Travel tip: carefully select an arrival airport

Travel is personal. 

For example, we try to avoid all-inclusive offers – opting instead to forge our own travel paths, which we believe gives us flexibility and competitive costs.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but we try never to pay anyone for doing anything that we could just as easily do ourselves.

And, of all the tricks we’ve learned for keeping travel expenses down, one of the best tips involves careful airport selection – especially if you are flying into Europe.

In choosing an airline, we also take care to also select an arrival airport with both lower taxes, fees and operating costs, where the savings are therefore usually passed to travellers.

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Heathrow Airport, London

For example, if  possible, we avoid Heathrow airport in London, sometimes described as one of the most expensive airports to fly into.

Instead, we’ve flown into London Gatwick and to Manchester – as well making Athens, Rome and Berlin our European entry point –  from where you can usually get plenty of low-cost fares to the UK.

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Athens airport

Colleagues also recommend Warsaw, Dublin and even Moscow.

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Berlin Tegel airport

We use websites like Skyscanner and Clever Layover to carefully compare airline prices at various European airports – and work it out from there. 

It isn’t always feasible; is usually not the fastest option; and sometimes the savings can be small. 

But, over the years, we’ve found that every saving, regardless of the size, is important in an overall travel budget.

Of course, the same benefits – or more – can sometimes be achieved by flying into one of the less-costly airports and then completing your journey by a transport network like GoOpti – or by coach or train.

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Moscow airport

You can also reduce costs by spending a little time to make wise accommodation choices.

Although it is not always the case, accepting accommodation in the heart of popular cities often brings a hefty pricetag. 

For example, last year we were back in Venice, Italy, for a brief one-day stay en-route to Central Europe.

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Venice

Rather than arrange accommodation near the gorgeous Venician canals for one night, we decided instead to stay on the mainland at Venice Mestre – a 10 minute train trip from the beautiful waterways. 

Good quality accommodation at Venice Mestre  – in this case The Plaza Hotel – was about one-third the price of the equivalent on the island.

And, we were also only a few Euros from the Marco Polo airport by local AVTO bus.

We enjoy using public transport, so this proved a smart option for us.

This saved a substantial amount of money for spending later – and gave us a good quality of accommodation only two train stops from the heart of the beautiful Italian city.

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Tips

Smartphones making travel easier

Technology is continuing to make travel easier and more accessible.

And, undoubtedly, one of the more intriguing developments in travel has been the move toward replacing credit cards, passports and hotel keys with a single device — the smartphone.

Some industry pundits have suggested that the smartphone could do it all in as little as five-10 years.

That certainly seems feasible.

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Cards on the way out

The way credit cards are used is changing fast because of services like Apple Pay.

It’s becoming common to see people holding their phones or watches next to the card reader at shop check-outs while their identity is verified.

The days of carrying a wallet or purse full of credit and loyalty cards certainly seem numbered.

On our most recent European trip, we had all our loyalty cards, Seniors Card, Driver’s licences etc stored on our phones using the Stocard App. It worked well, however we still nervously took along our actual credit cards. Perhaps next time!

Hotel room entry

Hotels world-wide are gradually testing various methods of keyless entry where a smartphone will open and lock room doors, instead of using cards or, in some cases, actual keys.

It’s just another way in which hotels are streamlining traditional processes to improve the process for guests.

Wireless phone charging

The industry is also moving to introduce wireless charging to reduce the need for charging points in hotel rooms. The latest phones can be charged wirelessly

And cheap international telephone roaming is now common in much of the world. Our charges were pegged at three Australian dollars a day – if we made calls. We send to use Face Time on free wifi.

The European Union has, also made cheap roaming mandotory in its member countries.

Boarding passes

Of course, using a phone as a boarding pass is now common at airports.

The movement to electronic Passports is probably a little way off yet – and may be governed largely by political and immigration issues.

However,  steps in that direction are still being taken in preparation.

Security booths

There are also automated security booths appearing at the departure area of many airports.

So, depending on destination and hotel, it’s already possible to:

  • buy aircraft tickets online and store them on your phone
  • board a plane using a pass and the tickets on your phone.
  • pay for your hotel with your phone
  • enter your room using your phone
  • pay for meals and purchases using your phone
  • book Uber or similar transport to and from airports.

And, thank goodness that today’s smartphones have ever-more-strict security features to prevent misuse.

Finance Personal travel planning Technology on the road Tips

More airlines offering stripped-back fares

More airlines are offering stripped-back fares to help compete in the growing market of budget-conscious travellers.

European airlines, KLM and Air France are the latest so-called legacy carriers to introduce a reduced fare that doesn’t include seat selection, check-in luggage or the ability to change a booking.

Reports from the UK say that the fares – scheduled to start in April on transatlantic flights – are part of a growing trend among European airlines.

Alitalia is also offering an Economy Light fare that limits passengers to one piece of hand luggage and does not offer booking amendments or ticket refunds.

