There are many things one can say about traveling. It will however – in monetary terms – not make you richer. Of course, traveling can be an enriching venture through the experiences you come across. It should therefore not immediately be banned from one’s quest to frugality! It is however possible to return home with a backpack full of nice memories and still some money in your bank account. In this article, I will share some practical advice for cheap travel.
Travelling via plane
Of course, it feels a bit weird writing this article during the COVID-19 pandemic. Apart from the human toll, the disease is also wreaking havoc in the tourist industry. Hotels are suffering and airplanes are stranded.
At one point though, this is again expected to pick up, albeit perhaps not to the same levels anytime soon. There are plenty of alternatives to travelling by plane on which I will elaborate in later articles. Often, these also bear less of an environmental cost with them (although I by no means mean to preach). Should you however decide to fly by plane to your destination, try to take into account some of the advice below:
Compare prices via tools at hand
We live in a time when comparing prices has rarely been easier. Tools such as Skyscanner make life as a traveler very easy. This is especially true when you are not necessarily bound to a very specific moment. Let’s say you plan to travel in September. In the example below I have searched for flights between Belgium & Copenhagen. I get the following results:
By combining the cheapest options, I am able to book this flight (back and forth) for less than 40 euros. Quite cheap, and sometimes this journey can go for less than 20 euros as well.
Note: think further than just the price of the ticket. Think about what comes after as well, certainly when talking low-cost carriers. They might drop you dirt-cheap at an airport, but then this airport can still be located miles away from the civilized world. The subsequent journey by train / bus might set you back quite a lot. Combined with your cheap ticket, this might equal the cost of a ticket to a better located airport. On top of that it will save time and most likely comfort.
When you are going for a city trip, don’t exaggerate! You do not want to double the cost for your ticket by having to pay extra for your luggage! If you think wisely and are a bit hard on yourself, most likely your hand luggage will suffice! Have a partner which does not want to budge? Try sharing 1 suitcase then!
Don’t buy food in the airport
Just don’t. Take some time to prepare your own lunch.
Look beyond your typical airport
This section I believe mainly applies to Europeans, who are kind of spoiled when it comes to airports. Yet judging from conversations with people in my environment, it sometimes feels like the only way to travel is from an airport within the borders of their country. In a free travel zone without and border checks, that very often does not make sense.
Take my example. In Belgium, there is 1 large airport in Brussels. There is also one in Charleroi (which sells itself as ‘Brussels South’. That is a stretch, to put it mildly). Then there’s also some other small ones, but they mainly focus on business folk. Brussels is a lot more convenient than Charleroi for me, and it also offers a lot more options. It also however is quite often a bit more expensive. You could then argue that I either need to balance the comfort of Brussels with the low prices of Charleroi. Wrong. Just across the border with the Netherlands, there is the Eindhoven airport. Despite being located in another country, it is actually closer to me than the Charleroi airport. A big plus: there are also tons of cheap flights on offer from this airport.
Especially if you look for flights to other continents, try to look a bit further as well (once more, Skyscanner is your friend!). When I travelled to India last year, I wasn’t only comparing flight tickets from Brussels, but also from Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris. Of course, don’t forget to take into account the advice I mentioned earlier in this article: also take into account your travel to the airport when doing the trade-off exercise. It can certainly pay off though. You might get cheaper fares, or better flight hours or just a better service overall.
Not yet a destination in mind?
If you are still in the phase of actually contemplating the possibility of a trip and doing some pre-booking research, let me again point you to a nice functionality of Skyscanner. You can get some easy inspiration by listing possible destinations based on price. In your ‘to’ location, don’t fill in any specified area just yet. For instance:
This search query gives me the following results:
Quite interesting, isn’t it? All these are return flights. The results will be filtered from cheap to more expensive. Some further locations also prove quite feasible:
Of course, you can easily tweak this (other time periods, …) as you wish. Maybe it points you towards some unexpected results?
I’d like to hear from you. I’m very sure there are still plenty of tips that I can learn from! Don’t hesitate to let me know or to comment on some of the ones I shared!
I plan to make a more general article on tips to cut costs when traveling soon (and not only focusing on flights). Stay tuned for that as well!