Another 40 Tips for Smarter, Better, Cheaper, Awesomer Travel
I love sharing travel tips!
In fact, my big travel tips post from last year has been my most popular post to date with almost 40,000 people reading it since May 2013! Since you loved it so much I decided to put together another 40 of my best tips for smarter, better, cheaper and more awesome travel.
General Travel Tips
1. Learn the tipping customs for the countries your visiting. While tipping is the norm in North America, tips aren’t common or necessary in many other countries. In some countries, like Japan and Korea, tipping is actually considered offensive.
2. Don’t force yourself to “do” the tourist attractions if they don’t interest you. Find ways to explore your own interests in another city or country.
3. Tossing up between two travel options? Choose one options and then “wear” the decision for a few days to see how it feels. If you’re happy with it, stick with that decision. If not, switch to the other choice.
4. Check and see if there are public holidays before arriving somewhere new. It can affect everything from hotel rates to public transport.
5. Set a reminder on your phone or email calendar to alert you when your passport is coming up for renewal. Most countries require you to have six months validity on your passport on entry so set the reminder for eight months from the expiry date to allow you enough time to order a replacement.
6. If you travel internationally more than a couple of times per year, an annual travel insurance policy will work out cheaper. Plus you don’t have to worry about buying insurance throughout the year, just book your trip and go.
7. Use a cash-back site like ShopAtHome when making hotel bookings online. They give cash back for Priceline, Hotwire, Booking.com, Expedia, and heaps more. You’ll get 9-10% in the case of Priceline bidding.
8. Scan a copy of your passport (and any visas) and email it to yourself and someone you trust at home. It’s a good idea for you to have a copy in case you lose your passport.
9. Google the name of the city you’re about to visit and the phrase “common scams”. Knowing some of the common scams that befall travellers can help you watch out for them. There’s also a list here on WikiTravel.
10. Know what a vacation day is worth to you. You could spend 12 hours on a bus to avoid paying $200 for a flight but that’s a whole day of your vacation time gone. Based on your salary, calculate what your daily rate is. This will help you determine if it’s worth saving a day of vacation and spending the extra money on something that will save you time.
Tips for Flying
11. Embrace layovers! They’ll save you money and they can be interesting. Make the most of a layover by purposefully selecting the longest one available, allowing you time to get out an explore the city. Much more exciting than sitting around the airport. Use the tips in this post to show you how to select flights with the longest layovers.
12. Put your flight number into YouTube to see what the exact flight experience is like. There are lots of flight fanatics out there that make detailed videos of every flight. Very useful if you’re contemplating booking an airline you previously haven’t flown.
13. Check on-time stats for any flights you’re booking – especially if you’ve got a tight connection. Knowing how regularly that flight is delayed can help you figure out how long to leave between flights when you’re making DIY connections. Put the flight number into FlightStats.com, hit search then go to the “On-Time Performance” tab. It will show you the percentage of times this flight is delayed plus the average length of the delay.
14. Picking up friends or family from the airport? Google the flight number for instant info on the flight’s progress. It’ll let you know if they flight is on-time or delayed and how far your friend is through their journey.
15. The inconvenience factor means that a flight with a connection is almost always cheaper than a direct flight. Therefore it can be a lot cheaper to book a flight that connects through the city you want to go to and not to take the onward flight. Be aware though that you’ll need to ask for your luggage not to be checked through to the final destination or you’ll need to travel carry on only.
Tips for Saving Money on Flights
16. Want to save a bit more on a certain flight? Try searching for the same flight on an airline partner’s website. Sometimes booking the codeshare ticket on the same plane is cheaper. For example, If the flight is operated by Qantas, try booking it through the British Airways site. We saved a few hundred dollars last year on a Qantas flight from Singapore to Christchurch via Sydney by booking it through British Airways. Ticketed as Qantas through their website the advertised fare was around $900 but when I searched on the British Airways website, the same seat on the same plane but ticketed as BA was only $600.
17. Always check prices for flights into a city’s alternative airports. For example flying into Clark instead of Manila will save you half the ticket price. These smaller airports also have lower taxes. (Factor in additional transport costs though!)