Lufthansa also offers a similar fare.

A few months ago, we were charged a fee to slightly amend two tickets on Aegean Airlines.

American, Delta and United airlines also offer basic economy fares – some of which do not allow use of overhead lockers.

And British Airways made headlines last year after it announced that people who bought its basic fare would board its planes last.

Air news Finding cheap flights Tips

Arranging travel – and saving money doing it

Our latest European jaunt covered eight countries – 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 how ‘Age-Friendly’ its Sydney-Athens link is. 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;

other airlines
inter-country shuttle
Greek Island ferries
rail trips
couriers
bus tickets
accommodation
city cards
individual tours

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Booking flights

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. ‘Age-Friendly’ reports will be forthcoming on each.

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

Accommodation was chosen at the same time as flights – also with the aim of doing extensive  ‘Age-Friendly’ reports on each.

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

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.

And again, our aim was to see how the ferries catered for travellers of all ages …… and pass on our information.

We booked directly with the companies involved – and double checked by email.

International courier

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.

Public transport

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

Discounts

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.

Personal travel planning Tips

Travel tips feature: Favourite technology

Technology and travelling light often seem contradictory.

However, in recent years, we have developed our own list of essential gadgets that we take with us on our travels.

  •  Two iPads and at least one iPhone – for writing reviews, social media, using Apple Wallet and keeping in touch via FaceTime.
  • Two wifi cameras – for illustrating reviews and social media updates.

  • Portable digital scales. With excess baggage fees today, these scales are essential.  We hook them to our bag handle and lift the luggage for an LED weight read-out.
  • An all-in-one powerpoint adapter. After years to carrying one for European powerpoints and another for the US, we were thrilled when all-in-one devices appeared.
  • Power bank. These are extremely handy, especially if they have enough juice to charge two devices.
  • It’s almost a hotel truism that there are never enough powerpoints in your room. We use a multi adapter which combine extra power points, USB points and a surge protector.

  • Bags may have individual locks, but we keep hearing about people who have lost their entire luggage on ferries or buses. So we take a retractable cable lock with a 90 cm steel cable for wrapping around a pole or rack.
  • An ‘under the door’ alarm and a range of anti-theft bags and clothing.
  • To complement hotel wifi, we adapted an old Apple Express music player to serve as a travel router and plug into high speed internet cables available in most rooms. Time will eventually catch up with this old technology, but at the moment, it works well.
Technology on the road Tips

Excess baggage: couriers may offer an answer.

It’s rather embarrassing  – and can be quite costly – to reach the airport check-in counter only to find that your bags are too heavy.

These days, airlines strictly enforce the amount of checked baggage and carry-on luggage on international flights; and any more than your ‘free’ baggage allowance may incur additional charges.

It happened to us once at Berlin – causing us to frantically re-pack our carry-on bags and jettison heavy paperwork.

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Photo: Pexels

However, the silver lining behind all this may be the advent of so-called ‘Delivery to Door Couriers’.

These services apparently collect baggage from your door and deliver it to your destination – leaving you to enjoy a hassle-free journey.

It’s an interesting idea, especially if you are travelling in Europe where distances between destinations can be short.

Firms operate in Europe and the US; we know of at least one that sends that type of box by air or sea from Australia; and there are operators that advertise a world-wide service.

What’s involved?

The service generally includes air freight, customs clearance, terminal fees, and local delivery costs to your international address.

Like normal airline baggage, there are, of course, restrictions on dangerous goods.

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P{photo: Pexels

But it does avoid the hassles of being laden down with back-breaking baggage; constantly weighting your load in fear; and the boring ritual of standing with crossed fingers at airport baggage carousels.

We’re yet to try one of these services but, like everything else, it seems that the widespread adoption of the idea would probably have a lot to do with cost and convenience.

From all reports, it appears that the cost, naturally, depends on how much luggage you want shipped and where.

And, ‘Delivery to Door’ couriers certainly seem to have convenience covered.

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Photo: Pexels

So, if you are are concerned about the possibility of excess baggage, these couriers may be well worth a look.

If you do use one of these firms, let us know how it works, so we can share details of the experience.

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Travelon bag winner

It’s our pleasure to announce the winner of the Memorable Destination/Travelon anti-theft bag loaded with security features?

The classic Travelon bag is at the forefront of a new-generation of travel products that are making life difficult for pickpockets.

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We put this bag through rigorous testing during a recent review – and it emerged with top marks.

Read our detailed review: 

Thanks to Travelon, we had a classic Anti-Theft Travel Bag, in black, to give away to a lucky reader.

The winner is enthusiastic traveller, Shannon Wallace, shown here with her prize.

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Enjoy the security of the bag Shannon and thank you for following Memorable Destination.

Made from slash-resistant fabric, with a cable-reinforced shoulder strap, anti-scanning pockets and lock-down zippers, the Travelon bag gives peace of mind for travel or everyday use at home.

Watch this site for additional giveaways.

 

Beat the pickpockets