Travel Hacks – Travel Smarter & Better
Who doesn’t love travel hacks!
If you enter a search for travel hacks you will be met with long lists of all sorts of things – everything from turning left at security instead of right to avoid the queues, to how to travel for free by couchsurfing and much more.
Whilst I love a good travel hack and I could spend hours reading about the latest bits of travel tech and luggage my favourite travel hacks tend to be around things that make travelling a bit easier and more comfortable.
Over the years I have tried all sorts of luggage, bags to organise my work stuff and I think I have tried every single device to try and help you sleep more comfortably on a plane (and still failed miserably!).
However, as years have gone by I have learned that less is more when it comes to travelling, so one of the best travel hacks is knowing what you don’t need as well as what you do (yes I will be covering that in the future too!)
Whilst having good travel gear and gadgets can be really helpful on a trip, my top 10 list of travel essentials actually only contains one app! You may be surprised by the contents but it is based on the most common problems that I see guests experience when taking them on tours all over the world. Why not check it out here.
As I said my favourite travel hacks are about making travel a little easier – think of them as insider secrets or shortcuts.
One of my favourite little travel hacks is a plane seat hack.
It’s very simple but it can make all the difference when flying, particularly on longer haul flights. It also makes you a very considerate fellow passenger.
For now that me start with some hacks on how to save money when you are travelling, helping you to get the most from that precious travel budget. Squeezing more out of your money means there is more money to spend on more trips!
Money Saving Travel Hacks
1. Know What You Want to Do and What You Don’t
Planning is a great way to save money and that applies equally to planning a holiday as it does to planning your meals and your shopping list.
There is simply no point booking a holiday if it includes a number of things you aren’t interested in or don’t want to visit.
Many people I meet on holiday are happy to turn up and just see what happens. This can often lead to frustration and disappointment when the holiday is different to that which they imagined, meaning it can turn out to be a waste of money.
When planning a holiday think about the things that are most important to you. Are there particular things that you absolutely must see, visit or do?
Once you have this information then you can think about where you want to stay. You can then make decisions on location and cost based on travelling distance and time to those must do activities. It may well be cheaper to stay at a slightly more expensive hotel with a better location than to stay somewhere that requires quite a lot of travelling but is much cheaper for example.
As a coach holiday expert one of the most common problems I see is that guests are simply unaware of the detail of their itinerary. They have looked at the brochure or the online details and then formed a picture of the holiday which can turn out to be quite different because of the amount of travelling involved for example.
Another common coach holiday issue is booking a holiday that doesn’t suit pace wise – it’s either too slowly paced with too much free time for some guests or there is too little free time. Again some pre trip research can help with this.
A particular point to consider with coach holidays is optional excursions. If there is something on the trip that you absolutely want to see or do and it involves taking an optional excursion then you need to think about how you might do it if there aren’t enough booking for the optional tour to run for example. I have seen guests trying to persuade others on a tour to take an optional tour because it’s something they really want to do themselves and that’s not a nice situation to be in.
Of course there is a balance to planning – you may not want to allocate an activity to every minute of your holiday but being clear about what you want to do will help you filter out activities you don’t and saving spending your time and money on these unneccesarily.
When planning a trip myself I generally plan around a few key things that I want to see, do or visit. I then have some other things that I would like to do if I have time, just so I don’t end up trying to plan things while I am away. This provides me with me with plenty of time to focus on the main things I want to see, visit or do without worrying about fitting too much in.
I then have some options if I need some ideas or I can do something that I learn about locally while I am there.
When it comes to planning less is definitely more. I often meet guests who are trying to plan so much into their holiday that they feel nothing but pressure. Trying to do everything is, in my experience, a sure way to enjoy nothing.
2. Book A Bargain
Knowing how find a good deal is of course a great way to save money.
One of the ways I find flight bargains is by reverse searching, flying through hubs and putting trips together based on cheap flight routes. This can be a great way to find places to visit and your itinerary is built around the cheapest flights which of course saves you money. If you want to see everything I do to bag a flight bargain check out my cheap flights page which includes a free Ebook of all the steps for easy reference.
Of course you will also need somewhere to stay and bagging a cheap hotel is also another great money saving travel hack. Again all the information on how I find great priced hotel deals is on my cheap hotels page.
