After two years full of everchanging travel restrictions, the time has finally come for the world to slowly open up again. Countries around the world are lifting entry requirements and local measures, welcoming intercontinental travelers. We’ve seen this positive news as a sign to start planning new adventures, abroad and even intercontinental! We’re dusting off our backpacks and other travel gear and warming up the travel planning muscles. For us, this always raises the question: how will we make the most of our travel budget? You might recognise this, but your travel budget skills are going to be a bit rusty after all this time, right? That’s why we thought this is a good time to create a series of blogs full of travel budget tips. In this first of three blogs: transportation budget tips!
Transportation budget tip 1: consider which mode fits best
The very first consideration we normally make is how we want to travel to our holiday destination. This may seem obvious, but a more conscious consideration on what the best way to get to your destination and how to get around when you’re there, helps make the best budget decisions. Factors we usually take into account are:
- Value of free time: depending on your situation, your free time can be more or less valuable. If you, like us, are in a situation with limited days off, investing more in a faster and more optimal connection can be worth it. We’re likely to pay a bit more for an early morning connection on our first free day, instead of the evening connection.
- Type of holiday: to go camping, we prefer going by our own car so we can take a lot of stuff, even if this means driving for a day or more to get to our destination. For a city trip, you likely won’t need a car and can choose to go by plane or train to save on fuel and parking costs. And there are tons of other possible types of holidays that each have their optimal transport option.
- Connections: it’s worth spending a bit of time looking into the possible connections. For example, if we want to travel to Berlin from our home in The Netherlands, we can choose between driving, taking a direct train, or flying. But if we’re looking to go to less accessible locations, there usually isn’t a viable train option to choose from.
- Sustainability: an obvious factor to take into account. With international train and long distance bus connections getting better, at least in Europe, public transport is becoming a more and more viable and obviously much more sustainable alternative way to travel to your holiday destination.
Transportation budget tip 2: if you’re flying; compare, compare and then compare a little more
For those destinations further away and for quick city trips, flying is quite often the only option or by far the best for your budget. But with thousands of flights to choose from, finding the best one can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. Our tip is to always use a site that offers comparisons, such as Skyscanner. Our go to is normally Google Flights, for its convenient and intuitive layout.
Just last week, we booked our flights to Jordan. For comparing the flight offers and prices, here’s a few tips:
- If you have multiple options for a departure airport, you can add all of them into a single search by clicking the ‘+’ icon when you list your departure airport. We added five airports that are within 2 hours from our home, to see which one would give the best flights to Amman.
- While a direct flight is more optimal, especially if you have little time, it can be a lot more expensive than including a short stop-over. This way, Thomas saved 550 euros on a return flight to Japan by adding 4 hours to the travel time. And on our upcoming flight to Jordan, we’re adding a short stop-over in Vienna that costs 2 hours extra and saves us 350 euros per person.
- When looking at prices, take all of the extra costs into account. Check to see if the included luggage is enough and what it will cost to add more, this might change which flight is cheapest. And beware of extra costs that you’ll need to make around the flight; if your arrival is late at night, you’ll most likely have to pay for a more expensive taxi ride. And if you’ll need to pay for parking at the airport, choosing a different departure airport that you can take a train to or be dropped off at, might be the cheaper option.
- How do you know if a flight will get more expensive, or whether it might get cheaper if you wait a little longer? Usually, your odds of a flight getting cheaper are much smaller than the price rising quite a lot, especially if the flight date is getting nearer and the flight is getting fuller. We do tend to take a look at the historic price graph on Google Flights, to see if the price has been rising or dropping over the past days and weeks. On Google Flights, this is visible under the little remark that tells you whether prices are lower or higher than usual when you’re looking for a flight.
- Flight comparison sites are ideal, but do not necessarily always have the latest price information. When booking, check to see whether direct booking on the airline’s website is cheaper than the listed price.
- Once you’re in the booking process, you’ll be bombarded with offers to add every imaginable thing to your flight, at a cost of course. Adding a paid seat choice early is usually not necessary, and the offered cancellation insurance often has restricted conditions that means we never choose to add it to our booking.
Transportation budget tip 3: budget travel airport to city
When you’ve flown to your destination, there are usually a few options to choose from for your transport into the city. A few tips to help you save on transport from the airport to the city:
- The easiest way to start comparing your options is to check the website of your arrival airport. It will usually list a lot of the available options and timetables for public transport connections.
- A lot of cities with an airport have a prominently branded ‘airport connection’, but these can be a lot more expensive than regular public transport services. An airport train can cost over twice as much as a regular train service running on the exact same line, and the same goes for buses. On our recent trip to Málaga, we paid €4 each for the Airport Line bus into town, and later found out that there are regular bus connections that cost under half. These are of course not the biggest costs of your entire trip, but looking into this can help you save a little here and there.
- If you choose to take a taxi, or have no other choice due to a late arrival, be sure to look for the official taxi stand so you don’t get ripped off by unofficial taxi drivers. And another tip, even for the official taxis, is to do some research into what price you should approximately be paying for the taxi ride into town. This will help you negotiate a better price. We experienced this last October when arriving late at night in Zadar in Croatia. A bus service could take us into town, but required waiting for another hour, so we chose to get a taxi. At the official taxi stand, we were offered a ridiculous 60 euro fare for a 20 minute ride into town. Luckily, we had read online that the price should be between 15 and 20 euros. After some negotiation and even walking away after a 30 euro offer, the driver took us into town for only 20 euros!
- More and more cities have Uber or similar services, which are usually even cheaper than normal taxis. Be sure to check before you go and download the app, so that you can get an Uber into town upon your arrival.
Transportation budget tip 4: spend less, or spend more to see more
Unless you’re driving to your holiday destination, you’ll have a choice as to how to get around during your trip. A basic choice will usually be: public transport or a rental car? A rental car will be more expensive, so public transport is the truly budget way to get around. Especially in cheaper countries, even long distance buses are usually incredibly cheap. But again, as we mentioned before, the choice should also be influenced by how much you value your time. If you’re on a limited period of leave from work, a more expensive rental car means you’ll be able to see up to twice as much per day. This consideration led to us choosing a rental car over public transport in Southern Spain, as we only had a week to see as much as possible of the region. The added comfort is another pro for rental cars, while choosing public transport is guaranteed to lead to more adventurous experiences.
If you do decide to choose a rental car over public transport, consider how much you’re willing to pay extra for more insurance. We tend to choose the all-inclusive rental options, through an intermediate service, which is usually not that much more expensive and removes all the stress and hassle of possible damage to the car.
Transportation budget tip 5: embrace offers for tourists
Most top tourist destinations have special public transport offers for tourists. This can for example be a 24, 48 or 72 hour public transport card. These tickets are usually worth buying if you’re on a city trip in a relatively large city and need a way to get around. In the Norwegian capital Oslo for example, a 24-hour ticket for the entire city zone is exactly the same price as two single rides. This means that if you include a visit to the Holmenkollen ski slope (which you should), the 24-hour ticket is worth getting. And in this specific case, it includes a ferry to some of the surrounding fjord islands, an experience in and of itself!
This is just one of countless examples of tourist-oriented public transport tickets. Definitely look into them when you’re planning your next city trip.
These tips can help you make all the necessary transport considerations on your upcoming trip! In part 2 of this blog series on how to make the most of your travel budget, we’re looking at accommodation. Stay tuned!
Kirsten & Thomas