Tip: Check out your options

I’ve not posted much on here recently as I’ve not one a lot of travelling since I got back last summer. However, I’m trying to organise some things for Easter and summer and thought I’d pop another “Tip” post up.

This really applies to you if you’ve got a bit of spare time around the dates your travelling and it can be a way of spending less, or getting more for your money.

As an example, I’m trying to get to Warsaw for the Sonisphere festival on June 16th. I have a few days spare beforehand and need to be in Warsaw itself for the 15th. Presently I’m staying in Glasgow though my folks live in Perth.

My first stop is usually SkyScanner. It’s a great way to check for flights between various destinations, including direct and indirect flights. One bonus is being able to name just a city or even a country and letting the search engine check flight prices for all departure or arrival airports in that area.

In my case, it would be far cheaper to fly out of Liverpool, Leeds/Bradford or Edinburgh than Glasgow. Another alternative is Heathrow. Pricier, but the only one not using RyanAir – so the price quoted is the price charged without any crap about bags, booking fees and needing the loo. I’d also get a snack or meal. The downside? A late arrival time in Warsaw.

Next flight down is with LOT and for a pound more, I depart late morning and arrive early afternoon. Plenty of time to find where I’m staying and enjoy the rest of the day.

Things to bear in mind, then, as far as flights are concerned:

  • You will need to check in around 2 hours before you fly. This is why I ruled out some of the cheaper flights. Departing at 6:45am means being at the airport before 5am. The only way you’ll manage this is with a taxi or by inconveniencing friends. Factor this into your costs. Similarly, late arrival times.
  • Provincial airports are often out in the sticks (or even in other countries…). Flying to Frankfurt? It takes 20 mins and a couple of Euros to get into the city. Flying to Frankfurt Hahn? €25 (if I recall correctly) and 2 hours.
  • Don’t forget the additional costs for baggage, check-in options, credit card fees, sports equipment, priority boarding, meals and so forth. These can easily raise the price of a flight on a budget airline above those of a non-budget.

So, what else can you do? Well, let’s say that I could save £40 by flying from Heathrow. If I book at the right time I can fly or get the train to London for under £20. I have friends there I can stay with and it’s always nice to see them. Given the extra time I do have available then a weekend catching up is worth the time – and the £20 I save would be well spent at the pub.

Often it will cost you a little extra to go out of the way once you factor in the additional costs – but is it worth it?

For instance, it’s cheaper to fly to Krakow than Warsaw from a lot of airports. There’s a regular train from Krakow to the capital which takes around 3-4 hours. If I had the time (I do) and hadn’t already been there (I have) then that would be an excellent option – fly out a day or so earlier and sightsee in Krakow before hopping on the train.

OK, I’ll be spending money on a train and a hostel (unless I couchsurf) but I’ll be seeing another lovely city. Again, likely back up to the price of the flight direct to Warsaw… but better value for my money.

Don’t limit yourself to “departure … destination”. Look into all the options. Work out what you’d be getting for extra cash you spend or where you can tweak your itinerary to get an extra day somewhere, or travel along a recommended route.

Sure, this is a simple example. But throw in the low-cost transport options around Southeast Asia, for instance, and you can really cram more in than you expected. Eastern Europe, also, has very affordable and easily booked rail and bus links.

Don’t stare too hard at the simple things. Make the most of your time and budget!

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