I’ve recently returned from the Costa Del Sol -Benalmádena, to be precise. I am a freelancer, an avid Airbnb’er and, providing I abide by all the various regulations, from time to time, when somebody decides to book my central London property, I can swap London living for some exotic far-flung location.
Over the course of the last few years, I have made my way from West to East, taking in the tropical island paradise of Las Terrenas, Dominican Republic; Malaga, drop off point for cruise ships and visitors to the Costa del Sol; Ibiza’s super-chilled Cala Tarida; Palma, capital of Mallorca, and then to the far East; Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Thailand and the island state of Penang, Malaysia, with a few European city-breaks thrown in for good measure.
Happy memories indeed, although when I look back on some of my earlier efforts I cannot believe the way in which I let so many Pounds, Dollars, Euros, Ringgits and Baht slip through my fingers so easily, and so carelessly. So in the common interest, I am going to reveal some of the secrets I have learned about how to increase your travel budget by cutting out the dumb losses, and focusing on the small wins.
The Work Starts At Home
As soon as I secure a new booking, the work begins. First of all, I must prepare my place. That means no over-ordering food, because guests don’t want to arrive and discover a fridge full of my leftovers. So if my booking is one week away, that means the monthly shop gets cancelled and I use the Tesco metro instead. You shouldn’t have to throw away good food, ever!
Next, the flat always needs a deep-clean; this is non-negotiable.
Now, my flat is not the biggest, and nobody knows it better than me. So, I clean it myself, saving £50 on a hired help. Thanks to the misadventures of my early days, when I never knew what cleaning stuff I did or didn’t have and panic bought, I have a cupboard bursting with rubber gloves, bleach, dusters, buckets, hoovers, wood polish and goodness knows what else. No need to buy more!
After 100-odd bookings, I also know precisely much time I need, and what needs to be cleaned, when. The bathroom needs to be done 24 hours ahead, the terrace too, and the wood floor gets done last, so I don’t tread mud / dust / contents of the fridge into it on my way out of the door. Always empty the bins, and clean the oven; makes the world of difference, trust me!
My biggest expense? The garage where I keep my possessions while I am away. Approximately £80 per month.
So now I have handed my keys over and I am out the door and on my way!
On the way to the airport
If I am headed to Stansted, the bus is half the price of the train, if you book both ways in advance. Here is something I have learned; if you don’t leave your departure and arrival times uncertain, you can make big savings.
I used to think that spending a night in London before or after travelling to my destination was no big deal, but financially it is a killer! London is pricey, never less than £30 for a night’s stay. So these days I fly direct to my location on the day I rent my flat, and return on the day my guest departs. There is a secret added bonus here; get back the very day your guest leaves, and you can get all your cleaning done immediately- no leaving guests rubbish festering in the fridge / bin / bathroom. Too grim for words!
Once I arrive at the airport (tip for Heathrow – take the tube all the way! Less than £5 versus £25 for the Heathrow Express), I remind myself not to exchange any money. Airports are a hugely convenient place to buy some of your destination country’s currency, and a hugely expensive one too! Exchange bureaus at airports are gambling on the fact that you have time to kill, and you haven’t sorted your overseas money yet. It’s daylight robbery, only the blame falls entirely on you!
Order Your Travel Money In Advance
The easiest and most convenient way to do this is by using a service like City Forex; who can deliver money direct to your office, or home, and give you a much better all round exchange rate, with cheaper fees too.
If you find yourself changing money at the airport, hang your head in shame!
The Credit / Debit / Notes Debate
Mind you, changing money at the airport is probably preferable to using your domestic debit card abroad. You will be charged BIG fees, and quoted TERRIBLE exchange rates! You are better off using your credit card, but word of warning, you must pay your credit card bill off in a timely fashion. If you do not, you will be amazed by how much your banks takes from you in fees, and not in a good way!
If you have an overseas bank account or want to send money to a friend overseas to give to you when you arrive, use an overseas money transfer comparison site like The Money Cloud to find the best deal you can.
To Stow, Or Not To Stow?
Next question: do you need to put a bag in the hold, or are you ok with hand luggage?
Most people are probably aware by now that if you are travelling with the likes of Ryanair, or EasyJet, you pay a hefty surcharge for any luggage you bring with you besides hand luggage – as much as £30. Can you survive with just your hand luggage. It means no liquids (over 75ml), and, well, not much of anything, to be honest. But then, how much do you really need?
Don’t drive your fellow passengers, not to mention the air-stewards/esses, crazy, by attempting to cram far too much stuff into your hand luggage to avoid paying to put a bag in the hold. Trust me, it’s not a good look. If you’re heading somewhere sunny, ask yourself how much do I really need? Do you need 10 t-shirts, or 4? 2 towels, or one? 3 pairs of shoes, or just the two?
Every single occasion I have been abroad, I have concluded I could have taken less. But make the right decisions, people – don’t try to save on your underwear – they don’t take up much room and you don’t want to be doing washing every 3 days.
You’ve Arrived – Stay Cool!
So now you have arrived at your destination and it’s time for your first shop. Don’t overbuy. Here’s a great tip; never go shopping when you are feeling hungry! You’ll be amazed how much you overspend. Plan your meals in advance and if you are on a budget, try to eat in as often as you can. Chances are, you can have guests over and ply them with good food and wine – and still save more than the cost of a slap up McMeal at your local restaurant or takeaway.
If these tips strike you as mundane, or too fussy, or too stingy, trust me, I used to think so too. But remember, whatever you don’t spend on travel, cleaning, food, changing money, and money transfer fees, doesn’t vanish into thin air, it goes back into the kitty, and can be spent on something more worthwhile.
Waste your money if you must, but wouldn’t you rather waste it on a candlelit dinner with a date, or a beach party with friends, or a day trip to an amazing historical town or temple, or to take a cab when, despite all of your detailed planning, you wake up late and have to make a dash for the airport.
You’ll thank yourself then, trust me!