When NOT to save when traveling

Incredible but true - don't save, spend!

Shattered piggy bank

There are moments when you will regret being cheap when traveling. It does not happen often, but there are situations in which you should spend instead of saving and, for once, you should ignore your travel budget.

A flight at 4-5 am, a hotel located in a shady or isolated area, a bad rental car choice: there are moments when you can save money if you make a less comfortable decision. It may or may not work. We have been educated to save – that is what our parents taught us when we were kids. And it is hard not to listen. On the other hand, we may regret that we have saved in the wrong place or on the wrong items.

Don’t always book the cheapest flight

People are different. Some jump out of bed in the morning; others could sleep until noon. For some, a few hours of sleep are enough; others insist on ten hours. When booking a flight, you should therefore know which type you are. For example, you might think, “Hurray, I’ll save 50 bucks if I take the 5 am flight. I get up for work early every day anyway. Not that bad, right?”

Sleeping in the airport
Sleeping in the airport

Right.

What could happen in the days after your booking could be a blow. You will realize that there is a problem with your schedule. That you have to go to the airport instead of work, and that the journey to the airport is three times longer. Your alarm clock will go off at 2 am. So who’s going to sleep? Well, you, eventually! Spending the first day of your vacation doing it. Or you will have to spend it fighting to keep your eyes open. So the question remains: whether this works for you or not. Whoever knows it grumpy in the morning, or needs a lot of sleep, should invest the 50 bucks and have a relaxing vacation.

The cursed middle seat story

No question about it, we are happy when we get a good flight bargain. Nowadays, when we live in the low-cost airline era, the chances to get a cheap ticket are good, but there is a catch: the cheapest providers will want to cash in on everything that goes beyond pure flight performance. Whether with the suitcase or the seat, onboard snacks, or boarding time: they are just adding up.

Willing to save here is absolutely understandable, but there is a trap that many fall into: they don’t invest in their seat – and then spend the 10-hour flight in the cursed middle seat. This is what we may call a mistake. A seat reservation is available from around what? 10-15 bucks? An amount well invested, with a high ROI – makes a flight go by much faster and more comfortably.

Invest in a better rental company

The cheapest is not always the best, especially when renting a car during your vacation. Here is when you must take a closer look at the cheapest offers. Because in the small print, if you are careful enough, you will notice the traps that make up the dirt-cheap price. Imagine you land after a long flight and are happy to get into your rental car – but then you realize that your cheap rental car provider is not at the airport at all but somewhere in the industrial area around it.

So instead of getting into a car and driving off right away (enjoy your vacation, right?), you start running across the terminals to search for some shuttle bus meant to take you to your rental car, that may or may not come. That is why it is important to:

  1. read the fine print and
  2. if in doubt, pay a little more and get more convenience.

Don’t save TOO MUCH on hostel beds

Here’s a realistic scenario: 20 people in one room, all of them snore, it smells like a puma cage, the mattress is rock hard, the bathroom is filthy, and oh yes, downtown is an hour away. Unfortunately, if it says cheap on it, there’s a reason. What sounds great (cheap) at home, in front of the computer, sucks in practice at the point of arrival.

Hostel in bad shape
A hostel picture worth a thousand words

You can save money here, but you won’t have a quiet night. You’d rather pay $10 more per night but have a centrally located accommodation, and maybe a 6-bed room and a clean bathroom, where horror doesn’t strike every night.

Do not book flights with short transfer times

It sounds so good: the flight to Central Europe via London is incredibly cheap. So cheap that you feel forced to book it. What’s the catch? The transfer time could be short. Because you don’t book through an airline that would guarantee the connection, you have found some combination of flights yourself. That may work – or it may not.

If you fly with different airlines, you can save money, but you also lose the certainty of getting to your final destination on time. Because while you are legally protected when booking with only one airline and will be rebooked on the next flight, if you are short of time, you have to dig deep into your pocket with an individual booking. In other words, if you miss your connection, it is your fault, so you’d pay for it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t really matter if you saved $100. Always take a closer look at how much time you have to change airplanes – applies to trains or ferries as well, but also a combo between them all. If you have any doubt, invest in a better connection and close to no risks of missing the next flight.

Get an airport transfer!

Airport shuttle bus
Shuttle bus in Arlanda airport, Stockholm

While traveling, there are moments when you will possibly curse your luggage. You will think chaos is a treat! Fully packed and sweaty, through some smelly subway, where you climbed down endless stairs. You’ve passed through crowds and narrow streets. Then you find out the first subway got canceled.

Does it sound familiar to you? Then maybe you should start to tackle a plan B right now, which may cost a little more, but is clearly more comfortable. In many large cities, there are airport shuttles that connect the airports to downtown.

Or you can find out the prices of airport shuttles and taxis in advance. It can also be cheap and comfortable to travel in a “car 2 go,” or some shared option. The most important thing, in this case, is that you do some research in advance, get to know all the options and prices. I prefer to pay 20 bucks more but keep myself relaxed.

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