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Tigrest Travel Blog

This is a blog about destinations, food and travel tips

Tag: how to travel cheaper

travel money

How to save money for international travel

travel moneyTravel budget (or travel money) is often hard to build, especially if you are planning on going somewhere further than neighboring village. Flight tickets, hotels, food and local transport, not to mention museum passes and other entrance fees. No wonder most people can’t afford to travel every year – you still want to live and be normal, meaning going out with your friends once in a while or getting that new piece of furniture you have been planning to get for a while now.



But back to travel money – what is the best way? How to save money for international travel? Let’s look at some options.

How to save money for international travel

  1. Stock some cash and have it ready to grab special deal tickets. More about how to get those tickets, when to book and what you can expect is described in detail here: 20 Ways how to save on airline tickets Exactly how to stock the cash will be discussed in more details later in the article.
  2. Monitor hotel prices daily. Choose few options and keep an eye on the price fluctuation – hotel prices change often, so it’s wise and leads to good results (cheaper rooms). For more information on how to get the best hotel rate, read this blog post: How to save on hotels during travels  Consider booking with Booking.com – they have a huge choice of hotels and offer some kind of protection if hotel turns their back on you. This situation recently happened to me – here is a blog post about that case – How Booking.com saved my trip
  3. Make your homework and explore the destination beforehand, using Google Maps, travel forums and reviews. There are hardly any places on Earth, where nobody has been before and you could certainly use their advice!

coins-1015125_960_720

blogging-336376_960_720 (1)Now back to travel budget – how to generate one? Well, obviously, the easiest way would be generating some additional cash. There are many different ways, how to earn some extra $$$, and it all comes to someone’s special skills, knowledge and interest. For example, if you are good languages, you may consider giving language courses or doing some translation works. If you know your hometown well – you may try to become a guide (awesome way to meet new people!) and generate some travel money. If you own a house with spare bedroom – why not rent it out on Airbnb. If you enjoy driving – Uber could fill your pockets with some coins. Some people (like myself) like writing and generating content could bring in some extra dollars. Same goes for starting a blog – nowadays it is super easy with WordPress templates. By the way, this blog uses one of those plus a super easy and cheap hosting by Bluehost. If you are ready to hit the road, take a look at the travel jobs list.


Now all these options look good and attractive, but what if you can’t sacrifice you free time for extra work? Maybe you have some family commitment or just want to relax (assuming you are working full time already). Well, I have some good news – you may actually increase your savings without investing extra hours. It’s not a “Get rich overnight” type of advice though, more of a “Pull you sh*t together”. But it certainly works (tested!). The solution is simple – just DON’T SPEND! Easy as that!

So how exactly do you do that? That’s the hard part. Learning to be minimalist takes time and effort, and a lot of self discipline! But here is how you start:

  • Create an excel sheet and write down all your expenses in one monthchecklist-911841_960_720
  • Look critically at the list and try to imagine, which spending you could avoid
  • calculate how much money you would realistically need for 1 week
  • Starting next month, give yourself pocket money once per week (e.g. 50$). The rest is not to touch, unless it’s an emergency
  • By the end of the month see how you managed and all unused cash deposit on a savings account.


I know that some expenses are unavoidable – food (obviously), gas, bills and rent. But even with these you could probably save some travel money. Here is an example: you are paying your internet provider 20$ per month. There are others, but you just like this one and been with them for ages. Here is what you do – go check on other offers, ask them for a better deal, then tell them you agree. As soon as your provider hears about you leaving them, they will make sure to make you a better offer! Best part – you won’t have to change anything. Your bills, however, may drop as much as 50%! That’s a 10$/month free money, right there!

Now let’s talk about take out coffee – many people love that and spend hundreds on those plastic cups. But think about it for a second – do you really need it right there or can you wait to get home? Most offices offer coffee for free anyway. It has become some kind of a trend, but being part of it is entirely your own choice. Brands like Starbucks are getting richer while you can’t afford those nice Thailand tickets..

shopping-1165437_960_720

While eating out is certainly pleasant and often necessary evil, it’s still damn expensive. Instead, try to cook yourself – it’s much healthier too, plus leaves you extra 100$+ for your future travels. On top of that, cooking is very relaxing activity and helps you build better relationships with your family and friends. You can a cool cook book or find some of those on the internet.

One more huge way to save is to stop going out and generally drinking any alcohol. Not only it is unhealthy and damaging, but it also costs a fortune. I could never understand people, who go to bars on the first weekend after salary. Not only do they end up with hangover (weekend is lost), but also with holes in their pockets. Going out is truly something for people with no dreams. Alternatively,  if you need to go out, stick to non-alcoholic drinks or water (tab water is mostly free).

