Planning a trip is fun but can also be very daunting and time-consuming. While each trip is unique, we have made a list to give beginners or seasoned travelers helpful tips and handy tricks to avoid getting scammed and to save you money. We confidently recommend the booking portals, websites, and blogs below as we use them for all our trips to save money.
Here are six travel planning tips that will almost guarantee to save you some money:
Tip #1 Choose your destination wisely to save money
This is the hottest tip! Destination matters when it comes to saving money!
If you don’t have a specific destination in mind, get inspiration from travel websites, social media pages, or travel blogs. If you’re on a budget, find out which destinations offer good value for money.
Conde Nast Traveller compiled a list of 21 cheap places to travel to in 2023. To view this list, click here.
Dreambigtravelfarblog.com also compiled an insightful list of 31 cheap places to travel to in 2023.
Also, search our website for great destination articles, travel hacks, and tips; we have compiled many in-depth articles about Greece, South Africa, Italy, France, Monaco, Mauritius, and many more fascinating places.
Where else to look for travel inspiration?
Here is a list of resources that you can consult to look for travel inspiration:
We always read travel blogs before planning a trip. Here is a list of our favourite travel bloggers that provide awesome travel hacks and tips that can save you a lot of money:
Vins and Yosh’s blog is a good source of information to avoid poor travel choices. Their blog aims to document their misfortunes and gives their followers free travel tips and hacks to avoid wasting money while travelling.
Bradley and Cassy are the travel fanatics behind this blog. Their blog aims to inspire couples to travel and enjoy vanlife while motivating other type 1 diabetics to live their dreams and overcome this illness’s challenges. Their blog is super popular and gets over 5 million views!
Tami started blogging in 2015 about her travels. There are literally hundreds of interesting articles about her travels, including many great travel hacks and tips; some of her titles include “What if you’re on a medical emergency on a cruise”, “12 Tips to get the most out of your travels”, and “Planning an epic road trip: 7 mistakes to avoid”.
Ky and Tess are Australian-born physiotherapists who now travel full-time. Their articles act as memories of their experiences and aim to provide useful tips and travel hacks to help you save money.
Joop and Mika are a Dutch travel couple with a flair for writing interesting travel blogs with beautiful photos. Their article “Where to find the best cherry blossom spots in Hamburg” is worth a read.
You can find just about anything on Pinterest. Just enter a search term like “cheap city breaks”, “cheap holidays”, or “travel on a budget”, and great travel destinations will be suggested for you. You can also find inspiration on our Pinterest page and ways to save money on your trips.
Instagram is also a wonderful way to get inspired through visual media. Here you can get authentic insights and good descriptions of various travel destinations from the travel community.
Several Instagram pages are devoted to travel hacks and tips, budget, solo, safe, couple, and family travelling. Please also visit our Instagram page @travelbuddies_lifestyle; although we focus mostly on South Africa and Europe, we also post about other good value-for-money destinations we visit occasionally.
Tip #2 Choose the cheapest travel period
This is one aspect where you can save the most money. If possible, always travel during the low season. Travel is often much cheaper out of season; this includes everything from flights to accommodation to food prices.
The streets are also less crowded, and you are more likely to get in at a recommended restaurant without a booking. Try to avoid school holidays as much as possible. This is particularly so for places like the Kruger National Park in South Africa. If you go during the wrong time, it can be a very unpleasant experience for you due to the pileups on the roads, long waiting lines for check-in and extreme weather conditions. Moreover, in many countries, the temperatures in spring and autumn are far more pleasant than in their high summer.
Tip #3 Plan your trip using legitimate Internet websites
We cannot stress this enough! You don’t want to book and pay for accommodation only to reach your destination and discover if it was a scam. Unfortunately, the Internet is filled with scams; therefore, do your homework properly. Read as much as possible. Compare information from various websites, read reviews and recommendations and use only legitimate websites.
Once you have decided on your destination, research online about the country’s entry requirements, safety tips and advice, and any vaccinations that may be required before entering the country. It is highly recommended to consult the consular websites for this information.
Tip #4 Make a rough itinerary so you don’t end up travelling in circles
Nothing is more frustrating than visiting a place and, after a few days, realizing you are back where you started. Before booking hotels, you should know which places you want to visit and in which order.
Make a list of all the places you would like to visit, then use Google Maps to estimate the distances and travel time between the places. If you plan to use ferries, trains, buses or airplanes between destinations, make provision for these travel times.
A word of caution! Don’t plan the whole day in advance in too much detail; leave room for the spirit of the moment locations or experiences. You often have no idea beforehand how tiring travelling can be (i.e., delayed transport, unplanned weather conditions, traffic congestion, etc.) or you may want to visit a place of interest that you were not aware of.
Use Google Maps to plan your trips
Use Google Maps to plan your trips with the ‘Places’ feature
Using the ‘PLACES’ feature to save points of interest:
- Open Google Maps and search for the location to save.
- Click on the SAVE icon right below the location’s name. You need to swipe
- Now select where you want to save the location. You have four choices: Favourites, restaurants, Want to go, Travel plans or Starred places.
- You can now make a note about this location such as a time and date you would like to visit this place.
- If you go again on Google Maps and click on the SAVE icon, your lists will appear showing your favourites, want to go, travel plans and labelled places.
Use Google Reviews to find the best restaurants
- Many points of interest on Google Maps have a section for user reviews. These reviews can be helpful to see which stops are a must-visit.
- To read reviews open Google Maps and find a location.
- At the top of your page you will see the headings: overview, reviews, photos, updates and about.
- Click on REVIEWS.
