We’ve just finished an eight-country European tour reviewing travel and accommodation services – and here’s a few tips that helped us organise the trip and ensure everything ran smoothly.
For a start, we were flown to and from Europe courtesy of Scoot Airlines, to review its Sydney-Athens link – through the eyes of senior travellers. Read our review of the ScootBiz service here
For the remainder of the extensive trip, we used the Internet to book almost everything, to give us maximum control. This included;
Greek Island ferries
Flights were generally booked about 90 days beforehand because we believe that ensures the best deals.
In all, we used four airlines – Scoot, Aegean, Eurowings, and EasyJet.
All have easy-to-use websites and apps for managing your flights; getting boarding passes, selecting seats etc. An important tip is to make sure that the names you book are identifical to those in your passport – as changes may cost money.
We saved money and made it easier on ourselves by packing light – one 22kg bag between us and a carry-on bag each.
Accommodation was chosen at the same time as flights. We used numerous websites to compare hotel and Airbnb prices, with emphasis on central location – and proximity to public transport.
Once selected, we pre-paid accommodation – avoiding ‘cancellation-free’ booking. This can be a little risky if the entire trip falls over, but we prefer to take the chance for a lower cost.
Almost all our accommodation was paid well before we left home – although there’s always the occasional hotel that reserves the booking but doesn’t actually take the money until later.
And once booked, we followed up with at least one confirmation email close to the date of leaving.
Ferries were reserved at least three months ahead of time, as we believe that prices for moving between the Greek Islands can increase as trips get closer.
We booked directly with the companies involved – and double checked by email.
We trialled an international shuttle service, Go-Opti, to travel from Venice, Italy to Ljubjana in Slovenia.
What could have taken most of a day by train or coach, was reduced to about three hours.
The service collected us and our luggage from one hotel and delivered us in comfort to another, at a lower cost than alternatives.
Watch for our upcoming review of Go-Opti. It’s an eye-opener.
All other bookings were done in the final month, including courier services at Santorini and London – which both worked out cheaper than using taxis – and train trips in Slovenia and the UK.
As always, we also saved substantially by using public transport where possible.
For example, we were quoted $80 for a taxi from Changi Airport, Singapore to our hotel in the heart of the city. We had deliberately selected a hotel near a bus stop – and used a public bus that covered the same trip for about five dollars.
In Austria, Germany and Italy, our travel was kindly provided by close friends who took us to some wonderful sights.
In London, we chose a hotel within two minutes walking distance of Victoria Coach Terminal, from where we could get a bus to Gatwick Airport for about seven pounds – far less than any alternative.
Where possible, we always avoid airport trains – and usually save substantially by doing so.
For example, in Greece and Venice, we caught local buses to and from our attractions – and the airport. In each case, we emailed various bus services beforehand – and negotiated prices ourselves until we were happy with the quotes.
The only time we used a taxi was late at night in Athens – and, again, we emailed several companies beforehand to lock in an agreed price.
If you must use a cab with a meter, contact people like us to find out the exact distance you want to travel – and photograph the meter as you start the trip
Before deciding on any travel, accommodation or attractions, we always make a point of checking whether the provider offers discounts. There’s nothing to lose in asking, and it can sometimes save money.
For example, on this trip, we visited the massive Skocjan Caves in Slovenia – and were delighted to find substantial discounts offered for NSW Seniors Card holders.
We have a host of reviews coming from this trip, so stay tuned.