Are you wondering how to afford long-distance travel? Perhaps you’ve drawn up a travel budget with your partner, worked out how much it costs to get from A to B and realised that you can’t afford to visit very often?
Before you both despair, know that there are plenty of tricks and strategies to save money on travel (both internationally and for shorter distances). If you use these consistently, the savings add up over a period of time – which could equal more visits or more money in your pocket.
Here are 12 money-saving tips to factor into your plans.
1. Use apps to split tickets
Splitting a ticket means buying more than one ticket for a single journey (normally by train, but sometimes flights too) – e.g. instead of buying a ticket for a journey from stop A to stop C, you buy a ticket to travel from A to B and another ticket from stop B to stop C. This can often work out cheaper!
2. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable
I’ve written here about how I used to travel for 14 hours on the Megabus to see my then-partner, who was living 500+ miles away.
Would I recommend it, all other things being equal? Not really. But sometimes you have to compromise – and I was broke and this trip cost £1.50 (about $1.88). Saving that cash was a no-brainer, despite the discomfort.
3. Beware the costs of poor planning
Poor planning, such as forgetting to weigh your luggage and going over the limit by a few kilos, can end up costing you tons. Some U.S. companies charge $100 once you go over the limit.
Plus, how many times have you been passing through a train station or airport, feeling hungry because you didn’t have time to eat at home, and ended up buying a $10 sandwich?
The strange thing is that whilst people are often diligent about getting the best price on their plane ticket, they cancel out the savings later by buying expensive food at the airport. Airports sell food at a huge markup price because they know people will be in this situation – but you can avoid it with a little careful planning.
4. Use points reward schemes
If there’s a grocery store you shop at all the time, they might have a points card which you can use for travel.
For example, in the UK you can spend Nectar points and Tesco points on flights, the Eurostar or holidays.
5. Always check overseas transaction fees
Even though modern banking apps like Starling and Monzo have largely moved away from transaction fees, some banks will still charge you for withdrawing cash overseas.
Make sure you check this before you go (Which? has a great run-down of banks and their foreign transaction fees) and factor it into your budget. If you’re travelling internationally all the time, consider switching to another bank or setting up another account with a bank that doesn’t charge.
6. Travel light to avoid baggage fees
Have you ever packed your suitcase full to bursting, only to find you haven’t used/worn most of it by the end of your trip? I have!
Even if you’re staying for a few weeks, you can get away with packing only a small suitcase if you plan carefully. A few tips:
- Keep some things at your partner’s place – including all the things you can’t take in hand luggage (such as a razor), a few changes of clothes (including socks and underwear) and one or two pairs of shoes as well
- Do laundry whilst you’re there
- Roll rather than folding clothes – this is better for space
7. Don't pay extra for your phone
Check your mobile plan to see what the fees are for roaming / overseas use. If they’re too high, getting a sim card for the country you’re visiting might be cheaper.
A few more things to be aware of:
- Phones will often connect to nearby signals automatically, so turn off the roaming setting manually to make sure you’re not accumulating hidden costs.
- Depending on your plan, you can also be charged for receiving phone calls as well as making them, so ask any friends or family to call you with a free-to-use app (such as WhatsApp), rather than using your regular minutes,
- Before you can use a sim card, your handset will normally need to be unlocked. Sometimes there are restrictions on this, so check with your mobile provider before buying a sim card.
8. Travel outside the busy seasons
Even if you’re not travelling for a holiday, you’ll still be stuck with huge prices as soon as those seasons hit.
Generally, January, February (Valentine’s month!) and September are good months to fly, but it does depend on where you’re going, and from where.
Do your research and book early!
9. Don't skip travel insurance
Travel insurance doesn’t sound like a way to save money – after all, isn’t it just another expense? But skipping travel insurance is a BIG mistake and could mean you end up paying thousands if the worst happens.
Shop around for the best deal – there are lots of different plans which cover different health conditions and disruptions to your visit – so choose a plan which suits your travel schedule.
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