This is an excerpt from How to Travel 60-90 Days a Year – Even If You Work 9-5. You can buy the book on Amazon (Paperback and Kindle).

When you’re off traveling, you’ll want to get out of the cities and explore some more. If in East or Southern Africa, you’ll want to do a safari. If in Mongolia, you’ll want to explore deep into the steppe and the Gobi dessert. If in Scotland, you might want to go off and see the Highlands and Loch Ness.

These 3-Day, 5-Day, 10-Day or longer excursions are ever present, in all countries, and can often be expensive. In most cases, though, they’re also easy to negotiate.

How to Negotiate Excursion Fees

1- Get Multiple Offers, From Different Companies. If you’re planning to buy a car, you wouldn’t normally go and settle for the first car you see, in the first dealership, and for the first price you get. Instead, you take your time. You check your options online, you talk with different dealers and you ask about different cars.

You should use the same approach if you’re planning to spend big on an excursion. Instead of settling with the first company you see, ask around. Instead of talking with only one vendor, talk with five, if not more. The more options you’ve to compare, the best price you’ll be able to get.

2- Reject First Offers, Ask for Revised Prices. Don’t accept first offers. Even if prices are good, ask for a revision. It helps, for example, to reply a first offer with something in the lines of: “Thank you for your offer. Your prices are higher than we’re willing to pay. We’re looking for something within X to Y range (or Z% lower). We’re looking forward to receive a revised offer from you.” In most cases, vendors will be willing to lower their rates even after receiving only such a simple note.

3- Ask for Cost Breakdown. If you’re doing an expensive excursion—say, one costing over $1.000 per person, you should ask for a detailed cost breakdown. Instead of getting a fixed, lump-sum bill of $1.000, ask the vendor to slice the price into its components: how much exactly are the hotels, the guides, the meals, etc. The more detailed, the better.

4- Build the Cherry-Picked Offer. The breakdown will give you extra visibility, and will help you negotiate a better price, this by helping you build the “Cherry Pick Offer”—the theoretical best possible price, combining the lowest prices for each individual item. Take, for example, the following three, fictitious offers:

 

Comp. A Comp. B Comp. C Cherry Pick
Guide $300 $200 $200 $200
Transport $300 $400 $250 $250
Hotels $200 $200 $300 $200
Meals $150 $200 $200 $150
Permits $50 $50
Total $1.000 $1.000 $1.000 $800

 

Because of the breakdown, you see that, though all three companies price their excursion at $1.000, they’ve different costs for guide or transport, for example.

You can then use this information to push for a lower rate. You can say something in the line of: “Thank you for your offer. I’m interested in working together with your company, but I can’t pay $400 for Transport. Two of your competitors offer Transport—for the same type of car, same length of tour—for less than $300. I also don’t understand why I need to pay any entrance fees or permits. Please revise your offer.”

This won’t make you a popular customer. But, once the dust settles, you’ll still get your excursion—and, in most cases, for a lower cost than you would’ve expected.

Sometimes You Can’t Negotiate

In some cases, you can’t negotiate the excursion prices at all. This is often the case when tours are organized by some kind of monopoly—e.g. government-arranged tours, as it’s the case in, for example, Turkmenistan. Yet, those are the few and far away exceptions. In most places, there’s always some kind of competition between companies.

HOW TO SAVE ON TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

1- Skip Overrated Attractions. If you’re in London, you might see and want to try the London Eye. But ~30$? I’ve been up there can tell you—for that money, it’s a no-go, a waste. If you’re paying for an attraction, make sure it’s really worth it. I rather pay $100 for the Vatican Museum, if necessary, and still skip a $10 London Eye.

2- Research Free Museum Days. The Louvre in Paris is free the first Sunday of the month (vs. 9 euro, normal price). It’s the same for the Colosseum in Rome. In New York, the MoMA is free on Fridays from 4.00pm on. Do your research—it could be that you’re in line for a discount.

 3- Prepare a “Press Pass”. Press (very loosely defined) often get to visit museums and other attractions for free—even skipping queues, sometimes. If you’ve—or you prepare yourself—a “press badge”, all you need to do is present this “badge” at the place’s reception and ask for free entrance. The key is that you don’t really need to be press.

I’ve a “badge”/fancy laminated sheet explaining that a) I’m an author with two books published (incl. a travel book), b) I’ve press coverage (newspapers, Mashable), and c) I’ve been to 120+ countries, among other achievements. This has worked for me just as much as an “official” press ID would—even as I clarify that I’m not official “press” in any way, but an author and blogger.

If you’re not a blogger, but have a big following on social media, or any other loose claim to “press”, prepare a badge. The keys are a) make the badge fancy—it must look professional, and b) don’t lie and don’t exaggerate, as it can get you in trouble—make it clear that you’re not an official journalist. In most places, staff will not ask too many questions and just let you through.

This is an excerpt from How to Travel 60-90 Days a Year – Even If You Work 9-5. You can buy the book on Amazon (Paperback and Kindle).