How to be a thrifty traveller
This summer, as international flights and Covid restrictions return mostly to normal, many of us are keen to start jet-setting again. However, with flight cancellations and disruptions on the rise, we’ve pulled together some thrifty tips to help you plan ahead, save money, and make the most of your time away.

Booking travel

The first rule of booking any kind of travel, is to go off-peak! Train, bus, and plane tickets tend to be cheaper on weekdays and outside of the school holidays.  If you’re keen to bag a bargain, sign up for travel newsletters with information on seasonal flash sales.

If you're travelling for an important event (weddings, birthday celebrations, conferences, etc) – try and give yourself an extra day in-between to flexibly accommodate any delays, cancellations, or disruptions. Shop around for travel insurance and buy at the point of booking your flight to make sure you’re covered. Purchasing your flight using a credit card can often make refunds easier if flights are cancelled last minute – but be sure to pay it off quickly to avoid interest rate charges.


Booking accommodation

The cheapest way to find accommodation abroad is usually via hostels or potentially house or pet sitting for another traveller. If you are holidaying as part of a larger group, you can opt for a rental apartment, house or villa and split the costs evenly. For long-haul trips, travel overnight to avoid paying unnecessary overnight accommodation.

If hotels are your preference, it is worth booking with your chosen hotel directly, as they often offer lower rates, to avoid paying a commission on third-party price comparison websites. If somewhere else does have a lower price, contact the hotel, and see if they can match it. Also, if your trip does get cancelled, some sites like SpareFare or Roomer will give you the option to resell your room and earn some cash back.


Best ways to pay

Before you head to the airport, contact your bank or credit card companies to inform them, as any unusual spending abroad may trigger automatic fraud warnings and your transactions could be blocked to keep your cards safe. Check to see the conversion rate on your credit or debit cards to avoid exorbitant transaction fees. Always pay in local currency over sterling (if given the option) and don’t withdraw cash from foreign ATMs or cash machines to evade conversion rate fees. Often, these can charge between 2-3% of your withdrawal or initial purchase.

It's also inadvisable to travel with lots of cash, as it poses a risk if it goes missing or gets stolen. Furthermore, if you don't spend all of it - the exchange rate back to sterling may lead to a cash loss. If you must buy cash, never ever do it from the airport as their rates are rarely competitive!


Shopping, dining, or driving abroad

The trick to eating like a king or queen overseas is to eat where the locals do – it’s usually cheaper, tastier and some street food is a lot more satisfying than expensive dining spots in the tourist traps.  Try to buy groceries and cook, as opposed to attending sit-down restaurants for every meal. Ask if the restaurant offers weekday lunch deals, or concession discounts for children, students, or pensioners. Do your research and check the local tipping etiquette for restaurants, hotels, and cab drivers to avoid over-tipping.

If you love to shop abroad, set a strict daily budget and track your expenses. Head to local marketplaces and haggle down the price of items if you can but think twice when buying useless knick-knacks as souvenirs for loved ones.

In bigger cities, try and walk as much as possible or take public transport to save money on cab fares. If you’re driving a rental car, always check the local road regulations to prevent small mistakes that cause hefty fines.


Staying connected

To consider options on the cheapest way to use your phone abroad, contact your mobile phone provider - especially if you’re travelling outside the EU.  If you intend to be ‘off-grid’ on holiday, keep your phone on ‘airplane mode’ to stop any accidental downloads. Instead, download any music, movies, or maps using free Wi-Fi wherever possible, so you don't use your own data. Frequent flyers should invest in an international pre-paid travel sim, especially if travelling for a long period, to free themselves from data roaming charges.   

Before you head off on your happy travels, download the RCI Bank mobile app to manage your savings anytime, anyplace. The app allows you to swap funds from your savings straight into your chosen linked account, so you can sip Sangria in the sun – 100% stress-free.


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