'How do you afford to travel'
This is by far probably the most asked question I receive on any social channel and in a recent poll I did over on Instagram stories it came out top on what everyone wanted to see on our next blog post so here we go!
As you may have already guessed we like to travel... a lot. We did quiet a bit of travelling before we had Roman including a year of backpacking but we also still like to travel as a family however now I am a full time mum keeping things on a low budget comes even more into play. When deciding on our travels I always follow a couple of steps that have now just become part of me booking anywhere we go.
I have broken down these steps into the main component's and in the order in which we normally do these things to show that you don't need to be rich to travel.
(None of the sites I mention are affiliated I earn nothing from mentioning them they are just my personal recommendation)
This is the first thing we look at, and most of our travels are actually based around where can we fly too for the cheapest price. We eventually want to explore as many countries and cities as possible in our time so when it comes to where we are going next it is not normally a case of we want to go to 'xyz' lets check the flight price it's normally jump on skyscanner, London - anywhere and our dates then we pick the destination in our budget at that time. Flexibility on location is the key to cheap travel!
Another tip is that booking your flights at the beginning of the week tends to be cheaper and flying on Tuesdays-Thursday is also cheaper because there is less demand for midweek flights.
And finally your device be it your phone, laptop or tablet uses a thing called cookies which allows websites to track your searching, you may notice the same flight you looked at multiple times is now more expensive... before going ahead to book I would always delete browsing history including cookies or use a different device.
This is probably one of the most flexible cost's but can also eat up a massive chunk of your budget. I am not ashamed to say that we do choose really cheap accommodation 9 times out of 10... for us it is more about the experiences than what our room looks like. We don't spend much time in our rooms so our only real criteria is air con if its a hot country and a TV (I need background noise to fall sleep) the rest is a bonus. I will normally research the place we are visiting and then pick out a rough area that we want to stay and use a couple of sites to find the best prices. I mainly use Hotels.com as we have earned ourselves a gold membership from the amount of stays we book meaning we always get a great deal and sometimes a free bottle of wine, we also love that you earn a free reward night for every 10 that you stay. I save up these nights and then if we are visiting somewhere that has a higher price point on rooms such as Venice recently then I use them for a great discount. It's really worth checking what these hotel sites are going to offer you in return for your loyalty.
As a rough example if I was booking a hotel in Asia I would be looking at spending between £20 - £30 a night and for this you can get a really comfortable place like the Novotel In Bangkok or a beach front resort in the Thailand Islands this is for a family room and we now spend little more than when we were couple travelling and would spend on average £15 a night for a double room in a basic hotel.
But for another example Europe it is a bit pricier expect higher priced rooms for less luxury than visiting Asia, our recent trip to Italy we spent £45 - £50 a night for city centre hotel rooms that were very basic.
Finally one of our favourite places is the UAE and people always assume we spend loads of money visiting there as it oozes luxury but it's actually one of the best places for 5 star hotels at 3 star prices if you don't mind not staying in the big main chains like Atlantis and the Anantara. We have stayed in some amazing hotels and resorts like the Radisson Blu in Abu Dhabi and the Sheraton in Duabi for around £45 a night making it a really affordable family destination.
Something additional that is probably classed as cheeky but it is worth a shot is once I have booked a hotel I will email them just to confirm an arrival time and I will drop a birthday or anniversary bomb in there, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't but you may get a free upgrade or little extra from the hotel.
Right before settling on our destination I'll always have a quick check on hotel prices there to make sure they aren't too expensive as we may be visiting during one of their peak seasons.
These costs can sometimes be forgotten about and can also really rack up. Do you need a transfer, how will you get to the airport and the cost of actually being in the airport are all put into my budgets.
Depending on how long we are travelling to a place we will either book parking; if its a short stay or our flight times aren't great (landing home at 2am) however we are also lucky to have people to give us lifts to the airports in return for also giving them lifts to the airport. If we have a really early flight I always also check the cost of hotel and parking as you may find you can stay the night before for £10-£15 more than parking alone but you save yourself the long car drive at 3am. I normally always use 'holiday extras' for these bookings as you can always find a great discount code rather than going direct
Another thing to look into is how are you getting from the airport to the place you are going. Is there a train, bus or will you need a taxi? Public transport is normally the cheapest option and actually a lot easier than you would believe especially in Europe and other very developed countries. I also like to check a site called Holiday Taxis for any private transfers we book, they are in most countries now and you get someone greeting you but cost around the same as a normal taxi on arrival and I can request a car seat if its a long drive or I want Roman to sleep.
All the little things you may not include such as drinks, snacks, food that are double the price in an airport, my best advice is to just pack your own, especially for Roman we take loads of snacks in hand luggage to keep him busy, food is allowed through security in hand luggage so why pay more when you can buy it for half the price in a supermarket?
Top tip - you can't take liquids over 100ml through security but you can take empty drink bottles through and most airports around the bathrooms have free drinking water taps where you can fill up, saves a fortune on water in the shops.
This is completely flexible to what you enjoy doing on your travels and this for me is the main thing we are happy to spend a little bit more on because for us its all about having the memories. I also balance this with finding lots of things we can do for free as well though whether that be the beach, a park, hanging around our pool or getting into nature all these things can be free or very little cost and it helps weigh up the big things like day trips, passes to things like theme parks or galleries or more specific to us; scuba diving.
Trip advisor comes into its own in these situations it can give you ideas for the most popular things to do and what is around you, they also show options for companies offering these trips and prices however always look around and unless its something that needs to be booked way in advance or gets booked up then we also hold out until we get there especially in Asia as you will always get a deal at the local tourist offices. (Viator is another site I like to look at when thinking of booking tours)
This is something we are very thrifty with, we will try to get a hotel with breakfast in most cases and that covers that expense, we also take a tupperware and take a few bits for Roman for lunch time (Roy is so much better at this than I am, I get major guilt and think I'm going to get arrested or something haha!!). Lunchtimes we will normally grab something to go whether its from a small stall or supermarket, it tends to be cheaper. Dinner is our eat out meal where we will actually sit somewhere and enjoy a proper meal. Roy is gluten intolerant so we can sometimes find it difficult eating in restaurants so we normally have to plan where we eat to ensure they have options for him, Trip advisor is also great for this as they have a 'cheap eats' section and some of the best meals we have had in places have come from these.
This is our lowest budget, we don't really buy souvenirs or splash out on thing's like clothes for us it is not a necessity and we also don't always have the luggage space for it.