I love to travel to new places and that is my only expensive passion. As a FIRE or early retirement enthusiast, it is a challenge for me to lower my expenses yet fulfil my passion. I am sure there is at least one other soul who loves to travel and wants to retire early. Hence, in today’s post I shall write about some hacks that help me travel on a budget.
1. Choose off-season to travel
Be it any destination in the world, off-season travel would easily save you 15-20% of the cost. Especially the hotel and air-tickets are far cheaper. Only thing that I keep in mind is the weather in off-season (I hate hot summers and too much rainfall) and if the key sites are closed or not. For example, we went to Iceland in September which is at the cusp when summers end and winters are about to begin. For Iceland, tourists flock in summers or extreme winters (to scout for northern lights). However, September worked perfectly for us as the weather was not freezing and we could go to all the amazing places without too many tourists around.
2. Plan yourself
While you may trust your travel agent for best deals or are simply lazy, but 90% of the times if you book yourself, you can easily save 15-20%. Unless, you are planning a specific type of trip where booking through travel agent might be cheaper, you are better off booking yourself. The only other option you may want to use travel agent is, if you can earn a lot more by utilising the time to plan and book.
3. Scout for deals on multiple sites/ apps
Don’t trust a particular travel app just because you found a better deal in the past. It doesn’t take much time to download mobile apps these days or better use a price comparison app. I mostly use Skyscanner and Skiplagged mobile apps to check best prices for air tickets. For hotels, I use Booking.com, Airbnb and Expedia for international travel. For domestic travel within India, I use MakeMyTrip or Airbnb for hotels.
Pro tip: If you are looking for hotels within India, mobile apps of MakeMyTrip, GoIbibo etc. offer better deals (sometimes) that their website. Also for international tickets, I have noticed that recently booking directly via airlines website is coming out to be cheaper.
Also, stop wasting money by booking expensive hotels. Some of the apartments on booking.com or airbnb are much better and cheaper. Additionally, apartments offer you a lot of flexibility, for example, if on some days you want to cook a light meal or breakfast then most have kitchens.
4. Use a travel credit card to book
If you are in credit card debt, please close the browser window, forget travelling and clear your debt first. If not, read further.
In India, I found the best credit card that gives maximum return if you spend Rs. 4 Lakh in an year to be American Express Platinum travel card. Even if your spend is more than Rs. 4 Lakhs, you can spend your first Rs. 4 Lakhs on this card and then after that use a different card that has better rewards. Amex Platinum travel card offers 1 reward point for every Rs. 50 spent. In addition, it also has the following benefits : When you reach a spend of Rs. 1.9 Lakhs in an year, you get travel vouchers of around Rs. 6,000. When you reach a spend of Rs. 4 Lakh in an year, you get additional travel vouchers of Rs. 11,800 and a Taj hotel voucher of Rs. 10,000.
5. Take self-drive cars or use public transport
Don’t waste your money on expensive taxis. Most of the international destinations have great public transport, especially most European cities. Even if you plan to travel between cities, the train network is really good. If planned in advance you can get cheap tickets. Additionally, if you have extensive travel then renting a car is not a bad option either. You could easily get a good rental car at Rs. 14-15K for a week.
Those were some of the travel hacks that I have followed to travel on a budget and save at least 25-30%. Do comment below if you have other interesting travel hacks which can be useful to travel on a budget. You may also be interested in tips and tricks to book cheap flights and hotels.