Thinking of going on holiday but worried about the cost? Read our tips to help keep the price down
Holidays are something we all look forward to, but the price of going away can really mount up. Luckily, there are lots of simple ways to cut costs, from bagging cheaper flights to getting the best deal on travel money.
Flights and accommodation
Whenever possible, try to avoid popular holiday times like Easter, Christmas and the school holidays. Cheaper flights are also often available if you’re prepared to be flexible, and prices vary considerably depending on the month, day and time you travel.
According to Skyscanner, you can usually save money if you don’t mind an off-peak flight or travelling mid-week. Savings can also be made on long haul trips if you’re prepared to take a flight with a stopover, or fly out and back with different airlines or from different airports.
Getting to the airport can be expensive, so if you don’t want to pay hefty car parking fees consider catching a train or asking a friend for a lift to the airport with a promise to return the favour.
If you do need to drive to the airport, consider pre-booking your car parking as this often works out cheaper. You can do this at the airport, or a nearby hotel that offers transfers from its car park to the airport. Another option is to use a meet and greet service, where you pay to be met at the airport and your car is then driven to a car park that has its own security. On your return the car is driven back to the airport to meet you off your flight. This usually works out cheaper than using the airport car park.
Hiring a car while you’re abroad is a great way to explore. If you book in advance, not only are you more likely to get the car you want, but it’s often cheaper. Read this guide from Which? for useful tips on pitfalls to avoid and things to watch out for when hiring a car, like checking the contract for hidden extras, making sure you get good insurance cover and fuel charges.
If possible, don’t change money at an airport or ferry terminal, as you’ll pay through the nose. In virtually all cases it’s much cheaper to buy travel money in advance, from a bank, a high street bureau de change or online. It’s worth comparing the total cost for converting a set amount of cash from different services to check if you’re getting the best deal.
Remember, using a credit card to buy travel money is usually expensive, as most cards treat it as a cash withdrawal. This means you’ll pay a fee and be charged interest immediately from the day you withdraw the money.
You’ll need to take some cash with you, but if you don’t want to carry a lot you may want to take your debit card abroad. Before you do this, check the charges. Some banks charge very low fees but others are expensive, adding charges for using your card in a foreign country – and the more times you use your card the more expensive it gets.
One alternative is a pre-paid card, which you can load up and then use to make purchases or cash withdrawals in the local currency abroad. If you choose a card that offers a good exchange rate and low fees, this can work out cheaper than a standard debit or credit card. They’re also useful if you want to stick to a budget as you can’t borrow on them.
If you’re buying something or taking money out of a cash machine abroad, you might be offered Sterling or the local currency. It’s nearly always best to choose the local currency as this normally works out cheapest.
Protecting yourself and your possessions
If you’re travelling to Europe, make sure you’ve got a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). It’s free to apply for one, and it entitles you to free or discounted state healthcare while travelling within the EU, as well as in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Wherever you’re going, it’s essential to get travel insurance before you go. If you’re travelling to Europe, don’t just rely on your EHIC, as it doesn’t cover certain important things such as repatriation, lost or stolen property or private medical healthcare. Visit Which? to find more information on recommended travel insurance policies.
Using your mobile phone abroad
Finally, if you’re taking your mobile abroad, check the charges. Currently, you can use your mobile phone while in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein and pay the same price for texts, calls and data as you do while at home. In other countries, prices may be considerably higher. Visit Ofcom for more information.
10 things to do before you go away
- Make sure your passport is up to date
- Check if you need a visa for where you’re going, and if there are any entry/exit fees
- Look for travel warnings and advice at gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
- Find out if you need any vaccinations and renew any prescriptions
- Prepare your finances – get some local currency and let your bank know you’re going abroad
- Take out travel insurance, or check if any existing policies cover you
- Make copies of important documents, like your passport, reservations and boarding passes
- Know your luggage allowances to avoid any surprise charges
- Check your mobile coverage abroad and make sure to bring a charger adapter
- Do your research – download guidebooks, pre-purchase tickets and get clued up on local transport
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