Tony’s Top Ten Travel Tips

When you come from New Zealand you are pretty much resigned to the fact that to do any significant travel, especially when you have a family is going to cost you an arm and a leg (and maybe a kidney and your first born child to boot).  having been lucky enough to have been travelling the world for the last 4 years now here are my TOP 10 Cheap Travel Tips to help give you the most travel bang for your buck

1. Plan ahead if possible

This one should go without saying, but it is imposrtant to remember that the earlier you book your ticket the better the chances you have of getting a good deal.  Currently it is accepted that booking between 5 1/2 and 1 1/2 months in advance of your flights will land you the best deals.   Of course there is always the good old standby fare, but if you want to know you are going to travel on a particular day then book in advance.

2. Be flexible

Unless you absolutely must travel on a certain date, giving yourself flexibility can save you huge sums of money, in some cases halving the fare.  Check out the following sites which give you flexible search options;

  • Kayak – Allows you to search anywhere from 1 – 3 days either side of your anticipated travel date.
  • Skyscanner – Allows you to search across a whole month to find the cheapest days to fly.  Also if you are just wanting to get away somewhere then use their flights to “Everywhere” option from your departure airport, this will give you a list of all destinations ranked in order of price to enable you to find some great bargains for a weekend away.
  • Momondo – Has a great Trip Finder feature, where you enter where you are flying from and adjust a few variables, like which region you want to go to, what month, what sort of activities you want to do and what your budget is and it will present you with a selection of great deals across a selected month, so you can take advantage of the best options.
  • Google Flights – Allows you to input a departure city and search for a range of places and dates so you can find a great deal.

Also be flexible on time of day you fly, number of stopovers and duration of flights, of course weighing up the value of savings made against time lost in additional travel over shortest route.   You can often find that taking a longer flight with a long stopover somewhere can save you up to 50% of the cost of a direct flight, so if you are really adventurous you could tie in some sightseeing in another country along the way.  If this option means overnighting somewhere, then you have to factor in the cost of another night’s accommodation and other associated costs to fully assess its value.

Another option to consider with flexibility is to be flexible where you fly into, is there another airport or town nearby where you want to fly to ? If so what are the costs of flying into there and then getting a bus, train or rental car to your final destination.  I recently booked my daughter a flight from New Zealand to Helsinki and it was considerably cheaper to fly her to Stockholm, Sweden plus fly myself and my son from Helsinki to Stockholm on the same day she arrived there spend 1-2 nights in Stockholm to unwind and do some sightseeing and then catch the overnight ferry back to Helsinki.  (It would have been considerably cheaper still if she flew from Stockholm to Helsinki on her own as well, but we wanted a getaway as well.)

3. Shop around online

While we all have our go to sites for finding airfares, I have found that none of them give you the best deals ALL of the time, so I usually use the following method to find the best deals;

  1. start by searching the sites mentioned in 2. above, to narrow down the best destination and days of travel
  2. Decide on preferred days of travel and destinations.
  3. Next check out Jet Radar, along with the previous sites searching the same parameters across each of the previous sites to find the best deals.  Sometimes you will find the exact same flight with different prices on different sites.
  4. Now you will have found the best deal across the search sites, so make a note of the airline and go to their website and search for the same flight on their site also.
  5. Book whichever option is best, taking into account your level of trust of the particular booking engine you are using.  So far in 4 years of travel I have used all of the above sites and their associated booking engines and not had any troubles whatsoever.

4. Use local sites where possible

This tip can also save you considerable sums of money as well.   If you are planning either internal travel in another country or onwards travel from that country, try using the localised version of their website rather than an international one to make your bookings.  A recent case in point was when a friend was travelling to New Zealand from Finland and was looking to book a domestic fare from his arrival airport of Auckland to Christchurch.  He came to me and asked me what a typical fare should be which was about half of what he was finding using Air New Zealand’s European site, so I did a quick search for the exact same flight on www.airnewzealand.co.nz and saved him about 50% of his fare.  I have also noticed here in Finland that by booking ferry travel via the local sites is a lot cheaper than the equivalent .com sites.  It is often a bit more difficult to navigate around, but the Google Translate add-on for Google Chrome certainly helps a lot, and it is worth persevering with to save a lot of money at times.