- Now you can select what type of review you would like to see in the town. In my example of Kleimond Habour, I can select to see reviews of restaurants (52), ice cream places (15), fish and chips (11), etc.
- The reviews are from users who visited the locations. Each review includes a star rating, a date, and occasionally a photo. You can also leave a review on a place that you visited to help other travelers.
Use Google Maps to plan your trips with the ‘My Maps’ feature
Using the ‘My MAPS’ feature to plan and share your trip:
- Open the MY MAPS home page. NOTE this is not the same page as Google Maps!
- A world map will open named “Untitled Map’.
- Click on the “Untitled Map’ to rename your map.
- Then select a destination in the search window.
- Click on ‘Add to the map’.
- To add direction between multiple locations, click on the ‘add direction’ icon that looks like a curved arrow. It will then plot a road from point A to B.
- When you’re done, you can share (via Facebook, Twitter or email) or Preview your map.
Tip #5 Avoid online booking traps
Hotels often offer cheaper rates when you make your booking online. We rarely book through a travel agency, although they offer valuable services for beginner travellers, particularly in foreign countries. They provide helpful advice in terms of visa applications. However, the Internet is still your cheapest and best option. It is also the more convenient option, particularly when you must be flexible in your travel plans.
Be warned! There are also traps lurking on the Internet, but if you are aware of them, you can confidently book your trips online at very good prices.
Online traps lurking on the Internet that can cost you money:
- The best offer is not necessarily displayed at the top of the search engine results. For example, service providers who bid higher for their listings are ranked at the top. Therefore, you should sort your search results by price or rating. It is also advisable to compare the results with other portals.
- Do not be rushed into booking by limited offers of ‘unbeatable’ discounts or intimidation of only a few rooms left. These are almost always clever marketing tricks used by travel portals.
- When booking a flight, it is important to compare the final price, including all additional fees. Look out for airlines requiring a fee for using your preferred payment method at the end of the booking.
Booking accommodation online can save you money
We book most of our accommodation through booking.com.
Although they sometimes receive negative feedback and comments, we have had consistently good experiences. Booking.com has helped us several times to get unjustifiably withheld money back from hotels.
Moreover, Booking.com has the largest selection of accommodations. For any beginner or seasoned traveller, it must be your priority when booking to ensure you have a free cancellation option (or even for a small surcharge) until shortly before arrival.
We live in uncertain times. Things change, flights get delayed, people get sick, and there are numerous other reasons why you must be able to cancel your booking (free of change) even if you cannot think of one possibility at the time of booking. This is one aspect of your travel planning that should not be negotiable. If your plans change or you find a better offer, the extra charge will be worth it.
Another useful booking portal is Airbnb. Booking through them is a bit more complicated and not as flexible as booking.com. However, you can book cheap accommodation from private landlords.
Booking flights online can save you money
We use comparison portals like Skyscanner, google flights, booking.com or Kayak to get an overview of which airlines fly to our destinations. Here you can also book a suitable flight. If you are part of a frequent flyer programme, booking directly with your airline of preference on their website is a good idea.
You can save the most money if you are flexible with your arrival and departure dates, as there are more expensive and cheaper travel days. Also, do not book flights too early or too late before your trip. In our experience, the best time to book is between three and five months in advance. If you live near several airports, check the flight prices from all nearby airports. You can sometimes save a lot of money by departing from a neighbouring airport or country.
PRO TIP: Sign up for the airline’s mileage programme. Registration with an airline’s mileage programme is usually free and worthwhile. Often you can have the miles you have earned credited to your next booking with the airline in question or a partner airline, or you can keep earning until you have enough for a bonus flight or an upgrade.
There are also credit cards where you earn miles or points with every transaction, which can then be transferred to various airline bonus programmes.
Booking a rental car
We often advise travellers to book a rental car from their home country in advance. Again, platforms like Kayak, Autorental.com, Booking.com are excellent and will help you find the best offers.
When deciding on a rental company, be aware of offers that seem cheap but do not include comprehensive insurance and don’t have a free cancellation option up to 24 hours in advance.
#6 Prepare for your trip
When travelling abroad, it is highly recommended to have a credit card. For example, renting a car without a credit card is almost impossible. Some banks require you to inform them that you will be travelling overseas, which helps verify international transactions. We always recommend travelling with two credit cards so you have an emergency card to fall back on in case one is lost or blocked. There are credit cards without monthly fees and even cards with which you can pay abroad free of charge or even withdraw money free of charge.
We use American Express and Miles and More credit cards from Lufhansa.
They offer the best travel insurance if you purchase your flight ticket with your credit card. It is worth checking out all the benefits an American Express credit card can offer you as a traveller.
Always check whether your passport is still valid. This might sound obvious but we know of several cases where people arrive at the airport only to find out their passports have expired. For many countries, your passport must be valid for at least six months after your return date. Also, check whether you need a visa to enter your destination country. It is best to consult the specific country’s website for more information. Some visa applications take weeks, so familiarise yourself with the waiting period and document requirements to ensure you have enough time to prepare your application.
We always recommend taking out sufficient international health insurance. Note this is a prerequisite for the Schengen visa. Travel cancellation insurance also makes sense, particularly in these uncertain times. If you travel often, it is worthwhile to have insurance that covers all your annual trips.
Brythe Travel insurance is a good option as they are also associated with American Express Charge Cards.
We suggest buying an international eSIM card to stay connected wherever you go, and to avoid expensive cellphone bills.
In this article, we recommend several travel hacks and tips that we regularly use when we travel. If you have any other suggestions, please leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.
Your travel buddies
Bernie and Petra