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This weekend, my husband has become holiday obsessed. Suddenly, the world is our oyster and we are heading somewhere sunny. The destination is up for debate though, none of us can seem to agree where to go. I know it’s a good problem to have – but for some reason, the only place I want to go is home.
Luckily, we treat trips back to Nova Scotia, Canada (photo above!) as an annual expense – after all, visiting my family and friends at home is not a “luxury”. So, the three of us listed our top contenders: Dubai, Florida or Portugal. We can’t seem to agree. Any guesses who wants to go where?
But, while we debate we about where to go in the Spring, here are my top tips for cutting the cost of your holiday.
HOW TO SAVE WHEN BOOKING
GET THE DESTINATION RIGHT AND SAVE
Choosing where to go is one of the first decisions you have to make when planning a vacation. Get it wrong and you will spend a fortune, but choose right and you can save a bundle.
When planning your holiday, always consider the weather and seasonality of the destinations as well as the ease of travelling around and access to accommodation. Typically the more remote and exotic the destination, the more expensive the price tag.
One way to get a good deal is to head to a location that has the greatest number of flights from your local airports.
There are more flights from Britain to France, Spain and Portugal than anywhere else in Europe, for instance. Similarly, the amount of holiday accommodation is greater too.
It is also worth looking into countries where the currency is weak in order to make the most of your hard-earned sterling. Bulgaria and Bali, for example are currently two of the best value-for-money destinations, according to the Post Office.
When is go abroad is often just as important as where. For instance, a May half-term holiday may appear more expensive than going during the school year, but it is often 10pc cheaper than a break in the July/August peak. To ensure you get nice weather for your trip, head to southern Spain, the Algarve, Greece and Cyprus.
Taking a trip in the “shoulder season”, the period of travel between low and high seasons, offers some serious advantages to holiday makers with an eye on their wallet but who still want to enjoy the best a destination has to offer.
According to the travel experts at Cheapflights.co.uk, a general rule of thumb for picking a shoulder season is to avoid school holidays and the “obvious” times to travel, but to keep as close to high season as you can.
Save even more on flights all year round and opt to travel midweek. Jetting off on a Tuesday is more than a third cheaper than a Friday, according to Which?, the consumer group. What’s more, travelling on a Sunday will increase your airfare by as much as 45pc.
Similarly, because most self-catering accommodation is rented out from Saturday to Saturday, by adding a day or two in a hotel at both ends of your break can save serious cash. What’s more, the overall cost of the trip can be similar, and – as a bonus – you get a longer holiday.
Keep in mind that fares early in the morning and late at night are generally more affordable than those that are conveniently during normal waking hours.
If you are happy to drag yourself – and your family – out of bed in the middle of the night to catch a 4am flight, chances are that you will pay significantly less.
When it comes to ferry crossings, time it right and you can seriously slash your spending. On popular and busy routes such as across the Channel, over night sailings are very competitive while weekday crossings, especially mid-week, are cheaper than the weekend. What’s more, choosing to travel from a different port can make your journey cheaper, so look at all the options.
CHOOSE YOUR SEAT CAREFULLY
Whether flying long or short haul, the option of a little more room in your seat will always be welcome. So when booking tickets, try to select the seats directly behind the extra legroom rows, or business class section of the plane. That way, you’re more likely to be offered any unoccupied seats in these areas by the flight attendants as it won’t cause a fuss – all without the premium price tag.
BOOK YOUR HOTEL DIRECT
The research of 2,000 Brits by IHG Rewards Club, the loyalty programme of InterContinental Hotels Group found that while two thirds of holidaymakers believe comparison sites offer the best rates, consumers in Europe could in fact save more than £24 million a year just by booking hotels direct.
DON’T SCOFF AT “SECRET” HOTELS
Secret hotel bookings on sites like Lastminute.com and Laterooms.com give you big discounts on 3-5 star hotels UK and worldwide, Here, you’re just told a star level and rough location – only once you’ve paid do you find out the hotel’s name.
But if you want to play detective, you can identify the hotel before you book with just a few clicks of the mouse. Simply copy the hotel description from the ad and paste it into Google. The marketing jargon is often identical, so all will be revealed.
HAVE A “DAY-CAY”
Enjoy all the glamour of a hotel stay for up to 75% less than the normal cost.
In a twist on the normal hotel experience, which sees guests sleep through the majority of their pricey stay, DayBreakHotel customers can take advantage of hotel facilities at chains such as Radisson and Hilton for six to eight hours during the day (when most rooms are usually empty) and experience the suite life for significantly less than the cost of an overnight booking.
