We all love to travel and sometimes splurge too. If you are a travel buff, then the biggest challenge you face is managing the expenses. While not everyone can afford luxury travels, we all can manage our travel expenses better and save money using these tips for frequent travels.
Help and Collaborate (Genuinely)
Ask yourself, how you can help a person you meet on a trip, with your existing skill set. Show a little care by occasional calls, even after you complete the trip. One of the kindest way you can not only save some money but also earn good people in your life, is by offering something valuable and intangible to a person, expecting nothing in return. When I helped a homestay owner in Malvan to set up his property online on Airbnb and Booking.com (with the photographs and videos of the property I made a point to click), I was able to not only strike a chord with him but also build a long standing relationship. I would never forget, how he went extra miles to help me out later and now treats me as a friend and very much part of his family.
Be a True Minimalist
Any serious travel blogger or photographer should always invest in the right equipment and photography gear and rightly so. However, we must know where to dial back when tempted to buy more (read, splurge) and stick to the bare essential, like a true minimalist. For example, no matter how tempted I may feel to buy a 70-200mm lens (worth INR 2 lakhs) or a 150-600 mm lens (for wildlife), knowing that I mostly click landscapes with one all round 24-105mm lens, it would not be wise to invest in these expensive lenses. The money so saved, can be utilized for planning a few extra number of trips in the year (and thus create more travel content). Sometimes, even a GoPro or a good camera phone may be sufficient for you to cover the entire trip (if you are not fussy about shooting only in manual mode). If absolutely required, you can always borrow extra gadget or get it on rent. See how I shot my entire Pondicherry trip on a modest Samsung Galaxy phone below.
When you are not travelling, you can choose to live the life of a true minimalist with only the absolutely necessary things. Start with selling off the items (furniture, gadgets. etc.) you barely use. Try to minimize your expenses to bare minimum required to maintain a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle. Understand what ‘minimalism’ is all about and try to implement this in your routine life. Replace expensive gifts to spouse or parents with experiences like taking them for a surprise trip. Avoid ordering food online and learn to cook your own healthy meal. Malls are architecturally designed to allure you into buying things you do not need. Avoid strolling in the malls.
Choose Offbeat Destinations
This has two advantages. Firstly, you would be able to avoid cliched destinations with maddening crowd. Secondly, you may find the hotel pricing more affordable than a sought-after place with high demands. For example, if you are not a party animal, you may choose to stay in Vengurla which is hardly 40Km from some of the popular beaches of North Goa. You can see a few more examples of offbeat beach destinations in Maharashtra that I deliberately chose over boisterous beaches of Goa below.
Avoid Luxury, Stay Low Key
Stay consumes a major part of your budget. Unless your trip is to celebrate wedding anniversary or birthdays, avoid luxury stay as much as you can. You may probably use the same (saved) money to plan another trip. For example, the money we spent for hotels and resorts in Andaman (around INR 48K for 5 nights), we could have used a portion of it to book hotel on a subsequent trip later that year. Ask yourself, what kind of a vacation are you looking for. If you are planning to visit a place where you intend to be out the whole day, then spend more on a private vehicle than a fancy hotel or luxury resort to stay. Let me share a few more tips that you can use to save money on the stay:
- Book in the Offseason: If you prefer luxury stay (over more frequent trips), plan your travel in the offseason, when kids go back to school after vacation; post new year or valentine day; during monsoon, etc.
- Compare and Book Directly: Use Trivago to compare prices of the same hotel across different booking platforms and then compare the lowest price with the price mentioned on their website (or quoted by hotel for direct booking). Direct booking is likely to be cheaper sometimes, as the hotel does not have to pay any cut or overhead fee to anyone.
- Search on Google Map for Unlisted Property: Search for nearby unlisted properties on Google Map, using your selected property (on the platform) as a reference point. Not all properties in a particular area may be listed on a given platform and you are likely to get a better deal there.
- Choose Complementary Breakfast: Go for the rooms with complementary breakfast. They are often more economical and may gives you better value for money.
- Request for Early Check-in & Late Check-out: Request hotel staff to allow early check-in or late check-out (for free or by paying a nominal fee) to save one day of extra room tariff. If they do not agree, ask whether you can keep your luggage in the cloak room and pick it up around your flight/train timings.
- Sleep in the Train: Sleep in the train (or a sleeper bus) for your onward journey to save one day of extra room tariff.
- Book a Travel Hostel: If travelling in a bigger group, book a hostel or dormitory like, Zostel, The Moustache, The Hosteller, Gostops, International Youth Hostel, etc. Some of them let you book a dormitory in a group of 4 to 6. They also have private rooms (at around INR 1200-1500), if you prefer some space. If travelling solo, it can still work, if you are an outgoing person who loves to connect with others.
