Summary: What kind of mistakes make you pay extra, and how to avoid them—learn from our experience! Here is some advice that will prevent you from paying more than you should.
After more than a year of travel, we now have less money but more memories, more wisdom and more skills related to planning than when we started. On the way, we have made many mistakes that could have saved us time and money. Most of them could have been avoided if we had just had a little bit more patience and experience. So we’ve decided to share our mistakes with you so you can avoid making them
Don’t only check the price, but also the timing.
This isn’t to say that you have to check out all the options on the Internet or in the agencies to get a good price for your ticket. The more flexible you are the more you’ll be able to get good deals, even if you’ll sometimes pay some other kind of price for saving money (for example, a 25/30 hours flight with one whole day transit that ends with bad muscle aches, and so on…). But that’s how it is!
Now, sometimes it seems that you have gotten a good deal or chosen the less expensive flight, but in fact you haven’t! Here is our last mistake on the list: We booked an evening flight to Kuala Lumpur because it was cheaper than the morning one, but we later discovered that the night taxis in KL charge double the price. The second thing we did wrong is that we booked an extra night at the hotel we were staying at (so as not to be wandering in the streets from 11am to 11pm!), but we also booked for the same night in KL…so in the end we would have done better if we’d booked the morning flight…and we definitely would have been less tired!
Don’t just check the price, but also the distance to your destination/attractions.
As with booking plane tickets, there are many options, and you should check them all. First check on the Internet, where you can find good offers and sometimes upgrades. If you don’t get a good deal online, you need to check on the ground. In both cases this takes time, but it is rewarding and worth the effort.
A mistake that you could easily make is booking a cheap hotel and finding out afterwards that it is located very far from everything (this is generally the reason why it is so cheap), so you will pay the difference in transportation (or walk a lot).
Don’t check just the prices, but also the reasons.
It’s cheaper to travel during the low season—everyone knows that! However, sometimes low season means floods, monsoons and impassable or blocked roads so that you have to take planes instead of buses. In general, traveling during low season saves you a lot of money—but check out your itinerary first. We’ve just discovered that we won’t be able to visit the cheapest and most beautiful Malaysian islands because they are simply closed during the low season.
Check out how you can get some money back.
When you shop in some countries they give you a VAT refund, which is a kind of tax return that is paid to you at the airport once you leave the country. For that, you need to get the required form from the place where you’re shopping. In some countries (like Thailand) you have to buy a certain amount on the same day, so it is better to group all your purchases on the same day than to buy one item per day.
In some shops, they give you coupons or tickets (usually without explaining to you what they are for). Don’t throw them out—they will give you a discount on your next purchase.
Limit the number of transactions to limit the transactions fees.
ATM are a very easy way to get your money, but don’t forget that most banks charge you for this service (usually a lot!). We found out that to save money it is better to withdraw the largest amount you can. Sometimes we ask inside the bank to withdraw money with our credit card if the ATM machine does not allow a suitable amount for us.
Overstays, missed planes, visa expiration dates and traveling dates.
When you are traveling the easiest thing that can happen is to forget time. When are we? Which day? Which month? Which year (but that would be awkward, right!)? But an overstay in a country has a price (which in some cases could be jail), so don’t forget to renew your visa. An overstay in some countries could be $10/day or six months in jail! For the same reason, double check the date of your plane, bus or train itinerary that you’ve booked in advance—you don’t want to miss it! These are two pricey mistakes that no insurance will cover!
Some mistakes are stupid, but they happen.
So, What to Do?
In general, we found that a lack of patience, attention or focus are typically the reasons for these mistakes. So just remember that if you don’t have a lot of money, you probably have time—so take advantage of it! No one is rushing you! But don’t forget time either! Just manage it differently. Concentrate on what you’re doing and make an effort to take care of your belongings and your money. This will prevent you from making these mistakes.