Travel is, on the whole, getting cheaper. There are more flights to exotic locations, more hostels and guesthouses to stay in instead of hotels, and discount versions of all kinds of travel accessories to help things go smoothly. But jetting off to see the world can still be a costly activity.
If you’re planning your next adventure and are keen to make savings wherever you can, it’s a good idea to make the most of apps and AI helpers that can scout out deals, secure discounts and find cheaper alternatives to the things you need. The more you save on one thing, the more you have to spend on another – and in the case of some of these ideas, you could save enough to substantially extend your getaway.
Get automatic price alerts
An oldie but a goodie, and still often overlooked, is the ability of technology to automate flight and hotel deal searches and offer price alerts. If you’re trying to travel cheaply, the chances are you’ve already spent a fair amount of time scouring sites like Kayak and Skyscanner to try and secure the best deals. But if you aren’t setting price alerts, you could be missing out.
When you check back into price comparison sites on a daily basis, or even multiple times a day, sometimes it seems like the fares start to creep up with every search. In some cases this can be because sites are using cookies to track your browsing history and want to encourage you to book quickly. In other instances it may just be that deals are fluctuating naturally – avoid nasty surprises in either case by having comparison sites notify you when a potential booking option goes up or down in price.
If the price drops, you can book while that lower price is on offer. If it starts to rise, you’ll know it’s a genuine price hike and not one that has occurred as a result of repeated searching on your behalf – and can jump in and book before the numbers get any higher.
Shop abroad (without leaving the house)
While plenty of people browse price comparison sites for bargains, far fewer people are taking advantage of the fact that airlines and hotels often give cheaper rates to people in different parts of the world. As an example, a traveller booking a flight with AeroMexico from the UK may be quoted a higher price than someone booking from Mexico, where the airline is based, for the exact same flight.
You might be wondering how this information is any use to you, given that you can’t physically get to other countries to book flights without first paying for flights to get there too. But technology is on hand to help. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, are most often thought of as being a cybersecurity tool – but they also allow you to browse the internet as if you’re in another country.
Designed to keep your online activities private, VPNs hide your location from the websites and apps you use. That means that if you’re trying to get a good deal on flights, a hotel booking or even a car rental, you can turn on your VPN service, pick a new country to browse from and get shopping.
Research has shown that VPNs can reduce the cost of flights by hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars. You’ll need to do a little research to figure out which country will give you the lowest prices, as it will vary depending on who you fly with and what route you’re booking, but for potentially huge savings it’s well worth looking into.
Switch SIMs for better deals
Whether you’re away for a weekend or several months, one area where costs can soon start to add up is for roaming charges.
Some of the fees charged by mobile network operators get eye-watering when you go abroad, from being charged £3/$4 to receive a voicemail to suffering a huge £7/$9 price per MB when logging on to social media or trying to load maps. Ouch. If you’re travelling on a budget, finding that your mobile bill has racked up in a weekend what it ordinarily might in a month is not ideal.
There are two options for getting around this. The first is to buy a local pay-as-you-go SIM card once you touch down, and simply swap it into your phone (if it’s network unlocked) or put it into a spare device while leaving your usual phone on airplane mode. The second, similar option, is to order a specialist international SIM.
With more and more people travelling long-term and moving abroad, international SIM cards are getting more competitive and can offer discount data and calls around the world rather than in just one specific country.
Use apps to access the sharing economy
Last, but by no means least, you can also use apps to access sharing economy mainstays like ridesharing, free local guides and homestay accommodation.
While this won’t save you vast sums in the same way that browsing for flights through a VPN might, it can save you lots of smaller sums that soon add up. Ridesharing can reduce the price of getting around, which might otherwise happen via taxis, and can even provide free transport in some cases. Looking at homestay apps and shared accommodation is also a winning tactic, not only because these are cheap options to start with, but because you’ll generally have access to kitchen facilities and can save money on eating out by shopping local and cooking for yourself.
Something as small as an app on your phone or a spare SIM card can make a massive difference to your bank balance before, during and after travel. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be highly tech-literate, these simple tips will help you to take advantage and really get the most for your money.