Frugal travels

A reader from Palmerston North is planning a 4-month overseas walking holiday and is asking the oily rag community for money-saving travelling tips. If you have any suggestions, let us know and we will pass them on. But as a start, we thought we would catch up on the latest travel market innovations.

Things have come a long way for Airbnb, which started out with a couple of guys renting out airbeds in their lounge – and providing breakfasts. Now it’s used as a listing and booking platform for private individuals with a room to spare. It essentially caters for the market between hotels and couch surfing (but more on that shortly) where you get to stay with hosts.

For the frugally minded, it is a good way to reduce your travel accommodation costs while at the same time getting to know the locals – and seeing how good they are at making breakfast! For those with spare room, it’s a great way to earn a bit of extra cash. Airbnb makes its dosh (and it’s a big business nowadays) by charging the guest anywhere between 6% and 12% and the host 3%.

For those who would prefer to stay in hotels, there are any number of websites with deals. Have a look at – it does not even need to be a last minute booking to get a deal; you can book weeks in advance. Trivago is another to look at. It uses what’s known as a metasearch engine to scan other search engines for the best deals, although the day we looked it was actually cheaper to book a hotel from the hotel’s website directly.

For those at the bargain basement end, there is always couch surfing – which is free. There are literally thousands of couches available – including in New Zealand! It works a bit like a social networking site. You put up your profile, say you have a couch available, and people make contact and sleep on your couch when they are passing through on their travels. And, of course, you can use any one of the members’ couches when you are cruising around overseas. Have a look at Interesting idea but crashing on someone’s couch (or having someone crash on yours) is obviously not for everyone!

There are other ways to save money on accommodation when travelling. House swapping makes use of your home while you are away, while you are using someone else’s! For those travelling within New Zealand, have a look at In some cases there is even a car available – how good is that!

Or what about a holiday abroad? There are lots of sites that match house swappers and some add flexibility by having a points system – they are either earned by allowing people to stay in your home, or spent by staying in another person’s home (like a barter exchange).

One reader writes, “If you swap with family members then you don’t have to advertise and you should know whether your place will be looked after or not.”

On the getting around on your travels front, Uber is shaking up the taxi industry and putting price pressure on fares. It’s also creating opportunities for vehicle owners to turn their car, which is typically a liability, into a source of revenue.

P.L. from Auckland writes, “It’s possible to cut travel costs and enjoy driving free rental cars and camper vans in New Zealand by checking out the online transfer deals. Most of the time drivers also receive a free tank of petrol! How does this work? Rental car companies need to reposition their fleet for new hires and usually spend large amounts of money to do this, using trucks for transportation. Having a free driver return the car to its home base is a win-win – for the traveller and the rental company. It works well when combined with a cheap one-way flight.” Have a look at The day we looked there were free cars available between Whangarei and Auckland, and a 2-berth campervan between Auckland and Christchurch – now wouldn’t that be a cool holiday. The terms are like a vehicle hire, except the daily hire rate is nil.

There you go – there are loads of ways to have a holiday away, without high cost.