I could probably go on with the list of different expense areas, but I’m afraid it will get too personal. Everyone knows better, where their spending are hidden. But one thing is for sure – most people just don’t realize where the salary goes. Keeping an eye on all expenses is the first step in the direction towards your next awesome adventure! If you need some more advice on how to cut your expenses, these books are very helpful!

How do you manage to build a travel budget? Share your ideas and experience!

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booking.com

How Booking.com saved my trip

The story began in late December 2015, when I decided to spend few spring days in Russian Venice – Saint Petersburg. Having visited the city before, I had a clear plan of how this trip should look like: centrally located hotel, a lot of walking and museums, some shopping. There were three of us coming, so we needed a larger room or apartment. I always book my hotels on Booking.com, because I love their rating and feedback feature, attractive rates and wide choice of hotels.



apartment

Risky room

Once I knew the dates, it was perfect time to start looking for hotels. The choice was truly big at the time – there were bunks in 10-bedroom dorm rooms, private rooms in the same hostels, small hotel rooms, private apartments – you name it! I was pleasantly surprised by the prices – compared to Europe and US, Russian hotel rates were nice and low. My first choice was a 2-bedroom apartment, but that option didn’t work out for us due to an email received from the apartment owner asking for a full payment. What made the request strange was a Lithuanian bank account details, where the owner wanted the money to be transferred. It seemed risky and so we cancelled that one right away.

Perfect room

Our perfect room was with a common free cancellation option, very close to the center and had a nice design of the rooms – perfect for 3-4 people who don’t necessarily want to snore in each other’s ear. The price was great, too. We booked it and forgot about the booking for the next 4 months. Meanwhile, we bought the tickets to and from the destination, made the visas and insurance. Everything was ready for the trip! Or was it..?




Surprise!

sorry

A friend of mine who happens to live in Russia decided to check on our booking about a month before our visit. To my (and their) surprise, the hotel had no idea of our reservation! Moreover, they had no rooms available, either. Oh my! It’s merely 4 weeks until our trip and we have nowhere to stay! When initial shock had passed, we started checking other options for the dates. Sadly, there were hardly any good options left and all of them were much more expensive now. Apparently it’s holiday time and most of the hotels are already overbooked. Our situation wasn’t very optimistic.

Looking for help

We decided to turn for help and wrote to Booking.com customer support. It didn’t take long for our hotel of choice to contact us again – with apologies. And a promise of free room (which is nice of them, but didn’t solve our problem. Well, not entirely). We did use the free room though, so nothing bad to say about the hotel, they did their best to help and compensate us. Now the Booking.com team was even more helpful. After reviewing our request for couple of days, they came back with good news – we got offered a nice alternative hotel option and a promise to refund the difference. Happy end!

happy

Final thoughts

This is not the  first time I hear about good service of Booking.com and their customer service. They really reach out to their customers and make sure everything is well and everyone is happy. Normally, a hotel would just inform you that no rooms are available. This can happen even few days before the check-in. And there is nothing you could do about that. Booking though these guys gives you guarantee that you won’t be left on the street – they will take care of you! Similar situation happened to my mother, when she arrived in Tenerife hotel and found out there is no rooms booked (it was a privately owned room). She had to book another room for much higher rate and got refunded the difference.


This is not meant as an advertisement – this is a real story that happened to me. I have booked with Booking.com more than 20 times now and can say that the reviews are mostly accurate and so are the photos. Of course, there may be bad properties (and bad experiences) but the site has no power over them. As for the customer support and taking care of the client – they are the best!

San Diego skyline

USA West Coast Road Trip – best moments

San Diego skylineNow that a month has passed since we returned from our awesome USA West Coast Road Trip, it’s time to sum up and create a post on the things we liked. We had planned a lot of different destinations, so the trip was quite intense. I might have to think of few more posts on some specific locations and things we did. Here are some of the best moments and memorable experiences from our trip.





Our USA West Coast Road Trip route looked like this:

Map of our USA West Coast Road Trip

Rental car for USA West Coast Road Trip

We started by picking up our rental car for our USA West Coast Road Trip from Phoenix, AZ. Rental company we chose was Alamo and the car was full size. When we were picking up, we had a choice (Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Volkswagen Passat) and were advised to choose cars with California plates (car return was in Los Angeles).





So we picked Hyundai Sonata. The car was 2015 model, very nice and smooth. I really loved driving it on US roads. Total cost for almost two weeks was around 600$. There was no issue with returning the car at SNA airport – very quick and smooth!

Our rental car for USA West Coast Road Trip Hyundai Sonata 2015

San Diego whale watching with Flagship cruises.

