Everyone loves a cheap travel deal. But for most people, that pretty much means watching their favourite travel sites for weekly specials. But there are other strategies that can help cut your travel costs, some of which you may not have thought of.
Use a different airport
One of the things that makes flying expensive is the taxes and fees you pay. Some of these are imposed by the airport, and you may find it’s much cheaper to fly out of another airport within driving distance rather than the one nearest to you. If you’re on a longer trip with multiple destinations, it can also make a difference which airport you fly into and out of — check the alternatives before booking.
Go to low-cost countries
Even if the air fares are the same, the cost of two trips can be wildly different just because of the destinations. If you’re in the habit of travelling to places in the U.S. or Western Europe, think about the cheaper alternatives for a change. Choosing Latin America or Southeast Asia can save you big-time, if you can get there affordably.
These parts of the world are well touristed these days, so they’re not scary, and you may find you can get a hotel and a meal for half the price you’d pay in a more developed country. Even choosing one of the less pricey European countries, such as Portugal, can be a big money-saver. And the longer the trip, the more you save.
Watch the exchange rates
Another major factor in how much your trip costs is the exchange rate between your currency and theirs. Great example: the first time I travelled to Malaysia, the ringgit was worth 50 cents Canadian: when I returned a few years later, it was 35 cents. That means a 200-ringgit hotel bill suddenly cost $70 instead of $100.
If you can choose the timing of your travels, watch the exchange rates: these days they can move 10 percent or more within months. If the money gets cheaper in your destination of choice, that’s the time to go.
If you’re able to choose the day you take off (one of the advantages of being retired), you can save a lot of money by flying on a Tuesday or Wednesday instead of a Friday or Saturday, when most people fly out on package tours. Use the search tables on sites like Matrix to find the least expensive days to fly — sometimes they’re startlingly cheaper.
Hotels can be cheaper during the week, too, and you can always move to a cheaper hotel for Friday and Saturday nights if the price jumps up on those nights.
Book early or book late
A lot of people buy their air tickets a month or so before they fly. But according to the Wall Street Journal, the lowest price for an international ticket in the U.S. is 171 days before the flight. Prices start to really climb about 80 days before take-off.
For domestic U.S. flights, the sweet spot is 57 days out, and prices start to climb about two weeks before the flight. That said, you can also get some great deals by booking last-minute, but that requires you to be flexible about where you go and when.
Which brings up the last point: if at all possible, keep your travel plans flexible. The traveller who has to be in a certain place on a certain day generally pays the highest price. If that’s you, book early. But if you can move your travel dates around a bit, or even stay open-minded on where you want to go, you can save hundreds of dollars.
There’s almost always a good bargain to be had, even in high season, and hotels will sometimes give you a good deal if they have empty rooms and the clock is ticking.
Those are some good ways to cut your travel costs. They may take a little more effort than just booking the same trip you always take, but that’s part of the fun of travelling. And with travel, as with a lot of other things, using a little more smarts can leave a lot more money in your pocket.