The good things in life have a catch. So oats porridge might be really healthy but it may not taste as good as a pizza stuffed with cheese. Or being fit might be cool, but one needs to exercise regularly for it. Similarly, we would all like to travel as much as possible, but it requires money. You need money to book your tickets, go from one place to another, for booking a place to stay and of course to spend on food and other activities. When it is a long trip, all these costs may add up to quite a big amount. Fortunately, there are ways you can cut down on your travel costs. Remember that the idea is not to cut corners, and it totally makes sense if you want to spend on luxury travel, but for those looking to travel as much as possible and on a limited budget, these are some quick tips that can come in handy. This story talks about ways to cut down on costs when traveling within India, though a lot of it will apply when traveling abroad too.
- Do it yourself: Some of us want to play it safe and book through a local travel agent well in advance. This makes sense when you are traveling in the peak season and with family, but otherwise the best thing to do is to plan and execute the trip yourself. This has become really easy in today’s date as you can read reviews and make pretty much any bookings online. Will give you an example. In a recent visit to Sikkim I had booked seats for a share package to North Sikkim for 3D/2N for Rs 2,700/ per person from a local agent in Gangtok. There were others in the group who were paying Rs 3,500, Rs 4,200 and Rs 4,700/per person for the same package as they had booked a month in advance through a travel agent in Kolkata, who obviously pocketed a fat commission. The best deals on hotels can be found online specially if you are not booking too much in advance. Same goes for car rentals. It will always save you a lot of money if you get in touch with local travel agents and operators. If you want to do bookings in advance, you can find their contacts on the Internet and talk directly with them rather than going through a travel agent in your city. It means some extra work, but the discounts are really worth it. In many cases we have visited a place through a travel agent and got to know a lot of locals on the tour, which has meant we have been able to do the next trip on our own at a much lesser cost by directly getting in touch with them.
- Travel off-season: I tend to do it a lot and trust me; it can save you a lot of money. Every destination has a season which is the most popular for tourists. So expect any of the hill stations like Darjeeling, Manali, Shimla and so on to be packed with tourists during summer or the ‘peak’ season. The high point of the peak season is time when schools have their summer holidays and families tend to make the most of it by going on a vacation. If you are instead traveling to the hills in January or February, you will not only find the places less crowded, you can get a steal on hotel tariffs and air fares too. I stayed in a hotel in Nainital for Rs 1,000 and night last year in winter and the guy told me that the same rooms sold for as high as Rs 3,000 a night during the peak season. You can see the ‘off-season’ discounts reflected in any online portal or if you are making a direct booking by calling up the hotel. Airlines will give you flash sales during the off-season period; say in the month of July and August where you can get tickets at throwaway prices. Similarly you can find rooms in Goa during the rainy season at less than half the price. The idea is not to travel in discomfort or go to a place when you cannot go there, (like you cannot visit most of the forests during the rainy season), but avoiding the peak season is always a good idea both for your pocket and your peace of mind.
- Use local transport: Whenever possible, travel like a local. Use public transport rather than hiring a tourist car or even a cab. You surely save on money and you also get to meet and interact with the locals, making your trip richer. So when traveling in the hills, you might want to check out the local bus or the shared car that will take you to your next destination. Will again take the example of Sikkim, where pretty much every town is connected by share jeeps from local taxi stands and you can go from any place to another by using local transport even if it means breaking your journey in between. If you are not traveling in a larger group of 4 or more people, this can save you a lot on car rentals. And yes, when you have the time and distances are not too much, especially within a city, walk around as much as possible. There is no better way to experience a place and take pictures.
- Use coupons and discount vouchers: We have that entire friend who will always be using promo codes to get discounts on taxi rides, shopping and so on. Yes, these discount coupons do work. A friend send me a link of this hotel booking app to me through which I booked a hotel room and I got a discount voucher of Rs 1,500 for my first booking. I sent it the link to a friend and as soon as he downloaded the app I qualified for a further discount voucher of Rs 1,750. In fact I am entitled to such discounts whenever I refer this app to a friend. Travel portals give you such vouchers for liking their page, sharing their posts and so on and so forth. Plus such vouchers land up in your mailbox if you have subscribed to their newsletters. Now, it is foolish to expect to get things for free, but using these vouchers cleverly can help you save on accommodation.
- Travel at night: If you are planning a longish trip and plan to visit several trips, it is a good idea to spend the nights traveling. So for example if you have to travel from Mumbai to Ahmadabad you might book your train or bus at night so that you spend the night traveling instead of checking in at a hotel. Again this needs to be planned in advance and may not work all the time, but a few such night journeys included in a long trip can save you a few thousand rupees in hotel charges. This was almost 10 years ago when I stayed in Delhi and me and a friend, short of cash as we were used to travel to hill destinations like this. We used to take the last bus of Saturday after work, reach our destination on Sunday morning, freshen up at a restaurant, roam about the place and then take the Sunday night bus back to Delhi and went to work groggily on a Monday morning. Well, it was definitely not the most comfortable way to travel, but we got to visit many places in a Himalayas in a span of a few months, for a very little budget and those are some of the most memorable trips I have had.
These were some of the top of the mind thoughts on how to save money on travel. There are a host of other options and believe me some of those may sound obvious but nevertheless they all help you save on your trips when done tactfully. We will tell you more ways to plan a trip within your budget, meanwhile, if you have any ideas please write in to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.