However, booking things yourself is not always the cheapest option. Packages can sometimes be cheaper. If you are looking at a package then it is worth checking to see if you can book it cheaper yourself, and if you are booking yourself it is worth checking to see if a package is cheaper.
I have found some great package bargains that I have been unable to beat by booking separately. These have included 4 nights in Alicante in a 4 star hotel with flights for £200 and 4 nights in a 4 star Portugal suite with flights for £200 for example.
Here are some of my favourite places for package deals and bargains.
Travelzoo has all sorts of deals and bargains and covers everything from days out to UK hotels, escorted tours, cruises and more. They have a regular email featuring their Top 20 which I used to help give me ideas for cheap trips. The website has lots more options available included and at time of writing has lots of fully refundable voucher deals and trips into 2022.
Easyjet has some good deals on it’s website. It takes a bit of time to find deals that might suit your budget.
The good thing about Easyjet Holidays is there are plenty of different flight options given the number of airports they fly from.
Holiday Pirates is a great website to find deals. They have good search options with the ability to search by temperature which is a neat feature.
They have also added a staycation part to their website with deals for the UK.
I often compare the prices of booking these packaged or buying separately and it is amazing how many times a package can work out significantly cheaper.
3. Spend on Important Things
It is easy to spend lots of money when travelling, booking tourist passes, booking lots of tours, upgrading seats on flights and much much more.
Once you have decided the most important things you want to see, visit and do that can help to prioritise spending including spending more on a hotel if it gives you easier and cheaper access to something you want to see or do.
Flight upgrades can often sound tempting as an example. However, when you calculate the cost over the number of hours flown the value can seem very different. Sometimes it can be better value to upgrade on shorter flights.
Room upgrades are another example of where you need to think about the value you are getting. One hotel group offers upgraded rooms which give a free tea or coffee during the stay, plus access to the gym. However, these might not be worth the extra payment if you are planning on being out most days and actually work out an expensive upgrade.
4. Paying To Make Things Easier
Sometimes when travelling spending a little more money is worth it because it makes things easier.
A good example is a booking a hotel near the action – whether this be near the main sightseeing areas or near something specific you want to see or visit. It may even just be booking a hotel near a public transport connection such as a tram or underground line so you can travel quickly to where you want to visit.
Another example might be a transfer from the airport to your hotel. Sometimes this can be quite tricky to arrange on public transport and a transfer might be the quickest and easiest way to get between the two points. This can be especially true if you have travelled on a longer flight and are feeling tired, or you are on a layover between two flights for example.
An airport lounge pass is another example of making regular travelling a little easier, and perhaps a little more pleasant too. It’s easy to calculate the cheapest way to access an airport lounge depending on the number of trips and where you are flying to an from.
As a Professional Traveller a lounge pass is something of an essential – allowing me to work while at the airports, and also enjoy a bit of a quieter space which helps me be less of a nervous flyer.
5. Good Value – Not the Cheapest Not the Most Expensive
When planning travel cheaper options may involve some sort of compromise.
This may be a compromise about the time your flight departs, resulting in arriving before rooms are ready or arriving very late for example. A cheaper hotel might be located further away from places you want to visit, resulting in more time spent travelling.
On the flipside a more expensive hotel might need more budget than you wanted to spend or it might simply have lots of things included that you don’t necessarily plan on using – spa facilities, breakfasts, porterage, in room dining, on site restaurants etc.
One of the important things to consider when travelling is the value of your time. When you are travelling it is easy to work out the cost of your time because you can calculate the cost of your travel and accommodation for being there. As such a 5 day trip that has a £100 flight and a £400 hotel cost means it costs you £100 per day to visit. If you have to spend 1 hour travelling each way to get to the city centre for example then that is going to ‘cost’ you £25, based on an 8 hour day of sightseeing and activities (£100 daily cost divided by 8 hours = £12.50 per hour x 2 =£25).
6. Use Local Transport
Using local transport can be a great way to save money and it can also be a great way to experience a bit more of the local culture and daily life.
Sometimes there are some great local transport options to get to and from airports. The new Ataturk airport in Istanbul has a very cheap bus service that links it with the city centre, with a transfer costing around £3 using one of the local travel cards. The buses are running while the tram line is being built.
On a trip to Baku I travelled all over the city with a local card and it cost around £5.