We booked this trip while being unaware of the weather. As it turned out – it was almost stormy on that day, so we got to experience some really nasty sea sickness. Luckily, the staff recommended to take sea sickness pills (sold them on board) and we took them in time (30 min before the shaking began). When it started rocking, some people felt really bad. We went out in the ocean and spotted some small whales. On the way back, we also got to see dolphins and sea lions (they were sunbathing). The trip takes approx. 3,5 hours and is a great way to spend a morning (or afternoon). The ocean is incredible and the views are spectacular! A must for a proper USA West Coast Road Trip!

USA West Coast Road Trip - Marine animals in San Diego Bay

USA West Coast Road Trip - Whale watching in San Diego Bay
USA West Coast Road Trip - Dolphins in San Diego Bay USA West Coast Road Trip - Sea lions in San Diego Bay





Must visit for USA West Coast Road Trip – Venice Beach in Los Angeles

Our trip to Venice beach was rather spontaneous – we made it there just in time before the sunset. The promenade reminded us of a typical south European resort – souvenir shops, cafes, people relaxing, playing music and enjoying themselves. The beach is very wide and clean – perfect for long walks. It’s a place that needs to be in any town – where you can come and spend the evening alone or with a friend.

USA West Coast Road Trip - Venice Beach, Los Angeles USA West Coast Road Trip - Venice Beach, Los Angeles USA West Coast Road Trip - Venice Beach, Los Angeles USA West Coast Road Trip - Venice Beach, Los Angeles

Cirque Du Soleil in Las Vegas

Visiting Las Vegas was high on our list during our USA West Coast Road Trip, but not for the casinos or party – we really wanted to see the shows. So on our first morning we went to one of the numerous Tix4tonight booths and stood in line before the opening. Surprisingly, we were not the only ones. The company is selling show tickets for the same night (sometimes for tomorrow as well) with nice discount (up to 50%). While you are in line, customer service reps help you pick the right show. After standing in line for half an hour and listening around, we decided to go for Cirque du Seleil show called Mystere. They were giving a charity show and therefore there was to tax charged. Two tickets cost us just under 100$. On the minus side – we had to get to the casino where the show was played right after buying these “tickets” to exchange them for actual tickets at the ticket office. The show was held in Treasure Island.

USA West Coast Road Trip - Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas USA West Coast Road Trip - Cirque du Soleil Mystere in Las Vegas

USA West Coast Road Trip - Cirque du Soleil Mystere in Las Vegas    USA West Coast Road Trip - Cirque du Soleil Mystere in Las Vegas

Flagstaff 

The things that I remember about Flagstaff are – fantastic BBQ ribs and very cold motel room. First – the ribs. It was time for dinner so I googled the best place to go out for bbq. The place we picked was called Satchmo’s and the ribs were AMAZING! If only I had a power to eat more, I would! About cold rooms – weather in March is still quite chilly (especially when you have just been to the desert), so at nights it dropped so much, that we had to keep the heating on (it was noisy). Here is a tip – visit Flagstaff in summer!

USA West Coast Road Trip - Flagstaff motel on our USA roadtrip USA West Coast Road Trip - Flagstaff motel

Grand Canyon

There are hardly any words to describe Grand Canyon properly – one just has to see it! It is powerful, majestic, breathtakingly enormous. One day is hardly enough to explore it. To see the best of it you need to hike, of course. We made a small hike just down the Kaibab trail. Really short one but enough to see the beauty and changing landscapes.

Later we visited some of the famous viewpoints – Grand View, Yucca Point and some others. It was a really great, but also exhausting day. I would totally recommend vising GC from Flagstaff – it’s an easy 1,5 hour ride. There is an entrance fee – 30$/car, and it is valid for 1 week. Totally recommend visiting as part of your USA West Coast Road Trip!

USA West Coast Road Trip - Grand Canyon Kaibab trail USA West Coast Road Trip - Grand Canyon Kaibab trail

Grand Canyon Kaibab trail Grand Canyon Kaibab trail

Palm Springs

Our last small adventure on USA West Coast Road Trip was a ride through an endless desert and finally arriving in Palm Springs for the night. To be honest, I always liked the idea of oasis, so Palm Springs was a natural choice. It’s hot and reminds of a resort, kind of get away spot. It’s very different from other places we visited – you can feel that people come there for holiday. Having said that – it should be no surprise that the first thing we did was to jump in the pool. What a great way to finish long day of driving!

Palm Springs pool
Palm Springs ice coffee Palm Springs motel

Palm Springs motel

Although our trip was amazing in almost any way, it was still so good to be back home! Traveling helps you realize how much you value the people and places. Sure, sometimes you may realize it was so much better somewhere you just visited. In this case you might need to move on, change your home for a new one. For us it was a moment of realizing that home is the best place on Earth – a place you always want to come back to!

