For as long as I can remember, travelling the world for free has been high on my agenda. I could even go as far as saying it’s my longest-standing career goal, something that I’ll continue to strive for. Whilst I’m fully aware that this achievement actually takes a lot of hard work, I’m also conscious that my last holiday was almost for free, all thanks to a years worth of accumulated frequent flyer points. So maybe that goal isn’t as far off as I thought and maybe it can come true with a combination of hard work and some really clever travel hacks?
Travelling should be a fun and life-changing experience, something that everyone gets the opportunity to do in their lifetime. However unfortunately for some, lack of knowledge and money constraints can mean that they don’t get to jump on a plane as often as they’d like. With this in mind, we’ve pooled together some of the best travel hacks that will allow you to save time, money and help you get more out of your travel each year. From the exact times that airlines go on sale, through to the best resources to help you navigate a foreign country, the below travel hacks will have you on a plane faster than you can say ‘take-off’ (and maybe you’ll even be travelling the world for free in no time).
DO YOUR RESEARCH
Doing your research can save you a lot of money (trust me, I’ve learnt that the hard way). I’ve made all the expensive mistakes there are, like booking a hotel and then having to change at the last minute because I realised I was about to stay in the equivalent of a heroin den with a shared bathroom (which was of course, non refundable). I’ve also booked return transfers when I only needed one way and picked hotels on the outskirts of town to save money (which then meant I spent all my savings on taxis to and from the action).
USE YOUR RESOURCES
Websites and apps should be your life support when it comes to travelling. I used to think I knew it all and now I realise I know absolutely nothing. So why are you listening to me you ask? Well, I’ve already made the mistakes, so you don’t have to. The below resources will help you navigate everything from comparing flight prices, understanding Visa requirements, knowing which accommodation options to choose and having on-the-ground assistance when you finally get there.
There’s no better recommendation than from someone who has actually been there (and that someone isn’t the hotel staff). Trip Advisor allows travellers to review hotels, restaurants, tourist attractions – you name it, someone has reviewed it. As a rule of thumb, you’ll occasionally find that there’s one keyboard warrior that seems to give everything a bad review, but if the majority of reviews are good, then chances are you can take their recommendations and book away.
It’s likely that you’ve used Airbnb before, maybe you’re even using them right now, renting out your apartment to holidaymakers. Just know that there’s a lot of hype about Airbnb because they’re the real deal. You can literally save yourself so much money and even luck out with some really cool hosts (who might become friends for life). Offering world class accommodation for every budget and in most cities around the world, Airbnb is the ultimate tool for your accommodation needs.
Just like Airbnb, I don’t need to sing their praises as you would have already heard it, but Uber is incredible for getting around. Whilst they’re not available everywhere in the world (yet) they’re available in the cities where you need it (like LA, where the city is so spread out). Take advantage of the in-app features whilst abroad like Uber Pool that allows you to ride share and cut the cost of your fare (I got about a 10 minute Uber ride in LA for $3 with Uber Pool – I’m actually ashamed to admit it because it was too cheap)!
Websites like Cheapflights makes your job easy when searching for the cheapest flights, hotels, car hire and holiday packages. They literally keep track of all the best deals from companies like Groupon, Flight Centre, Hello World and all of the top airlines so it’s just a matter of going to one website to get the best offer available.
Lonely Planet is an authority on travel, giving you an in-depth resource on every country in the world. Not only will it guide you to the top experiences for every destination, it will give you necessary details on Visas, tell you the best time to go, how much money it should cost and health advice. Lonely Planet’s City Guides app is the perfect travel accessory, giving you tips and advice from on-the-ground experts, acting as the ultimate resource before and during your trip.
With all the technology at our fingertips, most would argue that travel agents aren’t a necessity, right? Wrong. What people don’t realise is that most travel agents get offered cheaper rates for flights, accommodation and tours, so a lot of the time they can actually beat the price you can find online. I book my trips through Travel Emporium who always find me a better deal (and always recommend something I didn’t know about, that turns out to be the best part of my trip). Better yet, it’s that peace of mind knowing that I’ve got someone to count on when I need travel advice, need to make last minute changes, or for when things go wrong.
PICK THE RIGHT TIME
Yes, June/July/August is a great time to travel to Europe, but have you ever considered that travelling in shoulder season (the period between peak and off peak) will save you a hell of a lot of money? Try Europe in May or September and you’ll find the weather is still beautiful, it’s less crowded and the cheaper flight prices means you’ve got more money to spend on shopping.
