While my adventures take me all over the world, I often get asked how to travel so cheaply so thought I’d post a guide for you! If you haven’t guessed already, I’m not running a luxury travel blog here -this is not a guide to getting somewhere fast. If you think paying an extra hundred pounds is worth avoiding a fifteen hour journey, book your flights right now but if you want to get there cheaply even if it is via a scenic all-day coach route, this is how I do it. I’m going to focus on travel in the UK/Europe but the methods I use can be applied anywhere by finding the correct websites for your area. (If you have a recommendation, please let me know!)
Things you’ll need:
– About 30 minutes
– A computer
– Paper and a pen
– A cup of coffee!
This blog will be decorated with some pictures of improbable vehicles. Because why not?
The easy option:
If you are able to book in advance, this will save you SO much financial pain. Seriously, look into tickets a couple of months before you want to go- the further you are travelling, the further in advance you want to book.
If you can be flexible with your dates and times, even better! The cheapest deals are often very early in the morning or last thing at night.
Plan A: Bus, plane or train?
First, search for a direct ticket through flight operators, or coach/train if applicable. Write costs down so you can compare trips more easily. A direct journey is the most convenient option and there are some very good deals if you book WELL in advance. (Example: London to Bucharest = £19.98 return with Ryanair)
DO scribble down costs, times and travel methods to save being overwhelmed by open search tabs.
Cheap flight operators: Ryanair, Norwegian
Coaches: Megabus, Flixbus, Eurolines, National Express
Train: National Rail
If all the above options are expensive, try checking different dates and times. If you’re travelling by train in the UK, try trainsplitting– it’s legal and works with a strange loophole- some journeys are greater value for money if you buy separate tickets for different legs of the trip. It’s frustrating but it often works. (Example: Norwich to London = £51 single… or £35 with trainsplit!)
I don’t usually trust comparison websites but if you are flying- especially to multiple destinations- try Ebookers. I’ve had good results when doing multi-city round trips using this site but before you use it to book anything, check the price it gives you against the price listed on the flight operator website.
Check if you are entitled to a discount! There are a great many railcards you can get in the UK and most European travel websites give discounts to people under 26.
Plan B: Break it down
If you can’t do a direct journey for a good price, try breaking down your journey into ‘legs’. Researching this can be truly tedious but I save money 99% of the time using it.
(Example: Milton Keynes to Cardiff. Direct train is £85.90)
1) Look at a map and take note of the cities between you and your destination. Travel between cities can be very cheap indeed, even if you have to do a slight detour.
(Cities in between are Birmingham and London).
2) Use the websites listed above to check costs from these cities to your destination. Remember to check prices throughout your preferred day(s) as costs do change depending on tine of day.
(Perfect! I found coaches to Cardiff for under £10.)
3) Assuming you’ve found a good deal, do the same from your starting location to your ‘middle’ city by all of the options available. This may mean your begin your journey by coach and change to a train halfway through. Remember to check where your transport leaves from as some cities are annoyingly spaced out- Milton Keynes coach station is 10 minutes from the train station… by TAXI!! I usually leave at least 45 minutes for changeovers. If there’s traffic, you don’t want to miss your connection.
(Yep. Trains from Milton Keynes to London or Birmingham are cheap.)
The result is below. Milton Keynes to Cardiff for £12
Plan C: Bus detective work!
If you are going somewhere rural, try googling buses. The big coach companies won’t tell you about more ‘local’ services. For example, National Express will tell you about a handful of the optional coaches between Oxford and Cambridge but not the half-hourly bus service! It’s how I got from Milton Keynes to a country beer festival in Grasmere (tiny village in England’s remote Lake District) for £25 when a direct train ticket would have been £182. Milton Keynes to Preston by coach, Preston to Lancaster by train, Lancaster to Grasmere by rural bus service. Journey time was 5 hours.
The Mad Max Interceptor’s pretty good too…
One more tip:
When trying to save money, consider your add-ons. Luggage, food etc. A £9.99 Ryanair plane ticket looks very tempting against a £40 one but Ryanair can charge £25 for hold luggage. That’s £34.99 already and if your flight is at an antisocial time in the morning, there will be fewer coaches (even if they are cheap) and taxis put their prices up. Even if you get a lift to the airport, is that £5.01 price difference really worth it?
There are so many different comparison websites and systems people swear by, as well as spending hours researching what day yields the cheapest options but in my experience, these are often subject to change and though it’s a fair amount of work and takes some patience as well as trial and error when searching, the method I just shared with you has saved me hundreds of pounds over the years- if not, thousands.
If you have any other tips that work for you, please get in touch as I’d love to hear about them!
Walking: the cheapest way to travel…
photo by Ceri Vale