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It’s that time of year when we dust down our bucket and spades, pull out our suitcases from the loft try not to fill it with everything including the kitchen sink and set off for sunnier climes.
Holidays are one of those occasions where we tend to lose our grip on our finances, from the taxi to the airport, the departure lounge, on-board airline sales, all the way through our 2 weeks in the sun the whole experience sometimes feels like it has been designed to part you from your hard earned cash.
In this guide we will go through 43 ways that you can save money on your holiday and not return with a pile of credit card bills that you will need to take out a loan or re-mortgage the house to repay.
1. Look for the Bargains
A hotel room which is not booked or an airline seat that is not filled is lost money. The hotel cannot fill a room that was empty last week no more than we can time travel. If you are booking last minutes deals try to negotiate the best price with the travel agent, hotel or tour operator. They want to fill the room, even if they make a £50 profit, they will take the business. Don’t be shy, haggle!
Savings to be had: £10 – 50
2. Pick your times wisely
I don’t recall the last time that I booked a package holiday. I prefer to book each element separately so that I can negotiate the best price. For example, if you are booking your flights independently use a website like skyscanner.net.
Type in your destination, chosen date and the site will search all the flights that are scheduled on or around your selected date.
I did a search for flights to Crete Heraklion Airport, for 2 Adults and 2 Children, August 25th and August 30th, the best price was £1,109 and the dearest was well over £2,000.
Although for the best price there are some conditions, read on.
Savings to be had: £1,000
3. Going Via Timbuktu
For me this not an issue, I love flying and going to the airport for me is the best part of the holiday. I am from an older generation before low cost flying. So going to the airport for me as a kid was exciting and despite now flying being as common as catching the train, I still feel that excitement today.
Taking an indirect flight to my destination is no bother to me. I get to see another airport and another exciting take-off.
If you are on a budget, then consider indirect flights as it will save you £100’s if not thousands if you are traveling with a family.
Savings to be had: £100’s – £1,000
4. Be selective with your dates
This can be difficult if you have kiddies in school and don’t the airlines just know it. It is just the way the system is designed.
As parents we know that the last few weeks at school before they break up for summer once the exams are finish are just a jolly for the teachers and students alike. So why not simply call up the school and tell them that the family have to attend an important family event in XYZ location. You can decide what the occasion is.
If you can’t stomach working the system then we recommend that you travel either the very last week of August, or first week of September. These will be cheaper and the hotels by then will be emptier than the last weeks of July or the first few weeks of August.
Saving to be had: £100’s
5. Travel During half term
If weather is not an issue for you then you might want to consider traveling during one of the half terms in the autumn. Weather in Southern Europe is generally still fine if you want to take the chance or you might consider flying a little further away to the states.
Booking now will ensure you get the best fares.
Saving to be had: 20-50% less than peak summer prices
6. Price comparison websites
Never book the first deal you see due to the fear of missing out. This is where we make our mistakes. When using price comparisons read the terms and conditions of whatever you are booking.
It is not unusual for the price shown on the website to have been stripped of everything. For example, when hiring a car, check that the price includes unlimited mileage, insurance, children’s car seats. All of these can inflate the price. As always shop around the price comparison websites.
Don’t just opt for the cheapest since it might be the one that does not come with anything you might need, and the add-ons will take the price through the roof.
Saving to be had: £100’s
7. Do you need all the trimmings?
For most people the holiday is the beach, the pool, wandering around medieval European cities. The holiday is not who gets to board the airplane first or who gets off first. Relax.
Airlines will charge you for priority boarding and seat selection, here is a little secret, everyone gets a seat. I have never been on an aircraft where passengers had to stand. So, what’s the rush.
If your concern is that you will not be sat together, don’t worry your partner won’t get lost on-board the 3 odd hour flight.
Saving to be had: £10’s
8. Pack sensibly
Do not over pack. Airlines will charge you an arm and leg if you do. For me there is nothing like traveling light and traveling fast. Make sure that you pay attention to the weight and dimensions of the luggage that you can take on-board.
For a 2-week holiday I pack for 4 days and wash my clothes in the hotel bathroom and hang them out to dry on the balcony. I hate having to lug masses of clothes around. Most of the day I am by the pool or on the beach so why do I need 20 shirts?
Although this rule might be strained when you get to point 38 below.