A room at the stunning 5-star Athenaeum Hotel & Residences in Mayfair, for instance, can be booked via the new platform for almost half the price of an overnight room, offering a saving of up to £177. Users can also save a massive £130 on a room at the luxury St Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster; and the Novotel London Paddington, with full access to the spa and leisure centre, can be booked via the platform for just £99 – 50% less than the room-per-night cost and results in a saving of £90.
CONSIDER ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
If you want to save cash, don’t assume you have to stay in a hotel. One option is a house swap where you arrange to occupy someones home at your destination while he or she occupies yours.
For example, HomeForExchange.com, probably the best value (it charges £40 a year) has more than1484 properties listed in the US and 769 in Canada. There are 607 in England.
The biggest home-swap website is HomeLink.org.uk. It has thousands of swaps all over the world, but costs £115 a year. Another one to try is LoveHomeSwap.com, which claims to offer nearly 60,000 homes over 160 countries, prices start from £120 a year.
For holidaymakers who don’t mind spending a minimal amount of money, HomeAway and AirBnB offer rooms or entire properties for hire in cities such as Paris, Sydney and New York – for a fraction of the price of a hotel. For those seeking something more upmarket, Onefinestay lets visitors to London stay in a beautiful private home while the owner is out of town.
What’s more, with these sites you can even make money while you are abroad by renting out your home. For instance, according to AirBnB.com, a Brighton home that sleeps four people would earn you £1,915 if listed for a month.
GET PAID TO BOOK
Further add to your savings and sign up for a cash back website.
Here, product providers and retailers pay commission when shoppers click on their links. In turn, the cash back website rebates some of this commission to the consumer. With thousands of retailers available it is easy to make money when booking your annual getaway.
To find out more about cash back websites and how I made over £1,700 over the years, check out this post I wrote earlier.
THE AIR BnB OF THE SKY
If you fancy flying in a private plane for a fraction of the cost of a seat on a commercial airline, check out Wingly (www.wingly.co.uk).
A ‘carpool’ for planes, this site enables private pilots and a maximum of five passengers to share the cost of a leisure flight around the country and Europe. As with private cars, there is often a lot of spare capacity being moved around.
With flights from 134 general aviation airfields across the country, 3,000 UK pilots have joined Wingly and flights from North Weald airfield to La Touquet in France starts at £62 pp for each leg of the flight.
Bear in mind that all Wingly flights are non-commercial, so pilots are under no obligation to fly if they feel the weather isn’t optimal or need to cancel for another reason. However, if a booked flight is cancelled, Wingly will reimburse passengers if it can’t be rescheduled to another date.
ENSURE YOU SAVE ON INSURANCE
If you are beating your winter blues by booking a holiday in the sun, make sure you buy your travel insurance policy as soon as you make your reservation. Doing so, won’t cost any more, but you’ll be covered for any cancellations and mishaps in the lead-up to your trip too.
When it comes to travel insurance, bear in mind that there are two types of cover – single trip and annual/multi-trip. Single trip only covers you for that specific holiday while an annual policy insures you for as many trips as you take in a year. As this type of cover is usually around two and a half times the price of single trip, it can prove better value if you travel at least three times a year.
BUY CAR HIRE COVER IN ADVANCE
If you wait until you arrive at your holiday destination to pick up your hire car, you will have no choice but to buy the rental company’s insurance, which costs around £15 to £20 per day. A separate excess policy might also be required for tyre and windscreen damage – taking both policies will add around £150 to a week’s rental. Buying this from a specialist insurance company, like iCarhireinsurance.com, before you travel costs from only £2.99 a day or £39.99 for an annual policy
AVOID THE “SINGLES PREMIUM”
Holidaying alone can be an expensive business, with many hotels charging a lone traveller the same price as a couple, especially during the school breaks.
Single parents are especially affected. According to an investigation by currency exchange firm FairFX, in peak season a single parent travelling with a child can pay up to £500 more than if they were travelling in a couple.
Single travellers argue that this penalises them unfairly, but tour operators justify the charge by saying that the cost of providing a room – heating, lighting, cleaning and so on – is the same regardless of how many people occupy it.
However, there is a growing number of travel operators that pledge not to charge singles supplement depending on the time of year.
For other ways to save money when you are single, check out this post I wrote last year.
CUT COSTS BEFORE YOU SET OFF
SAVE ON HOLIDAY MONEY
Sorting out where you are going to obtain foreign currency may not be the most entertaining part of planning your holiday – but it should mean you have more to spend when you get there.
Leaving this chore until you get to the airport is likely to be an expensive mistake.
Holidaymakers who wait until they reach the airport or ferry terminal to buy their foreign currency could end up paying as much as 11 per cent more for the same amount of money, because bureau de change operators know that travellers who leave it that late have no choice but to buy their money there and then.
