On holiday again? Sometimes I feel a little guilty, but mostly I feel grateful that we have found a formula that works for us. We know how to holiday often.
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Currently I am sitting in a little fishing / boating village in Turkey. We’re here for 10 days and loving it. Last year we went on an 8-month sabbatical, which we thought would cost us a lot more than we did.
I should add though, that this list is for quiet, independent travel rather than package or party holidays. There will always be good deals on mass produced package holidays, but those types of holidays are my idea of holiday hell, so for this purpose I am excluding them.
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Our secret isn’t really a massive secret, it is more of a practical approach to planning holidays. So how do we do it? It is a combination of the following (and I know not all these would work for everyone).
- Avoid peak season. Easier said than done if you have kids and can’t travel outside school holidays. But this is only one of many tips!
- Do research to see what countries are cheaper to holiday in. Just google “cheapest holiday destinations”. I avoid TripAdvisor articles as I don’t trust most of them! But sites like www.numbeo.com are excellent to compare the cost of destinations against the city you live in.
- Choose destinations off the beaten track. They are generally more authentic, people are friendly, you get a more real experience, but of course it is also cheaper.
- Plan ahead. I know there are often great last minute deals, but you could also get stuck in a situation where prices have gone up rather than down the closer it gets to your departure date!
- Be flexible on dates. It may not be ideal to go a month later than planned, but often you can save a lot of money by travelling at a different time.
- Research the climate. Do a little more research than a cursory glance from a holiday website. e.g. it may rain every day in Bali in February, but generally it rains for a few hours and then it’s fabulously sunny for the rest of the day, but you avoid the crowds as it is technically low season. Some countires have different climates in different regions: e.g. Cape Town may be awful and wet in August, but it’s a fab time to visit the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga, South Africa.
- Don’t be afraid of being impulsive. I set up alerts on Skyscanner and sign up to airlines’ newsletters to get wind of when flight prices change. Jack’s flight club is excellent too. When a good deal comes along, don’t dither, just go for it!
- Don’t be lured by cheap flights to expensive destinations. Before buying that cheap flight to Dubai / New York / Hong Kong / Tokyo, consider what it will cost once you’re there. A bargain price brilliant deal could cost a lot more over the duration you’re there.
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- Don’t use expensive travel agents. These days it is so easy to book flights, transfers and accommodation yourself. I generally use Expedia, Booking.com, HomeExchange and Airbnb as a starting point. We prefer homestay/B&B/Guesthouses which are cheaper, and give you the opportunity to meet and engage with locals. Hotel chains just don’t give you the inside info.
- Use local agents where necessary. UK based travel agents may give you more peace of mind, but you pay for the privilege and they are often tailored for the mass british market. I prefer to use local agents where you get more real experiences, it’s cheaper and you support the local economy you’re visiting. Just ensure you do proper research, read a variety of reviews, and that you have travel insurance before you book anything. I would never walk into a tourist office abroad and book anything without doing proper research on the company. The facade could be deceiving!
- Exchange your home. This is a great way to see expensive destinations or travel as a family! Swap your home with someone in another country. You can even swap cars in some countries. We use HomeExchange, but LoveHomeSwap is great too.
- Drink and eat what the locals eat. Seek out restaurants where the locals go. Local food is always cheaper, and local drinks too. The cocktails may look great, but as the spirits are often imported, it may be very expensive. I generally stick to local beer!
- Use public transport. Find out from the locals (and definitely do your homework) about public transport. In most countries it is cheap & gives you good opportunities to mix with locals.
- Save money on currency exchange. Sign up for an account like Revolut, which gives you free cash withdrawels, interbank currency rates and access to your account via an app. This also helps you track what you’re spending.
I hope these tips will work for you too. Let me know if they do!