If money is in limited supply – as you tell me it is in every Reader Survey we take – travel involves a lot of comparison shopping.
From annual travel insurance plans to tours to flight passes there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of travel packages for you to consider. But sometimes pay-as-you-go travel is the better way to buy.
So, what are your options and how do you decide? Here's some advice.
A Rail Pass or Pay-As-You-Go
Determining your best deal on train travel will require a little number crunching. There are a variety of rail passes available for countries around the world including in Canada and the United States but Europe is the most common place for rail pass travel so we'll focus there. I'll leave it to you to do the price comparison between a pass and individual fares but I'll give you some issues to consider when making the decision.
- Are you traveling with a plan? If yes, you can do a direct comparison of the price of a pass vs the price of individual tickets. If no, you really need to consider the following questions carefully.
- How far are you going geographically? If you are taking long trips between countries a pass may be your best option. If you're working within a region individual tickets may be better as you can take local trains.
- Are you traveling fast or slow? Rail passes are good for a specific period of time. Be mindful of this since if you're traveling too slowly you may lose out on some of the benefits.
There are a variety of passes that can be adjusted by country and time frame.
Annual Roadside Assistance or Pay-As-You-Go
AAA and CAA are insurance plans and great if you have a car that you don't entirely trust. But what if you have a fine car but just want the peace of mind of knowing that if something does go wrong you'll be able to find the service you need quickly. That's where pay-as-you-go roadside assistance can help.
In the US Allstate has pay-as-you-go roadside assistance as well as an annual plan. There's also a new app you can download onto your phone called Honk that says they guarantee their rates which will be quoted before you place your order. It also seems to work a little like Uber in that you know who will arrive before they do and you're able to text or call them directly.
Packaged Holidays or Pay-As-You-Go
Packaged holidays can certainly be less expensive than booking everything yourself. Leveraging their volume purchasing power tour companies and airlines that coordinate deals with resorts get great deals that are, at least to some degree, passed on to you. Yes, you can save money by buying a packaged holiday or resort. Unfortunately these deals are less common for solo travelers than they are for couples. Fortunately, we have our Deals Page and Solo Traveler Advisory.
However the packaged holiday vs. pay-as-you-go option is not purely a financial decision. For some, packaged travel is what they want. Others want their independence. Getting the trip you want should be balanced with the cost savings.
Other Plans vs. Pay-As-You-Go
- Per-trip travel insurance or an annual plan. World Nomads, Roamright, American Express (Canada) are among the most recommended travel insurance companies and all offer you the option of insuring for the length of a trip or taking out an annual plan. The better deal will clearly depend on how much you travel. Regardless I highly recommend that you get insurance of some kind. Read When to Buy (and not buy) Trip Insurance? and Do I Need Travel Insurance? Top Bloggers from 6 Countries Respond
- Mobile data and phone access for travel. Most cell phone companies now offer great packages for international travel so that you can avoid those horrible roaming charges of days gone by. You also have pay-as-you-go options with sim card companies that can typically save you even more however you will need an unlocked phone for this to work.
- Transit passes in cities around the world. Some cities require you to buy a pass. Others give the option but often make the pricing with the card better than buying tickets or a pass. Your choice will depend on how much you expect to use the system and how price sensitive you are.
- Flight passes, a questionable investment. It seems that these are best for employees and companies that are not price sensitive and don't want the hassle of constantly approving travel plans. The cost of a flight is often the same or more than booking on a per-trip basis though it may offer a saving in high season.