First and foremost, I just wanted to thank everyone for the support on my Daily Mail article. I never imagined my story would inspire so many of you, but I’m so excited to hear that I’ve encouraged you all to get out there and see the world. To help you on your way even more so, this post is all about how to save when booking trips. After this one, I’ll be doing another on how to save once you’re there, and a final savings guide to follow in your daily life. Without further ado…
I’m one of those people that has to have absolutely everything planned to a T. As in, if you ask me what I’m doing at 15:31 on May 31st 2018, I’ll tell you I’ll be packing for my next trip to Mallorca. Yeh, really. Besides being an absolute control freak, there’s good reason for booking trips so far ahead: saving. Try and book as far ahead as humanly possible to save money on flights and hotels- they usually have advance deals so you’ll end up spending a lot less than you would if you wait around.
2. Keep your eyes pealed for deals
If you didn’t already know, I booked my trip to the Maldives on Black Friday. I’m not sure exactly how much this saved us, but I’d estimate around £1000-£1500 on the flights and hotel. Similarly, I booked my flights to Italy during Ryanair’s 24 hour Brexit sale and bagged a return to Rome from London for £120 each in peak season (August). Takeaway: always be on the lookout for flash sales. I’ll be doing a blog post soon including the dates of all the best travel sales to bookmark, so don’t worry if you’re not aware of any.
3. Don’t dismiss flight layovers
Direct flights can cost up to £400 more than if you take 1 or 2 stops elsewhere en route. Obviously this only applies to long haul trips, and if you’d rather get somewhere quickly then the cost of a direct journey can be worth it, but layovers mean you’ll also get to see another part of the world. When we visited Bali, we had a stop in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It wasn’t long enough for us to see much of the country (1.5 hours), but we saved approx. £380 on flights. The same with the Maldives- instead of flying direct to Male, we stopped over in Qatar. If we had the time, we would have chosen longer layovers so we could experience more of each country, but saving was our main driving force.
4. Don’t be fussy when it comes to overnight flights
They’re way cheaper than flying during the day. When I say way cheaper, I mean overnight flights that leave after 6pm (and are ideally midweek), can save you up to £500 return. Super early morning flights can be cheaper, too- I flew to Italy on a 6am flight and will be doing the same for my trip to Copenhagen next month. Back to flying overnight- it can cause jet lag, but all you need is a light workout and a nap and you’re good to go. It’s a small price to pay when you’re saving hundreds.
5. Mix and match flights
I book every single flight with SkyScanner. Not only does it compare airlines for you, it also combines trips with different airlines to make it cheaper for you. For example, you might fly outbound with British Airways and back with Norwegian Air. Similarly, I often fly out from one London airport i.e. Stansted and back to another i.e. Gatwick. It’s not always convenient (you won’t be able to park at the outbound hotel if you’re not going back to the same one), but it can save a lot of money.
6. Take advantage of hotel deals
Hotels.com Rewards Night scheme offers 1 night free when you stay for 10 nights. A lot of hotel providers do a similar thing, so you might want to think twice about moving around a lot when it comes to longer trips. This is most applicable to luxury resorts, but it can apply to more budget accommodation too. Do your research beforehand and make sure you manually check- not all hotels make their deals known so you might need to play around with the duration of stay you’ve selected before you are notified of the deal.
7. Be aware of when you travel
Basically, avoid peak season like the plague. This applies to whatever months Google tells you to visit the country in question, but also to school holidays (July and August) and bank holidays. I only have 25 days holiday a year, so sometimes bank holidays are the only way for me to travel more and I have to splurge (I make sure I book as far ahead as possible when this is the case), but otherwise I try and avoid peak times. I know what you’re thinking- but the weather won’t be as good?! What about hurricane season?! I’d never travel in hurricane season, but when it comes to destinations like South East Asia I tend to overlook weather advice since it’s hit and miss all year long, and chances are the majority will be nice. When you travel a lot you’re never guaranteed to get perfect weather 24/7, and- touch wood- I haven’t regretted taking a risk with the weather to date.
