Money can be a real barrier to travelling as much as you would like. As experienced trip bookers, we noticed that booking smart, can save a lot of money. We gathered all our booking tips for you, so continue reading if you also want to travel big on a small budget.

Plane Tickets

1. When to buy plane tickets?

Tickets usually go on sale 11 months in advance. For most flights its best to wait a lot longer before buying tickets. It’s only a good idea to get your tickets as early as possible when you will be flying at a very busy time like Christmas or Chinese New Year.

For other situations, the average best time is five or six weeks before you want to travel. But beware that this is an average, a safer bet is buying three months in advance. Around this time you won’t have any great deals but you also don’t pay any premium prices. To help you out use apps like Hopper or Kayak to advice you when to buy.

There are sales in January for March-May and in September for October-November. Airlines usually announce their sales via their newsletters, social media and website. So it’s a good thing to sign up and follow them.

Another thing to consider is when to fly. There is the obvious difference between high and low season. But flights on Friday afternoon and evening and Sunday are also usually more expensive than others. This is caused by all the people wanting to maximize their weekends and people travelling back home and vice versa. Therefore it’s often worth to take one extra day off and travel back on Monday instead of Sunday.

2. Be aware of additional luggage charges

Although airline tickets have become much cheaper in the last decade, pricing has become less transparent. This started with paying extra for check-in luggage, meals and drinks. It has reached new extreme levels with the introduction of low-cost intercontinental travel. Many low-cost carriers are now charging you for anything you bring aboard that is bigger than a purse or a laptop bag. The cost of these charges varies and will change over time. So think clearly about what you really need to take and what kind of luggage space you need. It’s usually cheaper to pay someone to wash your clothes than taking an extra suitcase.

Accommodation

3. Book accommodation as early as possible

Hotel rooms are usually cheaper the earlier you book them. So, book them as early as possible. Otherwise, wait until the last moment and try to get a discount on the day itself. If possible avoid the weekends or book a stay in business hotels which often have discounts during the weekends.

It pays to look around and use different booking platforms to check for the best prices. Also give Airbnb a look, although the price difference isn’t that huge when travelling as a couple or solo. It is usually much cheaper when travelling with a group. If you can avoid the commercial listings on the platform it provides an interesting way to get an insight into local culture and housing.

As a rule, accommodations get more expensive the shorter in advance you book them. But there are exceptions to this rule.

So if you can’t seem to find a great deal book something you can cancel without additional costs. This way you can keep looking and see how the prices develop and maybe do a last-minute switch and get a sweet deal.

4. Try to book package deals for flights and accommodation.

If you book your flights and accommodation together you can save a lot of money. Look for deals at travel websites or deal-aggregate sites. Websites like Expedia also give you the options to build your own package deals.

5. Use incognito browser window/wipe cookies

To avoid a sudden rise in prices for your flights or accommodation, make sure that you use an incognito browser window when searching. Or at least wipe your cookies after each browsing session. This way you avoid some of the tracking and targeted advertising.

Cars

6. Car rental

Rental car
Rental car in Iceland

If you thought that buying an airline ticket was untransparent, then you haven’t rented a car yet. There are quite a few bad apples in this business, and it pays to be extra aware of possible pitfalls. Use a website like Rentalcars.com to check the different prices.

Different fuel policies

There are different fuel policies on offer. Full-full is the best option since it doesn’t force you to give them free petrol. The half-half option, empty-empty and anything in between are the non-preferred options. They require you to do advance fuel consumption calculations to predict how much fuel you will need to end up at the required level. The empty-empty option is the worst one, as most people don’t like to drive around with an empty gas tank.

Crossing borders

Depending on your destination and itinerary it’s useful to check if you’re allowed to cross borders and drive in other countries. Take extra care when renting a car in Europe where national borders are invisible but also frequent. Many companies ask a big surcharge for this. This can make a cheap option twice as expensive as before.

Insurance

The last point is the upselling of insurances. Cheap companies often ask ridiculously high deposits which they will only waive if you buy their insurance. So be aware if you book via a booking agency and buy their insurance. Even though the insurance can be cheaper and have better coverage, you have to pay a higher deposit. So, sometimes it’s worth to pay a little bit extra so you can avoid the potential hassle of dealing with murky claims.

Mistakes

7. Know where you’re flying to

Charleroi Airport
Sunset at Charleroi Airport

Ok, this sounds too obvious to be a tip, but we booked flights to different places than planned. So we can confirm that this does happen. And it will cost you extra money and time depending on the mistake.

There are two things to look out for. First, if you’re flying to a city with multiple airports: Which one are you flying to, what is its location and what will you pay extra or save on transportation to your ultimate destination.

When we flew to Israel we landed on a military airport in the desert 2 hours away from Eilat. Meanwhile, the city has its own airport in the middle of the city from which you can just walk to the beach and your hotel. So, the cheaper flight ended up costing us more than six hours needlessly travelling on a bus.

The second thing to look out for is less obvious and an even bigger mistake on our part. So, please learn from us and double check to make sure that the city you’re flying to is the city you want to fly to. There are many cities in the world which share the same name, even within the same country. Therefore always try to look for the unique airport codes and check where you’re really flying to. We booked a flight to Palma on the Spanish island of Mallorca instead of La Palma, the Spanish Canary Island.