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Ten of the best ways to save money on travel

From discounted round-world airfares to free stop-over accommodation and side flights, former travel agent Adam Ford shares ten tips guaranteed to save you money on your future travels — thanks to The Currency Shop.
20 Sep, 2020
Ten of the best ways to save money on travel: Book with a travel agent.
Ten of the best ways to save money on travel

In the post-COVID world, many of us will be travelling on a tighter budget and looking for ways to squeeze more value from every dollar.

With that in mind, here are the ten of the best ways to save money on travel — many of which are used by travel agents on a daily basis. Using a combination of these hacks could easily reduce the cost of your next holiday by 50 percent or more.

Yes, you read that right, so read on!

Ten of the best ways to save money on travel
Ten of the best ways to save money on travel: Book with a travel agent.

1. Find a great travel agent

There’s still a lot of debate about whether booking travel online is cheaper than using a travel agent. The fact is you can save money booking through a good agent — in two ways.

Firstly, the travel industry — particularly air travel — is far from as straightforward as the online world would have you believe. A good agent will be across hundreds of airfares, airline combinations and round-world ticket options. They can also suggest fares that include free lounge access, side flights and even stopover accommodation.

Secondly, agents are paid a commission from airlines, hotels, tour companies and travel insurance providers, and that commission margin means that there’s room to move on price. Here’s some industry intel. On full service airline fares, the commission paid to travel agents is between 5% and 9%. On hotels, it’s generally between 10 and 15%, and on car hire — 10%. Tours are fairly lucrative at around 15%, as is comprehensive travel insurance — also around 15%.

Keep in mind that your agent is providing you with their knowledge and service and everyone has to eat, but it’s worth asking for a better deal. Your agent won’t want to lose you, and chances are they’ll come to the party. When I was a travel agent, I never wanted to lose a client over price, and I always ate into the commission to sweeten a deal. Try asking your computer to do the same thing and see how far you get!

2. Search for Stay/Pay deals

Have you ever wondered how the travel companies advertising in the weekend newspapers come up with those amazing package deals for Fiji, Bali and Thailand? Simple. They’re based on what’s known in the industry as a ‘Stay/Pay’ deal — where resorts try and fill rooms outside peak periods by offering a number of free nights when you book a longer stay. The rationale is that it’s better to have someone in the room than no-one, and chances are you’ll spend money on food, beverages and activities.

Stay/Pay deals can easily save you up to 50% on the cost of your accommodation. Simply email the resort you’re interested in and ask if they will be offering a Stay/Pay deal around your travel dates. If you want someone else to do the legwork, talk to your travel agent.

Ten of the best ways to save money on travel
Ten of the best ways to save money on travel: Seek out Stay/Pay deals.

3. Save money on overseas currency transfers

No matter how well you budget while travelling, from time to time it may be necessary to get a top up of funds from home. A close relative or friend may need to send money to you, and you’re going to have to get to grips with the intricacies of international money transfers. These seemingly straightforward transactions are often fraught with hidden fees and it can be difficult and time consuming to find the cheapest rate.

Thankfully, it’s possible to do a simple online comparison of services and rates. Follow this link and find the best way to transfer money overseas.

4. Look for ‘open jaw’ airfares with free side flights

‘Open jawing’ is another colourful travel industry term that can save you money. An open jaw airfare lets you fly into one city and home from another, so you don’t incur the cost of travelling back to the original city for your outbound trip. For travel to Europe, trying looking for an open jaw fare that also gives you a free side flight. You’ll save even more.

For example, you might be able to fly with British Airways from Sydney to London, do a stop-over there for a few nights, continue on a BA flight to Paris, then fly home with BA from Amsterdam or Rome (via London) — all on the same airfare.

Ten of the best ways to save money on travel
Ten of the best ways to save money on travel: Fly for less with an open jaw airfare.

