Ajay Jain, a travel writer, was planning a family vacation of eight travellers including children, to London. Rather than book a hotel, Jain logged on to VRBO, an online vacation rental marketplace. He managed to get accommodation at half the cost he'd have otherwise paid for a hotel.
He booked a three-bedroom house, with a kitchen and laundry facility, for £250 (approximately Rs 23,250 at the current exchange rate) a day in the heart of the city, at Covent Garden. For the family of eight, they would have needed three hotel rooms. "In the area where we stayed, a small hotel room was available starting at £150-200 (approximately Rs 14,000-19,000 at the current exchange rate) a day," says Jain. He adds this also saved on travel cost and time, as many areas they wanted to visit was close by.
Start-ups in the travel space are changing the way people take vacations. They help to cut costs and also get better quality service. Travel bloggers and writers say apps and online travel services also enrich the travel experience.
Saving on stay
The most common services travellers use are TripAdvisor and Airbnb. The former provides ratings and prices of hotels. "These features give a traveller a fair idea of what to expect from a place for their budget. The 'things to do' section is also quite helpful. For any further information, a person can take help of a forum to get answers to queries. I planned my trips to Sri Lanka and Maldives using these features," says Mridula Dwivedi, a travel blogger.
Airbnb lets travellers rent a room or an entire place, which quite often is cheaper than booking a hotel. On a trip to Shirdi with her mother, Arti S, a travel blogger, booked a newly-constructed one-bedroom-hall-kitchen for Rs 1,200 a day. "The apartment was spacious, fully-furnished with sofa and bed, and also air-conditioned," she says.
Home-grown OYO Rooms, which offers budget hotels with features such as an air conditioner, complimentary breakfast and Wi-Fi, is also becoming popular with travellers looking to save cost.
There are other services that let travellers share a house with owners for free. These include Couchsurfing, Hospitality Club and BeWelcome.
Saving on travel
If going from one city to another, you can save using BlaBlaCar. This is also available in India but has a stronger network in Europe. The app allows a person to offer a ride to other BlaBlaCar members if there's space in the car. People have the option to share the travel cost when they join the ride. There are many other country-specific services offered via apps or on the internet that can let you share the cost of such travels with others. Most of these services use a Facebook profile to verify a person's credentials.
There are also many apps that offer city guides. These can help you not only save on local travel cost but also guide you on the best way to get around a place, and on other activities a person can do. Viator Tours & Activities tells you about local tours and gives reviews on these from users that can tell you what to expect. It's a part of TripAdvisor. Select your location and you get list of best tours available in your destination city. There are also deals on such tours and a person can book these instantly.
Field Trip, a city guide, has a Google-like interface that uses your phone's location to tell you what's 'cool' around him or her. As you travel, it will give notifications about restaurants, shops, historic sites and even special deals nearby. You can also check out Vayable to get tips from locals.
Saving on mobile data
When travelling abroad, using mobile data on roaming can cost a bomb. An option is taking a local number, also expensive. Apps such as Wi-FI Finder can help a traveller locate free or paid public Wi-Fi hotspots. These apps scan for a Wi-Fi hotspot depending on the user's location. If not in range, they can direct you to the closest one.
Whether a traveller is looking for affordable restaurants or a culinary experience, there are country-specific food apps that can help. Foodspotting, for example, tells you the best food available in the city you are visiting and where to get it. A person can also look for nearby restaurants and popular dishes on the menu as rated by the users.
There's also Restaurant Finder, that offers a convenient way to find nearby restaurants by using a device's location or pincode/zipcode. It works in America, Britain, Ireland, Canada, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Malaysia and Thailand, among others.
If you wish to make friends while travelling, there are services that let you connect to fellow travellers and locals. Badoo, for example, works like the Tinder dating app but is projected as a social network to meet new people, based on your location. Online services such as Withlocals for Asia let travellers connect with locals. Another app called Meetup lets users with a similar mindset meet each other. Siddhartha Joshi, a travel blogger, says he has used the app outside India to make short trips with strangers. "It allows travellers to meet each other and is also a great way to save costs when you travel solo," he says.
Many of these apps and online services connect travellers to others. While they do help to make a trip cheaper and memorable, there are also horror stories that call for caution. Service providers connecting travellers with a host do not take responsibility for an adverse incident that could happen, one should note.