8. Consider credit card rewards and air mile programmes
Here are a few of the best:
Amex Preffered Rewards Gold card: 20,000 free points when you spend £2000 in the first three months. That’s enough for two short-haul return flights to Paris or Amsterdam.
British Airways Amex: 5,000 Avios points when you spend £1000 in the first three months.
Lloyds Avios: Spend £7000 in a year and earn one return flight or two one-way flight upgrades on flights paid for with Avios points.
I’m signed up to Norwegian Air’s Frequent Flyer Program which rewards you with CashPoints every time you buy flights/hotels with the airline. 349 CashPoints will get you a one way ticket to Oslo, or Paris with 649.
9. Book with budget airlines and sign up to price alerts
10. Look for new luxury hotel openings
If there’s one thing I’m going to splurge on, it’s hotels- I always stay in luxury resorts and I truly believe it’s well worth it. A bit of research into new luxury hotel openings will get you amazing resorts at a much lower cost than those that have been around for a while. Googling ‘new luxury hotel openings’ is an easy way to go about it, but if there are certain chains you’ve used before, their sites will also promote newly opened destinations. For example, I recently stayed at an Alila hotel in Seminyak, and will be staying at their new resort in Vietnam at a discounted price when it opens in November.
11. Use Tripadvisor to compare hotel prices
I swear by Tripadvisor. When I’m not using it for reviews, I use it to compare prices across hotel providers. It searches over 200 sites to find the best prices, and it really does. I’ve booked every single (and I mean, every single) hotel through Tripadvisor. It saves so much time, too.
12. Don’t fall into the package trap
People think package holidays are the way to go, but booking separate flights and hotels has always saved me money. Package providers tend to take a profit for themselves, which in turn increases the cost. It might seem like an extra hassle to coordinate flights and hotel check-ins and transfers yourself, but it will save you a lot of cash. Just make sure your outbound flight arrives at the destination at a time that won’t leave you hanging around for hours before you can check into your hotel. The same applies for when you’ll need to check out of the hotel, and when your returning flight will leave.
13. Avoid unnecessary frills
For me, this mostly applies to flights. As I’ve said, I prefer to splurge on luxury in the shape of hotels and resorts over flights if I’m on a budget, so here are a few things to remember otherwise:
Avoid in-flight meals– bring your own!
Avoid hotel transfers– use public transport i.e. trains/trams/local taxis, rather than transfers provided by the airline or hotel as they’ll usually include unnecessary luxuries.
Don’t pay for flight seat selection– myself and my boyfriend never select seats. Airlines will suggest you do so when you check in, but 9 times out of 10, we are sat next to a lone traveller who is happy to swap and we end up sitting together anyway.
Check in online– some airlines will charge you if you forget and arrive to check in on the day.
Don’t purchase hold luggage if you don’t need to– unless I’m going away for more than a week, I will only take a cabin bag. This saves me around £60 (£30 each way).
Pay for your own travel insurance– don’t use your airline or hotel- use GoCompare, and make sure you only get the very basic package. If you book early, this will only set you back around £10 for a week’s trip in the EU or £15 outside of the EU.
Pay for flights and hotels with a debit card– using a credit card will cost more. The only reason we’d do this is if my boyfriend uses his credit card in a bid to get more points that we can convert into air miles (see above).
Don’t select hotel rooms with free cancellation– some hotels will offer you the same room at an increased price to cover cancellation costs. If you’re sure you’re not going to cancel, choose the cheaper option without cancellation cover.
Don’t select frilly hotel rooms– sea view rooms are always more expensive than the other options- as are suites, but if you’re travelling out of peak season, hotels are usually happy to offer you a nicer room option if it’s available (and you ask politely). I’ve been upgraded four times on trips this year just from asking once I arrived at the resort, or emailing a week ahead.
Hope that helps! Let me know if there’s anything else you’d like to know!