As long haul travel became mainstream in the late 90s, so did the phrase ‘travelling on a shoestring’. South East Asia became the destination, and we saw the rise of the gap year. We also saw an influx of budget airlines, bringing Europe closer (and cheaper) to us Brits than ever before.
While European travel is still high, and long haul travelling increasing, exotic holidays are often still associated with student-hood, honeymoons, and retirement. It’s become something that needs an occasion.
With my hacks, you can bring this kind of travelling into your everyday life, and tick one of your bucket list destinations off in 2019. Travelling doesn’t have to be something for a big birthday, and can often be the same price or cheaper than an all-inclusive trip to Spain.
1. Plan ahead
So turning into a planning nerd like me might be a step too far, but you can certainly spend a bit of time thinking ahead and seeing what deals are out there. Some recommend holding your nerve for long haul flight bookings until right before you want to go, but I find booking nearly a year in advance can be a great way to plan out your annual leave and keep one eye on hotel deal websites (like Secret Escapes). It also gives you something to look forward to!
Jack’s Flight Club is a great way to get destination inspiration, and works well if you’re a bit lazy or don’t like searching for deals. I also have a lot of love for Hotels.com, because they price match right up until you stay – so you can book a year in advance and they’ll still refund you if you find the same room cheaper five days before you go. I’ve done this loads of times and they’ve always confirmed my refund within 48 hours.
2. Join a frequent flyers club
Yes, this might seem obvious, but it amazes me how many people I speak to who don’t actually do this. It’s a good idea to choose an airline that flies to the most places on your bucket list. I personally like British Airways (despite their service being a bit hit and miss), as they fly to a huge range of places and often fly direct. I hate those pesky stopovers. Virgin is the other main option for Brits.
3. Consider combining your flight with a hotel
If you’re struggling to find a great flight deal, sometimes combining it with a hotel stay can offer some decent discounts. I often use BA Holidays to book a flight and a hotel (it can be any night during the stay, and it doesn’t have to cover the whole stay). In the past I’ve found £600 flights per person to the US and paid £1400 in total for the flights and three nights in a hotel that costs £600 on its own, making a saving of £400. I’ve also seen it work in Europe (where hotels are generally cheaper), and in Hong Kong where I saved nearly £1000 on a week’s hotel stay.
And the biggest benefit to using BA Holidays? They only take a deposit at the time of booking (usually around £150pp), with the rest of payment due 5 weeks before travel. If you’re someone like me, who books 11 months in advance, it give you 10 months to pay without interest.
4. Do some research and create an itinerary
With a bit of research and a good itinerary, you can maximise how you use your time. Of course it still needs to be a holiday and a break, but you can be clever with your plans and pack more in. Considering the quickest way to get between locations, and remember time is money. In Thailand, we’d planned to get an overnight bus, but a few days before decided that the £30 and one-hour flight was a much better idea. The same happened in India – we avoided the overnight trains in favour of a quick flight. A shorter travelling time means more time for exploring – or lying on a beach, if that’s more your thing!
5. Change your mindset
This might sound simple, but realising that the world is more accessible than ever before, and being brave enough to book somewhere on your bucket list for a short trip is often the hardest step.
If you wait until you can take a month off, you might be waiting a long time, or life might get in the way. You can go to Japan for 2 weeks, or Thailand for 10 days – you just need to accept that you won’t see it all. And surely it’s sure better to see a bit of many places than not see them at all?