Is everyone in your contact list going off to travel? Did you start to notice that your Instagram feed is full of perfectly captured candid pictures in front of monuments or natural wonders?
It is easy to assume that all these people have loads of money and hence, they travel. But, we are happy to break it to you that it’s not the case!
Did you just conjure up an image of you with a heavy backpack, walking hundreds of miles, skipping meals and landing up in some dingy hostel to save money? Good news, you don’t have to travel like that to save money!
You know the cost of the flight, and you can manage it. You know the cost of Grab from the airport to your hotel, and you have counted that in.
Then, how did your budget bust?!
The hidden costs that we all tend to overlook. Small, hidden costs that escapes your attention until the last minute!
For instance, the extra kg that exceeds your luggage allowance, the winter wear you forgot to budget, and the currency exchange that you forgot to research first.
Here’s how to stretch your travel budget by pinpointing the hidden travel costs you can avoid to save money.
Opt for group travel instead of going solo
The keyword here is SHARE. When you share accommodation, transportation and meals with a group of like-minded travellers, your expenses reduce drastically.
However, do take note of the advice to look for like-minded travellers: If you are willing to splurge on accommodation, it would not be very helpful to have a friend who is dead set against it.
More often than you could imagine, your boyfriend, your best friend, your cousin, or your sibling might not have similar travel preferences like you.
If that is the case, you should opt to look for travel partners beyond your circle of friend. In this age of Instagram and Facebook, travel groups are galore.
If you want to save more money, a wise move would be to connect with people who are already travelling in the country you are planning to go.
Often, there are calls for carpooling/accommodation-sharing from travellers who are looking to stretch their budget effectively.
Here are some travel groups that you can join to look for like-minded travellers:
Avoid tour groups that don’t fit your interests
We get it. Travel tours make it so easy for you. You just need to follow your pack and do as you’re told. Everything else will be taken care for you.
This might be the right choice if you are not looking to explore or to satiate your adventure-craving soul. Usually, the list of places included in the tour is standard and often include places you might not be interested to visit. Going in large groups also tend to be chaotic and would not give you the freedom or time you prefer to spend at each place.
And worst of all, you will be rushed as there is a strict itinerary that needs to be followed. You might end up paying to visit a place that totally bores you and forced to spend less time at a place you would love to stay the whole morning.
The solution is pretty simple: Tailor your own itinerary. Ditch the travel groups.
- Choose accommodation options in the city centre so that you can make use of public transportation. You’ll also be near to more and possibly cheaper food options.
- Plan trips with routes that don’t overlap. Instead, try to make it a loop so that you can cover more places without taking up too much time.
- Opt for overnight buses if you have to travel for more than 4 hours. This way you are combining your accommodation and travel, plus you are not wasting precious daytime you could spend exploring the city.
Make credit cards your essential travel companion
For those of you who have befriended credit cards for all the travel perks, we can see you nodding profusely.
Those of you who have avoided credit cards like they are plague, we see your confusion.
Credit cards have a negative connotation of being a debt-causing plastic, but if you use the credit cards to your benefits and manage them properly, you will save a significant amount of money.
What and how do you go about using travel credit cards?
- Opt for credit cards that offer miles as rewards
For instance, the CIMB Enrich World credit card allows you to accumulate Malaysia Airlines (MAS) Enrich Miles, which will help you to save on flight tickets.
- Make use of the travel insurance they offer
For example, the AmBank Platinum MasterCard / Visa offers complete travel insurance coverage up to RM1,000,000. This will prevent your budget from going bust in case of emergency when you are travelling.
- Use the discounts on flight tickets, entry tickets to attractions, and travel experiences
There are credit cards that offer plenty of discounts and rewards for spending overseas, which will come in handy when travelling. For example, the Alliance Bank Visa Platinum Credit Card offers 3x Timeless Bonus points for every spending you do while overseas, which will allow you to save more money. Going with the idea that every penny counts to bring down the trip cost, these discounts play a big role.
Apart from that, you will also enjoy special offers when you make your travel bookings via KLOOK.
Cumulatively, these perks, discounts and miles will enable you to save up.
- Always pay off your purchases in full every month. Otherwise, the outstanding amount will incur interest and there goes your intention of travelling without stretching your budget.
- Never ever swipe your credit cards without proper planning. Planning an entire trip with the thought “I will use my credit card and have the time of my life on this trip. I will think about paying back the debt once I am back to Malaysia” is setting yourself up for financial distress.
- This mindset have landed many aspiring travellers in trouble, and hence, make sure you are not the next one!
Master the art of scoring the best flight tickets
Time and season are usually the two most influential criteria when it comes to flight tickets.
First of all, shoulder seasons are usually cheaper as tourist destinations brim with tourists (go figure!) during peak seasons. Usually, summer and winter are more expensive compared to autumn and spring. Planning your trip around these seasons to get cheaper flight tickets and accommodation rates.
Don’t forget to compare the price of flights using various flight comparison websites available out there. For instance, setting up alerts will be useful as you will receive notifications when the price drops.
One more tip: Clear your cache or better, go incognito when you browse for flight deals!
Find out the tension points of your trip
Allow yourself enough time between connecting flights. The possibilities of flight delays are high and if you miss your connecting flight, you will have to pay a hefty price.
Other tension points include making back-to-back reservations for activities. If one activity gets delayed or you get stuck in the traffic jam, you will have to miss on the other experiences. Often, there will be a ‘no money back policy’ and given your limited vacation period, you might need to let it go.
This article was first published in November 2019 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy and comprehensiveness.