A few weeks ago, Michelle Higgins of The New York Times called out our Taste of China tour as a great way save money on a trip to Asia. But when I was exchanging e-mails with Michelle about Friendly Planet Travel’s tour, it got me thinking of other ways travelers can save money when planning a trip to Asia.
I know a lot of ways to cut costs without cutting the experience of a trip. Being in the travel industry for over 30 years has taught me a thing or two. It’s why Friendly Planet Travel’s tours are so extraordinary.
However, I also know that some travelers like to design their own itineraries when they travel. But even if building your own trip is your travel preference, everyone loves to get advice from other travelers who’ve been to that destination before.
The Friendly Planet team, myself included, has been to Asia at least a dozen times. So I wanted to share with you ways to save on flights, hotels, tours, currency exchange, and restaurants.
But since there’s so much to tell you about, I’m splitting this post into two. Look for part two in a few days. Let’s start with ways to save on flights and hotels when booking a trip to Asia.
Asia is far away for American travelers. That means you’re going to be flying for a very long time, no matter which carrier you select. But if you do your airfare research, you’ll discover that there are wide variations in pricing. In booking flights, I typically look for the least expensive deal I can find.
Sometimes that double connection actually saves hundreds of dollars per ticket off the single connection or nonstop flight. Keep in mind that the single connection and nonstop flights still take a long time, and if you can save $300, 400, or more on your tickets by choosing the longer flight, you might want to take advantage of the savings.
Or, consider departing one day earlier, take a relatively small part of your savings to pay for an extra hotel overnight at your destination, and give yourself the gift of a day to rest and recover from the jet lag. You will need the extra rest regardless of the flight you take. But saving money on the ticket will give you the money to indulge in the luxury of sleeping off the impact on your body of the long flight. You will still enjoy the savings from your tickets, and you’ll be ready to explore the destination with plenty of energy.
Hotels in many Asian destinations can be tricky. The price is not the sole consideration for selecting a hotel. I start with the location of the hotel. Make sure that it’s very close to, or even at, a public transportation station.
In many, many Asian cities, gridlock is what you’ll find all day and into the night. Traffic is a nightmare and getting around the city can be a horrible and time-wasting experience. Even if your hotel is practically free, if you have to spend hours getting around, the value of your entire vacation will be eroded by the inability to do the things you really want to do.
On the other hand, if you’re near a tube, light rail, or (last choice) a bus line, you’ll make much better time. The extra cost of a hotel in a location that is very close to good public transportation will be well worth it.
Also, when you do your comparison shopping for a hotel, be sure your breakfast (buffet, American style) is included in the cost, as well as taxes and other fees. Otherwise, you may think you’re paying a bargain price only to discover the real cost is 50 percent or more more than your budget. I would NOT recommend staying in anything less than superior tourist class hotels in Asia, unless you are staying in a B&B owned by a good friend.
So, if designing your own trip to Asia is more your style, try using Friendly Planet’s new travel search engine. It lets you search thousands of great deals on flights and hotels. Our travel search engine is an easy way to arrange your next vacation, while enjoying Friendly Planet’s great savings and award-winning service.
And stay tuned. I’ll talk about ways to save on tours, currency exchange, and restaurants in part two. But before I get to that, have you been to Asia recently? Please share some of your own advice on ways to save in a comment on this post.