Affordable holidays are out there, you just need to know where to look. By Erin Coe
It’s been a long year and you deserve a nice break. Whether that’s road-tripping with your bestie or travelling overseas with the fam, a holiday doesn’t have to empty out your bank account. Samantha Waugh of SA Tours and Safaris, travel consultant Annuschka du Preez and tour operator Matthew Wise tell us how to plan a vacation on a budget.
Be on the lookout for weekend or night markets. It is at these markets where you will find some serious bargains, Annuschka says. Also, be wary of duty-free shops at the airport. ‘We’re under the impression that duty-free is a more affordable way of shopping, but in fact, most of the items are more expensive than at your local shops,’ she adds. Be a savvy shopper and know your prices, so you can see if you’re getting a good buy. Often, your favourite brands will be more affordable at home.
According to Matthew, one way to lower the cost of travelling is to take out all private touring and road transfers and book a hire car instead. ‘This is an especially good idea if you plan on covering long distances, otherwise rather look into public transport if you will be staying in one area.’
The early bird gets the worm
If it’s too late to go away this holiday season, why not plan for next year? Samantha advises booking a holiday 11 months in advance. ‘Firstly, you’re almost guaranteed availability and secondly, you’ll be able to make changes later on and not worry about modification fees. Fees can be charged from 46 days prior to arrival, so this affords you the time, should you wish to make changes.’
Stopover flights are king
There’s little more tiring than a long flight followed by a layover and then another long flight. After all, no one wants the airport lounge to feel like a second home. Unfortunately, according to Samantha, these are cheaper. So brace yourself, pack a carry-on bag filled with little treats, and settle in to people-watch.
Exchange your money in South Africa
According to Annuschka, it’s a good idea to exchange the bulk of your spending money to the relevant currency before leaving SA. ‘That way, you can only take the specific amount you set aside for the day with you and leave the rest in your room’s safe or locked in your suitcase.’ Of course, if you see something you must have and it’s not in your budget, make sure you have a credit card at hand to spoil yourself (or for emergencies).
Let your bank know you’re going to use your card abroad, though, or they’ll block it when they detect international activity.
Book tickets to museums, parks and sights online before your trip. For example, to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest building in the world, will cost you about R230 online; at the ticket office, it can cost up to double that.
In general, packages do usually work out cheaper. However, Samantha suggests you read the fine print and check whether you actually want all the inclusive deals that are on offer. ‘Perhaps you’re not planning on eating all your meals at the accommodation, in which case, having all meals included in your total price could be a waste of money. The same goes for included activities.’
Unless you’re going to Australia, where you’re absolutely not allowed to take any food or drinks into the country, you can take snacks in your luggage with you.
‘This will save you money during your travels and also lessen the chances of food poisoning,’ says Annuschka. This can also apply if you’re holidaying locally, as it will prevent you having to buy refreshments from expensive petrol stations or convenience stores. Remember not to take perishables, though!
‘You can also generally take one litre of alcohol in your checked-in luggage. This will come in handy in places such as Indian Ocean islands and Europe, where a beer costs around R50 and a cocktail R80 – at least.’
Local is lekker
Samantha suggests avoiding hotel restaurants and tourist hot spots. Annuschka agrees and adds, ‘If you’re staying at a hotel, ask the front desk where the locals eat or look out for food courts. In Singapore, you will get a hearty meal at a food court for a tenth of the price you would at a restaurant.’ And you’ll get a taste of local cuisine at the same time!