Planning your first (or any!) big trip can be seriously overwhelming, particularly if you’re still studying or are on a tight budget. It seems like the costs keep piling up and your part time job just isn’t going to cut it for the trip of your dreams. I’ve only just started working full time after graduating from university, but during my studies I took three awesome overseas trips. It involved a lot of saving and a lot of budgeting but it was worth every cent. Here are my top five tips for saving $$$ when planning your dream adventure!
1. Do your research
This seems obvious, but remember that there are new sites cropping up to help you find better deals. Cuponation has just launched in Australia and is offering great deals on a range of brands, such as Asos, SurfStitch, Bookworld and most importantly, travel brands like Expedia, Jet Star and Hotel Club! I can’t wait to search their Expedia page for my next international trip. Check it out, just looking at the Expedia deals is getting my inner wanderbug thinking of reasons to plan a trip to Asia!
2. Plan ahead – but not too far ahead!
Obviously, leaving your travel arrangements to the last minute is a huge risk. However, planning TOO far in advance means you might miss out on deals that will crop up closer to the date. I wouldn’t book an international flight more than six months in advance (but remember all too well paying a whopping $3000 for my return airfares Australia-Paris for my exchange, which only gave me one month’s notice of acceptance).
3. Fall in love with shoulder season
Not only will you save serious dollars, you’ll also battle fewer crowds and enjoy milder weather. I’ve been in Paris in July and Paris in August, and August is definitely the better month to go. I also love Europe in January (but February is too cold for me). Locally, the Sunshine Coast Hinterland’s peak season is the winter months, June-August, so it is more expensive. My boyfriend and I wanted a weekend away in the mountains, but we got much better prices in September, the first month of Spring.
Finally, I’m travelling to Cairns in early November, not December or January. I’ll avoid the most extreme heat, hopefully will avoid the tropical wet season, families on school holidays and the higher prices during the peak period.
4. Don’t be a dummy, do the math
Everyone assumes that we bought a train pass when we travelled through Europe – and everyone recommended that we’d save money if we bought one. Despite paying for approximately 18 train tickets in the first three weeks around France and Italy, it was cheaper to buy the individual tickets rather than purchase the pass. It also meant that we had seats allocated, and all we had to do was get to the platform before our train did – no checking in required.
Of course, if you’re travelling further, the pass might be better value. The same thing goes for museum passes – will you really visit four museums during your three days in London? Some people might, but realistically, I probably would only make it to one or two. If the pass helps you jump the queue, it could be worth it but don’t be swayed by deals that aren’t really suited to your travel style.
The important thing is not to assume anything, know everything.
5. Be flexible
No holiday goes without a hitch, and this includes travel planning. For example, I’m currently planning an awesome week in the Whitsundays & Tropical North Queensland with my best friend. There are no flights from Proserpine (the Whitsundays closest airport) and Cairns. We could get a bus to Townsville, which is fairly cheap, but then the flight from Townsville- Cairns, on a tiny little regional plane, is more expensive than the flight from Brisbane – Proserpine!
This region of Queensland has amazing natural wonders and experiences and most things are best experienced on a tour. I’m totally happy to support the local economy and the dedicated eco-tourist guides but the costs DO add up.
We’ve saved money by taking a little extra time and taking an early six-hour bus from Townsville to Cairns. We waste a little extra time, but when you factor in time spent at the airport and getting to and from the airport (plus the cost of transfers), I think we’ve made the best choice. It’ll be a very early morning, but as a result we’ll see Townsville, where my boyfriend grew up, and the stunning Magnetic Island which is a 20 minute ferry from the city.
Another great example of where a little flexibility saved money AND gave me a better travel experience was when we ended up visiting Milan.