When it comes to holidaying abroad, most of us think package deals are the way to go. They’re easy to book and you’re entitled to a refund — or, if you’re already on holiday, to alternative accommodation and flights home — if your travel agency goes bust. And best of all, Which? found they can be up to £700 per person cheaper compared to DIY holidays.
But did you know you could make even bigger savings with a few simple tricks?
The longer you wait, the better the discount
Package holidays tend to get cheaper the later you book. Tour operators typically charter flights and book hotel rooms in advance, which means they stand to lose money if they don’t sell enough spots. So, as the departure date looms, they’ll often cut prices to make their deals more enticing.
According to Money Saving Expert, you’ll start seeing discounts and special offers about 8 to 10 weeks before the departure date. But, if you’re happy to travel just about anywhere (as long as you can soak up some Sun, of course) and your travel dates are flexible, you could save more by leaving it even later.
Booking early can save you money, too
Are you the kind of person who likes to plan out everything well in advance? You may still be able to bag a bargain by booking extra early.
Many tour operators offer early bird discounts and special offers to encourage those all-important first few bookings. Sign up to a few tour operators’ newsletters or set up a Google Alert and you’ll be the first to know when these offers come out.
Booking early is probably the way to go if you have special requirements, for example because you’re traveling with young children. Many operators offer limited free kids’ places for every two adults that book early.
Are All-inclusive deals the way to go?
All-inclusive deals — deals that include your flight, hotel accommodation, meals, drinks and snacks and, sometimes, airport transfers — may seem like the best value. But according to Which?, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes it’s worth booking on half-board, bed and breakfast or even DIY.
Here are some things to consider:
● Location, location, location
If you’re staying somewhere with easy access to local amenities, it may work out cheaper to eat out at local spots. Look up your destination’s cost of living on Numbeo or ask for advice on the TripAdvisor forums.
But if you’re traveling somewhere with limited access to local bars and restaurants, like a remote resort in the Bahamas, you’re probably better off going all-inclusive.
● What’s NOT included
Just because a deal’s all-inclusive, it doesn’t mean everything will be free. Some items will probably only be available as expensive upgrades. And some will not be included at all.
It’s worth going through the travel brochure’s fine print and crunching the numbers to see whether you’ll actually benefit from an all-inclusive deal. There’s no point paying extra for free drinks If you’re very particular about your beer but only the local brew is free.
● How important is flexibility?
Are you happy at the prospect of going to the hotel for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time every day?
All-inclusive packages usually mean being tied down to a set schedule. Plus, there’s usually a curfew for free drinks. This may be a deal-breaker if you’d rather spend your day out and about.
Shopping around pays off
Tour operators often sell the same package through different travel agencies at different prices. So if you find a holiday you really fancy but it’s too expensive, keep looking. You might be able to find it cheaper elsewhere.
Websites such as TravelSupermarket and IceLolly cover most major tour operators. As a plus, many travel agents offer a price-match guarantee. So, if you do find a cheap deal but aren’t sure about the quality of the service, it’s worth asking an agency you trust whether they’ll match it.
Money Saving Expert reckons you can get at least 5% off this way.
Watch out for traps
Does a package seem too good to be true? Sadly, there might be a catch (or several).
Things to look out for include:
● Baggage restrictions
Most package holidays use charter flights, and these may have different baggage restrictions to what you’re used to. Make sure you check beforehand, as excess baggage fees can make a huge dent in your holiday budget.
● The distance from the airport to the hotel
This is especially important if airport transfers aren’t included in the deal. The further away the hotel is from the airport, the more you’ll have to pay, especially if a taxi is the only way to get there.
● The hotel’s location
Is it far from the main sights? And how easy is it to reach them? You’ll need to budget extra for transport costs. Plus, don’t forget to factor in how much time you’ll have to travel to get to and from the hotel.
● Online booking scams
Online scams are on the increase, with victims losing £1,200 on average. So it’s important to be extra vigilant. Red flags include rock bottom prices, low-fi or blurry trade association logos and websites that only let you pay by bank transfer. Read this article for more info on avoiding them.
All set. Fasten your seatbelts!
If you follow these tips, you should be en route to snatching a great holiday deal. Now, you just need to pack your bags, jet off and soak up some Vitamin D.