*Update: I have made a more in-depth article about how to travel cheap and get flight discounts of up to 100%. Definitely worth a read
Just like everybody else, I love traveling. Meeting new people, seeing new places. What’s not to love, right? Even the experts and doctors at brainfacts.org say that traveling to new places, seeing and learning new things help in maintaining our brains and cognitive abilities healthy and sound for a long time. So it’s not just a pleasure but it’s also healthy.
But sometimes this is quite a financial effort. So I’m always looking for a good bargain when it comes to my holidays. But it’s not just about finding a bargain. It’s about creating a whole system that will save you more than just a few bucks.
My summer destination this year was Ibiza (Eivissa). You can read all about it in my post ”A traveler’s guide to the best beaches and restaurants in Ibiza”.
Now let me tell you how I planned it and how I plan all of my holidays by keeping money-saving in perspective.
An old Romanian proverb says: “A wise man buys a sleigh in the summer and an oxcart in the winter”. That means that you should buy during winter, things that are in high demand in the summer time. And vice versa. So every year I start planning my August holiday in December. That’s when the prices are at their lowest because during that time everybody wants to buy skiing holidays. It can also be January, but I’d rather start early as I wouldn’t want somebody else grabbing my bargain 🙂
I usually stay at hotels, although if the group I travel with would be larger, I would probably go for a nice villa. So most of the times I go on Booking.com to search for hotels. Expedia.co.uk offers good rates as well, but for me, it’s very important to have the Free Cancellation option because at that point, summer is still long away and I probably don’t know my exact dates or even if I will be able to go on holiday at all. This way I avoid losing money if something happens and I can’t go. And it’s completely FREE. Also if your dates change, you can always cancel your booking and just make another one.
How do I plan my holiday and save money?
I always book more hotels for different dates. You can also book the same hotel for different dates by using different Booking.com accounts (eg: your husband/wife’s account). So if you don’t know if you can travel on the 1st of August or the 10th (or any other date), you can book two hotels, one on the 1st and one on the 10th, for no extra cost. And you can cancel any of them in July, by which time you’ll probably know the exact dates when you will be able to go on holiday.
So booking a hotel in December, or January the latest, means smart planning. You can get a 4-star hotel for a really great price. If you wait until May, you’ll probably end up paying at least 20% more.
And the best part is that you have all that flexibility free.
Now, since Ibiza is not quite small, a car is a must. I needed it to visit all the beaches and restaurants that I told you about in my post ”A traveler’s guide to the best beaches and restaurants in Ibiza‘‘. However, if you are a curious traveler like myself and want to see as many places as you can when going somewhere, then you will most likely need a car for any destination. And this is when my early planning works again.
Right after I book the hotel in December, I start searching for car rentals. Again, these are very cheap if you book it in December or January.
Expedia.co.uk is where I always go for car rentals because so far they offer the best prices I found. Of course, it’s always good to do your own research and not limit yourself to one website because you can never know what other bargains you may find. Just like Booking.com, Expedia offers a free cancellation policy. Which means that I can book more than one car for different dates, and I can cancel the ones that I don’t need (or all of them) at any time, free of charge.
Renting a car early is again smart planning. You can rent one for 7 days for about 170 GBP which means around 180 EUR. If you’re traveling in a group of 4 and split the cost, that would be quite cheap. I assure you that you’ll end up paying more on buses or cabs if you don’t rent a car.
Doing a bit of research, I found that the airline Ryanair has very good prices as well. Sometimes lower than Expedia. And they started offering the Free Cancellation policy as well. I didn’t try them yet, but I will surely consider them for my next trip.
Time to fly
Now that we’ve got our hotel and car booked, we’ll probably need an airplane ticket. But this time I couldn’t find a free cancellation policy anywhere on the web. If you know your exact dates when you’ll be able to go on holiday, it is best to buy the tickets as soon as possible. If you wait until May-June, you’ll most likely pay a premium. I am still looking for a system to go around this because plane tickets for popular destinations are quite expensive.
One system that works for some people, including myself, is to collect points in a certain rewards program. I collect Avios which gives me discounts for British Airways flights. I collect those points from my American Express credit card, Tesco Clubcard and British Airways Traveler card.
So basically, I use my American Express credit card for all of my online purchases. That’s because for every pound I spend online, I get 1 Avios. But I also make the payments for my credit card debt as soon as possible to avoid interest (always be careful with that and don’t forget about it).
I make my groceries and fill up my car’s tank at Tesco because I earn Clubcard points. In my Tesco Clubcard account, I activated the option to convert all of my Clubcard points into Avios automatically. Then, I try to travel with British Airways as much as I can (depending on their fares, of course). They will give you Avios for that too.
So if you follow these steps you should be able to get considerable discounts at certain airlines. Using this system I collected almost 20.000 Avios this year, which will save me about 150 GBP on a return ticket to Bucharest (3 hours flight).
I also heard about collecting Nectar points to get flight discounts but I haven’t tried it yet.
Try to follow the steps I outlined in this article as it will save you a lot of money. This way you’ll be able to travel more.
How do you plan your holiday to save money?