Saving to be had: £10’s
9. Pounce on offers
Lots airlines, hotels and car-hire companies will run regular offers. It may be worth subscribing to various price comparison sites to be kept up to date regarding the best deals to be had, but you have to commit to traveling a long time in advance.
British Airways run regular offers so might be worth subscribing to BA.com
Saving to be had: £100’s
10. Book your airport parking in advance.
Book your airport parking in advance. Don’t just rock up as you’ll be paying premium rates. If your flight is leaving in the early morning, I recommend that you look for parking at one of the budget hotels that offer deals with their rooms which include long stay parking. Look up:
www.airparks.co.uk or https://www.holidayextras.co.uk
Saving to be had: £10’s
11. Bring your own transparent plastic bags
Since someone a few years back tried to take out flight using various combination of liquids our government introduced a new rule that single containers cannot hold more than 100ml and they have to be in carried in clear transparent resealable plastic bags measuring 20cm x 20cm.
Some airports will charge you £1 for the privilege of the 20cm x 20cm plastic bag. Although some more reasonable airports do provide the bags for free.
Note: Here it is not so much the savings we are concerned with but the sheer pedantry of officials.
Savings to be had: £1-2
12. Take the Redeye and travel overnight
If you are traveling to the continent via ferry it is always much cheaper to travel overnight. Overnight between Dover and Calais are sold at rock bottom prices. I don’t mind travelling at night, the roads are clear therefore less pressure on the other side. Just make sure you leave the UK with a full tank of fuel as you don’t know if there will be any petrol stations open on the other side.
Savings to be had: £10’s
13. Take a packed lunch
This is one of my pet peeves after the whole plastic bag nonsense. We arrive at the airport and it is almost expected that we go to the food court and hand over the thick end of £40 for a sandwiches and fizzy pop.
I have now taken to making and taking my own sandwiches, chocolate bars and various snacks with me.
Can’t take liquids as the liquid NAZI’s will take it from you at security. If you can bring re-usable drinking bottles and fil them up airside with potable water.
Plus, you’ll have some snacks for the flight if they don’t serve food on-board and snacks for when you arrive at the hotel. Snacks are good.
Savings to be had: £50
14. Let the
Train Coach take the strain
Travel to the airport by coach. Coach travel from London to Stanstead Airport leaving 25th August returning on 30th of August is just £12 for 2 adults and 2 children. https://www.checkmybus.co.uk
Travelling by train on the same dates from London Liverpool Street will cost £52.
Plus, you are not having to pay for airport parking either.
Savings to be had: £40
15. Get to Heathrow by Tube
This only applies if you are travelling to Heathrow airport in London, don’t take the Heathrow express. A return fare on the Heathrow Express costs £37 (This is for peak time) £10 if you go by Tube using your oyster card.
Savings to be had: £27 per person
16. Consider a house swap
This is something which I would not have considered in a million years until my wife suggested it. The family were friends of my sister-in-law and she vouched for them.
They got to stay 2 weeks in a reasonably nice house in London close to transport and only 20mins by tube to town and we got 2 weeks in a beautiful house in Southern Europe complete with pool and 2 dogs. (Dogs are tops)
If you don’t know anyone who would like to house swap there are agencies which will take care of everything for you. They will vet everyone and take care of insurance etc. This will save you on all your accommodation costs in one go.
If you are worried, they will root through your things remember they are worried about you rooting through theirs. There is an understanding amongst the house swapping families that you won’t it’s a gentleman’s agreement and it works.
When we had our house swap the only draws I rifled through were the kitchen cupboards looking for plates, pans etc. Everything else was off limits other than the draws they had left open and empty for us to use for our clothes.
You might also arrange a car swap too if possible.
Home Exchange (homeexchange.com);
or HomeLink (homelink.org.uk).
Savings to be had: All your accommodation costs
17. Book close to the beach
No one likes to have to hear, see or God forbid speak to other people’s children any time of year never mind when on holiday.
Booking a private villa with a pool will cost a few hundred pounds extra, but if you apply all the previous rules this might be an expense you are willing to undertake.
Remember, this will be your own private pool. Nothing quite like it. But if you are on a mission to save every pound then try to book your villa or hotel as close to the beach as possible. Walking distance if you do not have a car.
Most good hotels provide a shuttle service to the beach.
