As summer draws nearer and your daily workload keeps piling up, you can’t help but fantasize about lying on a hot beach, sipping a cold cocktail, and listening to the waves crash on the shore. It’s a beautiful dream that all too often gets crushed by reality once you start calculating the expenses. Inevitably, this starts the staycation vs holiday abroad debate all over again, until it feels like the only way you’ll ever see another country again is if you decide to move there permanently. It doesn’t have to be this way.
With a few money saving hacks, you can get your dream holiday for a bargain. Here are a few tricks that will soon have you booked on a flight to paradise, without the nightmare bills waiting for you when you get home.
As with most big purchases, you first need to shop around to make sure you’re getting the best deal. It can help to be as open-minded as possible; sure, things like budget and passengers might be fixed, but if you’re open minded about the destination, and a little bit flexible on the dates, you could get your holiday at a significantly reduced rate. Comparison sites, high street travel agents and smaller firms are all worth checking before you buy a trip, change currency or purchase travel insurance. The more places you ask the more likely you’re to bag a bargain.
Travel off peak
Holiday prices skyrocket between June and August, and also around the spring and winter holidays, because this is when most people are going abroad with their families. Prices can fluctuate considerably depending on the month, day and even time of travel. Avoiding weekends can significantly reduce the price of your flight, so try to leave in the middle of the week instead of Friday if you can. Websites such as Skyscanner can help you compare flight prices across a whole month meaning you’ll be able to see the cheapest days to fly, and the cheapest destinations, saving you a potential packet.
Traveling to popular destinations off-season can also generate massive savings. If you can avoid it, don’t head to Australia for Christmas or to Spain just as school summer holidays begin. Much of Europe still has beautiful weather come September, but with kids back at school, flights will be cheaper and your destination a lot less crowded.
If you find it easy to nod off on the plane, then save yourself the cost of an extra night in a hotel by traveling overnight. You can book a late night flight to arrive first thing in the morning, or take a leisurely trip by train or ferry. Compare prices carefully, because this option isn’t always a money-saver.
Are you planning to spend most of your time on holiday exploring or lounging on the beach? If so, does it really matter if your hotel has a five star rating? As long as it has a bed, shower, and nearby amenities, you don’t need to blow your budget on a hotel with a spa and four star restaurant attached.
If you live in a reasonably desirable area, and are prepared to let others borrow your house, a home swap with like-minded holidaymakers abroad will guarantee huge savings. Find a reputable agency to help you, or look on Airbnb to see if anything grabs your fancy. Another option, if you have the funds for it, is to buy property in a desirable country, such as a marbella property in Costa del Sol, and use that for your holiday accommodation. It could even earn you extra money if you rent it out while you’re not using it. If you have a group of friends that you holiday with, you could all split the cost of a property, or of renting a villa by the seaside.
It’s important to note that all these options give you more flexibility and freedom than a hotel; no checkout times, no set breakfast hours, and no fighting for a pool seat.
While you’re shopping around, you might come across some package deals that include the cost of flights, hotels, and car rentals in the overall cost. Sometimes it also includes food and drink if you go all-inclusive. Although it’s a good idea to shop around and see if it’ cheaper to book everything separately, chances are you’ll still save more money if you book it all in one package. However, package holidays are less flexible than booking everything separately. If you don’t want to waste your money, you’ll have to go on tours, eat in your accommodation, and you’re usually restricted to a popular destination. While this is not a bad thing, it does limit your options, especially if you prefer to go to a less-visited city.
Do your research, and decide if a package or DIY holiday is best for you.
Keep an eye on your baggage
The charges for excess baggage are slowly rising, and you don’t want to deal with dropping some baggage weight when you’re at the airport. Whether you are travelling with hand baggage only or checking bags into the hold, be absolutely sure that they are below the size and weight restrictions imposed by the airline before you leave for the airport.
If you’re not a slave to time, then flying indirect can save you money on your flight. Not only is this a good option for your wallet, but if you have a few hours – and the airport isn’t in the middle of nowhere – you can take the time to explore a new city while you’re killing time.
Set up travel alerts
Many travel companies circulate special offers and price reductions by email, for which you have to sign up. No-frills airlines and railway companies announce the opening of booking periods in the same way. If you can commit yourself a long time in advance you will usually get the best fares, especially for peak periods.