Who can resist a bargain – especially one as tempting as “Piso” (air)fare? You can love them or not (if you’ve suffered through delayed and canceled flights), but it is hard to dispute that Cebu Pacific Air changed the travel landscape in the Philippines. Where a family vacation overseas used to be just a dream for many parents, the launch of Piso fares has made it a reality for every Pinoy who wishes to fly.
Soon after, other airline companies followed suit and began offering low airfares too. Now, families can take advantage of travel sales and fly together to Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Tokyo, even beyond Asia to other continents like Australia, U.S., and Europe.
How to pay less for your vacation without taking on debt
But the Piso fare is just the beginning of many expenses you will bring upon yourself when you choose to travel. Whether you are exploring the Philippines or crossing our shores to explore the rest of the world, it helps to be prepared with all the travel-related expenses, use savings instead of taking on debt, and discover many ways you can pay less from travel-wise families that have learned to fly on the cheap.
1. It’s never just a Piso fare.
While airfares that cost one peso is a great hook, take note that there are other fees you will need to pay. With Cebu Pacific Air, these include an administrative fee, fuel surcharge, passenger service fee, safety and security charge, and a passenger service charge. Try AirAsia, and their taxes and fees include a service charge, processing service, and arrival and departure fees. For low-cost airlines, you will likely need to pay for baggage allowance as well as meals.
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If you book with Philippine Airlines, you will pay the promotional fare plus a Q surcharge, fuel/insurance surcharge, passenger service charge, and passenger security charge among others.
Make sure you know what you are paying for and that you compare fares according to the total cost and not just the base fare. You may find that one airline will offer a lower promotional fare, but after all the taxes and fees, it will come out more expensive than another airline’s total cost.
When traveling with family, everything costs more, and the bigger the family, the more painful the multiplier effect can be on your wallet. So the smart way to start is with a budget in mind — Php50,000, Php100,000, Php200,000?
Once you decide on a budget, start to cut it up like a pie. One slice goes to airfare, another for accommodations, another for food expenses, another for sightseeing tours, and so on. Make sure to track your spending. If you spend more on airfare than expected, that’s fine, but make sure to recover it from the other slices.
3. Choose the best place to stay, not necessarily the most expensive.
When making your budget, you should decide not just how much to spend on sightseeing tours but also what places you will see. From here, you can choose the best place to stay. Do not pick a place that is cheap but too far — you will end up spending more money on transportation.
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Once you have a shortlist of options, whether a hotel or bed & breakfast, wait for offers from travel websites. There are weekends when they slash their rates. Your credit card may also have a promo. You can also call your potential accommodation directly.
Tours can be expensive, and if there are four or more, some families opt to explore sights by themselves. Try and compute how much it will cost you to go to a place on your own (including food, transportation, entry tickets) against booking an all-in tour package. Don’t forget to check for group discounts too. Most tour operators extend a cheaper rate for 10 people or more, but even if you are a smaller group, it never hurts to ask.
5. Watch those miscellaneous expenses.
Even small expenses add up so better to plan all anticipated costs for your trip, including food and transportation. For big families staying in apartments, cooking your own breakfast can mean significant savings. Bring drinking water, so you are not buying bottled water on every corner on a hot day.
If you are staying in one place for several nights, consider where you can do your laundry free or cheap. This way, you avoid carrying too much luggage and can save on that, too.
Some travelers cannot resist shopping while on vacation, but most travel-smart families will warn you against this. The less you spend on shopping, the more you can spend sampling your destination’s cuisine and enjoying the sights.
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If you must shop, keep an eye out for bargains and unique finds or items you won’t find back home. Avoid bulky items as excess baggage can be costly — it can even cost more than your airfare!
7. Pay in the local currency if you use your credit card.
Ideally, pay in cash so you can stick to your budget and exchange your pesos here at home where you can get the best foreign exchange rates. If you have to use your credit card, always pay in the local currency of the country you are visiting.
That’s because paying in Philippine peso means also paying a Dynamic Currency Conversion Fee which can be around three percent or more of the purchase price. That’s on top of the foreign transaction fee your credit card will charge you for every overseas or international currency purchase.
Traveling can be costly, but with a budget, you can make sure that the priceless memories will be worth every piso.