Book your flights in advance
Unless you can nab yourself a random sale, things like last minute sale flights for international travel aren’t really a thing anymore. Most of the time you’ll find the earlier you book your flights, the cheaper they’ll be (especially for the popular destinations like Europe and America). Unfortunately, airlines give very little warning as to when they are going on sale, so it’s a tricky one. In most cases, the later you leave it, the more you’ll pay. Some airlines do hold regular sales on destinations and if you can be flexible about when you travel, you can get a great deal…
Below is a list of the exact times that Australian airlines go on sale and how you can jump on the cheapest flights.
Jetstar – Jetstar holds a ‘Friday Frenzy’ every Friday from 4pm to 8pm where flights and destinations are on sale. To keep an eye on prices, sign up to their Price Watch service where they will tell you when flight prices drop.
Qantas – Unfortunately Qantas doesn’t stick to a formula for their sales, however you can sign up to their Red Email to keep a track of when they are having one. Otherwise keep an eye on their Flight Deals page.
Tigerair – Tigerair offer incredibly cheap prices most of the time, but their cheapest times are on ‘Tigerair Tuesday’ or ‘Saturday Flight Fever’ between 12pm – 4pm (it’s definitely worth checking out for when they offer $9 domestic flights – yes you read that right, $9).
At anytime day or night, somewhere in the world it’s happy hour. Well, I’m not sure if that’s really true, but it sounded good. What I’m trying to say is that in most countries you visit, you can find places that offer happy hour prices and sometimes that can mean paying half the cost. Can’t argue with that.
Pick an airline and stick to it
Some of the best advice I’ve been given is to pick an airline and try to stick to it. I chose Virgin Australia and have since racked up a huge amount of miles that’s allowed me to travel to places for free. Don’t forget most airlines are affiliated with others where you can still get points from flying with one of their partners. For example, Air New Zealand, Etihad and Singapore Airlines are all affiliates with Virgin Australia, so you can still get Velocity points by flying with them (just make sure you give them your frequent flyer number at the time of booking).
Sign up to loyalty programs
Did you know companies like Expedia give you points every time you book with them and then the points can be used as money to spend on the site? I’ve saved hundreds by doing this and the points are very easily redeemable. Also, Coles Flybuys can now be connected with Virgin Australia which means I can transfer my grocery shopping to Velocity points. Another sneaky trick is instead of paying to sign up to loyalty programs, look for the free options. For example, instead of paying to sign up to Qantas Frequent Flyer program, sign up to Woolworths Everyday Rewards and you can get a free Qantas membership through them.
Credit cards for points
Most people use a credit card for big expenses but why not consider using one for everyday expenses? I use AMEX which also allows me to get Velocity Frequent Flyer points which means when I shop at Coles and I swipe my Flybuys, I’m literally getting double the amount of points. It’s important to then just make sure you transfer money regularly onto your credit card so you don’t rack up unnecessary debt.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF STOPOVERS
There’s nothing better than having a rest in between long haul flights. Some people avoid stopovers because of unnecessary costs, yet sometimes it’s not as costly as you’d think it would be. For example, Singapore Airlines offer stopovers in Singapore which include a night’s accommodation and transfers for just $60. Sounds pretty good if you’ve always wanted to see Singapore!
CHOOSE CITY PASSES
Whether it’s for transport or for tourist attractions, passes always work out cheaper (especially when you’re planning on doing all those things anyway). For example, the weekly Metro Card on the subway in New York is US$41 but that’s for unlimited subway rides for 7 days. Or Paris’ Museum Pass will get you into more than 60 museums and monuments (all for free once you’ve purchased the pass).
OPT FOR THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
Popular tourist attractions have a lot to offer and sometimes you don’t want to miss out on them, but some of the best experiences I’ve ever had have been those spur of the moment, localised experiences. Like making new friends in Indonesia and being invited to a home cooked meal, or meeting American sailors in The Bahamas and travelling around the Caribbean on a million-dollar yacht. These chance-meeting experiences can’t be bought and often end up being priceless. If you’re on the shyer side and less inclined to make new friends with strangers, keep an eye out for apps that can make those kind of experiences happen for a small fee. In Australia, an app called Localyokl offers local activities for travellers looking to experience the country from a locals point of view. So whether it’s learning to surf, going for a hike, or art classes at sunset, it allows you to meet up with locals and get off the beaten track.
FIND THE FREE OPTIONS
Travelling doesn’t need to cost a lot of money and sometimes the best experiences are the free ones. Sure, flights and accommodation can set you back, but once you arrive at your destination you shouldn’t have to pay for everything. A great example of this is when I was in New York, I wanted to see the Statue of Liberty, so instead of paying to go on a tour, I caught the free Staten Island Ferry that rides right by Lady Liberty. In Washington DC you can go on parliamentary tour for free, in Sydney you can discover the city’s history with a free walking tour, or in LA you can stargaze at Griffith Observatory, all for free. Wherever in the world you’re going, there’s always some great free options, it’s just a matter of doing a bit of research before you go.