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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

BOOKING:

#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.

 

#5 Flexibility.

 

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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.

 

Reka exploring in Madrid

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.

 

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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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9 Travel Hacks

14 Thoughts to 9 Travel Hacks – Our Vault of Tips & Tricks For Flying Low Cost!

  1. Kim says:

    Hi Reka,

    I love your attitude! I believe it’s what you make of it too. Great tips about the location of where you book. I never knew this! I would love to see more of these types of travel hack articles from you.

    Thanks
    Kim

    • dreamtimetraveler says:

      Hi Kim,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, it’s really helpful! I’ll post some more like this soon!

      Warm regards,
      Reka

  2. Louise says:

    Hi Reka,

    Your post comes at a really good time for me. The first thing that popped in my head is what kind of ticket should I book! My husband and I are thinking of traveling with our three young children around the world for perhaps a year, maybe more. We were considering an inclusive round the world fare with a number of stops, but the more that we looked into this, the more inflexible it looked. We felt that it would leave very little chance for changes of plans or the opportunity to just head in another direction if things changed. Reading your post gave us a number of options we didn’t really consider. I feel more confident to look into some of the low cost carriers as options, as I always thought doing it this way would be more expensive and inconvenient. Only having carry ons sounds tempting, but don’t know how we would go with that traveling for a year.

    Sounds like you’re having the time of your life!

    best,
    Louise

    • dreamtimetraveler says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts Louise!

      There are so many options & as I hinted, when booking and buying in certain countries, you can get quite a difference in price. In South America this added up to $200 difference on one ticket! Another small hack that I forgot to mention, is if you play around with the currencies with which you will pay. You might find that choosing the local currency of the country you are in, might get you another $20 – $50 off. We found this to be the case when we bought a ticket from Peru, which was for a flight from Argentina to Brazil. It certainly never hurts to check. When you are talking about buying tickets for 5 people, with what I have suggested, you could be saving quiet a lot for a flight. If there is anything we can assist with in the planning of your journey, just let me know!

      My best to you in your planning,
      Reka

  3. nagymama says:

    Draga Rekicam!Jo volt ismet olvasni az utazassal kapcsolatos megfigyeleseid es a jo tanacsokat az utazassal kapcsolatban. Mar alig varom, hogy itthon legyetek es egyutt toltsuk a Karacsonyt!!

  4. Greta says:

    Hi Reka,

    Great article and I love the picture of you with your carry on, you are so cute! It seems like you have been traveling for ages? How do you afford it? Are your parents rich? I hope you don’t find my questions rude, it’s just that I think most people couldn’t afford to live the way you do. Perhaps you could share this with me.

    • dreamtimetraveler says:

      Hi Greta,

      Thanks for taking the time to post here and the questions are not rude at all! We definitely are rich, but not in the monetary sense. In fact, in terms of money, we have learnt to live a very different way from the way most people live in developed western societies. It’s not that most people couldn’t afford to live the way we do, but rather a case that they choose not to and that is fine too. Travel is not for everyone and for us, it is also about being flexible and finding the most cost effective way to do the things we do. I also want to take this opportunity to say that you can live and travel the world for much less than you think that it would cost you. If you want to stay in luxury hotels and do typically touristy things, yes, it would cost you much more, but what I would like to emphasise is that there are so many alternative options to travel today if you are willing to consider them. As I outlined in this article, you can use budget airlines to get around. There are many free accommodation options open to people such as coach surfing, house sitting or even the occasional stay with a friend or relative. There are many legal options to work while you travel and the internet today provides many opportunities for you to supplement your income. What I am trying to say in all this, is that it is not really money that limits people from taking that first step into the bigger world out there, it is more their imagination. We really enjoy traveling the world as we continue to learn from every experience we encounter. We also have a very supportive family back home in Australia who have patiently and lovingly supported us on our journey. This combined has made our journey a reality and we are sincerely grateful for every moment of it. I trust that this has answered your question.

      My very best to you
      Reka

  5. Hi Reka…this is a great list! Realistic and helpful. I’m a big fan of #1 and #2. With budget airlines, they’re budget for a reason. And you’re right, they have to be strict with their rules for a reason. I learned that the hard way when I added 10 jars of hot sauce that I bought at the last minute one time in China into my carry on. This put me over weight and cost me an extra $50. Ouch. Now I watch what I pack more carefully. Secondly, I went carry on only luggage late last year and never went back. It’s so freeing! Once again, great post. I’ll be sharing these 🙂

    • dreamtimetraveler says:

      Thanks Wayne!

      That’s got to be the most expensive hot sauce ever! Carry-on only is definitely the way to go. It not only frees the physical weight, but also the mind from wondering if things are going to get there. In 2007 we had an airline lose our luggage and deliver it to our cousin’s place in Hungary only after we left. The next time we were in the neighbourhood to pick it up was in 2014. Thank you again for sharing! I love reading about your ventures…please keep them coming. We have already been using your excellent India Survival Guide in our preparations! 🙂

  6. Larry says:

    Great post!

    I really like your attitude! Also, number 2 saved me once when I was traveling with a friend. I carried on and she didn’t. The airline lost all her things and she had a heck of a time trying to get her things back. I am also going to try #7 when I travel early next year. I let you know how I go!

    Larry

    • dreamtimetraveler says:

      Thank you Larry! We’ve been where your friend was, an airline also lost one of our suitcases when we were visiting family in Transylvania. The next time we had the chance to pick up our suitcase again was six years later! Traveling Carry On has definitely saved us many more incidents like this one! Great! Let me know how you go with #7!
      -Réka

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