Hints and tips for bargain travel…planes, trains and automobiles…

When it comes to travel (or in fact anything!), I am a self confessed bargain hunter.  Whether this is securing a discount code for the website I am currently making purchases on or haggling down the prices of accommodation in Greece, nothing makes me feel better than knowing I’ve got a good deal.

In terms of travel, cheap or discount travel and accomadation facilitates the ability to travel long and wide – the less spent getting to and staying in a destination, the more is available for activities, food and experiences OR the ability to travel even longer and even wider.

Overnight planes, trains and buses are great places to get your head down – this may not be on a par with staying in a 5 star hotel, but if you need to keep costs down, arriving in the morning equates to one night less spent on accommodation.

At this point, it’s challenging to not to crack out the old cliches, but really – travel is my passion.  And for this reason, I have been known to spend a ridiculous amount of time sifting through travel pages to find a bargain or a deal that fits.

I’m going to share some of the ways in which I sniff out the bargains, so you too can take advantage of some of the best deals yourself.  I’m going to split this into two parts dealing separately with the transport aspect and the accommodation aspect of a break away.

An old favourite of mine, the beauty of Skyscanner is that you can search on a wide criteria:

For a whole year of travel:

Instead of entering specific dates, click on whole of month or even whole year.  The results show you the cheapest times to fly, with all airlines across your timescale – this way you can immediately see whether it is cheaper to fly on a Tuesday but return on a Wednesday the following week or even fly with two different airlines.

From your destination of choice to ‘Everywhere’:

Yes this really is an option! This will show you where it is the cheapest to fly to, from your departure point of choice.  You can tailor weekend breaks away on the most affordable flights or even use this tool to fly nearer to your destination of choice.

Do a reverse search:  

If you know where you want to get to, but are not bothered how, you can search where it is most cost effective to fly, from your destination.  In the same way as above, (but in reverse), enter your preferred destination as your departure point.  Select ‘Everywhere’ as your destination. Your search results will show that it may be cheaper to fly to Rome, for example.  You can then search flights from Rome to your destination and will usually find that flights in opposing directions come in at a similar price. You can then conduct a separate search from the UK to Rome to see if this comes in cheaper than a direct flight.

Change your Origin Country and Currency:  

This is for the more dedicated bargain hunter and requires more work than the previous methods.  In Skyscanner settings, change the name of your origin point and currency.  For example, if you are UK based but wanted to buy flights with a departure points in Australia, change your origin to Australia and your currency to Australian Dollars – you can usually find a difference for the exact same flight.  In terms of doing this, make sure you use a favourable credit card or debit card to ensure the difference you’ve saved isn’t cancelled out by bank or card charges.

So far, for our European travels, megabus and megatrain have been invaluable in securing ridiculously cheap travel.

Our first leg from Havant to London Waterloo came in at £4.60, an overnight bus to Paris for £40.50 and and overnight bus from Paris to Marseille for £4.50.  For less than 50 quid, all four of us and all our baggage will be transported to the South of France, with two nights spent onboard a coach rather than paying for a hostel or hotel.

Although this is guaranteed to not be the most comfortable ride (and I will, without fail, have two very tetchy children when we arrive in Marseille), there is no doubting that this is one of the most affordable ways for navigating Europe.

Megabus and Megatrain are constantly opening new routes.  They already operate throughout France, Northern Spain, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.  Check back to their site regularly – new routes bring even cheaper pricing (as per our Paris to Marseille leg).

As with any budget operator, it is always best to book in advance to ensure you get the best deal, the more seats that are sold, the more expensive the seats become – it is worth noting that if you book and need to amend or change your booking, you can do this for £1 each.  Not bad for the peace of mind that you can change your plans without major expense.  You will need to pay any difference in fare.

Aside from the aforementioned Skyscanner and Megabus/Megatrain, there is always a constant stream of new websites looking for bargain travel.

Holidaypirates is one of my favourites.  This site focuses on finding error airline fares, rock bottom priced holidays or holidays which are advertised at the wrong price, usually through major operators such as Thomson or Thomas Cook.  They have an app which you can check into, however again, you need to be quick – not all deals will be honoured, but if you have the flexibility, there is no reason why you can’t stumble on a holiday to Turkey for £1.75!  Holiday Pirates only locate the deals, its up to you to go to the appropriate company to book them. And NEVER approach the company directly if you spot a deal, you’ll spoil the fun for others!

The other site I have used previously is Travelzoo – again they find the deals for flights, hotels and holidays and you need to book them yourself.  Each Wednesday, Travelzoo release a list of their top 20 deals, straight into your email inbox.  One of my biggest travel bargains was found through this site – A four night cruise on the brand new Regal Princess with a balcony cabin and $50 to spend onboard – all for £99 each!

Signing off with bargain finding love