Savings to be had: £100 to £500
18. Find the budget hotel chains in Europe.
Just as we have budget hotels here in the UK. There are also budget hotels in Europe. https://www.accorhotels.com
These hotels are great for stop overs if you are travelling through Europe.
Savings to be had: £100’s
19. Internet charges
We now expect hotels to provide free Wi-Fi. Although check with the hotel before you book that their wi-fi is free. Some hotels will provide free access for a limited time and then start charging.
If you are technically minded, you can install a “MAC Address” changer on your laptop and renew the Laptop MAC address every 30mins so that the wi-fi system thinks it’s a new device on the wi-fi. Look at: https://technitium.com/tmac/
It is also possible to change the MAC address on your android phones. There are plenty of tutorials on-line how to do it.
Savings to be had: £50
Shopping and Sightseeing
20. Arrange your own excursions
This can be a bit of a gamble if you do not know the country. Research here is key. Plan where you will go before you get there.
I have a habit of playing it by ear and finding places to go visit when I get to wherever it may be.
Hotels will have lots of leaflets and advice as to what is good to visit, and they may have deals with local coach tours.
Savings to be had: £100
21. Duty Free Shopping
It used to the case that you could grab some real bargains when shopping in duty free even when travelling to European countries. Now there is no more duty free the EU.
If you are traveling to countries outside of the E.U you can get a refund on the local sales TAX from countries that participate in national tax-free schemes
Just keep all of your receipts and present them at the departure airport and you’ll get a refund by post.
Check out the site: globalblue.com.
Savings to be made: up to 20 per cent
22. Use shanks’ pony (Walk everywhere)
If you are going on a city break for example, Rome, Madrid, Venice, Paris it’s probably a good idea that you walk and forgo the taxi, this will save you lots and plus you will get to see more of the city which you would have missed sat in the back of a taxi.
Savings to be made: £10s
23. Buy a travel pass
If walking is not for you or the distances are just too far then purchase a travel card.
Prices vary from European city to European city but say a one-day travel pass in Paris will cost you around £10.
Savings to be made: £10s
24. Use your age to your advantage
If you are a student (Under 26) or over 65 you could get a discount. Many European cities give discounts for those over 65 and students. So, make sure to carry your I.D with you, like your passport or student cards (Just be careful not to lose them)
Savings to be made: £10s
25. Car hire pricing
When you look at hiring a car be sure to check the price comparison websites and check to see what the prices include. Car hire companies will attempt to show the lowest price possible by stripping away everything they can from the package.
When you book your car read the small print of what you need to have with you when you go to collect the car. Even though you may have paid for the car via your debit card they may expect a credit card to take a security deposit.
This has happened to me in the past and cost me the thick end of £250 to hire a car from another hire company there and then. Lesson learnt, but now I just avoid that car hire company like the plague.
Try to book a few months in advance and you don’t always need the biggest and flashiest car in the fleet
Savings to be made: £100s
26. Buy hire car insurance
Do not hire a car without taking out insurance. I have done it in the past and the gods have taken care of me. I am one of those lucky souls who could return just the steering wheel and not face any penalties, don’t know how but there we go.
Do not buy your car insurance from the car hire company since they will be putting their cut on top, your best bet is to take your insurance out with one of the following:
Savings to be made: £50
27. Take pictures of the car
Before you set off on your travels take pictures of the exterior of the car, the wheels, windows, interior and email them to yourself and the car hire company. There have been cases where the car hire company will try to pin the blame for damage to the car which was already there.
Savings to be made: £100’s and your sanity
28. Fill ‘er up
If you take the hire car with a full tank of fuel, they will expect the car to be returned with a full tank of fuel. This can be tricky since you must time the refuel before you get to the hire car drop off. This is where a good GPS comes in handy.
As with the previous point take pictures of the fuel gauge before you depart and when you drop off as evidence.
Savings to be made: £10 – 40
29. Choose a diesel car
This one is almost so obvious that is does not require listing but here it is
Diesel is cheaper and diesel cars use less of it.
Savings to be made: £50 (Depends on how far you drive)
30. Take the scenic routes
Avoid toll roads as much as possible, France and Italy are littered with them.
Plan your journeys using the D roads in France and in Italy only the Autostrade have tolls, use the Strade Statali (Blue symbols) and avoid the tolls. Just avoid the AUTOSTRADE marked with the green symbol.
