Starting 2022 with the intention of booking that bucket-list trip, only to find your pockets don’t run as deep as you had hoped? Don’t despair – there are countless ways to save money, from home swaps to being savvy when it comes to food choices.
Here's our guide to making your travel money go further, so you have more to spend when you get there.
Sign up for loyalty programs & credit card bonuses
“It may seem tedious, but it’s worth joining every loyalty program you can find,” says Toronto-based financial and travel expert Barry Choi. According to Choi, most hotel loyalty programs will instantly give you early check-in just for signing up and you can earn points with airlines as long as you’re a loyalty member. For example, Expedia gives holidaymakers up to two points for every $1 spent on flights, hotels, cars, packages and things to do.
Now is also a great time to put your points to good use, according to The Points Guy’s Senior News Editor, Clint Henderson: “Use those points and miles you’ve been hoarding during the pandemic."
Some credit cards offer generous sign-up bonuses too. “If a bonus is worth at least US$200, it’s a good card,” says Choi. “You may also consider a credit card that doesn’t charge the standard 2.5% fee when buying abroad. It may not sound like a lot but 2.5% certainly adds up over time.”
Get a package deal
You can get some deep discounts by booking vacation packages rather than purchasing flights and hotels individually. Packages also help to save time by simplifying your travel planning overall. While many people go to sites like Expedia or Kayak to book packages, some of the best prices can be found by booking directly through the airlines, many of whom now offer their own vacation packaging options. Sites like American Airlines’ AAVacations.com can be a great place to find deals that help you save money and time.
Avoid unnecessary frills
You might be lured by the promise of low-cost flights, but it’s worth considering whether you really need that priority boarding, extra legroom or seat selection, which can vastly inflate the overall price of your journey. Similarly, you may have to forfeit the in-room massage, as hotel add-ons can rack up your bill significantly.
Setting aside ‘fun money’ from alternative sources can help you cover some additional travel frills. For example, squirreling away earnings from online purchases on cash-back sites like Rakuten can help to build up a handy pot of vacation money.
Stay at someone else's place
Imagine a holiday with no hotel bill. Some might think you’re mad to invite strangers into your home, but you can’t argue with the money-saving aspect of a home swap, especially when it extends to assets such as cars and lifestyle services like gyms or ski equipment. You also get to live like a local with all the comforts of a home.
Members of the home exchange website Love Home Swap have reported annual savings of up to US$3500 on accommodation alone. Yes, you may need to scrub the bathroom and clean out those closets, but the risks are small versus the rewards.
Use price comparison websites
Gone are the days when you had to toggle 15 browsers to find the cheapest flights. Nowadays price comparison websites can do the legwork for you, guaranteeing the lowest price.
If you’re not in a rush to purchase your airfare, you can set up a price alert on sites such as Google Flights or KAYAK, which will then email you once there’s a price drop. Skyscanner is great for a quick overview of prices, AirfareWatchDog for alerts on cheap deals, and Trivago tops many when it comes to cheap rooms. However, be mindful of excessive card charges, which enable some operators to offer ‘cheaper’ deals.
Check out the best dates to fly
COVID-19 has changed a lot about flying, but some travel advice still holds true, the earlier the better is the mantra when it comes to booking.
The best time to book a short-haul flight is 70 days in advance. Look out for deals with the likes of Ryanair, who often roll out sales on routes two to three months prior to departure. Most Asian airlines set their prices according to their national holidays, which means flights at Christmas and Easter are cheaper.
Another tip is to purchase tickets for dates when tourism is slow. A little research can tell you when the shoulder season is for your destination, the time of the year where prices tend to be much lower. Booking during the winter months also tends to yield lower costs.
Consider an all-inclusive stay
The words ‘luxury’ and ‘cheap’ don’t often go together in the same sentence, but going all-inclusive can often mean reaping the reward of a well-planned vacation with plenty of luxury benefits for less. You might have to rub shoulders with other wristband-wearing guests doing the conga but paying for everything upfront means no sneaky surprises on your bill at the end of your stay.
Barry Choi recommends going a step further and booking a tour, since they often include ground transportation, accommodation, local guides, attractions and meals. He says that every tour operator is different, and suggests browsing through a comparison site such as TourRadar.com to help to find one that suits you.
Try split-ticketing your flights
There’s no rule to say you have to stay loyal to one airline, or train company for that matter. Two single flights can be cheaper than a return, and splitting your party can yield further savings. Calling the airline after booking to ensure they link your two reservations can minimize the chances of being split up.
Google Flights is a good go-to portal for mixing and matching airlines, as is Skyscanner’s ‘flexible’ search tool; it allows you to see the (sometimes cheaper) combined costs for separate flights in a way that a normal travel agency can't do.
Explore penny-pinching meal options
If breakfast is included in your rate then fill your boots with the buffet (and load up on snacks). But the cost of a hotel dinner, much like the mini bar, is notoriously inflated. You can also save quite a bit by booking an AirBnb and making your own meals.
Taking a five-minute walk down some back streets away from key tourist sites can invariably halve your bill and deliver a much more authentic experience. And there’s always street food for cheap, local, authentic fare.
Spring for annual insurance
According to Choi, if you travel three times a year or more, then purchasing annual travel insurance is likely to cost you less than buying separate single-trip policies.
“Keep in mind that you may already have ‘free’ travel insurance. Many travel credit cards as well as employers offer travel medical insurance, trip cancellation and lost or damaged luggage as a standard benefit. That said, it's important to read the details of your policy to ensure you have enough coverage.” For example, backpackers on extended trips longer than 31 days are often excluded from the annual insurance parameters.
Track your prices
Price tracking tools like Google Flights are a great way to snag unexpected deals on flights to a particular destination. Setting an alert for a particular destination will let you know when the best prices are available and alert you to any special offers.
In addition to tracking, Google Flights also offers extensive customization options that can save money for those without a specific destination in mind. For example, the site allows “flights to anywhere” searches that show prices from a single destination to cities all around the world, within a set date range.
You might also like:
How to road trip the Southeastern US on a budget in 2022
How to save money for your next big trip
20 best free things to do in London