7 Money Saving Travel Tips

Sure, you want some fun in the sun this December but if you're not getting a bonus or are under financial pressure, you need to plan ahead.

Unless you receive a whopper bonus or an unexpected Christmas windfall, for most South Africans ‘kicking back’ and taking a break often comes with a nasty price-tag. Beat the annual holiday splurge that can leave you with little more than a peeling tan and a bad bank balance come January by taking a frugal vacation.

Here's how the smart holiday-maker will be living it up during December without breaking the bank in 2012:

1.    House-sitting
This is a great idea if you’d like to earn a few bucks while on holiday. Many people go away each year leaving their homes and pets unattended for long periods of time and need a house-sitter to keep an eye on things. This is a perfect opportunity to enjoy free accommodation and earn some spending money while you’re at it!

Ask a few friends if they need sitters while on holiday or work through a professional website like www.occupied.co.za.

2.    Swap houses
If a ‘bells and whistles’ holiday is too pricey this year, why not just swap homes with someone instead? It works by trading places with other frugal travellers like you or family and friends for the holiday and is a smart way to enjoy a getaway without forking out a cent for accommodation. Some goods ideas for home-swapping can be found at homexchangevacation.com.

3.    Sleep under the stars
Camping is another adventure-filled, cost-effective option for those who are keen to explore the great outdoors.  Not only will you save tons of money on accommodation and meals, you’ll also enjoy getting back to basics by cooking potjies on a fire; taking long walks in the forests or beachfronts or reading that holiday novel you’ve been meaning to get around to without any TV interruptions!

Most camp sites have chalet options too so if you’re not the ‘roughing it’ type, check out campingsouthafrica.co.za for affordable ideas.

4.    Try something new closer to home
Talk to family and friends for recommendations and look for destinations that are closer to home and affordable. Often the smaller, unknown spots offer the most unexplored beauty and best hospitality.

So instead of the usual, pricey vacation, why not try something new? Check out budget-getaways.co.za for a nationwide list of charming towns and special sightseeing places closer to home.

5.    Stay-cautious

Although the idea of going away to a new, unexplored holiday destination sounds more fun than staying at home; the reality is it’s often more expensive. Become a tourist in your own city by exploring the local galleries, farmer’s markets, beaches or picnic sites.

Not only will this save you tons of moolah on travelling, accommodation and all the other associated costs of going on holiday; the ideas are endless and can be as easy as camping in your backyard if you so wish.

6.    Fly local or go road-tripping
Sometimes flying is cheaper than driving. If you decide to fly local, subscribe to low-cost airlines’ mailing lists, such as kulula.com, for regular special deal offers. Book early, avoid peak travel times and always be on the lookout while comparing prices.

For international trips, take advantage of medical aid (like Discovery Vitality) voyager miles.  They could also come in handy when booking accommodation as hotels often honour them for free or discounted rooms.

If you’re driving, why not grab a bunch of friends and turn it into a road trip? This way everyone can chip in on the petrol and other expenses along the way. Also ensure your car has a service done upfront to avoid any expensive tow-in costs in case of an accident.

7.    Enjoy all the free entertainment on offer!
Sometimes you can spend so much money getting to your destination that you don’t have enough left to enjoy anything while you’re there. Keep an eye out for free activities on offer in your local city or even holiday resort. Why not take the kids to build sandcastles on the beach; enjoy reading a book in the garden or go and have a sunset picnic in a scenic spot?

You could also opt for adventurous nature activities such as bike riding, hiking or swimming. Search your local newspaper for listings and holiday go-to guides to spot any free events or activities that could be worth exploring. Once you start looking, you’ll be surprised how much there is to do.

There are many ways to save on holiday. So while you may not be able to go to Europe or afford lavish hotel trips each year; with some smart planning, dedication and research you can still have an enjoyable, relaxed getaway. Being frugal during the rest of the year can also make an immense difference to your holiday budget.

Have you already started planning your holiday getaway? Where are you hoping to go? If not, what will you be getting up to this December?

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