facilities, we chose whichever hotels offered day-use facilities to non-residential guests. We even got a discount on pool-side snacks and beverages.
Sample the local food and drinks (of course, trying out local delicacies is the best way to experience the local culture), as the abundance availability of local ingredients would make them cheaper than the exotic, imported ingredients available internationally.
Sight-Seeing and City Tours
Avail of additional discounts, by opting for last minute group tours (seat-in-coach), wherever possible. These are not pre-booked but instead have on-the-spot bookings. If they have a seat available, you would usually get it at an attractive discount.You would need to know of these before hand, and reach there in time to ensure a vacant seat. If not, use public transport or self-drive option to reach there yourself.
Find out the most popular attractions and then look for their cheaper alternatives; compare the entry ticket prices and the transportation costs. Choose the one that offers a similar experience at half the cost than the more popular ones. Often a lesser known art gallery closer to your hotel, may be a better option than the world famous one across the city.
A lot of tourist cities have flexible City Tours like the Big Bus at London or HoHo Buses at Delhi. The tickets are valid for 24 hours or 48 hours, and you can get off or get on at any number of stops on the route. You can spend as much time as you want on any particular attraction without a tour leader hurrying you up. Not only does it offer a lot of flexibility but also makes sense cost-wise, since you can travel anywhere in the city till the validity of the ticket.
Do you have more such tips and tricks to share? What ingenious ways have you used to keep costs in control while travelling? Share your inputs below. We would love to hear from you.
Photographs used in this post have been clicked by the Author and usage and reproduction of same without prior permission is prohibited.