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how to get cheap hotel rates

How to get hotel discounts and negotiate better rates

My friends often wonder how I manage to book such great hotel discounts and deals and where do I find cheap hotel rates. It is usually my responsibility to take care of our accommodation, no matter where we go. There is no big secret, not really. Booking the best deal takes time and patience. I am happy to share my strategy of getting hotel discounts in this post.

hotel discounts




My personal strategy for how to get hotel discounts

Its 10 months ahead, but already time to plan our holiday and look for hotel discounts. It’s going to be a road trip, so we need to move around and change hotels frequently. Everything starts with an itinerary – the points of interest and landing towns.

  1. Book ahead and always choose free cancellation
  2. Monitor hotel deals daily for possible price changes
  3. If the price goes down, cancel and re-book again
  4. If there is a better deal and a different hotel, go for it
  5. Look for nearby destinations – they might offer better price!

Described strategy has allowed us to get some very attractive hotel discounts and rates over the months of daily monitoring. As the trip time comes closer, the prices have gone up and will probably stay like that.

hotel discounts
 What else can be done to get hotel discounts or better hotel rates? Here are some ideas:




Negotiating rates and getting hotel discounts

Hotel’s front desk people have a lot of power regarding their property, including hotel price modification, meaning the can offer you cheap hotel rates or hotel discounts. So how do you negotiate a better deal? Imagine you have a reservation for the coming night and there is still some time to cancel for free. Here is your plan:

  1. Call the neighboring hotel front desk
  2. Tell them you have a deal at hotel xxx, but you like their hotel better
  3. Ask them for a better deal

Most probably, if they have rooms available, you will get a tempting offer and a hotel discounts. Competition between hotels is fierce and hotels are fighting for clients.

hotel discounts

Corporate travel and hotel discounts

Many hotels are ready to provide free (complimentary) rooms to their partners’ employees. This is working particularly well with travel-related companies (travel agencies, tour operators, cruise lines etc). The process is fairly simple – email hotel requesting a free room for the purpose of getting to know hotel (to sell them better in the future). The most important aspect is letting hotel know they will win from letting you stay with them. This is win-win situation and many hotels, if they have rooms available (low season) will probably grant the free room as part of their advertising.

Unbelievable as it sounds, I have stayed like this at three different high class hotels in Oslo, Norway – one of the most expensive cities in Europe. Here is the email template for described situation:

how to get cheap hotel rates

Example letter with request for complimentary (free) room

Subject: Overnight in Royal Christiania Hotel OSLO

Dear Choice hotels res. Team,

My name is xxx xxx (your name) and I am working at xxx reservations (your company).
I am planning to go to Oslo late October this year and was wondering if there is a possibility to stay overnight at your hotel, ideally in a complimentary room (free of charge) or at partner rate.
We are selling your hotel a lot for our UK clients and it would be great to see it myself to have even better picture of what we are offering.
Its 2 people and a night of 27 October.

Please let me know if that would be possible.
If Royal Christiania is not available, perhaps you could offer us any other of your wide list of hotels for this overnight.

Kind Regards

xxx xxx (your name)
UK Reservations




Taking advantage of hotel services

Something worth remembering – hotels often have „hidden“ services, that they don’t advertise. One of such services is free airport shuttle. To find out for sure, try calling the hotel directly, as they might not have the info on booking sites. 

Another useful trick is to ask for room upgrade. Front office staff often know (usually by around 6 pm) which rooms are going to be vacant for the night. Therefore it is wise to ask for a room upgrade. In some countries this is a sort of tradition – you slip a certain tip and get yourself a room with a better view. Consider this when booking a cheap deal – getting the rate low might mean you will be allocated to a room with poor view/smells/noise from kitchen etc.

Breakfast is usually at a certain times of the day. But what if you need to leave much earlier? Ask for a breakfast box – restaurant staff will pack you something to chew on while you hit the road. Most people just skip breakfast, but asking for a take-away is totally justified.

how to get cheap hotel rates

About front desk

There is a lot of power in the hands of a front desk clerk. If you are nice to them, they will be nice to you. Front desk people hate the most ignorant, annoying, stubborn clients who refuse to wait, listen and cooperate. You will hear lies, like „all the rooms are the same“(they are not!), „there is nothing i can do“(of course they can!) or „Welcome back, I remember you“(hardly!). Reception clerks are human and they need to be treated as such. Slipping a smile and a tip can do wonders and turn your holiday into a truly memorable experience.

Summary

No matter how you choose to spend your holiday, which hotel to book and how to save on rate, it’s still going to be an experience in itself. Traveling opens new horizons and everyone should be doing it – even if it’s just a neighbouring country. Hotel is your home away from home, so it should be treated as such. People who work for your well-being during your stay deserve recognition. It doesn’t have to be a tip – even a smile and a good word can do wonders.

Please share your hotel-saving tips; how have you saved? what strategies did you use?

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