With the huge array of options for travel that are available now, it can become a little overwhelming trying to find the cheapest way to travel. The inexperienced traveller might be tempted to just go into their local travel agent and let them book everything, or just go onto a search engine recommended by their friends and book whichever flight is available on the date they want to go.
When travelling there is an inverse relationship between your time constraints and the cost of getting around. More time means more flexibility and being flexible will always save you money. However there are many other cheeky little tips that you learn from years of travelling that enable you to sometimes save a significant amount of money.
I’ll save you the time and expense of learning the hard way by giving you my best tips for the cheapest ways to travel; whether it’s just flying back and forward to your destination or continuing overland on a longer journey.
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Cheapest way to travel – 6 Useful Tips for Saving Money on Transportation
You don’t have to fly directly to your destination!
Most people don’t ever consider this simple tip. It’s natural to think, ‘well I’m going to Turkey so I’ll fly in to Istanbul’, or any other variation of country/city. Airfares often depend on the capacity of the route, that is, how many airlines cover it and how many flights per day are available.
Have a look at Google maps, are there any major cities nearby or any popular destinations? Some flight search engines also let you search nearby airports within a radius you set. Then check if you can easily arrange a bus or train to your final destination.
I once flew from Brazil to Spain to Bulgaria to Egypt and finally to Australia for the same price as a direct flight from Brazil to Australia would have cost me (don’t worry I stopped in each country for some adventures in between each long haul flight!).
Spend some serious time browsing a variety of search tools
I have friends who will book flights by pulling out their phone, opening their favourite app, searching an exact date then booking the cheapest flight that comes up. This is easy and it works for some, but as previously stated, convenience often costs you extra. If you’re looking for the cheapest way to travel, then you really have to look!
My preferred method is to use several different tools. I start with the Kayak flight search tool as this site allows you to specify a period of up to 3 days before and after your selected date and will show you the cheapest flight combination within that date range.
Once I have found a flight that meets my needs I will then use those dates to try and find the best deal. I plug them in to Momondo, and if I am feeling extra motivated I’ll also have a look at Skyscanner.
The reason I do this is because each search engine searches and prioritizes different operators. While there is a lot of crossover, you can sometimes find a deal offered on one site and not others.
Once you have settled on a flight and date then the final thing you can do is to take a look at the airline’s own website, sometimes they will offer it cheaper. Another thing to be really cautious of is that sometimes the third party booking sites will charge double what the airline does for baggage and other amenities.
Book far in advance with cancellation option
Needless to say, flights tend to be cheaper the further out you book them from your intended date of travel. I like to stay very flexible with my plans so booking in advance isn’t my thing. If you want to reap the rewards without locking yourself in then check if the amazing flight you’ve found will offer free cancellation for an extra fee.
I have used this in the past and often the cost of both flight and fee is cheaper than booking a flight closer to the date. Worst case you can’t travel or you find a cheaper flight near the date, you cancel for free and book again!
Buses are always the cheapest way to travel – book overnight journeys to save on accommodation
They might not be the most comfortable but buses are certainly the cheapest way to travel! Often they will cost you less than half of a train ticket and hundreds less than a flight.
Even better, many companies offer overnight journeys so you can skip a night of accommodation and hopefully get some sleep before waking up in your destination ready to go for the day.
I’ve found the best way to compare your potential savings is to use a comparison app like Rome2rio to easily see the difference between a plane, train or bus. Or you can try Flixbus to easily book bus tickets throughout Europe and be assured of a similar quality no matter where you are.
Another option is to research each countries’ public provider and book direct, this is more work but will often yield the best prices.
Hire a car
This is our favourite option, not only can it work out the same price or cheaper than buying flights or expensive train tickets, it also gives you the flexibility to pull over or detour whenever you want. A car also allows you to book accommodation outside of expensive areas as you can drive in and out to sight-see.
Depending on where you are a car won’t always be cheaper than public transport, but on complicated routes or in more expensive countries it is definitely worth considering. Use a car rental comparison site such as Rentalcars.com alongside your other search tools to see what you can find.
Remember to consider the cost of fuel and insurance when making your decision.
Find passes and special offers
Many countries rail networks offer multi-day or multi-journey passes for a discount. Some special tourist passes will even offer free or discounted entry to a load of attractions and can even include bus journeys in some places.
The famous Eurail pass is quite pricey but if you will be travelling a lot it can work out to save you money over the course of your trip, and who doesn’t love to travel by train?
Have a look at what is on offer to book online in each country or region, if you are already in a country then have a look at the tourism website or visit a local office to see what the options are.
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- 25 essential things you need to know before solo travelling
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I didn’t know that third party sites sometimes charge extra for baggage! Thanks for the tips. I’ll have to do more thorough research next time I book a flight.