I made an impulse purchase the other day. But then what else will happen when I find an Amsterdam round-trip flight for Rs. 19000 (~$280)? It sounds too good to be true, doesn’t it? I like finding ways to travel cheap as much as the next person, and I don’t lose the opportunity when it presents itself to me.
I was in Italy a couple of months ago, and have made a few smaller trips since then, but the itch to get out again is back, and it’s stronger than ever. Hey, there’s a beautiful world out there calling me, I’ve got to go!
I keep getting asked how I manage to travel so much, given that I work a 9-to-5 (if not 9-to-9) job in Mumbai. How do I get so much leave? Where do I find the money? Do I travel cheap? How? So, I decided to pen it down here, as a ready reference. This list is based on the experiences I have had over the past couple of years, so if you’re reading this, I hope it helps you plan the most amazing trip ever!
Here you go! Here’s how you can travel smart, AND travel cheap!
Credit cards can really be a godsend
Really! There are so many credit cards out there that have so many great offers related to travel! It’s amazing how much you can save by investing in a good credit card. Some of these come as cobranded cards, tying up with airlines or booking aggregators; some are airline agnostic with a strong rewards program linked. I’ve been using one such card for a couple of years now, and taking it was a smart move. I got a bunch of miles when I took the card, and it’s helped me travel cheap to a LOT of destinations! I saved up miles for about a year and got a considerable discount when I booked my tickets to Italy.
Another awesome thing about cards is that banks keep rolling out offers across vendors. Cashbacks, discounts, rewards, it keeps coming! You’ve just got to keep an eye and ear out for these offers (keep checking your email) and use them as and when they roll around. How else did I get the Amsterdam tickets?
Travel booking aggregators do come out with some decent offers now and then. Airlines offer cashback and discounts via aggregator apps. Another unique aspect is these guys offer their own version of ecash, which can be redeemed on bookings. Sometimes, the ecash comes with a validity, but if you really want to save, go ahead and plan your travel a little bit in advance!
Work your dates, people!
One of my favourite things to do is keep travel booking websites open on a different browser, so whenever I need a break, I just Alt+Tab over to it and browse around.
Plan your travel dates, but leave a little room to move things around.
Fun Fact: Did you know Friday evenings, Saturday mornings, Sunday nights and Monday morning flights are THE most expensive? Demand and supply, folks! Try for a little flexibility in and around, and it WILL help you travel cheap.
While we love to make the most of our off days, saving a little on your flights will count for spending a little more while you’re traveling! I saved about Rs. 8000 (~$117) by booking a weekday onward and return to and from Rome. That’s like 2 days of BEING in Italy for me!
Another important aspect of planning is WHEN you’re booking your tickets. I mean the day you actually sit to make the booking. Try to avoid booking on weekends, because that’s when EVERYONE is doing it and airlines will hike up their prices. I’ve noticed that Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons are better times to book. Site traffic is lower and hence, so are the prices!
And speaking of dates..
Not all of us have quit our job to travel. A lot of us have what a lot of people call a ‘proper’ job, one that requires us to report in a glass structure every day five days a week. Then how does one get leave?
This is a question I get asked every time I take off on a trip. Here it is – keep your eyes and ears peeled for long weekends. And plan in advance.
Friday’s an off because it’s a festival? Great, take 4 days of the week off, add the weekends, and get a good 9 days! Two national holidays in a week? Take the other 3 days off and buy yourself 9 days! It doesn’t hurt to sound off your boss about how important travel is to you, so maybe, just maybe, you can get a good 2 to 3 weeks off as well 🙂
I won’t lie to you, traveling is expensive. But there are ALWAYS ways and means to save, you just need to be smart about it. I’ve got a whole piece on Travel and MONEY – making, using and saving, which will answer all your questions on how you can plan, save, and budget your finances to travel cheap.
While I LOVE luxury (who doesn’t?), I prefer to save on accommodation because I only need it for all of 8 hours! There’s no dearth of cheap accommodation and travel options out there. I’m not too fussy about where I stay – it should be safe, connected and conform to an acceptable standard of comfort (no dirty bathrooms please!!).
Another really important thing for me is food. I’m a complete foodie. I like to try everything once and not deprive myself, but food and drink is expensive. So how do I strike that balance? Simple! Street food! The local nosh is best when sampled right off the streets. Super easy to find, outstandingly delicious and so reasonable!
So, that’s my 2 cents on the ‘how’s’ of booking your trip, and I think it covers the basics! What do you think? Need to know anything more? Leave a question in the comments below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get back to you as soon as I can!
If any of you are planning long-term travel, and are looking for hacks to travel cheap, I’d say hop on over to Nomadic Matt’s blog.