With school holidays upon us, it’s time to start thinking about getting away. Whether you’ve booked far ahead or are planning a last minute dash overseas, here are 10 top tips for saving money on your travels this summer.
1. Timing is everything
The timing of your holiday booking can have a massive bearing on the amount you pay. While booking 10 months to a year in advance will generally get you some of the most attractive discounts, waiting until the very last moment can also be very lucrative if you’re not so fussy about where you want to go.
2. Get more for your money
Exchanging currency at the last minute means missing out on the best rates. Make sure you shop around for your currency at least a couple of days in advance.
Think about visiting a country where your pound will work harder for you. While the euro and dollar have risen against sterling over the last few years, going further afield to countries such as Sri Lanka and Thailand can still give you great value for money, not to mention a great experience on top.
For more bargain destinations, check out our top ten picks for this summer.
3. Learn to compromise
If budgeting is important to you, then flexibility could be important. Do you have to be in a hotel right on the beach, or can you handle a gentle stroll there instead? Have you ever tried self catering? Or would an all-inclusive deal work out as more economical?
Have a think about what you really need to have a great time and what you can afford to give up – there could be big savings.
4. Hone the art of haggling
In the age of the internet, many of us have the lost our nerve for negotiation.
Rediscover the skill by comparing deals from several tour operators before accepting the first price given.
Hotel prices are not always written in stone, so that’s one area where you can aim to make some savings by haggling for a discount, and remember that excursions can also be negotiable.
5. Compare travel insurance
Getting the cheapest travel insurance policy can help you make significant savings – particularly if you’re looking for an annual multi-trip policy.
Remember, though, to buy your cover as soon as possible after booking your holiday; leaving it to the last minute could mean you’re not covered if you have to cancel your trip.
For any questions surrounding your rights, take a look at our recent travel insurance Q&A.
6. Avoid hidden airline fees
If the cost of a flight looks too good to be true, it more than often is. Some airlines can be sneaky, so make sure you know exactly what you’re meant to be paying before you book.
Ryanair, for example, will charge £40 if you don’t print out your own boarding pass before travelling, so make sure that you take a copy to the airport (or find an internet cafe if you don’t have a printer).
7. Use the right cards abroad
If you’re canny there’s no reason why you should pay a penny extra for using your credit or debit cards abroad.
Halifax is currently offering an excellent Rewards Clarity MasterCard for holidaymakers, with no fees for purchases made abroad. The Post Office Credit Card offers another great solution with no overseas fees whatsoever – just follow the link to find out more and apply.
8. Driving overseas?
If you’re planning to get behind the wheel while you’re away, getting the right cover could save you a big financial headache should anything go wrong.
If you’re driving a hire car, then car hire excess insurance will cover excess charges if you have an accident, while European breakdown cover is well worth thinking about if you’re planning to take your own motor away with you.
For a comprehensive checklist of what you’ll need when driving on the continent, take a look at our European driving guide.
9. Do it the local way
Eating and socialising in local restaurants and bars, rather than heading for the big tourist-oriented areas, can be a great way of savouring the real culture of any place you visit. Not only that, but it’s likely to save you a lot of money, particularly if you’re going to destinations further afield in Asia or Africa, for example.
The same goes for booking excursions; doing so through your travel company can work out a whole lot more expensive than turning up and haggling on the day.
10. Heading to America?
If you’re planning to head stateside at all in the next few years, one thing you may not be aware of is the new Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). This is a web-based version of the old Visa Waiver form which allows you to find out in advance whether you qualify to enter the country or not.
While it’s currently free to complete, each ESTA application is likely to be subject to a charge by the end of this year, thought to be around $10. The ESTA lasts two years, so if you think there’s even a slim chance of you needing to head to the US at any point during that period, apply for your ESTA now to beat the fee.
If you want a handy holiday checklist why not take a look at our Things not to forget before heading off on holiday?