So summer is nearly here… maybe? Either way, it’ll soon be time for that holiday. But how can you afford one? Yes, you can. Here’s how.
When to go
A lot of travel websites that advertise ‘last minute’ prices really don’t offer that much value. So if you can, plan and book in advance. Also, try to stay away from travel in the high season, especially during public and school holidays. Flying out Tuesday to Thursday and returning Sunday to Thursday tends to be cheaper, depending on your destination.
Where to go
Think of the less obvious destinations, provided you can find flights or other forms of transportation that don’t break the bank. The great news is that the UK, and particularly London, is probably one of the most expensive holiday destinations. So whatever you choose, it is likely to be cheaper. As long as you stay away from Scandinavia. [We’re told Transylvania is great value! – Ed].
That said, remember there are tourist traps everywhere in the world and you can get charged £10 for a cocktail in a beach hut that probably doubles as a chicken shed, but just happens to be in a popular location on a beach in Spain. A good giveaway is to look around and see if anyone there is speaking the local language. Tripadvisor and travel guides like Lonely Planet can often provide insightful recommendations and reviews, but if you’re not one to follow the herd, take them with a pinch of salt.
Where to stay
AirBnB and aparthotels are good options for self-catering and a great alternative to hostels if you’re uncomfortable about sharing your room or bathroom. Just really pore over those images to make sure it’s not all fairy lights and decorative pillows that are turning a cockroach pit into a “desirable commode”. Pay attention to the location and think about how you would be able to get around if you’re staying further out from the sites. Some parts of the world don’t run their transport system efficiently, requiring you to drive or hitch hike.
When booking a hotel, think about little things like wifi, breakfast, gym and pool facilities and airport transfers – are they included? These are the ways a hotel stay can add value. The other great thing about hotels is that they (mostly) have facilities to look after your luggage after check-out, whereas staying at somebody’s flat usually entails locking yourself out at checkout time and being on your merry way. Cue a frantic search for luggage storage or lugging your bag around for the rest of the day!
How to book
Research shows Friday is the most expensive day to book flights, while the best time to pick up a bargain is arguably between Saturday and Tuesday. Also watch out for hidden costs – whether you need to pay to check in a bag and whether the airline is sneakily trying to sell you add-ons you don’t really need. To avoid extra charges, pay for your flights with a debit card or use a website that doesn’t charge you for using a credit card. But also make sure to book everything through a trustworthy website – you don’t want to show up at the airport to discover no-one has ever heard of your booking.
…about insurance. If you are likely to make more than one trip a year, it could be useful to buy a multi-trip or annual deal. You can also look into bank accounts and credit cards that come with various free insurance options. Insurers also offer good rates for their existing clients, so if you already have home insurance, they may be able to cut you a deal.
Many people are also not aware of the free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) that can provide you with a safety net when falling ill during travel within Europe. The card entitles UK residents to free or reduced cost healthcare within the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland. However, remember that EHIC is not insurance against delayed flights and missing luggage.
Almost there, but…
…make sure your bag is not overweight. Certain airlines may let you get away with an extra kilo, but best not to risk it either way.
Now you’re all set. Don’t forget your toothbrush!