There’s an age-old misconception still floating about that a person needs to be rich or have lots of money to be able to afford to travel. Sure, if you fly suites class, only stay in 5*+ hotels and enjoy 6-course meals each meal time, that might make sense – but your average traveller doesn’t do that.
One of the many reasons I was so keen to set up this blog was to show people that travel doesn’t have to be expensive; it’s not something reserved for the rich anymore. A few simple changes here and there, a bit of flexibility and some self-initiative can save you a lot of money when you’re planning your travels. I call it travelling smart; but more on that another time!
For now, let’s jump straight into 6 ways I’ve saved myself £1000’s on my travels, and how you can too!
1. Let your hotel know about your special occasions
If you’re visiting for a special occasion (birthday, honeymoon, anniversary) be sure to let your hotel know in advance. Chances are, they’ll want to do something nice for you! Drop them an email explaining how excited you are to stay in their hotel and let them know about your special occasion. 99% of the time I’ve done this, we’ve been rewarded with a special surprise – from room decorations to cakes and upgrades and it costs you nothing!
Most resorts offer honeymoon packages worth hundreds of pounds – so make sure you let your booking agent or hotel know about your special occasion! Some hotels also offer “celebration packages” at an additional cost, just keep that in mind if they do come back to you offering a priced package.
2. Always check hotel websites for the latest deals and promotions
I have to admit, I’m a serial Booking.com user. I always find prices cheaper on Booking.com and it’s so quick and easy to use, but sometimes, shopping directly through the hotel’s website can make you big big savings even if it doesn’t look like it at face value! Look out for offers that may include free breakfast, airport transfers, discounts for staying a certain number of nights (or free nights), free dining vouchers etc, these offers can save you a lot of money and many only apply to rooms booked through hotel sites directly.
3. Check what your bank has to offer
Most UK banks will offer some form of travel benefits/insurance for their customers. Speak to your bank and see what travel benefits are included within your account. It may be worth upgrading your account to get better cover – or shop around! This could save you many £’s in the long run.
For a small monthly fee, my bank provides me with a number of perks including free worldwide travel insurance meaning I don’t have to shell out for additional cover. American Express is excellent for it’s travel benefits; from car hire cover to flight-delay compensation, lounge passes, and so on (I’ll be reviewing AMEX soon!). Some banks and credit cards will also give you cashbacks or discounted rates on certain hotel chains and car hire companies.
4. If you’re not happy – complain!
I think us Brits have a serious problem with leaving genuine feedback for fear of appearing rude or ungrateful, even when we have a very valid reason to complain. I used to be the grin-and-bear it queen until I had a close friend who complained about virtually everything and I noticed how keen companies were to make it up to her.
If something is wrong, just complain about it! I’m not saying complain about everything and invent problems – but if something isn’t right, or up to the standard you expect from the brand/hotel/company – let them know. Chances are they’ll go out of their way to make the experience up to you because they don’t want a bad reputation.
Many moons ago, I checked into a hotel room while travelling with family and noticed the bin hadn’t been emptied by housekeeping prior to our arrival. We placed a 2 second phone call to reception to let them know, they immediately sent a cleaning crew to clean the loo. Then management called to apologise profusely and offered us food vouchers for every single one of us (staying across the two rooms we’d booked!) to visit the overpriced hotel-buffet for lunch/dinner that evening. The vouchers were worth a LOT of money.
Perhaps my biggest win was on our honeymoon, when Mr H and I were upgraded to the most luxurious villa in the entire resort for the remaining duration of our stay in the Maldives due to a number of small issues in our first villa that we reported to management. It was a room we had dreamed of staying in but couldn’t afford, and we got to enjoy it for the majority of our trip! Moral of the stories – complain when something isn’t right!
5. Look out for airline & airport offers
It’s well worth checking if the airline your flying with has any special offers or free promotions running during your holiday. You can find these through airport and airline websites, sometimes they’re included in the in-flight magazine. National carriers frequently offer discounts in their home country to encourage you to fly with them. I used my Singapore Airlines boarding pass to gain discounted entry into attractions in Singapore.
If you’re transiting through Singapore’s Changi airport on Singapore Airlines, Silk Air or Air New Zealand, take advantage of the free $20-$40 voucher for airport spending. Turkish Airlines recently had a scheme providing free hotel rooms and free tours of Istanbul for Turkish Airlines passengers on transits longer than 7/10hrs. Qatar Airways similarly provided free hotel accommodation and are still offering free tours of Doha for transit passengers.
6. Loyalty schemes can save you a lot of money
This is quite an obvious one but one you really shouldn’t be overlooking. If you stay in a particular chain of hotels regularly, sign up for their loyalty scheme. You can score discounted rates, room upgrades, free hotel rooms, free breakfasts and more, saving you hundreds, if not thousands of £ in the long run. I’ve used my HHonors membership to score free breakfasts, free afternoon teas and stays on some of the most exclusive floors of hotels. Of course it goes without saying, if you’re not already signed up to a frequent flyer’s club – do it now!
If you have any travel-freebies hacks share yours in the comments section below, I’d love to hear how you save on your travels.