I’ve cut a few corners to save cash on long-distance trips, says Edmund GreavesPhoto: Cape Town, South Africa from the Waterfront, courtesy of the author
Wasting money on holidays is one of the more common barbs that people chuck at millennials. Why spend £1,000 on a break when you could put that towards a house deposit?
Well, because I don’t want to drive myself insane taking holidays that involve me mainly hanging around my house.
Over the years I’ve come up with lots of ways to cut corners to get a good long-haul deal. It just requires a bit of research and, sometimes, luck.
This June I’m going to Cape Town. I go every year because that is where my family lives, and I have experimented a lot over the years with flights and times to get the best deals.
This time, I am begrudgingly flying direct with British Airways because of time limitations – something I haven’t done in many years.
What frustrates me about BA is the price you see in comparison is often way off what you end up paying, thanks to add-ons such as checked luggage and seat allocation. Like many other airlines, the national carrier has become a bit ‘Ryanair of long haul’.
But in recent times I’ve flown regularly with Ethiopian Airlines. The airline has experienced negative headlines recently after one of its planes crashed.
However, I’ve always found it to be great value. The planes are clean and modern; the staff are friendly; and the flights are cheap.
And you can even get a super-tasty local beer in Addis Ababa airport during the layover!
One year, I got a flight to Cape Town for just £400 with Ethiopian. There are plenty of carriers out there that offer interesting prices, check the reviews, but don’t be put off just because they’re less well-known.
Google flight search is a good place to start when searching for flights, but sometimes you can even beat these deals.
Do a bit of research on what airlines fly to a destination and go direct to their websites. Play with dates too; often you’ll find flying midweek is cheaper than at the weekend.
I also signed up to Jack’s Flight Club, an email service where a team of researchers scour the web for flight deals. Some of the prices they find are amazing.
If you don’t have a specific place in mind, try it out because the flight deals they find are often a steal. If you’re not sure about subscribing straight away, they send out free email updates too.
Another trick is searching for another city in the same country. I once saved £200 by flying to Johannesburg instead of Cape Town, then jumping on a separate flight with local low-cost carrier Mango.
Johannesburg is often cheaper to fly to, and buying local flights with Mango is cheap for travellers from the UK because they are priced in South African rand.
“I once saved £200 by flying to Joburg instead of Cape Town”
I also tend to hire a car in Cape Town, so as to not annoy my aunts by asking for rides constantly.
I have found that you can get a decent enough rental for 14 days for around £200. However, both the pound and the South African rand suffer from volatility in value. You can use this to your advantage.
For instance, last year I booked a car hire with Avis about six months ahead of my trip. It was set to cost me £240. There was no difference in price whether you paid ahead online or on arrival, so I opted not to pay upfront.
A couple of weeks ahead of my trip, I noticed that the pound had gained quite a lot of value against the rand in the intervening six months. On checking the Avis site, I found that I could hire the exact same car for £40 less.
So, I cancelled my initial booking and immediately rebooked, saving myself £40 for five minutes’ work. Just make sure you don’t incur any booking cancellation fees, though (mine didn’t).
The last time I paid for lodgings was on a trip to Lebanon in 2017. We had the brilliant fortune of being able to stay in a luxury five-star hotel for less than £30 per person per night.
This is because Lebanon was (and still is) an unfashionable destination. However, I had a wonderful time. I would highly recommend it. It is a beautiful country.
But just because it’s not ‘cool’, it was eminently affordable. It pays, therefore, to look for destinations that are less visited.
Do check the Foreign Office advice for warnings, though – it currently advises visitors to Lebanon to avoid large crowds, gatherings, and any protests or demonstrations.