18. Before you book a flight on a budget airline, always factor in the added cost of getting to their alternative airports. Transport options to these alternative airports can be really expensive compared to the city’s main airport. For example, the airports surrounding London might have cheaper flights but the trains that reach them cost up to £23 one way.
19. Budget airlines aren’t always cheapest. Sometimes it’s cheaper to fly on a full-service airline from a major airport once you factor in the cost of baggage and transport to the budget airline’s alternative airport.
Tips for Selecting a Seat on Your Flight
20. Double check your seat assignment periodically in the week before your flight. If you’ve been smart enough to select a good seat, go the extra step and make sure the airline hasn’t changed aircraft in the last few days leading up to the flight, meaning your aisle seat could now be a middle seat.
21. Re-visit your seat assignment 24 hours before the flight. This is the period when the airline upgrades it’s elite customers from their economy seats meaning their great economy seats are now free for you to select.
22. Always ask at check-in if the flight is full and, if not, ask to be moved to a row that’s unoccupied.
23. If you’re travelling in Australia, New Zealand, Canada or the US look for a relocation rental. You can get cars and campervans practically free and contribution towards the petrol usage as rental companies need them relocated from one city to another. I use a site called Imoova to find them.
24. Use a local, off-airport car rental company. It’ll take a few more minutes for them to pick you up and shuttle you to their location near the airport but it will save you a lot compared to the national chains as renting that kiosk space in the airport costs them money.
25. Find ground transportation options between any two cities in the world using Rome2Rio. It’ll tell you how to get from A to B by train, bus, ferry and even prices out the cost if driving based on fuel and tolls. They throw in the cost if flights too so you can compare the price of flying versus overland travel. You can download their app too.
26. Learn to drive a manual car before you travel. Especially in Europe, it can be harder and more expensive to rent an automatic car. You can definitely save money if you know how to drive a manual (stick shift).
27. If you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language, pick up a business card from your hotel with the address in the local language. You can give it to a taxi driver and get back to your hotel without needing any complicated language skills.
28. Planning a weekend in a big city? Go for a hotel in the business district. They have high occupancy Monday to Thursday but are often empty, and offer low rates, at weekend.
29. Look for apartment sublets over the summer months and Christmas period. They’re easier to find in bigger cities (Paris, NYC etc) or university towns. Search with sites like Craigslist and Gumtree.
30. Don’t believe everything you read on Tripadvisor. Check reviews, by all means, but take them with a grain of salt. It’s been widely reported that fake reviews of hotels are posted on Tripadvisor.
31. Look for a hotel booking site that offers reward nights. For example, Hotels.com has a program called Welcome Rewards that gives you one night free for every ten you book (with the free night an average of the value spent). This means you’re actually saving 10% on every hotel booking. Click here to find out more and book with Hotels.com.
32. Carry a USB charger in your hand luggage to charge your phone on the plane or in a rental car.
33. Use a Hotspot Shield to mask your IP address and check if rates for cars, flights, hotels are cheaper when booking in or out of the country. Sometimes things are cheaper in country and sometimes they’re cheaper from overseas.
34. Using your smartphone as a camera or for games or music? Switch it to flight mode and your battery life will last a lot longer.
35. Turn off mobile 3G or roaming data on your smartphone before you leave. Prices can be exorbitant and travellers have been known to come home to $1000 phone bills from using their phone abroad for maps and internet browsing. Buy a local sim card instead or just use free wifi when you find it.
36. Thread fine chains, necklaces or bracelets through drinking straws, then fasten them. It stops them from tangling.
37. Forgotten something? Check at the hotel if they toothpaste, disposable razors or combs before you go out and buy a replacement. Hotels don’t put all the toiletries on offer in every room – Club or Executive rooms usually have more toiletries than your standard room, so you might be able to get your hands on what you need for free.
39. Weigh your bags before you leave home, especially if you’re travelling carry-on only as the baggage restrictions are strict. On the return leg, ask your hotel for scales or buy a small luggage scale like this one.
40. Make your own travel-sized toiletries. Buy a set of refillable bottles and decant your favourite products into them instead of being stuck with the brands that sell mini versions of their products.
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