5. Identify Budget carriers and check their sites directly

While the search sites are great at bringing up a range of options to consider, many of them however exclude the real budget carriers that operate into, around or out of some countries.  So before pressing the BOOK NOW button on that great deal you have just found, do some research on what budget carriers operate into or out of your destination airport and search their fares, again you could save yourself a considerable chunk of spending money.

6. Use sites like SecretFlying.com

If you have total flexibility and are able to take advantage of a great deal whenever it suits to get the deal then Secret Flying is for you.   They scour the web for the best deals available and list them on their website.  Often these are error fares published by airlines but generally once booked you have the deal.  Check them out and see what amazing deals they have from your part of the world.

7. Check out cheap accommodation options

Like airfares there are plenty of options for searching for great accommodation deals online.  My preferred accommodation nowadays is generally AirBnB as it is usually a lot nicer to have somewhere to stay with the comforts of home, especially when you are travelling with kids or for longer periods.   If I can’t find what I want there then I generally go to a search site like Bookings.com or HotelLook to once again narrow down the best deals, these sites can also have different prices for the same properties on the same nights so don’t rely on a single site all of the time.  Once I have identified a particular deal I google the hotel’s website to see if there is a better deal direct which there sometimes are, before settling on who I will book through.   Before finally hitting the BOOK NOW button on my accommodation I will also do a search on Hotwire for the same period and city.  Hotwire is like a mystery hotel search, where they will come up with their best offers for your enquiry but without giving a specific property name until you have confirmed the booking.   By using Hotwire you can save up to 60% off other booking methods if you book before learning the name of the hotel.

8. Work out how much travel you will be doing before booking a railpass.  

Many countries with efficient rail networks offer rail passes which allow you unlimited rail travel (and sometimes other commuter services as well) for a set period of time once you activate the ticket.  On the surface they can look like attractive money saving options and as such are marketed this way, often with the condition that you purchase your pass before you leave.

Some points to keep in mind before committing to a rail pass before leaving home are;

  1. How much travel will you actually be doing ?
  2. If you are staying in a single city for 2 or more days will you actually be doing much commuting or just going somewhere and coming back, or checking out the city on foot ?
  3. On how many successive days are you likely to be doing any substantial travel ?
  4. How much of the local commuter network is usable on the pass ?

In my experience so far I have found that not many of the day or multi-day passes available actually represent a saving,so it pays to be aware of the points above before committing to spending money on a rail pass.  In Japan you can get a JR Pass for various periods of time, however points to remember for this one for example are that in Tokyo JR only provides a small proportion of the commuter train networks therefore you will probably find you will need to pay for commuter travel there anyway whether you have a rail pass or not, unless you go out of your way to use JR networks instead.  If you are planning on a significant journey say from Tokyo to Hiroshima and return then by purchasing a JR Pass you will save money and also have the bonus of also saving on some of your commuter travel within the cities.  It is often more convenient to purchase a prepaid commuter card and load it with money as you run out.

Rail Passes and train tickets worldwide

9. Book your sightseeing options in advance

Once you know what days you will have available for sightseeing, plan ahead and book your tours and attraction tickets in advance to both ensure you get to do the tours or visit the attractions you want to see and to save money and time over booking on the day.

Viator

10. Live like the locals

One of the easiest ways to save money when you are at your destination is to live like a local, find the places they shop at and shop there, avoid anything that is targetted at tourists or foreigners (especially when they have “International” or “National” in their name…) unless your time is at a premium.  Shopping like a local can be challenging but it is usually fun and gives you an awareness of what day to day life is like where you are.  While living in Tokyo, half way between a local style Japanese supermarket and an International supermarket targetted at expats, I often found exactly the same products at around half the price in the local supermarket.

11. Get a job

If you have read this far then you deserve a bonus tip….

By “Get a Job”, I am not talking about getting job to allow you to save the money to travel, I mean find a job abroad, preferably one which will include a relocation airfare so you don’t need to even pay to get there.   If you are a teacher check out www.tes.co.uk which has a great selection of international teaching jobs both as classroom teachers and in management roles for all levels of teachers.

