Almost broke? Travel cheap with our guide! Here’s how: If you’ve ever travelled in your twenties, or for a period longer than 2 months chances are you’ve had that moment when you realise all of your careful budgeting and overzealous saving still wasn’t enough. Maybe you made the mistake of underestimating the costliness of some of the places you visited (like us in Iceland!) maybe you wrecked your budget by drunkenly deciding to treat yourself to 5 star accommodation for a week (like us in Qingdao!) Whatever the reason: you are here reading this post. When this happened to us I have to say I was disappointed with the information I found already out there on the internet superhighway. There were seemingly no new ideas! House-sitting? We investigated it: it’s a saturated market and often costs to sign up to agencies who may not find you a post. Couch surfing? I’ve heard horror stories from friends, sorry we’re just too old and too mid-range in our tastes for that – but good on those who do it and love it! So below I present to you 3 unconventional new ways to travel cheap when you’re almost broke. Don’t end your trip early, try these instead!
3 Unconventional New Ways to Travel Cheap When You’re Almost Broke:
1. Almost Broke? Travel Cheap with All-Inclusive Holiday Packages
We discovered this phenomena whilst on a six month Europe trip. I say phenomena because as Australian’s this is not something we see too often. It is however a BIG thing in the UK where Australian’s so often base their European travels… jackpot! All-inclusive holidays are package deals from anywhere between 3 days to 3 weeks which include return flights, accommodations, airport transfers and even varying levels of board ie food and drink. “All-inclusive” all-inclusive trips therefore include alcohol as well as all meals! And what was truly astounding was the price – we did a 14 day all-inclusive package to Malta for $AUD370 per person. We also used this method of travelling for Crete for $AUD435 per person. It’s such a cheap way to travel we were even able to impromptu take a vacation from our Crete vacation and run away for a couple of nights to a neighbouring beach town! Sure the food can be repetitive, the drinks packages basic and the hotels a little rundown but compare the above prices with the usual “travel cheap” wisdom of selecting a known cheap country and then backpacking and bussing around. We tried this advice hoping to travel Spain for two weeks but found that this method would cost at a minimum $AUD1200 per person by the time all the bunkbeds in mega-dorm accommodations, flights, transfers, food and buses got tallied up. It adds up a lot faster than you think, so why not give all-inclusive a whirl?
Bonus! Some cruises can also yield the same result. IE. I cruised Alaska (including a flight back to my starting point) for $AUD900 rather than spending the same amount to only get half as far up into this wild state with no means of return by shared driving and camping in a purchased off Craigslist likely to break-down, old van! We found the same to be true when looking to venture to the world’s northernmost brewery in Norway: a ferry-cruise was far less expensive than hiring a car and driving. It’s always worthwhile to check these options if you have a limited budget.
Our top tips for choosing a (UK) all inclusive holiday package:
- Search for package holiday sites on google.co.uk or use a VPN and select a UK server (more on VPN use and uses here) We have previously searched on Teletext Holidays and Last Minute (Note of warning though: some of these agencies advertise a price, but that won’t be the price you finally get quoted – we found using Expedia was the best option. (If you need to call you can also use your VPN to call toll-free numbers.)
- Book your holiday through an agency that is ATOL certified. This ensures you a refund should the company go belly up before your holiday (this has happened to friends of ours before!)
- These packages are all based on flights into and out of the UK, but if you’re in London don’t just select London Heathrow as your departure airport of choice. Expand your search parameters to include other airports in this region as you may get a much cheaper package deal that will even still provide a saving after you also book an internal flight, train or bus to this other airport. Manchester and London Gatwick handle a high volume of these package holidays and tend to be the cheaper options.
- Read the reviews to choose your package based not only on price but mostly from the reviews of the location and food available at the accommodations: if it’s gross you may be tempted to eat out too often!
- To save extra money choose a destination that is cheap and easy to get around; IE. we chose Crete as car hire and public buses are crazy cheap there and the island is fairly small. Ditto we also tried Malta as it is even smaller and entirely covered by a network of 3 hop-on hop-off open air sightseeing buses at $AUD15 per ticket.
- If you are going out sightseeing during the day ask the hotel for a packed lunch, they will provide these which although basic will get you through a long day and usually include a bottle of water.
- You don’t have to eat at the hotel for every meal! You’ll find you’ve saved so much by booking an all-inclusive package and mostly using the provided inclusions that you can splash out a little on the treats you like on holiday, IE. occasional fine dining or adventure activities!
