Planning a break? How to save money on your holiday

Many of us dream of sunnier climes during these cold winter months and start planning our summer holidays, but when you’re feeling the pinch, options can seem limited.

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to keep holiday costs down. Here are some top tips to help you plan a trip away which won’t break the bank.

Don’t buy your holiday money at the airport

If you’re going overseas, never leave buying your foreign currency until you reach the airport as it will invariably cost you a lot more than buying it in advance. Despite advertising 0% commission, bureaux de change at the airport or train stations nearly always offer dreadful rates, marking up their exchange rate to include fees.

One of the easiest ways to find the best deal on your foreign currency is to use the Travelmoneymax tool, which is part of Moneysavingexpert.com. This enables you to compare rates from around 40 online bureaux and, once you’ve found a deal you like, to order your currency. Many of them will still allow you to pick up your currency from the airport for ease, but simply by booking online a few days in advance you could make big savings.

Rent out your home to pay for your holiday

If your home is going to be sitting empty while you’re on holiday, why not use it to help pay for your break? Websites such as Holiday Lettings, part of the Trip Advisor group, allow you to advertise your home for just a few weeks a year if you want to. The site takes 3% of any bookings you receive, plus VAT. Alternatively, you could let out some or all of your home via Airbnb, which also typically takes a fee of 3% of the amount you’re charging.

Bear in mind that if you have a mortgage on your home, you’ll need to let your lender know that you’re letting it out while you’re away, and they may not agree to this. You should also let your home insurer know, as they may charge an additional premium. Remember too that tax may be payable on any income you receive from letting out your property.

Consider staying in the UK

A staycation is likely to set you back considerably less than heading overseas, so can be a great idea if you’re on a tight budget. Not only will you save on airfares, but you’ll be helping the environment too. You don’t have to head miles from home either – often there’s lots to explore in your local area, along with interesting places to visit that you’ve never actually been to, even though they’re on your doorstep. According to VisitBritain.com, which has lots of information on popular UK holiday destinations, domestic tourism accounts for almost 80% of all tourism activity in the UK.

Separate research by Hodge Bank found that the Lake District is the most popular choice for a UK break with more than a third of holidaymakers saying it’s their top option when booking a staycation. Cornwall comes in at second place, with its neighbour Devon taking third place, closely followed by London and the Yorkshire Dales.

Book flights on the right day

If you can stretch your budget and want to head overseas this summer, pick the day you fly carefully. According to global travel booking site Skyscanner Friday is the cheapest day of the week to fly out of the UK and Tuesday is the most expensive. If you’re deciding when it’s best to book flights, Skyscanner’s data shows that Wednesday is the best day of the week to go online and book a bargain flight, whilst Monday is the most expensive.

Arrange a house swap

Swapping your home with someone else means you’ll only have to cover travel costs. Home swap websites include Home Base Holidays and Love Home Swap. Home Base Holidays charges £29 for a six month online listing, or £49 for two years, but you can sign up for a free two week trial before committing to either of these options. Love Home Swap also offers a free two-week introductory trial, after which membership starts from £8 a month.

You don’t have to clear all your personal possessions away before you swap homes. As long as you free up a bit of wardrobe and drawer space and a kitchen cupboard or two, you should be able to leave everything else where it is, making sure of course that you’ve locked away any valuables you have. Let your home insurer know too that you’re planning a house swap, just so you can be certain you’re covered while you’re away.

Shop around for travel cover

Cover for older travellers can be expensive, so it’s essential to shop around and compare quotes from a wide range of different providers before buying. According to recent research by consumer association Which? a typical 15-day travel insurance premium leaps from £30 for a 64-year-old to move than £60 for someone aged 70, even if they have no health issues to declare. The easiest way to compare travel policies and find inexpensive cover is to use comparison sites such as MoneySuperMarket.com or Comparethemarket.com. Check cover limits carefully though to make sure you have enough protection and buy cover as soon as you book your holiday rather than leaving it until just before your trip, so you’ll have peace of mind your costs will be covered if you have to cancel your holiday.

Don’t restrict yourself to hotels

It can be much more cost-effective to use a site like Airbnb to book accommodation rather than staying in a hotel. For example, when we checked we found a week for two people in a one-bed annexe in popular UK holiday destination Polzeath, Cornwall, from 4-11 July this year for £566 on Airbnb. In contrast, the cheapest hotel we could find in this location based on the same dates on Booking.com cost £1,010 for two people (with breakfast included) – almost double the cost of the Airbnb accommodation.

Book holidays during school term time

Many tour operators massively ramp up their prices during school holidays, so if you’re able to book your holiday during term time, this can help keep costs right down. For example, when we looked, a one-week break for two adults at the Center Parcs Whinfell Forest site in Cumbria cost from £688 if you booked to go from 12-19 June, but this would rocket to £908 if you booked a week from 31 July to 7 August – a difference of more than £200. You can find out when schools in your local area are on holidays using the Gov.uk school term holiday dates tool.

Take as little luggage as possible

Many airlines whack on hefty charges for each suitcase you bring on holiday, so if you are able to reduce the amount you take with you, or restrict yourself to one suitcase between two of you if you’re going away as a couple, it could help keep your holiday bills down. If you’re worried about exceeding the weight allowance if you’re sharing a bag, wear your heaviest clothes and biggest shoes as this could help you stay under the weight limit.

Use the right kind of plastic

Lots of people prefer to pay by plastic rather than cash when they’re on holiday, but watch out for hefty fees and charges if you use the wrong card. Lots of debit and credit cards charge a ‘non-sterling transaction fee’ when you use them abroad which can be as much as 3% of the amount you’re spending. If you withdraw cash you might also have to pay a 3% charge, or a minimum charge of £3.

The good news is there are several travel credit cards which can help you keep costs right down and benefit from competitive exchange rates. The Halifax Clarity card, for example doesn’t have any exchange fees either when you spend or withdraw cash abroad, and you’ll only be charged interest if you don’t repay what you owe in full. Similarly, the Santander Zero card also allows you to spend overseas without being hit by any fees. Again, you won’t be charged interest on spending abroad provided you repay what you owe in full each month.

Check flight and hotel comparison sites

Don’t book your holiday without checking different flight and hotel comparison sites so you can be certain you’ve found the best deal at the best price.

Flight comparison sites include Skyscanner.net, Kayak.co.uk, Cheapflights.co.uk and Momondo.co.uk. You simply enter where you want to go and when, and from which airport, and these sites will come up with different options available to you. You can then click on the deal you want and go directly to the airline’s site where you can book the flight you’ve chosen.

Sites which enable you to compare accommodation costs at your chosen holiday destination include Triavago.co.uk which works with numerous booking sites worldwide, covering more than 2.5m hotels and other types of accommodation across approximately 190 countries. Similarly, Booking.com offers more than 28m accommodation listings, including over 6.2m listings alone of homes, apartments and other unique places to stay.

Do you have any tips on how to keep holiday costs to a minimum? If so, we’d love to hear from you. You can get in touch via [email protected] or share them on the Rest Less Community forum.

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