7 min read

Top tips on paying less for your big holiday

Felicity Hannah
31 January 2018

Do more and spend less on your summer holidays with these money-saving hacks.

Summer is fast-approaching and after the teasing taste of sun we enjoyed a few weeks ago, we don't know about you, but we are craving a holiday.

Whether you're looking for a cultured city-break, a fun-filled family escape, or relaxing beach holiday, here are some tips and tricks to help you pay less for your travel and enjoy a holiday that doesn’t break the bank.

Book soon

While you may be able to find some last-minute bargains, you're more likely to get the exact holiday you want for a good price, if you book earlier. If you have a specific destination in mind or you want to book during the school holidays then it’s a great idea to book early. You’ll have more choice, which means you won’t have to accept the first price you see.

It also means you can take advantage of early booking deals, for example, several of the larger holiday companies currently have ‘kids go free’ deals to encourage early bookings.

Booking early also means you can get your other bookings sorted, like your airport parking, car hire or any day trips, early on. That allows you to take advantage of their early bird discounts too, saving even more money. The website MoneySavingExpert says that booking car hire early can make a big difference to price. Booking ahead can mean you pay £5 a day or less, compared to £27 a day just before, and more when there.

Go off the beaten track

If you’re not set on a particular holiday hotspot and you just want sun and sea, then it could be worth going to a destination that’s fallen from popularity.

For example, the comparison site TravelSuperMarket says that demand has fallen for holidays in Barcelona, with searches down 62% compared to the year before. Nearby Costa Brava and Costa Dorada have also seen a fall in bookings and there are week-long summer packages there for as little as £108 each.

And by being flexible on where you go, you can really find a great deal.

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Find a good value flight

If you’re booking a package deal then checking different dates, flight times and even departure airports can make a huge difference to the price.

But if you’re booking the flights yourself then a little extra work can make an even bigger difference. Here are a few quick tips on finding cheap flights:

  • Catch early morning flights. If it’s a hellishly early and unpopular hour then fewer people will want to fly, meaning demand won’t push the price up.

  • Subscribe to your airline of choice. By signing up for newsletters and following them on social media, you will be the first to hear about cheap flight offers and new destinations.

  • Remember the headline price is not the final price, factor taxes, surcharges and any luggage costs, booking fees and seat reservation charges into your sums.

  • Don’t assume booking direct is cheapest, often it can be cheaper to book via an online travel agency. You can compare prices and find great deals using websites and apps like Kayak, Google Flights, Momondo and Skyscanner. You can even set up price alerts so you can snap up the cheapest flights as soon as they come available.

  • Connections can make travel cheaper. If you want to travel direct then you’ll probably pay more. However, if you’re willing to take a couple of different flights then it will often be cheaper. Comparing flights online should help with this.

Turn on private browsing when you search for your flights

Speaking of getting a good value flight, don’t let your browsing cost you money. Many of us visit and revisit the same flight details as we try to work out which one is cheapest or most convenient.

If an airline can record your searches then there’s a risk they will increase the price when you finally come to pay because they know you really, really want that flight. Either turn on private browsing or delete your cookies before you book.

Compare hotel prices too

If you’re booking your break yourself rather than a package then, just as with flights, you can save a lot by doing a little extra work.

Once you’ve chosen a hotel or destination, it’s worth looking at the room via comparison sites such as Trivago, TripAdvisor and TravelSuperMarket, to see if you can find a lower cost.

Take out travel insurance straight away

Far too many of us don’t buy travel insurance until the holiday is nearly here, but that means you’re not getting the full value. By taking out a policy as soon as you’ve booked your break, you immediately protect your plans.

That way, if something happens before you leave that disrupts them then you are covered.

And don’t think about saving cash by relying solely on your European Health Insurance Card or just winging it. Insurance is not terribly expensive unless you have more complex health needs but the cost of being helicoptered off a mountain could really put an unwelcome dent in your purse.

Earn cashback on your booking

Cashback websites like Quidco and TopCashback earn money if you book via their websites and they pay a portion of that money straight back to you. By booking your travel through one of these sites you can easily earn tens of pounds back on your payment.

There’s no charge for doing so and so there’s no reason not to.

Don’t spend more than you can afford

Look, there’s a lot of pressure on people to blow a small fortune on a ‘holiday of a lifetime’, especially if you have children. But new research from Admiral Loans has shown that more than half of us feel pressured into taking a holiday, by society and family. And 15% spend more than a year paying off their ‘dream holiday’.

So, without wishing to sound terribly twee, remember that it’s the people you go with that makes a holiday really special, not the destination. Only spend what you can genuinely afford and, if you do use credit, make sure you have a clear plan for paying it off.

by Felicity Hannah

Felicity is an award-winning consumer journalist. She's worked with some of the biggest media outlets in the UK, including The Guardian, the Independent On Sunday, Yahoo Finance and Sky News. Felicity has written this article especially for ClearScore.

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