August is a big month for travel. People from around the world use the end of summer as an excuse to take last-minute vacations with their families before the school season begins and the cold weather returns. Europe practically shuts down as people take the month off to travel. So there is no better way to start August with some great travel tips to make your vacation go a bit easier, more enjoyable, and a lot cheaper:
1. When booking flights, sometimes it is cheaper to fly into airports other than your final destination, and then take a train or bus. This is especially true during peak travel season or festivals. For my recent flight to Valencia, the cheapest flight was $700 (with 2 stops) as everyone is traveling there for La Tomatina. Even Ryanair was $200 to fly just from London. However, it was only $550 to fly into Madrid and then another $50 to take the train. I saved myself $100 USD and 6 hours in layover time getting to Valencia before I would have otherwise.
2. Always get behind business travelers when in security lines. Families have more stuff and move much slower. Frequent fliers know exactly how to move through that line quickly and have everything ready even before they grab the x-ray machine tray. I also try to avoid older travelers because they always seem to forget the liquid rule.
3. Always find out what type of plane you are flying on so you know how nice the seats and amenities are as not all planes are created equal. For example, American Airlines MD-80s have wi-fi installed, but as of right now, smaller Boeing planes do not. Newer versions of planes also tend to have more leg room and nicer seats. Not all aircraft have personal TV screens either. When booking your flight, the airlines will tell you what kind of plane you are flying on and you can check its quality at the site Seat Guru, which lets you know the amenities and configurations of every plane out there. No one wants to be on a long flight in an old plane.
Find out more about airline tickets at my in depth article on how to get a cheap flight.
4. If you like hotels, last-minute deals on Priceline or Hotwire can get you rooms over 60% off the normal price. You can bid for your rooms and if you decide to do this, use the website Better Bidding to see what others have bid on recently so you don’t overbid. I got a room in Times Square during the Christmas season for $90 USD per night this way. That is a steal. You don’t need to be a member of the forums in order to see the bids other people placed but you do need to be a member to post on the forum.
5. When you check in to the hotel, ask for an upgrade. Tourism is very bad right now and you are much more likely to get free upgrades and goodies just by asking. They want to keep customers happy and have them go home recommending them to others. Use that to your advantage.
6. If you are traveling with 3-4 people, consider getting a suite. Couches usually fold out into beds making that Priceline/Hotwire negotiated room even cheaper. Four of us split a king suite in a 4 star hotel in Chicago for $50 each per night.
7. If you are in a city for a week or more, renting a furnished apartment can be cheaper than a hotel. You can find a lot of great rented apartments through websites like AirBnB, Wimdu, Home Away, and 9Flats. You’ll be renting out people’s apartments and they are always cheaper than a Hilton plus come with a kitchen so you can cook your food and lower your expenses more. I’ve written more about this style of travel here.
8. You can also use sites like Couchsurfing and Hospitality Club to stay with locals for free. I love these sites. I’ve used Couchsurfing close to a dozen times and have had nothing but good interactions on the sites. Not only is it a great site for getting an inexpensive place to stay but you get to hang out with locals and learn about the city in a way no guidebook could ever teach you.
9. Most hostels offer private rooms that are cheaper than hotels. You will have your own bathroom, new sheets each day, free Wi-Fi, and sometimes even a T.V. In New York, my private hostel room was $80 per night. The closest one star hotel in the area (Central Park) cost $120 and did not include wi-fi (but probably some bed bugs).
10. Always visit the local tourist office and get a tourism card. Local tourism offices (think London Tourism, Paris Tourism, New York Tourism, etc) issue cards for all their attractions, tours, and some restaurants. This card gives you free entry or substantial discounts on all the attractions and tours in a city, free local public transportation (a huge plus), and discounts at a few restaurants. By buying the Paris museum pass, I saved $85 USD off the normal price of the museums. Most major cities around the world offer these.
11. Libraries, Starbucks, and most cafes have free wi-fi. Instead of being stuck having to pay for Internet access, go to one of these spots.
12. Lunch time is the best time to visit historical sites. Tour groups always head to places in the early morning or late afternoon, but around 1 pm, they break for lunch, leaving much shorter lines for major attractions. Conversely, if you are an early riser, you can be the first one in line and beat the wait time.
13. Never eat in a tourist area – the food will be half as good and twice the price. This is a simple enough tip, but one often forgotten by people. Just walk three blocks in any direction and you’ll find cheaper and more local restaurants. Getting off La Ramblas in Barcelona, my friends and I found this tapas restaurant where we ate like kings for 7 Euros each, about half as much as it would have cost on La Ramblas.
14. Locals don’t eat out every night and neither should you. Visit the local supermarket to see what the local palate is like and cook yourself a nice dinner. If you don’t have a kitchen where you are staying, hit the markets and make yourself some sandwiches for a picnic in the park.
15. Eat at expensive restaurants during lunch. Most restaurant offer lunch specials much cheaper than those on the normal dinner menu. This is especially prevalent in Europe. I’ve also found great lunch deals in restaurants in Singapore and Australia. You get a set menu but what you lack in choice, you make up in savings. Don’t know where to go? Don’t look in the guidebook. Ask your hostel or hotel staff.
Check out my article on how to eat cheap food when you travel for more tips.
When you plan your next holiday, remember some of these tips. Traveling doesn’t have to be a time consuming and expensive process. It should be easy, cheap, and, most importantly, fun.