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Known as the queen of affordable luxury travel, I frequently get told how lucky I am to come across such great travel deals. But there’s more to it than luck – we’re able travel in the manner we’re accustomed to thanks to the effort we (well, OK, mainly Justin!) put into finding the best deals and offers.
You can travel well without breaking the bank, but you need to put in the time, effort and thought to do so. Consider this – if someone said they’d pay you £200 to sit in a chair for four hours you’d think about it, right? Yet people think spending the same four hours doing research into ways to save the same amount of money on travel isn’t worth the effort. Strange, huh?
This research has allowed us to gain free companion flights to travel long-haul with BA or stay seven nights in boutique hotels for the price of five. We also save money while we’re actually on holiday to allow us to spend a little extra on special experiences or hotel upgrades.
Here’s some of our tips on how to save money on your travels and ways to find great deals and discounts that allow you to stay in amazing hotels in amazing locations.
1 – Have an open mind
If you’re set on a specific location or dates of travel then its gets harder and harder to find a good deal. So, whenever you can, keep an open mind and have a real adventure – visiting wherever the cheapest flights take you!
I discovered the beauty of Seville thanks to a cheap flight, and spent three luxurious nights in my own suite in Kaunas, Lithuania simply because it only cost us around £20 each to get there!
2 – Be flexible
Flexibility when you travel can also be a great money saver. For example, travelling from Thurs to Sunday could cost you a lot more than travelling from Saturday to Tuesday. Again, take the time to check out your options.
Also try to go out of season if you can, or at least in shoulder season as flight and accommodation is often a lot cheaper. Now I’m not recommending you whisk off and book a trip somewhere in the height of monsoon or hurricane season, but a little bit of common sense and flexibility can make a world of difference.
We often visit South East Asia right at the end of the rainy season and get some amazing deals on high-end accommodation, but usually only see an occasional rain storm, which more often than not is refreshing rather than depressing.
3- Use comparison websites
Justin always uses comparison sites to help him get a handle on the number of hotels in an area that might be worth considering, and then goes off to check their reviews. (Insider tip: His first ports of call are always Trivago and Tripadvisor).
On occasion it can worth going to the hotel direct, but strangely, they rarely beat the online booking companies.
4- Take advantage of cashback sites
Once you have established which hotels to use then head over to a cashback website. Our two main ‘go-tos’ are Quidco and Topcashback. Check each of them to see what deals they offer on the different booking companies then work out which one will save you the most cash.
For example, at the time of writing Quidco is offering eight per cent cash back on anything you buy through Expedia, and four per cent on any purchases from Booking.com. These rates change regularly; so do keep an eye on them.
5- Simply search Google for discount codes
Want to stay in a particular hotel chain or fly with a specific airline? Or perhaps you’re ready to book something with a booking company/ Well why not type their name into Google followed by ‘discount code’?
It takes 30 seconds of your time and you never know what you’ll find. I just checked and found an eight per cent discount code for all bookings on Otel for example!
Be aware though, these codes can often invalidate cashback, but on the other hand, they do offer immediate money off. It’s definitely worth doing your sums to see which is the better deal.
6- Make the most of your credit card options
If you use a credit card regularly, there are certain offers that you can really benefit from. Unfortunately our Lloyds/Avios credit card offer is no longer available (for a fee of £50 a year and a spend of £15,000 we get a free companion flight every 12 month), but there are still some credit card accounts out there worth considering.
For example, there’s a Lloyds credit card where you can earn flight upgrade vouchers if you spend £7,000 a year on the card and pay the annual £24 fee.
Free companion flights!
I’m also aware of two other credit card accounts available where you can still gain a free companion flight every year if you’re able to put enough on your card to hit the minumum spending amount.
The British Airways Premium credit card has an annual fee of £195 and in order to gain your free BA companion flight you have to put £10,000 onto your card over a 12 month period.
Then there’s MBNA’s credit card that gains you a companion flight with Emirates. To earn this you need to spend £15,000 per year on the card and pay the annual fee of £150.
Now, for some people putting this much on your credit card sounds like a rather big deal, but it can be doable. We’ve managed to hit our £15k spend every year by essentially putting all expenditure over £5 onto the credit card. Meals out, shopping, petrol, train tickets etc, we put everything on there and then make sure we pay the balance in full every month. It takes a little effort, but now it’s routine to us and well worth the return, as we save anything between £400-800 a year on our main holiday flight costs!
7- Book spots on free tours
Rather than pay what seem to be rapidly increasing prices on sites like Viator, there are more and more companies offering free tours. Many of these tours often use local students as guides, who are always entertaining and full of interesting facts. It’s a more fun way for them to earn some extra cash as they ask for a ‘donation’ at the end, and it’s down to you to offer money dependant on what you think the experience was worth. We recently did these in Tallinn and Oslo, and always found the guides intelligent and friendly. They’re a great way to learn about a new city!
8 – Eat cheaply
The less you spend on food the more you have for everything else. BUT I LOVE MY FOOD I hear you cry. Not as much as we do!
When we’re in Asia we always head to the food courts where the two of us can eat like kings for under a tenner. They have a much wider choice of food than restaurants and for a fraction of the price. And it’s your not ‘cheap and cheerful’ basic fare either – this stuff is mouth-wateringly tasty. In truth, the food courts are one of my holiday highlights – if you don’t believe me, check out my foodie tour of Singapore and Hawker highlights of Penang!
More often than not, the money we saved by eating this way we end up using for a super special meal at the end of our trip. These have included eating a fish feast on a beach in Bali as the sun set, having a BBQ dinner brought up to us in a ‘tree house’ in Sri Lanka and gorging myself at the world’s most amazing afternoon tea experience at the Fullerton Bay Hotel in Singapore.
9 – Use a local SIM card
Although not such an issue for those travelling closer to home in Europe anymore, it can still be very expensive to use a mobile elsewhere. Our tip is to buy a local SIM to make calls at a fraction of the price and stick to checking Facebook and Instagram when on WiFi at your hotel.
10 – Prepaid currency cards are the best
If you insist on taking large chunks of cash, then as well as running the risk of losing it, you’re also losing out on charges. At time of writing you can take £100 into the post office and get €111.20. Put that onto a Revolut travel card and get €113.75. It doesn’t seem a lot but it all adds up.
You use them like a credit card but don’t pay credit card handling fees. They’re safer and better value than carrying cash, and don’t apply any transactional charges that normal credit cards usually do.
11 – Use your reward cards to collect points
Supermarket loyalty schemes are also a great way to find some cool travel and experience deals. For example, you can convert Tesco Club Card points into Avios or use them to pay towards hotels or days out.
Sainsbury’s Nectar points have similar offers, and partner with companies like Easyjet for example.
12 – Sign up to the relevant email lists
If you use a service or company often then be sure to sign up to their mailing list, as you’ll often be emailed a special deal or two.
For example, Heathrow Airport, Bristol Airport, APH Parking and Holiday Extras are on our list and we occasionally receive an email that saves us a few bob on airport parking, lounges, premium security or a quick meal before boarding the plane…
So there you have it, our tips on saving money in order to enjoy more affordable luxury travel experiences. I hope you’ve found a few handy hints here and if you have any of your own you’d like to share, please do by leaving them in the comments section below!
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