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The ten 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 checks in with ten tips guaranteed to save you money on travel...
The ten best ways to save money on travel
The ten best ways to save money on travel

Looking for ways to drive your holiday budget further?

Here are the ten 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!

1. Get a 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…

For full service airlines, the commission paid to travel agents on international fares 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%. Comprehensive travel insurance is usually around 15%. It’s worth noting that domestic airlines and budget airlines (domestic and international) generally don’t pay any commission to agents. In those cases, agents will often add on a service fee. You may as well save yourself that coin and book directly with the airline.

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!

Ten great ways to save money on travel to New York 

2. Save with a Stay/Pay deal

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.

The ten best ways to save money on travel
The ten best ways to save money on travel: Seek out Stay/Pay deals.

3. Search point-to-point air travel to Europe

This tip can save you big dollars on your airfare to Europe — particularly if you want to fly premium economy or business class at least part of the way. Rather than searching for one airfare from Australia, try booking your trip as two separate fares. Start with Asia to Europe from a popular hub like Singapore or Bangkok. As there are more airlines flying between Asia and Europe you’ll be amazed at the fares you can pick up. Once you’ve got that sector safely locked away, you can wait for a sale fare from Australia to your Asian hub.

So far so good, but here’s the ‘but’. Neither airline is obligated to wait for you if things go pear-shaped. Give yourself lots of extra time to make your connections — ideally a couple of days (perfect if you want to break up the trip with stopovers anyway). Remember that between flights you’ll need to clear customs and collect and recheck your luggage, and satisfy any transit visa requirements.

Ten great ways to save money on travel to London

The ten best ways to save money on travel
The ten best ways to save money on travel: Try booking point-to-point air travel from Australia to Europe.

4. Look for ‘open jaw’ airfares and 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 to London, stop-over there for a few nights, continue on a BA flight to Paris, then fly home from Amsterdam or Rome — all on the same airfare.

5. Find out 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. Talk to your travel agent for more details.

Listen to a podcast of our tips for top ways to save money on travel:

6. Book a mixed business/economy airfare

If you want to fly business class on the long haul sector of your trip to Europe but our tip to break up your airfare sounds a little too extreme, then a mixed business/economy airfare with the same carrier may be the answer. Fly economy on the shorter sector from Australia to Asia, and then stretch out in business from Asia to Europe. These fares can be anywhere 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.

The ten best ways to save money on travel
The ten 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.

8. Travel fee-free

We all know how it feels. You get back from an overseas holiday to find your bank statement peppered with bank charges, ATM and currency conversion fees. $2 here; $5 there; it all adds up. One solution is to take a sack of cash with you. The other is to find a fee-free way of paying for purchases overseas with a card. The Citibank Plus Transaction Account is one option. We’re not affiliated with Citibank in any way, but this account does offer a fee-free debit card service from affiliated overseas ATMs.

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 great ways to save money on travel to Melbourne

The ten best ways to save money on travel
The ten 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. If you’re heading for the UK for example, reduce the number of nights you plan to stay in London and head out into the glorious English countryside — perhaps to Devon and Cornwall or North Yorkshire and Cumbria. You’ll save big dollars on every aspect of your trip, and you’ll enjoy some amazing hospitality as part of the deal!

Do you have any suggestions to add to this list of the ten 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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