2. Almost Broke? Travel Cheap with Flight Delays and Cancellations!
We recently wrote about our very positive experience when our Air Norwegian flight out of Berlin bound for Norway was cancelled after we sat 3 hours on the runway. Ultimately we did spend a whole day in an airport sure, but we were compensated 500 Euro! We were lucky also to not feel like we’d missed anything as this was during our 6 month trip, so we were taking our travels at a relaxed pace. This tip therefore works best if you likewise have time to spare and a good amount of patience!
If you’ve ever travelled domestically in the USA you too may have noticed how often Delta airline (for example) are offering travel and/or other gift cards of amounts from $200-$1000 to passengers to delay their flight to a later departure time as they’ve overbooked the flight and had less cancellations than they had expected. To score this credit you simply have to be the first passenger to approach the desk after the announcement. These announcements take place once you are at the departure gate. So if you are chosen you will have to wait in the airport departure area for another 2 or more hours until your later scheduled flight. But is your time worth over $100 an hour? Probably!
Our top tips for chasing flight cancellations and delays:
- Have time and patience! If you need to be somewhere by a certain time, for an onward flight for example, this may not work for you. But if you can be flexible about when you arrive at your onward destination then seek out certain airlines, if they are price-competitive.
- Read our post about compensation for cancelled/ delayed flights into/out of Europe (here).
- If you have a lot of time and can leave your plans quite flexible then seek out airlines well known for having a lot of cancellations or delays. This mid-2017 article gives a good global picture of the current best and worst airlines for punctuality.
- If flying within America, book with Delta if you can find a cheap flight, arrive at the airport early and then wait at the departure gate to hear any offers so that you can be the first to claim them. (They are generally first come, first served). This article on Forbes outlines one Delta customer’s experience of compensation for being voluntarily bumped from her overbooked flight.
3. Almost Broke? Travel Cheap with Hand Luggage; Know How to get the Most from Your Allowance!
Ok this entry may not seem new, in fact you’ve probably read it all over the internet that traveling with hand luggage often nets big savings. But we bring it up here because a) Point 3 is handy to know if you are going to try Point 1. (Often all-inclusive holidays are booked with only hand luggage allowances for flights.) But also because b) You may not be getting the most out of your hand luggage allowance, making you miss out on this money saving opportunity… until now!
Our top tips for maximising what you can bring with hand-luggage only:
- Know your allowance, and bring it all! IE. on every flight I have ever taken you are always allowed to bring and carry a coat on-board in the cabin in addition to your various packed bag/s.
- Bringing and carrying this coat is key. For one thing it’s not inside your luggage taking up valuable space, and it becomes another way to pack more items. Stuff your coat pockets with items you will want to access during the flight IE books or headphones. You may also be able to get away with maybe stuffing the sleeves a little with some items that didn’t quite fit in your bag. We have also wrapped a spare shopping bag of items inside the coat and draped it over an arm to look quite natural but also smuggle a few things on board that had left our 7kg hand-luggage bags overweight. You can really get creative with coats…
- Don’t wear all your clothes onto the plane, it’s dangerous and will draw unnecessary attention from flight attendants that you don’t want if you are being a bit cheeky with your coat item packing! Do however wear your heaviest pair of shoes, tie a jumper or second light-coat around your waist and wear a hat and scarf. (NB stuff the second coat or jumper’s pockets with small items too if you can!)
- Always pack an expandable bag in your hand luggage. I like Longchamp ‘Le Pliage’ handbags for this and hubby carries an awesomely light foldable duffel bag from Eagle Creek (I use their packing cells which are awesome too!) These bags take very little space inside your hand luggage and once you reach your destination you can then take them out to streamline carrying the items you have worn IE tied jumpers, carried coats, worn hats, items in coat sleeves/pockets etc. (Particularly if the destination is warm: you’ll be sweltering otherwise!)
- If flying from certain UK airports on an all-inclusive holiday package you may also be entitled to bring a plastic bag full of purchases from the airport departure lounge. Specifically you can use this opportunity to buy all of your larger toiletries items IE body wash, sunscreen, toothpaste and so on.
- Considering which toiletries you can buy at your onward destination is always a good plan when travelling with hand luggage. Many brands are internationally available in a variety of sizes, so don’t pack them but instead buy them once you arrive in the quantities you need until your next onward hand-luggage only destination. But be warned at beach destinations the price of sunscreen is always exorbitant!
That’s our list! We hope that if you are almost broke it has been helpful! Have you got any other tips for people who are almost broke to travel cheap? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section below. Until next time, happy cheap travel! Erin & Ryan.