Enjoying Your Holiday on a Tight Budget
Watch out for airline “extras.” Low-cost airline carriers may seem cheaper, but because they only offer the most basic airline services, they may charge you for “extras” like luggage carriage, in-flight meals, and other airline services. They can add up, so pull out your calculator and see if a full-service airline might actually turn out to be the cheaper choice.
Compare prices online. Speaking of pulling out the calculator; airfares, hotel rates, and car services rates can often be found online, so if you’re planning on availing yourself of their services, check out price comparison websites. Even if not all hotels and airlines will let themselves get listed on these kinds of websites, they can give you an idea of just how much you’ll have to pay for your trip.
Indulge in Tax-Free Shopping. Outside of the EU, lots of countries can let you apply for a VAT or sales tax refund on things you might have bought in duty-free stores. Check out www.premiertaxfree.com to get a good overview on tax claims systems.
Take the roads less travelled. Sure, you can take the main roads and pay the tolls, but if you’re serious about saving money, you can try taking the “scenic” routes and check out quieter, more circuitous roads where you don’t have to pay tolls. If you plan on touring France, for example, you can check out the “Bis” routes, which will keep you off the Route Nationales and main, toll-charging motorways and let you experience France’s “D” roads.
Book a short-term apartment. Sure, a hotel is easier to find, and a hotel room usually has a mini-bar with a store of drinks and snacks for you to enjoy, but renting an apartment for a short time gets you a kitchen, more privacy, and more space. You’ll have to work a little harder to find a good flat, but chains like Citadines, Interhome, Saco, Frasers, and the Ascott Group all have private flats available to let.
Get vaccinated. As the old saying goes; an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Going abroad can expose you to a lot of diseases, and treatment can be extremely expensive. Don’t worry though! All you need to do to keep from running the risk of contracting them is to get your travel immunizations before you head out. Commercial travel clinics may charge for each shot, but they’re well worth it.
Explore places outside of the Eurozone. The Euro might not necessarily be in the best position right now, but there are several places outside of the Eurozone that cost far less. Try Turkey instead of Spain, or South Africa instead of France.
Time your travels. If you can, try to plan your holidays outside of the peak season. Prices tend to skyrocket during high season these times of the year. For example, in August, during the end of summer, the cost of booking a villa in Italy might be twice what you would have to pay in June. You can cut your travel expenses down even more by booking your flights as early as possible, and booking your hotels as late as you can. Prices tend to be much lower during these times, and hotels often offer discounts up to a week before you arrive.
Check around for “Inclusive Tour” fares. Some travel agencies can magically create bargains by invoking the IT or “inclusive tour” rate for long-haul travelling. This means that your travel agent can package your airfare and your hotel booking and come up with a price that is actually lower than the cost of your airfare if you’d booked it flight-only. Magic!
Give home-swapping a try. Do you want free lodgings and the chance to make some new friends? Swap homes with somebody, and you can get just that!
Use the local public transportation. If you don’t want to worry about car hire fees at all, you can always just get a map and figure out the local bus system or railway. For that matter, if they’re available, see if alternatives to air travel will come out cheaper. Sometimes, a few extra hours on the train or the ferry can be a holiday experience in itself.
Hiring a car in France? Ask for a diesel car. Most car rentals are more than happy to let you specify what kind of car you want to hire for your holiday. In France, diesel is a bit cheaper than regular petrol, so pick out a diesel car for your French holiday, and go to the supermarket petrol stations for the best prices.
Keep an eye out on how you book. A lot of airlines, car rental brokers, and ferry companies will tack on an extra charge for booking over the telephone. If you pay online, using a credit card can sometimes be a bit costlier than paying using a debit card, so watch out!
Don’t get fooled into paying for overpriced car insurance. One of the ways that car-hire services can take advantage of a traveler’s ignorance is by selling extremely expensive insurance. If, in a year, you hire a car for more than one week, look for a cheaper insurance deal. Try going to http://www.insurance4carhire.
Eat smart at restaurants. Don’t worry that much about tipping when you’re in Europe; tips aren’t expected; that’s what the service charge is for. Just leave a little bit, for courtesy’s sake. Going for the local wines in carafes, and ordering tap water instead of bottled water can help reduce costs as well. And if you check out the fixed-price menus, you’ll notice that they are almost always cheaper than the choices a la carte.
Navigate the cafes like a local. Coffee at the bar can sometimes be worth a fraction of a price than if you ordered it from a table. Draft beer is often about half the price of the bottled stuff as well, so go for that instead. BYOB (Bring Your Own Booze) or BYOF (Bring Your Own Food). You can save a great deal of cash by simply packing your own food and drinks. This is a great option if you are travelling by train or by car. If not, check out the local market and see if you can put the kitchen in your rented apartment or swapped home to good use.
Use your cards wisely. When you use your credit or debit card abroad, there are usually exchange rate “loadings” that can go as high as 3%. If you use an ATM overseas, it’s also very likely that you’ll be charged extra fees. If you pay your credit card balance regularly, the best way to pay for things is with credit cards. If not, cash is the best way to go.
Check your bank or housing insurance company. Nowadays most European banks and housing insurance companies offer travel insurance as an extra service with a small fee or no additional fee at all to their customers. Check your bank and housing company on the different packages they have before you buy separate or new travel insurance.
If you’re eligible, get an EHIC. (from NHS UK) European Health Insurance Cards are free for all citizens in participating countries. In EU countries, EHIC is proof that you’re entitled to medical treatment that is either free, or at a reduced cost. You won’t get the same kind of coverage as a commercial travel insurance policy, but it assures you of the same medical treatment you would receive if you were in your own country.
Make friends with the locals. It doesn’t matter if you’re a student taking a gap-year, a parent taking your kids on a family vacation, or a just a single person with a few days free from work; one of the best ways to save a bit of money is to ask someone who knows the local terrain. Asking your concierge about where he or she likes to eat will probably yield a good list of delicious, affordable places.