This is how we got our start in international travel, by applying for a job in Russia and successfully getting it.   So far this method has resulted in the following benefits for us;

  1. Russian visas for family of 4
  2. Airfares for family of 4 from New Zealand to Moscow with 3 day stopover in Dubai (we paid for 2 nights accommodation only)
  3. 6 months of accommodation and all utilities in Moscow.
  4. Return airfare from Moscow to London and 1 weeks accommodation as part of visa renewal process.
  5. Airfares for family of 4 from Helsinki, Finland to Tokyo, Japan
  6. 2 years of accommodation (excluding utilities) in Tokyo
  7. Airfares and 2 nights accommodation for myself and the kids from Tokyo to Busan, Korea for visa renewal purposes.
  8. Additional to this I have also enjoyed a free weekend in Copenhagen, including all flights, accommodation and meals, Sailing trips in the Helsinki Archipelago, and various other perks as part of my job.
  9. My (now ex) wife also enjoyed trips to Singapore and Italy as part of her job as well as an additional year of accommodation and her airfare home at the end of her contract.

We would not have been able to enjoy any of this if it wasn’t for finding good jobs abroad.  So if you want some adventure, don’t let the usual excuses of “it’s too hard”, “I am not experienced enough” or “they won’t let me bring my whole family” stop you, start searching the web working out what skills you have that are marketable and go for it, you will never regret giving it a try, but you will always regret never trying.   Remember that I have no formal qualifications and have managed to find a job and get a work visa just based on my particular skills and experience.

Job Search
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I would love to hear from any readers if there are any tips you may have on getting the most out of your travel $$$$$, please comment below.

AFFILIATE DISCLAIMER

By clicking on some of the links mentioned you will be taken to affiliate sites where I could earn a commission on any purchases you make using those sites.   These commissions DO NOT  affect the price you would otherwise pay by making the same purchase through these channels.  I do not charge for access to anything on this site and rely on income from such affiliate programmes to allow me to continue to devote the time to developing this site so would be grateful if you do purchase through these links if you are happy with any deal offered.  I have personally used most of the services mentioned during my travels and recommend them as the best ways of getting the most for your valuable travel dollar (Euro, Yen or whatever you are spending).

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Tony Fitzpatrick
Architect, Dad, Traveller & Head Rover at Around Rock 3
After a brief flirtation with Japan in the early '90's, and some occasional trips to Australia since, I have had an unrequited love affair with Japan and general desire to explore the world for the next 20 years while reality prevailed and I found myself pretty much stuck in my home country of New Zealand (not that is an entirely bad thing...).After a chance opportunity arose in mid 2012 to relocate our family to Moscow, Russian Federation I finally set off on my OE with my family in tow. It has been an amazing journey that has seen us experience life in Russia, Japan and now Finland, as well as visiting around a dozen countries so far in our adventure to date.While my family situation has changed along the way, I am continuing to explore the world with my tri-lingual son and enjoy sharing the adventures we have had with my followers.

18 comments

  1. Wow, thanks for your tips! It makes me feel like packing my bag and leaving tomorrow. AirBnB has great offers and Booking-com is a great platform as well but rather expensive. They are participating in a cash back program as well. This might be good to check out before booking over them. How did you like living in Russia as an English speaking person? Was it easy to integrate?

    1. Hi Ellie,

      Thanks for your comment. I do find Bookings.com can be expensive at times, but the earlier you book the better the deals you seem to be able to get.

      I loved living in Russia, it was extremely difficult in all regards, but is such an amazingly beautiful country with a rich history and great people that by the time we had been there 6 months we were very sad to leave.

  2. Tony,
    I certainly agree with the premise of your article. One just can’t do basic research in preparation for travel and expect to get the best possible deals, or enjoy the best visit to other countries abroad without really investing into proper planning

    In fact unless one foolishly does NOT do his/her homework beforehand, considering all that is now available online through simple Google searches, he/she could spend a much larger amount of $$ vacationing/visiting abroad compared to if he/she did his/her due diligence beforehand.

    I liked several of your tips – #6 which dealt with an online site where one could get info on cheaper airfare. Paying $$ to fly, even coach back amongst the cattle on a plane certainly is not cheap nowadays. Why pay for a really high airfare from one airline when perhaps flying on a second one, and bending a little with departure/arrival times it could cost much less? The site that you recommended indeed could have “a deal” for that person willing to do a bit of legwork in researching the best available airfare.

