Photo Source: Flickr - Torbus
Value engineering is a term used when you seek the best functional balance between cost, reliability and performance of a product, project or service. But in travel, value engineering works best when you get the most for your money, not just a balance between money and product or service.
In my opinion, budget travelers are expert value engineers, even if they don't know it. As budget travelers or backpackers, we always look for the cheapest options and the best value for our trips.
I've written previously about
Travel Hacking, which is a form of value engineering. Here, I want to expand more on other aspects of a trip; like other forms of transportation, food, tours and more.
I'm going to show you how I find great travel deals year round.
Never stick to the first quote
Let's start with the obvious and probably most expensive part of your trip, the airfare. When you're traveling internationally, especially to far flung destinations, more often than not you'll have some wiggle room in prices. As a rule of thumb, the further away the destination, the bigger the price fluctuation between airlines and airfare sites; so keep this in mind.
When you do your first price check on sites like
Skyscanner and others; don't just stick to the first quote you see, keep looking because many sites do have exclusive offers that might be beneficial to you. This also applies to hotels.
Think outside the US, even on your web search
It is common for us to go to the site designated for our country, for example, in the US, most sites end in .com. But, airfare and hotel sites likes the ones I mentioned before do also have similar sites dedicated to dozens, and even hundreds of countries around the world. For example,
Skyscanner.it the address for Italian residents.
Don't worry; you don't need to learn the international labels since these sites allow you to change countries with the click of a selection tool on the top, or a link at the bottom of the page. Play with it for a while by doing searches of the same flights in different country pages. You will see that, for example,
skyscanner.it will return different prices than skyscanner.com or skyscanner.ca. Why you may ask? Skyscanner, Kayak, and other sites are aggregators of other smaller search engine sites. Usually, they concentrate on the sites that operate either on their country or region and often those sites receive different quotes. Try it!
Hint: If the US sites are not cheap enough for you, try focusing on European sites. They often have great deals!
Think of bundling your overland transportation
Once you reach your destination, you might want to travel around the country, or several countries, overland. While overland transportation tends to be modest in cost, if you take a lot of buses and/or trains, the cost of these tickets can add up quickly.
Several countries offer packages or passes for their bus and train network. Some examples are the
Eurail Pass for trains all throughout Europe; the hop-on hop-off buses in New Zealand and South Africa; and the transportation passes in Japan.
Check if your destination has a transportation pass by Googling your destination's name + bus/train pass. If they do, you could save a lot of money! For example, in Japan, this could save you over 50% of the individual ticket cost.
Social media and social purchase sites have become extremely popular in the travel industry. I'm sure you are familiar with
Groupon and how their system works. When enough people buy a given offer presented on the site, it triggers the offer at a much lower price than usual. Here you can find full vacations, short trips, or simple tours, among others, for a fraction of their normal price. An alternative to Groupon.com is
Become a member
Several airlines and hotels have frequent flyer or loyalty programs. This won't necessarily make your current trip cheaper (if you don't have enough points/miles), but once you rack up enough miles and points, you could redeem them for flights or hotel nights belonging to your program of choice. This redemption often gives you a considerable amount of value towards your trip since you're getting a flight or a couple nights stay for either a fraction of the cost or even free. Also be sure to sign up for airline and hotel newsletters as they many times offer special deals only to their most loyal customers.
Some budget travelers might shun away from tours since they like doing things on their own in order to control their spending and activities. I usually do this, but when merited, I also check the option of doing one-day tours or longer vacation tours. Sometimes the logistics and costs of independent travel to certain attractions and destinations merit the use of a tour to reduce costs.
My recommendation is to sit down and calculate how much it would cost you to do it on your own (everything from lodging to transportation to entrance fees) vs. hiring a tour (and knowing what is included in the price).
Take advantage of last minute planning
Couldn't plan your trip weeks or months in advance? Don't worry; one of the strange beauties of travel is the fact that sometimes, last minute planning can actually save you money. Sites like
hotelstonight.com and other similar sites allow you to get cheaper rates on empty rooms and flight seats. Airlines and hotels prefer to book them at a cheaper rate than have them empty.
At the moment, Hotelstonight.com only shows hotels in the US, but soon (depending on when you're reading this), they will add international destinations. And, as the domain name says, on that site you will find hotel rooms for same day booking.
Also, some tour companies like
G Adventures and
Intrepid Travel do offer up to 25% discounts on last minute trips. So, if you suddenly have the time to travel in the next couple of weeks, you should check their websites to see how much you could save with your last minute planning.
What are some of your best budget travel tips?