- Know Where You are Travelling: For example, in places like Spiti valley of Himachal Pradesh, it is better to stay with a local family and you should not book in advance, but on the go. However, in certain places of India like Uttarakhand, you get a better deal if you book rooms in advance.
Find a Side Hustle
Find a side hustle that fits well within your existing (or upgradable) skill set. For example, you can use the same expensive camera and gadgets you carry on your trips to do wedding photography (with rented lens) or corporate videos as a freelancer to make few extra bucks on weekends. I have paid half of my education loan after law school this way. You can also consider putting a small (unutilized) part of your house on Airbnb or creating an online course to generate passive income. I have learnt the best way to save money is to earn a little extra. This can relieve you from being constantly worried about petty savings on your trips.
Create a Travel Fund
Create a separate bank account dedicated to travel and save a small portion of your income every month exclusively for your next travel destination. This way, you can fund even big budget international travels, without taking a hit on your regular bank balance. Top off this exclusive account with extra money you earn through side hustle, selling off old items, yearly bonuses, etc. Don’t touch this fund for any other purposes, except medical emergency.
Use Credit Card
Use a travel (or money-back) credit card with which you can also delay your bill payment obligations by more than a month, and thus spread the toll on your finances over two months of salaries/income. For example, if my bill generation date is 18th of the month (say Month 1) and I book tickets and hotels on 19th of that month, the next due date for payment of these expenses would be in the first week (say 7th) of the 3rd month. This way, you can have more cash at your disposals to pay for vendors not accepting cards.
Air Tickets – When to Book
Book you air tickets on the day of the week your (or friend’s) credit/debit card has discount offers. Some of the travel companies in India offers attractive discounts on credit/debit cards, however, only on a particular day of the week. And when you book your tickets, go for early morning/ late night flights on weekdays, which are often cheaper than flights on weekend (inclusive of Friday night and Monday morning) and during rest of the day. Needless to say, you should book these tickets well in advance (at least two months ahead) to get the best price. Do not forget to book your tickets only in incognito (private browsing) mode, as the more you search for flights in public browsing mode, the greater will be the price you see, due to your data being tracked through cookies. Compare air fares on Skyscanner. If possible, consider other alternatives to flights like, catching an overnight train or bus, making it road trip, hiring an intercity cab for shorter distance. If you have more tips to save cost on airfare, please share with us in the comment box.
Save Cost on Local Commute
Rent a Scooter: For your local commutes, it is always the best to rent a scooter (or car, if you are more than two) for two reasons. Firstly, you have the freedom to go anywhere anytime (including very early morning) and make as many rounds as you can to cover the local spots. Secondly, you can save substantial cost in hiring a tourist cab (or autorickshaw) for the same.
Use Public Transport: If you do not mind using public transport (where available) you can save even more. However, I feel, public transport does not give you the freedom to move like locals does, and may have availability and timing issues in remote areas.
Go Online to Find Your Ride: If you must book a cab, try to book it from online portals like Taxibazaar (for longer distance) or ride sharing/car pooling apps like BlaBlaCar, SRide etc. (for city commute). If possible, avoid booking cab through travel desk of you hotel, which is likely to be more expensive.
Don’t Cover Every Tourist Spot: You can save both time and money by choosing to skip a few less important or repetitive spots. You travel to enjoy the place, not to tick off any checklist of tourist points.
Travel in Right Number: Travel in a group of 3 (or maximum 4) or its multiple plus one (6-7) so that you do not have to book an extra auto-rickshaw, cab or bigger car every time. If travelling with friends, you can also split the cost this way.
Speak to Locals for Experiences
They may have contacts with the right people who can offer the same activity or experience at a more economical price than what your hotel may provide or you may find online. For example, when my friend, Rhea went for paragliding, most of the places she found online, were concentrated around Solang valley, with a fixed rate. When she started talking to locals in Manali, she found out a place called, ‘Dobhi’, closer to Kullu which offered a much better view and had a more reasonable pricing. Avoid reaching out to the travel desk of your hotel for activities and local experiences. They are most like to be unreasonably expensive.
Prefer Local Food over Gourmet Food
When I am travelling to a new place, half of my focus is always on exploring local food and delicacies. I deliberately skip the gourmet food or buffet offered by hotel and hunt for the famous eateries and food joints nearby. This helps me explore the real flavours of the town and save substantial cost during the travel. For example, when we stayed at MGM Beach Resort in Mahabalipuram, we drove a little bit further to find two excellent restaurants nearby with much lower pricing on the menu. Needless to say, if you carry your own liquor, you can again avoid paying premium rates to the hotel for the same liquor. Similarly, ordering food from your hotel room may cost significantly higher than having the same food in the dining area. We paid INR 750 for a sandwich we ordered from the room, which was originally priced at INR 350 in the dining area of Club Mahindra Resort.
Special thanks to Rhea for sharing some useful tips for this post from her travels to Himalayas. If you too have some great ideas to save cost on travelling, please let us know in the comments.