Kina's 5 Major Money Saving Travel Hacks
As a classic student soul, I'm always down for a bargain on travels so I can spend more money on things that matter (like uh, insane local cheap eats and flights to sunny side up beaches), so here are my 5 major money saving travel hacks for those big purchases - transport & accommodation.
1. Book flights/ferries/trains in advance
Last minute tickets are generally pretty expensive, so try to buy tickets ASAP, once you know the date you can leave and when your visa starts (trust me, I learnt this one the hard way and had to pay 750NZD to reschedule a long-haul flight because of some visa woes)
From my experience using metasearch websites (yknow, those sites that sift through heaps of other sites for you), I've found a few that work best for me, so I've shortlisted the websites I use into the following:
My personal favorite, priced in NZD too, I found this website when I went to Indonesia with my mates and she got a better deal than me #saltyshares
Reminder: studentuniverse is priced in USD, I got this off a famous tumblr post, yep
For European destinations (no sh*t sherlock), it compares flights, trains, and buses
I usually check on all three websites, because it doesn't hurt to search for an extra 15-20min if you end up saving money. Here are some other alternative websites that wouldn't hurt to check for your first couple of flights so you know which website works the best for you:
- Google Flights - doesn't let you book, but does show you what site to go to, so it's pretty nifty
Also, try to check flights on Sunday/Monday/Tuesday, which is generally cheaper than flights on Thursday/Friday/Saturday. As a student, I don't really mind long transits or red eye flights, but that also might be because I'm really, really good at napping anytime anywhere - if you've worked or studied with me, you've probably caught me mid nap multiple times, konked out on the floor or couch. I scored a cheap flight to Athens via Doha from Auckland, but turns out a. Auckland - Doha is the longest flight in the world, nearing 18hrs flying time, and b. I had to transit in Doha for nearly 8 hours and another 17.5 hours in Athens.
Another option is to check whether traveling to a major nearby city, then flying/bussing/training to your destination would be cheaper (e.g: Barcelona and Paris are total flight hubs, so flying to BCN/CDG then somewhere else might be cheaper than flying direct. Similarly, flying to Dusseldorf is cheaper than flying direct to Cologne, even though its a 45min cheap train away). Some websites, like Cheapflights, does this for you and suggests a cheaper flight into X nearby city.
Don't forget to check visa requirements (including and especially transit visas if you're flying long-haul) and baggage allowances - it's always better to buy extra bags online if you can, rather than pay at the airport, where rates can go around €10 a kilogram.
Also, try to buy larger purchases like these with a credit card that has a reward scheme, like a cashback or Airpoints credit card.
2. Book accomodation in advance
Similarly, last minute accomodation is not only expensive but you also kinda get a cat in a bag and don't know if it's a good place to stay or not. Depending on the place, I'd reccomend the following:
If you're staying somewhere where you want the locals to show you their POV of the place, or if you want a nice bach/apartment/house for cheap that you can share with your friends. I've used Airbnb a lot, and I've always found it a great experience, the locals can tell me their favorite spots, how to use the public transport efficiently, and tips and tricks to avoid tourist traps that you can't find online.
If it's your first time using Airbnb, I've got a voucher for $50 off your first booking, as long as it's over $100 (so just book multiple nights or book a nice bach and divvy it up with your mates!) - just click this link or copy the link below:
If you're staying at a hotel, hostel, or bed & breakfast - Booking.com wins for giving some of the cheapest prices for places, and a best price guarantee if you can find a better deal (ala Bunnings), and they have free cancellations and no prepayments/pay upon arrive for most places (for a few extra dollars, but it's so worth being stress-free imo)
Booking.com also has a 10% off referral programme, just click this link or copy the link below to get a 10% refund on your booking. Also, after you book with Booking.com 5x, you become a Booking.com Genius member, which gives you 10% off all bookings and other benefits :)
If you're staying at a hostel, it doesn't hurt to double check deals at Hostelworld.com - I ended up saving €140 by using a hostel from Hostelworld that wasn't on Booking.com for my stay in Cologne while I searched for a flat, and it was a nice hostel in the centre of town still :)
If you want to be extra thorough, there are some other websites and things you can do/check like:
- and also don't forget to double check with the actual hostel/hotel/bed&breakfast you're staying at, just in case they have a better rate for direct bookings.
