12 tips to save money on your holiday – from flights to sightseeing
Although holiday season is coming, the cost of living crisis may mean that many of us need to find cheaper ways to get our dose of summer sun this year.
From swapping our regular holiday destination for one that costs considerably less, through to making sure we get the best deals on our currency and travel insurance, millions of people will be looking for ways to save pennies as they jet abroad.
But regardless of where you decide to go, how can you ensure you keep to a budget when it comes to the actual holiday itself?
From flights to sightseeing, there are plenty of ways to keep costs down. Try some of these tips for starters…
Consider when you go
Holidays can be expensive in peak season when families take advantage of the school holidays to get away.
If you don’t have school age children or are not bound by your job to take leave at certain times, consider going away off-season – when flights and accommodation will inevitably be cheaper.
However, before you do this check that your destination of choice doesn’t have any major events taking place which might cause hotel and flight prices to skyrocket – a major sporting event such as a football tournament or a Grand Prix could lead to an unexpected rise in prices.
If you are bound by term times, you can still save money by travelling on a different day – for example flying midweek.
Holiday booking site Opodo concluded that Sunday is the cheapest day for buying a plane ticket, according to data covering bookings from July 2018 to June 2019, while flights bought on Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday were typically more expensive.
According to research conducted in 2020, September is the best time to travel to America, while you’ll get the cheapest deals on European destinations in January and February.
Book well in advance
If you know when you’re planning to go, booking the flight in advance could save you cash – although this isn’t an exact science, as high demand for certain trips could push the price up, while less popular flights may go down in price.
According to Jack’s Flight Club – a travel deal company – long-haul flights are typically best booked between eight months and six weeks in advance.
If you do decide to book last minute, try to book a week in advance of leaving – as airlines can sometimes increase fares at the last minute to encourage business class travel.
It’s worth considering websites such as Last Minute – which can offer you great deals on flight and hotel packages just days in advance of when you want to go.
Get all your extras upfront
Don’t leave it until you get to the airport to buy essentials such as travel insurance- not only can it be cheaper but it covers you even before you leave – so if your plans change or you need to cancel your trip you’ll be covered and won’t lose money.
Make sure your policy has cover for what you need, but make sure it isn’t charging you for cover you’re not going to require.
For example, Covid cover may prove useful if you test positive while away and need to extend your stay. However, unless you are going skiing then you don’t need to shell out extra for winter sports cover.
Changing your currency in advance can also prove cheaper – you may get a better exchange rate than you would at the airport, as exchange rates fluctuate – so sorting this out in advance can help you avoid this.
“One tip I have for people going on their holidays is to prepare in advance with their currency exchange before embarking on their long-awaited travel.
“As rates vary every single day, it’s difficult to specifically say when to change your money at the best rate. However, the general best practice is to sort it out before you go on your holiday,’ Anaam Raza, of investment platform Saxo told metro.co.uk.
‘This way, you also won’t have to stress about your exchange rate when you travel and rates tend to be better from the country you’re leaving.
‘Using an airport bureau de change sounds like the easiest way to change money while on holiday, but this would actually be more expensive as exchange rates are dismal, but can be used as a last port of call,
‘For the same reason, if you have leftover cash it’s best not to change your money at the airport on your return. You can either keep it for another visit abroad if you want to go to the same destination again. Go to a bureau de change outside of the airport if you really intend on getting back that cash to pounds
You can also save by making sure you have all those essentials you might need for your trip before you set off.
Travel adaptors, for example, could prove costly at the airport, but you can pick up a European one at Poundland, or order yourself a pack of two on Amazon for under a fiver.
Buying other items such as toiletries, snacks, insect repellent and sun cream in advance can also prove cheaper than buying them at the airport – for example, a 250ml bottle of Factor 50 will set you back just £3.69 in Lidl, while you can pick up insect repellent in Savers for £4.99.
Look out also for 3 for 2 offers on travel toiletries in stores such as Superdrug and Boots.
Of course, if you want to avoid that cost altogether, you could buy a set of plastic bottles – such as this £2 one from Dunelm – and fill them with your existing toiletries, meaning you don’t have to splash out for any at all.
You might want to take every sundress, hat and pair of strappy sandals you own if you’re planning a lovely week in the sun – but bear in mind that taking too much luggage can result in costly excess baggage charges.
Some airlines may also charge you for taking more than one bag.
