As we all know, going away isn’t always cheap. Me and Sarah have found a few ways of helping to make ourselves feel more prepared for the financial aspect of our travels and would like to share our top five ways to help pay for your holiday.
1. American Express Cashback Card
This card has been my number one friend over the past year and helped significantly with financing various aspects of our trips. Let me explain – the way that it works is that every time I spend money on it, I am given a small percentage back as cashback by American Express (think of it like a loyalty card at Tesco). For the first three months you’re given 5% cashback on everything that you buy (up to £2500). Here’s an example – last year I booked our flights to Vietnam on the card and instantly received £50 cashback (so good hey!?) After the first three months, the percentage of cashback given goes down to 1.25% meaning that for every £1 that I spend, I get 1.25 pence back (which doesn’t sound a lot until you realise how many £1’s you spend in a year). The cashback is mounted up over a one year period and given to you in a lump sum at the end. When my cashback came through this year, I had earned enough to pay for both mine and Sarah’s return flights to Ibiza and also for our share of accommodation for the AirBnb we booked with our friends – therefore our flights and accommodation to Ibiza were completely free!
I understand that as soon as I say the word credit card, that probably puts a lot of people off. The way that I use the card means that I earn cashback but I never owe anything on it. Amex have an app (that you can download on your smartphone) where you can pay whatever you owe on the card whenever you want by simply using your fingerprint. Therefore I use it for everything that I buy/do (I hardly ever use a debit card) and just pay off whatever I owe each day. What’s also great about the app is that you can see your cashback building up every time you spend on the card (it’s quite exciting!) The one last thing (that is also exciting) is that every time you recommend the card to someone, that person instantly gets £25 cashback on their card as do you for recommending them – great success on both parts! So if you want to earn some free money this year, follow this link and start right now:
2. ‘The Pot’
This is something that me and Sarah started a number of months ago and absolutely swear by now. The premise is simple – every Monday we put £10 each in to this little pot and everything in there goes toward our travels. The great thing about it is that you hardly notice £10 disappearing out of your wallet each week. Before you know it you’ve got a pot overflowing with £10 notes making you look like an absolute baller when friends come over and see it filled with cash! It’s really surprising how far this technique goes! I’m not sure of how many months we were doing it for (maybe 7) but when it came to us going away in April, we had saved enough in the pot to cover spending money for our first week in Sri Lanka which, as you can imagine was incredible!
Little tip on the side – when doing ‘the pot’, try not to count it – it makes it much more exciting when you pour it all over the sofa before you go away!
It completely depends on where your going in the world and what kind of holiday you want in order for this tip to work or not. If you are heading to Asia and haven’t already done it before, this will be an absolute gem to help make your time away as cheap and as interesting as possible. I imagine that there are thousands of other places in the world where this will work too, I just haven’t done it anywhere other than Asia, therefore I can’t say.
Some of our highlights when travelling around Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand have been when we stayed with local people. This is ever-growing in popularity and can be arranged online and in particular on Booking.com. They are called Homestays and the premise is that you stay with a local family in their property. These are all very different from one another; some can be very similar to normal hotels and others can be as simple as staying in a bedroom in someone’s house. We have done a few over the years and enjoyed them so much! It’s great to meet and stay with the ‘people of the country’ and fully immerse yourself within their culture. These are usually very cheap, with starting prices at around £8 per night.
I remember one of our Homestays particularly well where we stayed with an old Vietnamese man in his home in Dalat. He was a retired teacher, wanting to keep busy and continue learning English therefore he decided to rent out some of his rooms on booking.com. He absolutely loved having people from all over the world coming and going from his house and often did we sit in his living room teaching him English and exchanging stories. So much better than staying in an all-inclusive hotel, right!? …and so much cheaper!
4. Monzo Card
One thing that can be really annoying when you’re away is having to pay a fee every time you withdraw cash from an ATM. This something that we really noticed when we were in Thailand for a month. I think by the time we came home, we had spent something like £75 on ATM charges …and £75 can go a long way in Thailand! So we sought out a way to try and overcome this when heading out to Vietnam the year after. After searching online, we found a prepaid travel card called Monzo which is great! The way it works is that is allows you to upload a particular amount of money (via an app) before you go away or whenever you want during you trip. This can be used like a debit card and comes with no charge when withdrawing from an ATM – Hurrah!.
It allows you to withdraw up to £250 a day with no fee which instantly solved our problem. Another great thing that it does is track your expenses, giving you regular statements via the app, showing you how much you’re spending, on what and where! These kind of cards are still relatively new therefore not everywhere accepts them yet, so I wouldn’t recommend relying solely on using your Monzo card. It would always be a great idea to also have your debit card as a back up.
5. Late Check In
One problem that me and Sarah have come across recently when flying to European destinations is that we have had to pay to choose our seat during check in. If you check in in good time, then this fee usually starts quite small at around £3.99 per seat (which obviously isn’t too bad). However, other times the seats can go up to prices such as £23.99 per seat. On our way to Ibiza a few weeks ago, by the time we checked in, the seats costed £23.99 each which we couldn’t believe considering the flight itself wasn’t too much more than that. So here’s a couple of tips on how you can get around this. After calling Monarch two days before our flight, the woman explained to me that if I wanted to choose a seat at this stage, this is how much they would cost (£23.99). However, if I waited until under 24 hours before the flight, the seat allocation would be free. The only thing, she specified, was that there was a small chance we might not sit together. So we thought we’d take our chances …and of course there were still lots of seats available on the day of the flight (seated together) and these were now free to book.
Another way we have worked around this (a number of times now) is by booking our seats wherever they might be and when boarding the plane, we’ve asked if the person next to us would mind swapping seats so as we could sit together. The funny thing is, every time we’ve done this, everyone is also doing the same thing! So most of the passengers have ended up sitting next to each other and not paid whatever fee it was the airline was charging that day. Winning!
If you have any questions about anything above, please don’t hesitate to contact us and we’ll happily help.