Last week was a bit of a whirlwind. My step-dad is very ill, so my sister and I dashed over to Madeira to see him in hospital and support our mother. Discussed in the morning, booked tickets booked in the afternoon flew the next day.
The visit made me very grateful for a lot of things, not least my own health, support from family, friends and the children’s school, and the ability to work wherever I have a laptop and internet access.
So this week’s five frugal things are all based around travel:
Compared flight prices
If you’re booking flights at the last minute, there aren’t too many options to cut the cost.
I still tried a few online comparison sites though, including Skyscanner, Kayak and Expedia. I like Expedia, because it has obvious links to the cost of checking in baggage. I’ve resigned myself to paying to put baggage in the hold since liquid controls were introduced for carry on bags.
I wear reusable contact lenses, the fluid comes in 360ml bottles, and I use 30ml each day. I suspect decanting cleaning fluid into 100ml containers wouldn’t keep it sterile and would only last for 3 days anyway. I’m also reluctant to risk seeing if the brand I use is actually stocked by shops in the depature lounge. So – checked in baggage, here I come.
Somewhat to my surprise, British Airways had competitive prices at sane times. In the end, I booked direct through the BA website to minimise possible problems. Frustratingly, BA is actually pretty generous with carry on bags – you can take a laptop bag and a little suitcase, so if it wasn’t for my contact lens fluid I probably could have travelled without checking anything in.
Bought food before boarding
The days of freebie food on planes seem long gone, for those of us flying in economy. Farewell, trays with strangely tasteless airline meals. Nowadays I prefer not to be held to ransom by over-priced sandwiches in mid air. Ideal world, I’d have taken a packed lunch, but I only had time to grab a satsuma and apple before leaving. So after dumping my suitcase, I doubled back to the shops in Gatwick near the trains, and bought a sandwich from Boots.
Refilled a water bottle in the departure lounge
I’m someone who almost always carries a water bottle when out and about – another reason to resent liquid controls at airport security.
Nowadays my approach is to drink the contents before hitting security, and then fill up again afterwards, at water fountains in the departure lounge. I don’t even take a fancy bottle – just reuse a 500ml plastic bottle that previously held water or soft drinks. On our return trip, when I couldn’t find drinking water after security, I shamelessly asked someone at a cafe counter to refill it for me.
Bought my Christmas/birthday handbag at the airport
Buying a handbag is not a frugal thing. And when I buy handbags, even less so. They seem to be one of my blind spots. I’ve switched to own-brand for virtually everything else, but on the rare occasions I buy a new bag, I get long-lasting plain leather versions from Longchamp.
Anyway, the zip on my trusty black shoulder bag finally gave up the ghost. I bought it to celebrate my son being born, so it had lasted for more than eight years. My husband said he’d buy me a replacement for Christmas (couldn’t find one I liked) then birthday (couldn’t find one I liked) but then the helpful shop assistant in Gatwick departure lounge produced one from the basement. Black leather, straps long enough to carry on my shoulder, big enough to take A4, external pocket for my phone, key chain on a strap, couple of internal pockets and no tassels, chains, over-sized logos or weird coloured lining. Perfect.
Best of all, it was tax-free at the airport and they knocked a bit more off as it was an older model, saving 30%.
Carried a driving licence for ID
When I’m abroad, I tend to carry ID even if I don’t while in England. Top tip? Cart around a photocard driving licence, rather than a passport. If it gets lost or nicked, a driving licence is easier and cheaper to replace. I’m still bracing myself to renew my daughter’s passport. Even if you apply online, it still costs £49 for a child’s passport, and a whopping £75.50 to get an adult passport (full details of passport fees here). In contrast, it only costs £20 to replace a lost or stolen driving licence.
Last chance to win gin!
Just a reminder if you haven’t entered my giveaway for a bottle of Adnams fabulous Copper House Dry Gin, which is part of East of England Co-op’s Sourced Locally range. The competition closes at midnight on Saturday (23 June), so nip on down to the end of this post for your chance to win a gift pack including two beautiful glasses. Cheers!
Now over to you – any top tips to save money on flights and in airports? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear!