When Frugal Travel Hacks backfire

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Image courtesy of taoty / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Today’s post is a guest post by NZ Muse, a writer from Auckland who’s just completed a six-month trip around the world. She blogs about money, travel, food, and generally bumbling through Gen Y adulthood.

Think you can’t afford to travel? Saving dosh while traveling isn’t much different than saving dosh in your day-to-day life. It’s all about weighing your priorities and cutting back in some areas so you can spend more freely on what matters to you.

You can fly from point A to B – or you could catch a bus, or even hitchhike. You can eat in Michelin restaurants – or you could seek out hole-in-the-wall joints, street food, or supermarkets. You can stay comfortably in resorts – or you could try budget motels, dorms, Airbnb or couchsurfing.

The thing is, sometimes trying to save a buck actually backfires on you. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from traveling the world for six months, it’s the importance of making smart financial decisions, often on the fly. Here’s a few times that scrimping has ended up costing us…

Sleeper buses
Hop aboard. Go to sleep in one city. Wake up in another. Save on a night’s accommodation in the process. Brilliant, right?

In theory, sure. But while you might save a few dollars by bedding down on a sleeper bus, the odds of actually getting enough shuteye is pretty low. You might end up eating into valuable time later catching up on sleep.

Flying Ryanair
Just don’t do it. The whole experience is horrible, they’ll nickel and dime you to death, their airports are all way out of the way, and it’ll cost you an arm and a leg to get into the city. By the time you account for all the associated costs, you may well be worse off than if you’d gone with a slightly more expensive base fare on another airline. Beware the budget carriers – they can indeed save you big time, but don’t automatically assume that’s the case.

Paying a little more for accommodation that includes breakfast
This is always a bit of a crap shoot. We’ve enjoyed amazing spreads in Siem Reap, Hanoi, Munich, and Bologna, for example, but we’ve also had too many ‘we got up early for this?!’ moments.

You can check out the guest reviews online for any mention of breakfast, but take them with a grain of salt, since there’s no pleasing some people.

Ultimately, there’s no way to know if breakfast is worth it at any establishment except trial and error. You’ll never know until you rock up that first morning, but truthfully, I’ve been let down far more than I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

Booking a cheap room with a ceiling fan, rather than one with A/C
Oh boy. If you’re lucky, you’ll only pay for this in sweat and a restless slumber. Or, if you’re us, it might land you in a Bangkok hospital – after your husband has a close encounter with a blade (or two) of the ceiling fan. Talk about the mother of all expensive mistakes! Luckily, the medical bill only added up to about $250, barely enough to even make an insurance claim for.

Have you ever tried to save money and had it backfire on you?

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8 Responses to “When Frugal Travel Hacks backfire”

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  1. I have to ask you more about RyanAir – we were looking at flying with them to hop from Dublin to Glasgow for our spring trip. I was juuuuust about to book the tickets, but your post gave me pause! Even though this is an extremely short flight, should I avoid them (we’ve never flown w/ them before)?

    • NZ Muse says:

      I would look at all the costs involved (all their little fees, plus consider what it’s going to cost to get to and from the airport – is it way further out than the main/normal airport?) and then decide. For a really short flight the lack of comfort/service doesn’t matter to me (or you I presume), just make sure you’re not gonna wind up getting stiffed on the associated costs – see JMK’s comment below on transport, flight times etc. We had a short and cheap flight from Edinburgh to Brussels but it cost a bomb to get from the terminal into the city as it was so far out, though in this case it was still cheaper overall.

  2. JMK says:

    The flights themselves are fine, but you’ll pay way more than the posted price if you have to check any baggage (and their carryon rules are strict – read the info on the website carefully) or you need to spend much getting to/from the airports they use. If you travel very light, and can easily catch a bus or share a taxi with others then they are great. Also, consider the flight times. Often their flights depart very early or arrive very late and the cheaper airport shuttle options aren’t even available at that hour. This may mean a taxi is needed or even to stay the night near the airport either before or after a flight before heading into the city which often completely cancels any savings on the flight cost. Sometimes the alternative of using a major airline is so expensive for the dates/times/route you want that even if you check baggage, pay for a hotel night, and spring for a taxi it’s still cheaper. Each situation is different so do the math every time. Just because it’s a steal on one trip doesn’t mean it’s the best deal for your next one.

    • NZ Muse says:

      Ohhh yes flight times are definitely something to consider, good point! I remember paying a little more for a mid-evening flight to Paris as opposed to the 10pm one, not just for convenience but also I was afraid we wouldn’t be able to take public transport if the flight was late at all (which it was…) and then we’d be stuck paying for a taxi.

  3. Yeah for sure over the years I’ve experienced this…almost in every aspect of life. For instance buying cheap clothes…then they fall apart quickly. I TRY never to sacrifice a good night’s sleep to save the almighty dollar. it just takes its toll.

  4. Yikes. I don’ like to sleep in a room that only has an electric fan in it, not because it can be dangerous, but for the reason that I may not get a nice rest being there. If I’m going to travel, I will make sure that I would only sleep in a comfy environment.

  5. Oh yes! We’ve tried to save by booking one room for us and the kids before. We quickly found that no one sleeps unless we have our own rooms. Totally worth the money to get rooms with more than one bedroom IMO.

  6. Ceiling fans freak me out so I would never do the ceiling fan instead of AC travel hack. My wife and I got a hotel deal through a deal site but it came with a ton of restrictions and most of the employees did not know what the deal site was. I always triple check the restrictions before purchasing them, now.

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