Savings to be made: £10 up to £150 (Depends on how much you drive)
31. Study the country highway code.
I never drive in another country without studying their highway code. Some are stricter than others.
Take Switzerland for example, they have fantastic roads to throw your (hire) car about on but should you go over the speed limit you could lose your license, they don’t mess about those Swiss.
It is a good idea when hiring a car to see if it comes with cruise control or speed limiter to stop you from going over the limit.
Savings to be made: Your driving license
32. Avoid the minibar
This is common sense. I don’t know anyone who is rich enough, thirsty enough or daft enough to raid the mini bar.
This is where the snacks you bought from blighty will come in handy and of course the grub you can smuggle into the hotel from the local supermarket.
Savings to be made: £50 (Academic because no one ever uses the minibar)
33. Go out for breakfast
Unless you have booked your hotel to include breakfast, I would recommend that you take breakfast outside of the hotel in one of the local restaurants or cafes
If you do have breakfast in the hotel you might want to purloin a few choice snacks for lunch. I am terrible at reliving the breakfast buffet of so much as a raisin without looking as guilty as hell, whereas my wife could drag the entire table out of the breakfast hall without a hint of shame, and no one bats an eyelid.
Hotels understand that their guests are going to take food from breakfast hall to see them through the morning. It’s been going on since the dawn of time just don’t be too blatant about it.
Savings to be made: £20 to £40
34. Choose local wines
If you are a wine drinker (I am not) then order the house wine or the locally produced wine.
Savings to be made: £5
35. Order draught beer
Order draught rather than bottled beer. Always going to be cheaper and it will do the same job as bottled.
Savings to be made: 50% of the cost of bottled beer
36. Eat away from the tourist hotspots
Look for cafes and restaurants away from the tourist hot spots. They will always be cheaper. You can literally halve your bill for walking a few hundred meters
Savings to be made: 50%
37. Go easy on the tips
I always tip 10% unless the service is bad. Countries like Italy, Spain and France the service charge is generally included in the price of the meal.
France: servis compris
Italy: servizio incluso
Spain: servicio incluido
Savings to be made: 10% on each meal (Just don’t return)
38. Take the kitchen sink if you must
Many a time I have gone self-catering and the first day you re going to waste time looking for the local supermarket stocking up on the essentials.
What I now do is bring them with me.
Basically, enough to feed the family for the first day whilst I get my bearings. Plus, anything I don’t use I will bring it back home with me.
Savings to be made: £10 to £30
39. Getting the best exchange rate.
Personally, I never exchange much cash when I go abroad. I normally just take my credit card and pay off the balance at the end of each month. Also, I certainly never change money at the airport, this can be fairly expense to do.
You can use your debit card abroad to withdraw cash from the ATM’s but you may probably be charged so make as few as possible.
Savings to be made: £10 to £50, depending on how much money you intended to change.
40. Shop around for travel insurance
Shop around for good travel insurance and like car hire do not settle for the cheapest one.
Your bank may offer you travel insurance with your account also some major credit cards providers may also offer free travel insurance with their products.
If you travel often you may want to renew your cover each year.
Savings to be made: £20 to 30
.41. Carry your European Health Insurance Card
Never travel to Europe without one. The European Health Insurance Card shows that you are entitled to free or reduced-cost medical treatment in other EU countries (and will remain valid at least until we leave the EU (Whenever that might be)
Go to the official site, ehic.org.uk, the card is free. So, avoid any sites which attempt to charge you for the card.
Savings to be made: £10 to £100’s off your insurance.
42. Switch that mobile off
Switch it off and put it away, you are on holiday. Unless you are going to use it to take photos or use the maps feature then you don’t need it.
If you really need to be on-line then companies like Three, have a service called Feel At Home that offers unlimited browsing at no extra cost in destinations including the US.
There are currently no data roaming charges across the EU but whether data roaming charges return after October 31 will depend on the politicians.
Savings to be made: £10 to £100’s depends on your usage.
43. Get your vaccinations
Go to your GP to get your jabs if you need them. They will be cheaper, but some vaccinations are free on the NHS if they are for typhoid, check with your local NHS trust.
Get quotes from commercial travel clinics like MASTA (https://www.masta-travel-health.com/findaclinic) who will be able to advise you on health conditions and
Savings to be made: £100’s
Take some or all the advice on-board and you may find that you will not come back home with a massive hole in your credit card bill.