Everybody loves travelling, the sense of freedom, the exploration are all things that captivate us. Plus, the expansion of technology and the ability to search for more cost effective ways of travelling are becoming ever more prominent. Simply look at the likes of AirBnB and Couchsurfer, for example, which are helping people the world over find better travel and accommodation bargains.
However, if you're not careful then trying to get the lowest price on all aspects of your intended travel plans can actually lead to the benefits any savings made being outweighed (and overshadowed) by certain negative outcomes. So what I'd like to do, is provide some examples of this as well as advice for any deal hunters out there about what to be aware of and what to not try and do when travelling on a budget.
An Inexpensive Hotel
In the past, I have personally been caught out with lodging at a sub-standard hotel. Thankfully I wasn’t staying there for a prolonged period of time, but when a booking is only needed for a night or two, often people will prioritise price over quality. It's very popular today make reservations through hotel booking sites or to use vouchers online to get room rates down, but hotels generally don't like this.
Essentially, hotels don't like them because they make less money since any revenue needs to be shared by paying commissions to agents.
The main thing you should be aware of though, in terms of making bookings via third party websites, is that hotels often earmark the best rooms for customers who make reservations directly with them. This tends to leave travellers who booked via Expedia or Bookings.com, for example, with a lower quality selection of rooms. In these instances it's not uncommon to get lumped in a smoking room at the furthest point away from the elevator (not ideal if you’re a non-smoker) which only has one window that faces a wall outside.
However, for many of us paying a lower price is still the priority. Well, the good news is that plenty of hotels these days offer price matching guarantees, meaning if you call up and show them a 3rd party website which has lowest price online for one of their rooms, they should offer it to you on the spot for the same rate. That way you mitigate the risk of ending up in a substandard room as described above, as well as getting the best price available online. Some hotels even have a "price beat" guarantee which would give you an even bigger saving simply by making your reservation directly through them.
When considering the overall value for money your getting with hotel bookings, it's important to remember to take the hotel’s location into account too. Whilst a hotel further away from the city centre may be more affordable, the main focal areas of your journey need to be factored into your decision. If you were to spend larger amounts of money travelling in and out of the city centre for dinner, sight seeing or evening drinks then the travelling costs might make the cost of your trip more expensive overall (compared to if you just paid a bit more for a hotel nearer the centre where you'd expected to be spending most of your time).
Cost Effective Flying
Never has the saying “You get what you pay for” been truer than with airlines these days. Discount operators certainly save you money but usually at the cost of your own human rights (obviously joking.) Firstly, the flights and the seating are generally more uncomfortable, if you are tall like myself then expect to have to cut off at least half of your legs before you enter the plane to give yourself sufficient amounts of leg room.
Besides the shameless manner in which they cram us like sardines inside their planes, these airlines aren't shy about charging hefty fees either. For example, you may find that you need to pay additional fees when buying a ticket with a credit card, or that excess luggage weight will cost you more than what a another flight would. Once, I forgot to print the boarding passes for my girlfriend and I on a budget airline and they took the pleasure of charging me $220...just to print them! That extortionate fee could have bought me 4 more flights or two more comfortable seats on a better quality airline.
A common saving tactic among travellers is to fly to a lesser-known airport at their intended destination which is still within a commutable distance to wherever you need to get to after landing. If you do this though, just make sure there is cost effective transportation available taking into account any additional travelling costs, travelling times and stress levels involved.
Whilst late night and early morning flights are much cheaper than their afternoon counterparts, the practicality of having a simple journey might be affected. Arriving at an airport at odd hours of the day can mean you have very limited or even non-existent public transport options available. Suddenly the cost of having to take a taxi might make that cheaper late evening flight that you're looking to book more expensive than the higher priced afternoon alternative.
Whilst the money you save when travelling during months with worse weather may seem like a fantastic deal on the surface, you really need to think about why this might not be such a good idea. Bad weather could affect not only what activities you're able to do, but also substantially increase your risk of harm. Take a cruise liner for example, they offer deep discounts between the months of June and November, because it’s hurricane season in the Atlantic.
Ok, so what if you are not taking a cruise? Well, off-peak seasons at particular destinations may also mean that the area is deserted. Certain places may only open when the high season is on so particular restaurants, bars, attractions etc. may very well have restricted opening hours, or even worse still be completely closed until the high season returns.
Ultimately all of these scenarios depend on where you go, what your expectations are from your journey and how you manage your expectations. Money can’t buy you happiness, but by spending it a little more wisely it'll certainly improve your mood, travel experience and the value for money that you get.