Another option is a pre-paid currency card which can easily be ordered online in advance of your holiday. This is a good alternative to cash with the leading deals allowing you to make purchases and cash withdrawals overseas for no extra charge.
The best value way to spend overseas is with a credit card designed for overseas usage – for instance, the Halifax Clarity card. Research shows that using some of these cards consistently gives the best exchange rates and with no hidden fees or charges, plus offering card security.
BYE BYE TO BANK FEES
Holidaymakers that withdraw £200 cash in Euros on their debit card while abroad could face a hefty £14 in charges. But a new currency card can mean stress-free spending on your summer hols – and the same transaction would not cost you a penny.
The ‘borderless’ multi-country account and debit Mastercard from Transferwise means you can hold and convert money in over 40 global currencies – which means that you can send, spend and save money like a local.
LIMIT LOST LUGGAGE COSTS
A third of travellers claiming they have had luggage lost, damaged, delayed or stolen while abroad in the past five years, according to Direct Line Insurance.
Avoid having to shell out for temporary supplies while you await its return and carry necessities such spare clothes, swimwear and any required medications, in your hand luggage.
Split hold luggage across a few cases if there is more than one person travelling – that way you will have sufficient items until your luggage is returned.
HOW TO SAVE WHILE YOU ARE AWAY
MAKE THE MOST OF AIRPORT OFFERS
When jetting off on holiday, it’s not just Duty Free where you can make the most of your money, many airports today offer their own memberships and apps, such as myGatwick which not only provide lots of useful info and updates, but provides great offers available in shops, restaurants and other outlets while you wait to take off.
ALWAYS PAY IN LOCAL CURRENCY
Considering using PayPal to buy something from an overseas retailer? Always pay in the local currency rather than with British Pounds or you’ll fork out more than necessary thanks to dynamic currency conversion.
Normally only an issue for holidaymakers paying on plastic, PayPal’s default setting charges UK customers in British pounds and works out the conversion by applying its own exchange rate – which is as much as 4% more than if you opt for the exchange rates set by your card provider.
BROWN BAG IT ON BOARD
Budget airlines make extra cash by selling snacks to hungry holidaymakers at sky-high prices – so a simple a splurge on airline snacks for your family could easily undo the savings on your ticket. As it is only liquids that you can’t take through security, you can pack your own food and snacks to save a bundle.
MAKE LUNCH YOUR MAIN MEAL
When you go on vacation, your worry about your wallet can tend to go out the window.
But you needn’t pay over the odds for your nosh on vacation; one way to cut costs is to eat your main meal at lunch as many restaurants have lunch menus that are significantly cheaper per person than dinner fare.
If you are having a staycation here in the UK, order your groceries ahead of time and arrange for them to be delivered at your destination.
GET PAID WHEN YOUR PLANS GO TO POT
There is nothing quite like the sinking feeling you get when you arrive at the airport ready for your holiday, only to discover your flight has been delayed or cancelled.
If you book a flight either to or from an EU country (and some others) or use an EU airline you can get compensation for delays over three hours.
That includes airport expenses – though, bear in mind it won’t cover champagne and caviar – and compensation increases depending on the delay, and could be as much as €600.
You are only able to claim compensation if the delay was the airline’s fault. What’s more, if you are flying to or from an EU territory with a stopover in a non-EU territory, still you can get compensation for any delays that might occur – even if they happen on part of the journey that’s outside the EU.
So, if your plans for break in the sun gets scuppered, why not put in a claim? With the Resolver website, it’s very simple to do, and best of all, it’s free.
GET YOUR HANDS ON SECOND-HAND EQUIPMENT WHEN ABROAD
Travltalk is a new free travel app which lets you find other people nearby in your city – so you can post to get your hands on bargain equipment such as second-hand bikes and beach boards when arriving at country instead of hiring, then selling them onto other travellers when they left. You can can also find people who want to split the cost of a ride when travelling to a festival, or to the beach for the day.
CHARGE YOUR GADGETS LIKE A CHAMP
Anyone who travels often will begrudgingly cart around a handful of adapters for their gadgets. Not only does this take up unnecessary suitcase space, but these adapters aren’t cheap. Cut costs and pack an extension lead instead. Which means that you don’t need to invest in too many travel plugs, and can just use the normal UK adapters and charge everything at once.
CUT THE COST OF CAR HIRE
When it comes to car hire abroad, no one wants to pay more than needed. The best way to get a bargain on car hire is by utilising multiple sites such as Skyscanner, Orbis Explorer, Kayak, Carrentals and Travelsupermarket. Once you’ve found the best deal, see if you can beat it by going directly, you’d be surprised at how much you can save.