Top money-saving travel tips

The economic downturn needn't mean an end to travelling the world, but it is a great time to start travelling smarter. Travel+Leisure magazine's Jane Parbury sought out the top tips, from the practical to the innovative, to help you save money on your next trip.

THE BIG PICTURE

1. Be flexible. If your dates are moveable, there are bargains to be had - even more so if your destination is also unfixed. Try sites such as lastminute.com.au, wotif.com or statravel.com.au (especially for flights).

2. Join loyalty schemes. Programs such as Hilton HHonors, Starwood Preferred Guest and Marriott Rewards have done away with blackout dates - days of the year such as public holidays that are usually exempt from markdowns - and offer discounted rates and free nights.

3. Sign up to frequent flyer programs. Apart from accumulating points to set against flights or upgrades, you'll also be one of the first to learn about deals your airline is promoting. Join more than one scheme and although you may accrue points more slowly, you'll have a wider choice of deals on offer.

4. Use your points. Airlines are keener than ever to fill those seats, so expect more to be available to "purchase" with points and with fewer blackout dates.

5. The internet is your friend. Scour websites such as expedia.com.au and tripadvisor.com for deals, and use price comparison sites to find the best offers. Leading Hotels of the World (lhw.com), for example, is offering 30 per cent off the rack rates of 60 of Europe's most luxurious hotels, such as the Beau Rivage Palace in Lausanne, in the northern hemisphere summer (until September 30).

6. Travel off-season. Look out for deals in the "shoulder season", just before and after the high seasons. Operators will be putting deals in the market to stimulate travel in those traditionally softer months. Voyages (voyages.com.au) has a "pay for two nights, stay for three" deal at Wrotham Park Lodge in outback Queensland, until October.

7. Take the road less-travelled. Choose less popular or little visited destinations. Romania is less expensive than other eastern European countries, Puglia is more affordable than Tuscany - and you can travel in Japan on a budget if you avoid the expensive large cities.

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8. Go local. With money-saving offers round Australia, it's a great time to explore holiday options closer to home. The five-star Hyatt Hotel Canberra (hyatt.com) is currently offering a "longer you stay, less you pay" deal: bed and breakfast for two from $305 for one night, $580 for two nights and $795 for three.

9. Pick a package. Bundle flights and accommodation; luxury hotels especially like to "hide" discounts in a package. We found a week's holiday for two on Expedia at Wailea Beach Marriott on Maui, ex-Sydney, for $7536, a saving of nearly $1000.

10. Book through destination offices. Tickets on the Trans Siberian railway can be up to $3000 cheaper by booking through Real Russia, a London-based agency with offices in Moscow, than through agents in Australia. Though you might be reluctant to wire money abroad, scanning traveller review websites like tripadvisor.com and seat61.com (for trains) can give a good idea of which companies to trust.

11. Take to the water. Cruising, with its all-inclusive pricing, is already good value, and there are top deals around. Silversea's Silver Sailing (silversea.com) program has 50 per cent off in all suite categories on 39 voyages heading to destinations as diverse as the Seychelles, South America and the Med.

GOING PLACES

12. Do your homework. The more you learn beforehand, the more you'll get out of your visit, and it will help you avoid costly mistakes. Research your trip with reputable guidebooks and magazines like Travel + Leisure.

13. Check out the local tourist office. They often have deals on accommodation and entry charges to tourist attractions.

14. Time your trip. In certain places at certain times, like Miami for Art Basel Miami Beach or during the Cannes film festival, accommodation will be both pricey and hard to find. On the other hand, gourmet travellers might fancy New York in July, when 250 of the city's top restaurants are offering discount lunching: three-course meals for around $35. There are various free culture-oriented events going on too, including July 4 fireworks. See nycgo.com for details.

15. Take transits. A taxi from Munich airport into the city costs around $130, the S-bahn fare is just $16.

16. Buy a discount book. Entertainment books in the US offer discounts at restaurants and hotels and on flights and entertainment. Usually $40, the 2009 versions are available now for $20.

17. Research local transport. Using an Oyster card on London's Underground costs $3.40 for a single inner city journey rather than $8.55. Perth and Fremantle's central CAT buses are free.

18. Forget tourist passes. They are not always good value. Paris's Carte Orange weekly travel pass costs around $44, while the tourist equivalent, Paris Visite, is about half as much again. Work out how much travel you'll do and whether it's worth buying one.

19. Skip the tour buses. Forgo the branded "city tour" transport for regular tourist-sight heavy routes. For example, London's Route 12 bus covers Oxford Circus, Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, Charing Cross, Number 10 and Westminster. It may not have an open roof but it is a less than a quarter of the cost.

20. Cycle. Rent a bike in pedal-friendly cities such as Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin and Barcelona.

21. Walk. Especially in cities and towns, it's one of the best (free) ways to see a city - and you'll see a lot more than from a taxi, bus or travelling underground.

ON THE MOVE

22. Book early/late. Booking long haul well ahead can be good value, but if you've missed out, consider hanging on for a late deal. When launching V Australia's Melbourne to LA service, Richard Branson said that the airline will never go out with an empty seat - instead "we'll slash the fare".

23. Consider ALL the budget flight costs. Ryanair (ryanair.com), the Europe-wide carrier, is renowned for its headline-grabbing 1p flights, but taxes, a payment handling fee, airport check-in fee and a checked baggage fee bump up the price. Plus, if you have a babe in arms AND want to bring your golf clubs, it'll cost you an extra $200 return. Read the fine print.

24. Try buying offline. Buying flights online is generally cheaper than through agents, but it is not always the case. For example, travellers to Thailand will get better deals through shop-travel agents thanks to link-ups with carriers.

25. Research group bookings. Special offers may not extend to large groups, so it could pay to book in batches. Check first that your flight/accommodation has sufficient capacity.

26. Fly premium economy. Qantas's debuted last year and Air France will introduce their long-haul service later this year. About half the price of business, you'll get many of the same amenities and more legroom than economy, just not the lie-flat bed.

27. Book economy, fly business. With Jetstar (jetstar.com), book your flight in economy, head to the airport early and pay for an upgrade. Typically it will cost $300-$400, considerably less than if you had booked StarClass upfront. No guarantees you'll get it, of course.

28. Invest in a travel pass. You can buy a pass for almost restriction-free travel on the Japan Rail network for two weeks for $500. Eurail has rail passes for travel throughout Europe, such as a one-month global pass covering 21 countries. There are discounts for 2-5 people and at time of writing it was $100 cheaper to order online direct from eurail.com and pay in euros - check the exchange rates before you buy.

29. Travel overnight. A sleeper on a long train journey can save on a hotel room and valuable sightseeing time. Book well ahead for the best rates -advance fares on the Caledonian Sleeper (London to various destinations in Scotland) start at $108 one way for a shared compartment, while there are limited numbers of bargain berths from as little as $40. See scotrail.co.uk.

30. Weigh your baggage before multi-destination trips. Permitted baggage weights on short haul flights are usually lower than on long haul and on budget airlines can be as low as 15kg.

31. Try Air Asia for short haul flights within Asia. The planes are brand new, staff is fantastic and it's cheap. airasia.com

For the full list of 100 money-saving travel tips, check out the article at www.travelandleisure.com.au

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