Don't forget to use that rewards credit card - you won't feel it as you rack up rewards for your next adventure somewhere, but also remember that credit card bills still have to be paid by you at the end of the day, so spend wisely!
3. Find your daily allowance, and try to stick to it.
My general rule of thumb when I budget is to round things up to the nearest 5 or 10, so say I spend €32 on a hostel, I'll count it as €35, that way, I'll slowly accumulate a little buffer for myself.
Then, as I travel I keep a spreadsheet (try Google Sheets if you haven't already) with my actual spending figures, so I know how much money I have left, and I divide that money by the amount of days I'm travelling (inclusive of departure and arrival, because airport food still costs real money guys)
This is also how I shockingly found out that my budget after accommodation and major transport (flights/ferries/trains) was roughly €30 a day, and decided to make it my mission to still have a good time on a tight budget - stay tuned to see how this mission goes as I go through cities, though I luckily have the great backup of credit cards with limits that I can pay off within a month and the support of The Bank of Mom if I reeeally need it (pray I don't, mum works hard enough already and even 100 dollars is a lot of money in Indonesia)
Once I knew my "daily allowance", then I could easily figure out whether I was overspending or 'underspending', each day. If I spent €45 one day at a place, then I would spend €15 another day at another place (this isn't impossible if you're an avid beach napper, photographer, and cheap local food lover like me)
4. Transport Tricks
Find out what transport method is the best for you, and weigh up time vs. price. Buses in Santorini and Mykonos are €2.5 each way tops, while renting an ATV for the day is about €35. Sometimes it's better to rent a vehicle if you want to go to multiple places in a day that are far away from each other, other times, good ol' public transport, some googling the day before, and some strong legs up for an adventure does the trick.
So, here's a shortcut of when to:
Use public transport (bus/train) + walk:
If you've got a chill day ahead in one area, the walk is worth the views in itself, or if there is easy access to buses and trains from the airport/port (I'm looking at you, London)
Rent a vehicle (atv/car/scooter):
If you've got an International Drivers License, are a confident driver, and want to go to multiple faraway places in a day, or are traveling with friends and can divvy up the price together, go and rent that car. If you're traveling in Southeast Asia, it wouldn't hurt to rent a car with a driver, because those roads can be hectic as.
Use an uber/taxi/shuttle service:
If you're going from a port/train station/airport to your accommodation (and there's no way you could use public transport to get there) or another single-destination journey. Don't forget to check what local taxi to use (e.g: Greece has Aegean Taxi in Athens, Santorini, and Mykonos, which has an app, kinda like Uber)
5. Pack in your pack
Oh god my struggles with this one was so real, but if you're only travelling and not doing an exchange or other long term travel, really really try to pack light and not for two seasons (which I had to do because I spent summer and winter overseas) - do you really need to straighten your hair and bring all those products when you have an amazing time checking out the sunsets in Santorini? Probably not. Embrace that natural beauty life and body positivity!
Use vacuum bags for your clothes, especially for long term travels. If you're only doing a short trip, it doesn't hurt to do it if you know that you can borrow a vacuum at your accommodation to repack your clothes, and if you need that extra bit of space. Reading articles on how to fold clothes efficiently is also a goodie, there's heaps of guides online, but I personally use Marie Kondo's Spark Joy method.
Choose which stuff goes into your carry on and your checked baggage, I usually use this as my rule of thumb:
Carry on: anything valuable, anything fragile, anything heavy but small (I'm looking at you, powerbanks and laptop chargers and books), anything with batteries.
Most of the time, you can get lucky with carry on as long as you act like your bag is light as and totally didn't exceed the 7-8kg allowance. Also, you generally can bring a 'laptop' or 'camera' bag, and this is usually where I stash all my heavy electronics and/or books.
Checked: clothes, any liquids (I never really find any liquids to be that essential, other than travel toiletries if I'm flying and in transit for more than 16hrs)
Try to invest in some portable scales and weigh your checked baggage before you leave for the airport, and try to keep your checked baggage under the allowance you have - if need be, just chuck more stuff into your carry on, or ship it to your final destination if you're doing long-term travel.