9 Travel Hacks – Our Vault of Tips & Tricks For Flying Low Cost!
When you think of all the expenses involved with travel, flying usually takes that top spot. But it doesn’t have to. After 3 and a half years of traveling non-stop, I decided to compile 9 travel hacks we use from our vault of tips and tricks for flying low cost, where you can even have the flexibility of creating your own custom travel experience.
(Airlines and their associated costs change drastically according to where you are. Different parts of the world come with different options and with a little re-search, you can find the best fit. )
#1 Budget Airlines.
When many people think of Budget Airlines, words like ‘cheapskates,’ ‘greedy,’ ‘rude’ and ‘horrible customer service’ circulate the air. The truth is if you choose to follow their rules you will usually find it a pleasant experience. I have viewed a lot of people’s negative comments on budget airline reviews and in my opinion they share one thing in common. The people complaining expect to pay budget price and receive Rolls Royce service. Budget airlines are budget for a reason. They often run on a very tight schedule of costs and the tightest of profit margins.
This is why budget airlines uphold their rules very strictly. A lot of their money is made on the unsuspecting traveler that thinks they can get away with an extra kilo or two in their bag, or with that extra carry-on. Yes, their employees can often be obtuse to the point of being automatons when it comes to flexibility on the regulations, but this is also because they could lose their job if they let things slip. This, I have noticed, is the major cause of the backlash budget airlines get from unhappy customers who use social media to relay just how “unfair” it all is.
Taking this into account as a given though, if you can get beyond unrealistic expectations, budget airlines, in highly competitive regions, can often offer travel across great distances for less than the cost of a short regional train trip. We have traveled with many Budget Airlines numerous times across Europe and Asia for less than $25 USD a ticket and have yet to experience a trip ruining incident.
A lot also depends on your attitude and a greeting smile when you get to the front of the check-in queue can get you far. For us, a simple smile and a warm, genuine greeting had resulted in the airline staff being kind, attentive and even generous when we did have that extra bag or two. When they see that you are cooperative with their rules and regulations and understanding of their personal situation, where you are not making their job a whole lot harder, you will even get service with a smile from them. Many complaints against Customer Service have been filed simply for the fact that a request against airline policy was not granted.
Stick to the rules and you will find that you are onward bound on your adventures and have most likely achieved this at a good, low cost. Budget Airlines are a great choice and often, the earlier you can plan a trip, the cheaper it will be. Do a little research on the airline. They will often do specials twice or three times a year where you might be surprised at just how low the cost of a fare is. In fact, when we traveled in big cities like London, Budapest, and Rome, we have laughed about our plane fare costing less than the daily cost of public transport.
And last but not least, when traveling with Budget Airlines remember, keep an open mind. Don’t judge from other people’s reviews or regrets. Don’t be influenced by close friends and family. We have traveled four times in the last year with one of the airlines in Europe that often gets the worst comments and reviews. We found that they were the most cost effective, the most efficient and friendly in the process of boarding and out of the four times we flew with them, they were ahead of the scheduled arrival times twice and right on time the other two. The key to enjoying your experience is in your hands. Your attitude and how you decide to approach it will make all the difference.
#2 Travel with a Carry-On.
This tip extends beyond just Budget Airlines. We as a family, whenever it is possible, travel only with Carry-Ons. That includes Trains, Planes, Buses, and Boats. This wasn’t always the case. I won’t exaggerate, it was definitely hard at first to choose what to take and what not to. Just two years ago, we arrived in Bogota, Colombia, at the beginning of our six-month South American odyssey with 14 bags. No, this is not a typing error. We lasted one overnight bus ride before we donated over half our stuff to the hostel we were staying at and didn’t look back. The feeling of absolute freedom was worth it.
You can skip this long, arduous and stressful step by starting out smart…take only a Carry-On. There are many positives to this step which include, having all your things with you at once, not worrying about rough handling of your luggage, no stressing about airlines losing your luggage, not having to stand in line for 30 minutes at a luggage carousel to wait for your potentially, broken, stolen or lost luggage.
Another bonus is the fact that you won’t need to pay extra for stowed luggage if traveling budget. As I have expressed, this is the sweet spot for Budget Airlines as their main source of income. Just one extra suitcase will quite often be the same price or even exceed the price of your actual plane ticket.
True, you won’t be able to pack as much with a Carry-On but once you examine what you really need, you will realise, just like we did, that you genuinely don’t need as much stuff as you think. You can still pack a good deal when traveling with a backpack that fits the measured requirements. Should you decide to invest in a good backpack, you will be amazed by how much you can actually fit in. Up to 42-litre backpacks, if not overpacked, can easily fit the dimensional & weight requirements of most of the budget airlines (7kg-10kg / 15lb -22lb) in Europe, Asia & the US. If you don’t want to bring a backpack, mini suitcases are also a good call. Be mindful though of the places you choose to start rolling around your suitcase. Rural towns and places with no pavement are a not a great idea and you will usually be left with damaged or broken wheels. At least this is from mistakes I made personally.
#3 Forget the Extras.