In Edinburgh you can buy an all day ticket which works on all the buses, trams and trains in a certain area for £4. This covers going out to places such as Rosslyn Chapel which takes about an hour so again is great value. In my experience local people and drivers are generally pretty helpful too.
Using local transport also helps you to see bits of the area that you might not normally see on a direct transfer, taxi or tourist route.
Using local transport is also a great way to meet some locals.
7. Delivery Instead of Room Service
I have some American guests to thank for this idea. They ordered a local pizza to be delivered to the hotel to eat in their room and picked up a couple of beers at the bar to have with them. I’m not sure I’m bold enough to do as they did, which was to take the pizza boxes to the bar while they got their beers but maybe I will get there one day.
When travelling for work it can mean that sometimes you just want some alone time and you don’t want the palava of going out to a restaurant.
Inspired by the Americans above I ordered one of my favourite meals, Vegan Katsu Curry from Wagamama, to be delivered to the hotel. The deliver company updated me on the progress so I was able to meet the courier in the hotel reception and a few minutes later I was enjoying a hot room in my meal, without having to fork out for room service.
8. Breakfast Free Bookings
Included breakfasts is something that is worth considering when booking travel. If you prefer to eat later in the morning, or you want to get out exploring early then not having breakfasts included can save you money and help you have more flexibility in relation to your schedule too. Generally breakfast outside of hotels is much cheaper anyway.
On a trip to Alicante I ate at a little cafe at the rear of the hotel which was 25% of the cost of the hotel breakfast. It was much better and was right beside the beach. On a trip to Seville I sat eating breakfast at a lovely cafe looking over one of the main squares and the total cost was about 3 Euros for toast, coffee and orange juice.
9. Local Supermarkets & Markets
Poking around a local supermarket is a great way to see a bit more daily life, and the same applies to a local market, especially a food market.
Often food markets will have food stalls where you can enjoy some great, and often great priced, food options.
If you are feeling tired or just want a bit of space why not pick up some treats and enjoy and in room buffet and enjoy dining with your feet up!
You can also pick up something for breakfast if you want a quick bite on the move the following morning.
Local markets are a great place to find new flavours or simply to learn more about what people eat.
Riga has one of the largest markets in Europe, located in several old Zeppelin hangars.
Just off Las Ramblas in Barcelona is a lovely food market, with great snack stalls, takeaway food and fresh delicious smoothies and juices.
Valencia has a wonderful historic market hall where you can buy all sorts of wonderful foods and flavours and they are great value too.
Gifts and Treats
Supermarkets can be great places to pick up some gifts and treats if you want to bring something home for family or friends. Wines, chocolates, sweets, local beers or alcohol are all much cheaper to buy than from a tourist gift shop or the airport as a last minute panic buy!
Mini Bar Re Stock
Some mini bars have electronic sensors in them, once you move something or take it out there is charge made to your room bill. However, some hotels charge you at the end of your stay for what you have used.
Sometimes you can find the same products in the local supermarket as your mini bar. This means if you do find yourself desperate for a bottle of water or a packet of Pringles you can replace them and not have to pay mini bar prices. (This does require a bit of checking before you visit the supermarket of course!)
Coach Holiday Travel Hacks
As a coach holiday expert I have to mention coach holidays specifically!
If you are interested in booking a coach holiday then i would really recommend my article on things you need to know before you book a coach holiday. It will help you to compare trips more easily and help you find the holiday best suited to what you want to do, where you want to go, your activity level and your budget.
Choosing a coach holiday with lots of included excursions isn’t great value if you want plenty of time to explore on your own for example. Likewise choosing a holiday with lots of included meals isn’t great value if you prefer more choice about where and when you eat.
Coach holidays can be a great choice if you want to fit lots in, without having to plan everything yourself. They can also be a great choice for certain destinations where it might be more difficult to do all the planning and arranging yourself. For some destinations they can be the cheapest package option, with the bonus of tours being included or available as optionals.
Coach holidays are now also increasing the amount of single rooms available now so there are an ever increasing number of trips that have no single supplements, or a larger selection of rooms on each departure available with no single supplement. This can make solo travelling quite cost effective.
There are lots of ways to max your holiday money, starting from booking a great deal.
You can also make the most of your money while away without having to scrimp, and getting you to see a bit more of local life too.
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