Travelling abroad isn't cheap, but it doesn't have to be exorbitantly expensive either. Follow a few simple travel tips and you'll not only cut the cost of your overseas holiday, but you'll get more from the money you do spend too.
Whether it's a weekend getaway on your own or a month-long tour with the family, the golden rule of planning a holiday is it's almost always cheaper doing it yourself. Travel agents may be able to negotiate discounts with hotel groups, airlines and the like, but you're paying them to do so, and – especially in the case of package deals – end up with little or no control over the specifics.
Doing it yourself means you can plan every single aspect of your holiday exactly how you want it, and make informed decisions about where you want to save money, and where you don't mind spending a little more.
Sounds good, doesn't it? In this first part of our Travel Deal Hunting Tips guide we're going to take a look at flight bookings and hotel reservations.
Your first step should always be to secure your flights, and for a few reasons: first, the closer a flight gets to being fully booked, the greater the chance that the ticket price will increase, and secondly, flight prices fluctuate from day to day anyway, so you may find flying a day earlier or later gets you a better price.
The best way to find out is by using a flight comparison site like Skyscanner.net. This allows you to check the best flight prices for any given day, week or even month, you can even search for the best prices to a country in general rather than a specific airport, which could save you money if you're planning a touring holiday and are flexible about your starting point.
Not only that, in most cases the best price for any given flight will be for a non-refundable, non-flexible ticket. In other words, you'll have to buy a whole new ticket should your plans change for any reason. Whether you go down this route is up to you, but either way it does show the wisdom of getting your flights booked first, and planning the rest of your holiday from there.
Generally speaking you can only secure the actual seat numbers on your flight within 24 hours before you fly, but this may vary depending on the airline. Another tip is to check out www.seatguru.com to have a closer look at the plane you'll be flying on. Being stuck in a bad seat can turn your holiday sour before it's even started, so it's well worth the few minutes this'll take. Colour coding makes it easy to quickly pick out the best seats on your specific flight.
Your hotel may just be where you lay your head down at night, but you still want the best value for your money and that means spending a bit of time researching your options. The good news here is that most hotels let you cancel reservations without penalty up to a few days before you're scheduled to arrive, so there's nothing to stop you booking a “banker” hotel initially, then to keep looking for something even better.
With hotel bookings, it's a good idea to use price comparison services, and not just one of them either. Check out Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia.com.au and HotelClub as starting points – you may be able to take advantage of specific promotions on one site that the others aren't offering. Expedia, for instance, guarantees it'll price match any better deal you might find elsewhere (or refund the difference if you've already booked), and will also give you a $50 voucher to use on your next booking.
Another great way to sniff out hotel bargains is to check out the deals other online shoppers have surfaced on bargains sites such as Buckscoop. Not only can you check out the best deals going, but your fellow Buckscoopers may also have a few tips on how to find the best deals in the first place (e.g. Trick to finding the cheapest deals with HotelClub.com).
Before booking, make sure to read reviews from other travellers and look at the amenities your desired hotel offers. That grand 5-star hotel that looks so inviting may be situated next to a building site where construction has just started on an even bigger hotel, so particularly recent feedback from other visitors can be invaluable.
Stay tuned for the next installment of our Travel Deal Hunting Tips guide over the next few days. We'll be sharing more guidance on how you can save money on transport, mobile phone bills and more while abroad.
[For other related travel deals and bargains articles, click here]