Things like Priority Boarding, Wifi on Board, Snacks and Drinks mid-air, are guaranteed to make your wallet lighter. Sure it might be cool to be able to board first like a VIP or enjoy a meal and drink when cruising through the clouds, but in reality, these things aren’t wholly necessary and serve the simple purpose of making the airline companies more profitable. For one, the prices are absurd. $4 for a (175 ml / 6 oz) water and $3 for a tiny pack of peanuts just isn’t worth it. Food doesn’t get the same restrictions as water does when you enter the airline terminal. We often bring our home made gourmet sandwiches or some wholesome snacks that will tide us over for the length of the flight.
As for getting the first pick of the seats…they’re still going to be there even if you board 20 minutes later. You aren’t going to miss out on a chair like we did when we were busing it through South America and the bus company oversold our seats, forcing Mum and Dad to sit on tiny plastic stools as we swerved our way through the Ecuadorian Andes. That is not going to happen on an airplane. If you’re a traveling family and board to find seats scattered, not allowing you all to sit together, don’t be afraid to ask fellow passengers to switch. Single travelers won’t mind, and you’ll be surprised to find that many will give up their seat before you can even ask. I’ve noticed there is a trend forming amongst some of the low-cost carriers, who are now issuing seat numbers to those that book online without additional cost, so check that out too.
Keep your eyes ahead on your upcoming adventures and experiences and keep your money to spend then and there. After all, you can buy muffins and soda anywhere.
#4 Travel Websites.
We use established flight aggregating websites like skyscanner.com to research the cheapest and most effective flight for our family. They have an extremely helpful feature that will alert you if the price for the flight you are looking at is about to change, allowing you a good window of time to book or back out. These sites show you what days and months are the cheapest times to travel with each airline so that you can avoid the rush of high season. They can also offer you free ticket insurance if you purchase your flight through them for no additional cost. This means that if for any reason your flight gets canceled or overbooked, they will purchase you a ticket of equal value to your destination. Other websites we usually use to find cheap flights and good travel deals are expedia.com booking.com and skypicker.com . Bare in mind too, that it also depends on which country you are booking from. In countries throughout South America, we noticed a difference of up to $200 on an airfare if booked with a local South American IP address online. One last hint, once you find the flight you want on a flight aggregating site, make sure to double check the price on the website of the airline. Sometimes you can get the flight slightly cheaper directly from the carrier.
I know I said plan ahead earlier to get the best prices, but in this case, I am not contradicting myself by saying Flexibility is key. Not limiting yourself to a set date will give you the opportunity to jump at deals/offers when they turn up at the last minute. Sure, it may not be convenient, but it can save you a lot of money. This is how the four of us traveled from Hungary to Spain (3000 km) on only 50 Euros each and will now be traveling from Spain to Russia (4200 km) on a 40 Euro ticket. The spur of the moment can really add excitement and also be worthwhile.
#6 Sign up to the Newsletter.
While annoying ads and notifications may constantly blare, here you will be able to get a front row seat to all the limited time and exclusive deals that the airline is offering. For withstanding a few newsletters, you may be able to book onto one of the cheapest deals ever and be well on your way to your dream destination for an incredible, discounted cost.
#7 Create your own layover.
When traveling long distance, the opportunity is yours to create your own layovers. Explore the flight routes and look at destinations where the flights would normally have their set layovers. On the cheapest airfares, there is no possibility to change the length of the layover, and they often have you waiting long hours between connections in airport terminals, but not long enough for you to go out and really explore the city you are in. If you can extend the time of the layover, it usually comes with an expensive extra fee. Here is a great alternative, especially on major routes with interconnections. You can book yourself onto two, three or four separate flights, allowing you the flexibility to stay in your destination for as long as you like (Check Visa restrictions of course). This way, the time you choose to stay in a layover city is entirely up to you and is a great way to see more of the world. In fact, we are doing the same thing later this year when we are traveling from Spain to Australia. Instead of the more expensive direct flights, we decided to book onto four separate flights that will take us through Russia, India, and Malaysia! We now have a 3-day layover in Moscow, a 3-week layover in India, and one day to catch up with friends in Malaysia before we head on to Australia. This option gives us the chance to explore three long-awaited new destinations for $1500 less than the cost of the cheapest major carriers, which would still have us spending up to 20 hours waiting in airport terminals for connecting flights, without the benefit of exploring the countries we land in.
#8 Check alternative routes.
The direct route will almost always be the most expensive, barring specials or sales. If you are willing to give up a little more time for a layover, you will find prices dropping drastically. There are many major transport hubs throughout the world. As I have just suggested in the previous point, if you are willing to forgo the convenience of a direct flight, perhaps even be prepared to go through a country that was not originally on your route, you might find it a lot more cost effective. Where you save money, you may not save time, and if your time is money, this may not be for you. However, if you don’t mind having to collect and re-check your luggage with the second carrier, and perhaps waiting for a while in a terminal, on a trip from Australia to Europe, you could save upwards of $500. Go with only a carry-on and no need to re-check luggage!
#9 Just Do It!
The hardest part is pressing the book button, taking that first leap of faith to following your dreams. But the moment you do, you will be overcome with a wave of adrenaline and excitement that will course through your veins until you board the plane. Don’t keep searching once you have found a flight you know works, just out of anxiety. There are plenty of other things to start researching and, you best get started right now.
What’s the first question that pops into your mind about booking your dream journey?
I would love for you to share your thoughts here!
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