In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of planning and budgeting to allow yourself to have the kind of travelling adventures that suit you without breaking the bank. I would like to share with you a few things that me and Megan have done with our recent trip to Montenegro prior to even setting foot on Montenegrin soil that allowed us to have a fantastic two and a half weeks out there with no need to sell any kidneys whatsoever! So without further ado, here’s four things you can do from home to save on your upcoming adventures:
(Photograph from Porapak Apichodilok)
Get your flights and insurance sorted in advance
Makes sense that we start with this one doesn’t it? With some of the trips we go on, like our upcoming trip to Sweden, we might come up with an itinerary to arrange where we’re staying and what we’re doing every day we’re away, but sometimes just having flights sorted and a place to stay for the first night is enough. If you want full flexibility, you may just book an outgoing flight to where you’re going so that you’re not bound by constraints of time or place. With our Montenegrin trip, however, we went somewhere in the middle, booking our outgoing and return flights and our accommodation for most of our time there, but largely left the rest for when we got there.
If, like us, you’re after the best deals when it comes to flying, I’d recommend booking your outgoing and return flights in advance to make sure you secure the best deals possible and aren’t at the mercy of fluctuating flight costs for your return journey. Websites such as Kayak or Skyscanner are great at comparing the cheapest days to fly out on and the most cost effective airlines to go with. However, do take the advertised prices with a pinch of salt. Beware the additional costs beyond simply booking the flights, such as paying for seats and for baggage. Some will also offer travel insurance for a bit extra too. They may offer you a good deal, but, it’s always worth shopping around before you commit, though my personal recommendation would be to use World Nomads to get a good insurance quote.
It might take a bit of extra time, but doing your research on flights and checking out hidden extra costs by going part way through the booking procedures can help you save money that you can keep in your savings or use to go Stand-Up Paddleboarding and drinking cocktails with little umbrellas in them!
The Kayak website also has a nifty feature called Kayak Explore which you can use to search out the cheapest flights from an airport of your choice. If you know that you want to visit a certain area like, say, The Balkans, you can use the map feature to see various international airports in the area and how much it will cost to each of them. That’s what we did with Montenegro. We were originally looking at destinations like Slovenia and Croatia, but were struggling to find cheap flights near to where we originally wanted to go. However, after seeing the price to fly to Tivat International Airport and doing a little research on Montenegro, we booked our flights there eager to explore this gem of The Balkans, and whilst we’re sure we would have had a great time if we had gone to Slovenia or Croatia, we’re extremely glad we happened upon that flight to Tivat!
One of the aforementioned hidden costs when flying is taking baggage with you and can easily make a great looking flying deal a lot less attractive. Most airlines allow you to take at least one small cabin bag with you, so that’s what we did in Montenegro! As regular hikers, we have nice light backpacks we tend to use when we’re out for the day, which were just perfect for our 2 and a half week getaway! If you go down this road yourself, do make sure to check that your baggage fits in the size and weight limits of the airline you’re flying with.
To make this work for our trip, we needed to be efficient and this is something I’d only recommend if you were going somewhere for less than a month and if you’re confident you’ll have a place to do laundry when you’re out there! When choosing what we needed to pack; versatility was the name of the game! The lightweight foldable button shirt that could have the sleeves rolled up when it’s hot and serve as a light jacket when it’s cold; that was in! The smart jacket that would be great for that high end cocktail bar I saw online in Budva but wouldn’t stand up to the elements or be useful in any other circumstances; that was out!
As well as saving money, packing light like this makes moving around a lot less stressful, with the ability to stick everything in one bag and get moving with unburdened arms rather than having to hulk around your entire wardrobe in multiple bags.
(Photograph from Porapak Apichodilok)
Find some good accommodation deals in advance
I mentioned booked accommodation as well as flights in advance. Sorting this out in advance meant that before we flew out, we already knew in advance, how much ‘going around’ money we would have for daily expenses and tours because these essential costs had already been taken care of. This made both of us a lot more relaxed about money heading out there as there was less unpredictability or worries about being stranded and having to make do with whatever overpriced tourists traps happened to have spaces available.
When searching for the best deals for accommodation, there’s plenty of comparison websites you can check such as TripAdvisor and Booking.com which also include reviews on the places they advertise. It is important to remember that sometimes paying the extra buck for a little more comfort can be worth it. Remember, you’re after a cost effective adventure – cheap adventures aren’t always the best ones. For example, whilst some travellers like the appeal of staying in hostels for their low prices and to be able to meet loads of new people all in one space, I now rarely use them. In recent years, privacy has gotten more of a priority for me, as has comfort, so I tend to search around for cheap hotel options. Whilst staying in Montenegro, we were even able to rent apartments fully equipped with laundry and cooking facilities at an incredibly reasonable rate, which also allowed us to save money on food and laundry, and a lift to the airport, AND they even threw in a complementary bottle of wine to sweeten the deal!
Conversely, you might not necessarily have the best day out, no matter what stunning place you’re in, if you just go for the cheapest option without checking the reviews or window shopping elsewhere. Imagine, say, you had a big day planned either in town or up a mountain, but the night before, you barely got any sleep on your paper thin mattress on the bottom bunk whilst the unaware couple on the top bunk were doing the dance with no pants at 4am. This is an exaggerated hypothetical partially based on real experiences, so take it with a pinch of salt – the point is to know what you want from the place you’re staying in and make sure you’re not sacrificing your wellbeing for a bit of savings – I’ve found it’s very doable to find a place that suits your needs without paying exorbitant prices, if you take the time to do your research.
Like with the flights, perhaps your search for a cost-effective place to stay will influence where you go as well. When we started looking at Montenegro, we found the company, Playworking that were based on the Lustica Peninsula. They offered a very reasonable daily rate, private rooms and discounts on the tours run through their sister-company, Montenegro+. Staying there also allowed us to stay in a place away from the usual tourist haunts and explore places few people outside the area will have experienced (More on that in a future post)! We found Playworking through a cultural exchange website called WorkAway when we were thinking of making this a working holiday, which just goes to show that you can sometimes make great discoveries by looking in unconventional places. The more research you do, the more hidden gems you discover and a lot of them don’t cost a penny to visit by foot!
Research prices in general
When we started looking in to Montenegro, the more research we did, the more relaxed we got about going there. Knowing local prices for food, public transport, accommodation and tours meant that we not only had a few leads on a few good deals, but also that we felt well informed enough to go “we know things are going to be affordable in this region, we’ll be fine”. As a good rule of thumb, the more you know, the more relaxed you can be. It’s easy to see planning for adventure as a choice between “shall I be organized?” or “shall I be spontaneous?”. My advice? Do both. Know enough about the area you’re going that you get a rough idea of what there is to do and how much you might spent, and once you know enough, you’ll be able to be relax more and let spontaneity fill the gaps!
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