5. Learn the secret to cheaper round-world travel

This is a closely guarded secret of the travel agent world, but we’re letting the cat out of the suitcase. If you’re looking to purchase a round-world airfare, there are three airlines that offer a considerably cheaper option than either the One World or Star Alliance airline groups. Finnair, Swiss Air and Lufthansa offer a fare that allows you to fly various airlines from Australia to Asia, pick up the European carrier from Asia to Europe (via their hub city of Helsinki, Zurich or Frankfurt). You can then fly back through the hub city to South America or North America and pick up another affiliated carrier home to Oz. It also works in the opposite direction.

These fares are not as versatile as the traditional round-world alliances in the sense that you can only fly to/from cities on the Finnair, Swiss Air and Lufthansa networks. However, if you can make one of these fares work for you, it can be up to 50 percent cheaper than a traditional round-world ticket. It’s complicated, so talk to your travel agent for more details.

6. Book a mixed business/economy airfare

It’s a long trip to Europe and there’s nothing better than being able to stretch out in business class — for part of the journey at least, and for less money than you might think! A mixed business/economy airfare lets you fly economy on the shorter sector from Australia to Asia, then lie flat in business class from Asia to Europe. These fares can be up to 50% cheaper than a full business class ticket, which will lessen the pain on your wallet as much as your back and hips.

Emirates regularly offers special mixed business/economy fares. Sign up for an email alert here.

Ten of the best ways to save money on travel
Ten of the best ways to save money on travel: Book a mixed business/economy airfare.

7. Take advantage of ‘2-for-1’ and ‘fly-free’ deals

Many tour companies regularly offer ‘2 for 1’ deals or ‘fly-free’ offers on trips through Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. It’s a great way to save, so grab a travel partner, make a pact that when the right deal arrives you’ll be ready to act, and sign up for the tour company’s e-newsletter. That way, you’ll hear about the deals as soon as they’re released.

Ten of the best ways to save money on travel
Ten of the best ways to save money on travel: Look for discount offers from tour companies.

8. Eat like a local

One of the keys to keeping your travel budget in the black is controlling what you spend on food, especially if you like to eat out at restaurants. Here are some simple rules to follow.

  • Self-cater for at least two meals a day. Shop at the markets for fresh food you can prepare easily and don’t buy more than you need. It will go to waste. Remember that the locals don’t eat out for every meal, and neither should you!
  • It is nearly always cheaper to eat at a good restaurant for lunch rather than for dinner. Look for lunchtime set menus and special deals.
  • Avoid tourist restaurant precincts — they’re generally overpriced and pretty bland. Plan where you are going to eat. If you just wander out of your hotel and hope for the best, you’ll end up in a tourist restaurant.

Remember that alcohol will double your bill at most restaurants. Look for BYO options where you can.

Ten of the best ways to save money on travel
Ten of the best ways to save money on travel: Eat out for lunch rather than dinner.

9. Join the sharing economy

The sharing economy has revolutionised travel, and you have to embrace it if you are serious about saving money on the road. airbnb lets you save on hotels by renting out someone’s apartment or spare room (usually the cheaper of the two options), Uber saves you money on taxi fares, and you can even rent someone’s private vehicle and beat the conventional hire car model with DriveMyCar.

It’s worth double-checking what your travel insurance does and doesn’t cover in this realm, and remember that not everyone you’ll meet in the process is embracing this brave new world (for example you may get a frosty reception from residents at apartment blocks where short term lets are frowned upon).

Ten of the best ways to save money on travel
Ten of the best ways to save money on travel: Save money on travel by joining the sharing economy.

10. Holiday in regional centres

This tip might seem obvious when you think about it, but few of us really consider it when planning our travel. Go where the tourists aren’t and you’re guaranteed to save money. Regional destinations are nearly always significantly cheaper to visit than major city centres, and you’ll enjoy some amazing hospitality as part of the deal!

Do you have any suggestions to add to this list of the best ways to save money on travel? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of The Big Bus tour and travel guide and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.

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