    Tip #11, that bonus tip certainly got my special attention as well. If a person has a lot of flexibility and a case of being adventurous, then certainly he/she should think about work abroad in what would at first be considered an unusual country to live in. But if one could find a job to one’s educational ability – say in Hong Kong, China, earn decent wages, and have some of your housing accommodations paid for and experience free airfare along the way, then why not? You only live once and to be able to see as much of the world and all it’s different cultures would be quite an education and something to always remember! By what you said in the jobs that you had abroad, everyone in your family must have treasured memories that they will never forget!

    Great article, Tony!
    Jeff

    1. Thanks Jeff,

      Some good points you make there. If I could actually sum up in a single point how to get the best value for your travel buck then it would have to be flexibility. By being flexible in everything from where you go, to when you go and how you go will mean the difference between being able to enjoy an adventure of a lifetime and never being able to afford to do it. Sometimes it is the places we didn’t plan to go that end up being the ones we fall in love with, I know that is how I fell in love with Japan for the first time back in the early ’90’s, as it was not a country on my travel radar but I ended up there anyway and have now returned 3 times since and lived there for 2 years as well.

      We do have many treasured memories and although unfortunately we are no longer a family, my son and I are still building more, with tickets booked to Paris to celebrate his 10th birthday.

  3. Living like the locals is one of the easiest ways to save money and get the most out of our travels. The activities we do and experiences we gain only matters when shared with others. And when done with the locals of the areas we visit, there’s not a whole lot that brings greater joy than that.

    1. Hi Wing,

      Yes that is so true, I am not a big fan of travelling to some strange land only to go and hang out with other foreigners and eat at western style restaurants. There is so much joy in being like a local, finding their favourite places and doing the things they do.

  4. Great travel tips you have here. This will serve as a great guide for people who are very new to travelling overseas. Many different aspects of travelling that I never thought to consider myself.

    The websites that you have recommended for booking flights will surely be a huge benefit for me, when planning my next trip. It’s always good to have more options when planning a holiday trip. Thanks!

  5. Such a good post – I love to travel and use lots of these sites already when I’m planning trips, there’s nothing better than knowing you’ve got a great deal! Some of these sites I haven’t heard of before though so I’ll definitely save them for next time I’m planning.

    It’s not for everyone but there are a few sites where you can house sit so you get your accommodation for free and get to explore wherever you’re staying at the same time. I have also volunteered in places previously where I’ve obviously had to do some work in return, but then got food and accommodation super cheap meaning I could spend my money on doing other stuff in my free time, and the actual volunteering was also extremely rewarding too.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for your comment. Actually I forgot about volunteering as a way of getting to travel, maybe will have to include that in a separate post on finding work abroad one day soon….

      Cheers

      Tony

  6. Nice collection of tips and resources. Secret Flying is a really fantastic resource. Love them. Even cheaper (FREE) lodging can be found through Couchsurfing, home exchanges, and other. Auto Slash (for car hire/rental) has save me hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars.

  7. Ok, where was this page when I was traveling to New Zealand, Brisbane and Paris?! I went to New Zealand and Brisbane for a wrestling trip everything was supposed to be covered (experiences wise) but I wanted to stay with my fiancé so I had to book everything myself. Many of these tips I didn’t even know such as you will get the best deals if you book 5 months ahead. I thought it was that if you book closer to the date then that will be the best deal

    1. Damn, you can save a lot booking locally…. If you are really lucky you might pick up a cheap ticket close to your departure date, but generally to be safe and get the best secured price 5 months before is the best time.

  8. Hi Tony

    Thanks for a good and comprehensive read.

    I guess the theme of your post is planning. Nothing beats doing some research upfront so you can get some really good deals and saving.

    The toughest challenge is always finding the balance between good deals at a good price and cheap deals that compromise your traveling experience.

    Great article and tips.

    Regards
    Peteni

    1. Hi Peteni,

      Thanks for your comments, yes I think you sum it up pretty well. Nothing beats good planning and trying to find that right compromise of price and value/convenience. Don’t forget the ability to be flexible as well which in itself can save big $$$

      cheers

      Tony

  9. Hi

    Great Post

    As an avid traveller I make sure I spend hours planning my trip. This can save lots of money and ensures that the trip will be stress free. Being flexible as you mentioned is also a good option as you never know when the better flight deals might pop up.

    Living like the locals is also a great idea as eating out and spending money on restaurants will always cost a descent amount of money.

    Thanks for the information.

    Cheers

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