False economies



David Whitley looks at the ridiculous things we do to save money on the road – and realises that they often end up costing far more than the options we avoid.

I have a tendency to travel hand luggage only – even for three or four weeks away. Most people think this is because of airlines charging exorbitant fees to check bags in, but it’s not. For me it’s about mobility. There’s a joy in being able to walk straight out of the airport without having to wait by the carousel. I also tend to move from hotel to hotel, and walking a few hundred metres is an awful lot easier if you’re not trying to lug the biggest bag in the world around with you.

In fact, once you go away for more than a week, travelling hand luggage only is one of the world’s great false economies. Any money you save on airline fees is inevitably spent on laundry. That won’t stop people arguing it’s a great money-saver, however. It’s not the only false economy in travelling either. I’d argue that sleeping in a dorm room can be one of them. If the room is so unappealing to relax in, you’ll end up relaxing elsewhere – most likely a pub, where you’ll spend the savings on beer. Not, perhaps, a bad investment.



Taking a cheap flight between two destinations that are relatively close and well connected by bus or train is another. Sure it may be quicker on first glance, but once you factor in the time and money spent getting to and from the airport, there’s probably not much in it – particularly if the train or bus goes city centre to city centre.

The one I really can’t understand, however, is people who whoop with delight at the prospect of saving on a night’s accommodation by taking an overnight bus, train or flight. Sure, you might not have to pay for a night’s accommodation, but you’re also losing a night’s sleep. And when you get to your destination, you’ll feel so exhausted that you don’t want to do anything. Except, perhaps, mill about until your room is ready and immediately go to bed for a few hours.

Even if you book a sleeper on a train, you will most definitely not being killing two birds with one stone. Because, unless you have been blessed with astonishing superhuman powers, no-one ever gets a proper night’s sleep on those things. The rooms are too cramped, the beds too narrow and the surroundings too noisy.  If the overnighter is the only way of getting there, sure, do it. But don’t kid yourself that you’re making a smart investment.