Make sure you avoid these by packing as light as possible – take only essentials, and also consider making use of space-saving techniques such as packing cubes and travel pouches to keep the weight of your luggage down.
If you are only going for a short break, you could also try fitting everything in a small carry-on suitcase which you can take on board the plane – potentially avoiding bag charges completely.
Avoid tourist traps
Once you’re in your chosen destination you can save money on food, drink and other essentials by avoiding obvious tourist hotspots – as prices are likely to be inflated in these.
If you’re eating out, find out where the locals go and explore options for restaurants and cafes around there rather than the tourist areas – you may well find the prices are a lot cheaper.
Use public transport
It might be tempting to go everywhere by cab, but wherever you’re off to public transport is likely to be cheaper – if you’re keeping costs down try only to use taxis if absolutely necessary (for example going to and from the airport, or if you’re returning to your hotel late at night).
You could of course circumnavigate the need for transport at all by walking everywhere – this may work if you’re staying in a compact city or small town where everything is nearby.
If you do want to go further afield, it pays to research the public transport services of your destination before you go, and whether or not you can buy a pass for public transport – as often these will also give you discounts on or free entry to local attractions.
By way of an example The Barcelona Card will set you back €61 (£53) for five days, but not only includes unlimited use of public transport in that time but also gives you free admission to 25 tourist attractions around the city – as well as discounts in many other museums, shops and attractions.
Others, such as the French Riviera pass – if you’re travelling to that part of the world – will also give you transport, attractions and wine-tasting, with a 72-hour pass costing €71 (£61).
Many other European cities including Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Dublin, Helsinki, Berlin, Brussels, Madrid and Lisbon offer similar passes.
It might sound like a lot of work, especially if you want an escape from slaving over a hot stove, but booking a self-catering holiday could save you a fair bit of money on eating and drinking.
Stocking up at the local supermarket and making your own food can be a lot more cost-effective than dining out for every meal, even if you just self-cater breakfast and lunch and eat out at dinner time.
If you’re staying in a hotel with breakfast included, consider also filling up on the breakfast buffet – as a large meal in the morning can set you up for the day, meaning you don’t have to spend a fortune on lunch.
Drink tap water if you can
Before you reach your destination find out whether the tap water where you are going is safe to drink.
If it is then take a water bottle with and keep it filled, rather than splashing out on bottled water. You can also ask for tap water when eating out if it is safe to do so – once again potentially saving money on buying expensive bottles.
Arrange your own excursions
While there will always be some places which are better on a guided tour, arranging your own trips to museums and other attractions can often prove cheaper, especially if you can make your own way there by public transport.
Wherever you’re going, also look at what free events might be happening while you are there, and what other activities you can do without paying a penny. For example, a trip to the beach a day out in a park, a walking tour of your destination, or a visit to a local market or shops can all be done for free.
Often other attractions such as historical sites can make for a fun activity and will cost nothing. And depending on where you’re going some museums and galleries may be free too – once again check before you set off what’s available at your destination and how much, if anything, you will have to pay to visit.
If you’re staying at a hotel or resort, free activities may also be available for younger family members during the day, while they may also provide free entertainment in the evening.
Take advantage of discounts
Once again this will require research but if you’re under 18, over 60 or a student you may well be able to take advantage of your age or status to get concessionary rates and discounts on attractions, plays, shows and other events.
Depending on where you’re going it’s worth looking into this before you leave to see what you might be entitled to.
Beware of mobile phone charges
Roaming charges can be expensive when you’re abroad – so speak to your mobile phone provider before you go and see what deals might be available.
They may be able to provide you with a data package you can use abroad for a set amount of money – but make sure the country you are visiting is served by your provider first.
You can also avoid data charges by taking advantage of free wifi at your destination – double check whether your accommodation includes this or if they will charge extra for it.
Make sure your EHIC is up to date
This card allows you to get state health care in EU countries for the same cost as a resident of that country – meaning if it’s free there, you’ll get it for free also, or if it’s cheap you won’t end up paying a huge amount should you need treatment.
If you have a UK EHIC it’ll remain valid until the date of expiration after which you’ll need to apply for a UK GHIC to replace it.
Bear in mind the EHIC and GHIC are not a replacement for travel insurance so you’ll still need that cover.
You should note also you cannot use it in non-EU countries including Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein – while only certain people, such as UK and Swiss nationals, refugees and stateless people can use it in Switzerland.
You can find out more information at gov.uk.
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