How To Travel Five Star on a One-Star Budget

Before we explore the secret sides to London, I'll like to offer some tips on how to travel cheaply. Admittedly, I'm not as skilled at this Travel On A Shoe String Thing as my frugal parents, but I've picked up a few tips over the years. You lovely readers will probably have a lot of ideas as well, since most of you love to travel too, so just drop me a comment and I'll add it to the list.

1. TRAVEL ON A TUESDAY. Or a Thursday. These days are usually significantly cheaper than other days because business people don't travel as much as they do on Mondays or Fridays. Same goes for hotel rooms. Always cheaper mid-week. I almost always fly on a Tuesday now.

2. IF YOU'RE FLEXIBLE WITH DAYS, RESEARCH WHETHER YOUR DESTINATION IS CHEAPER WEEKDAYS OR WEEKENDS. Some cities are more expensive on weekdays, and cheaper on weekends. New York, for one, is cheaper earlier in the week (Tuesdays, especially.) Miami, on the other hand, is more expensive on weekends – like many of those destinations that people fly to for the weekend. Paris is also more expensive on weekends. It becomes cheaper on Mondays and Tuesdays.

3. BOOK YOUR OWN FLIGHTS FOR THE BEST PRICES. If you're not used to travelling, go with a travel agent. Otherwise, shop around online. I use One year I flew to London return for A$900. And get on email lists, so you know when good deals come up. At the moment there's a price war to the US. You can fly to NY return for $900 or so (plus $200 or so taxes).

4. JOIN A FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAM. You'll be able to accumulate points towards free flights, use airport lounges and be first in line when upgrades become available. We're with United / Star Alliance. I know United isn't as highly regarded as, say, Singapore Airlines but I love them. LOVE THEM. I check in via First Class, occasionally get free upgrades to Business, and last time I flew home from NY they let me check in the 72 kilos of books I've bought at Strand bookstore. For free. They're always lovely, professional, kind and willing to help with problems. Such as excess book baggage. Gotta love a FF program. Some people dismiss them, but they're better than you think.

5. IF YOU REALLY NEED SOME EXTRA ASSISTANCE OR EXTRA ROOM, DON'T BE AFRAID TO ASK. (NICELY.) I've had countless times where this has happened. One year I had to fly to Europe to interview a member of a royal family (virtually as soon as I stepped off the plane), so I quietly asked the cabin manager if I might have two seats somewhere at the back of the plane to get some sleep? (I did say the BACK of the plane.) The lovely manager proceeded to move some poor guy out of a seat and let me have three seats in a row. And yes, I felt guilty – especially in front of an almost full Economy Class who were glaring at me! And I'm not sure I'd do it again. But it was incredibly kind of them. The same goes for when you need a larger room in a hotel (such a family room), or a room with a bath. If it's late in the day and there's a room free, ask nicely and they might just upgrade you.

6. DON'T BOOK A HOTEL DIRECTLY THROUGH THE HOTEL. They'll just give you an expensive 'Rack Rate'. Go through someone like,,, etc, for better deals. If you can be bothered doing it, take the "better deal" and go back to the hotel with it. They may match it.


8. CHECK CANCELLATION FEES. I once came across a hotel in Nantucket that had a 6-week cancellation-fee policy! WTF?

9. DON'T GET AIRPORT TAXIS. Most airports have shuttle buses or trains to the city that are half or even one-quarter of taxi fares. (Catch JFK's shuttle at Grand Central Station for $20.) Research before you go. Wouldn't you rather save the $50-$100 and spend it on shoes when you get there?

10. IF YOU DO WANT TRANSPORT, RESEARCH PRIVATE CAR COMPANIES. You can usually find a limo company that will pick you up from JFK for $80 or so. If you're a group of 4, it works out the same as getting the bus.

11. TRAVEL IN SHOULDER SEASON IF YOU CAN. It's the 'in-between' period, when fewer people travel. But the weather's usually fine and hotel rates are cheaper too. We usually travel in May or September/October.

12. INVESTIGATE THE IDEA OF RENTING A BEACH HOUSE. Even hotels are now offering private beach houses as part of their menu of rooms. Hayman Island, for example, has just installed beach houses for families who want the extra space. The sublimely designed Beach House (above and top image) is part of the Coral Sands Hotel on Harbour Island in the Bahamas. {Via Coral Sands} Wouldn't you rather be here than in a hotel room?

13. DON'T THINK TRAVEL IS EXPENSIVE. Not everywhere is like Australia! For example, if you're going to New York, look at side trips to Mexico and the Mayan ruins and resorts of the Yucat├ín Peninsula (very IN right now) as flights to Cancun are often just $60 through JetBlue. Or Nantucket island ($100), or even Miami ($80). If you're flying halfway across the world, make the most of it when you get there. 

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