Written by: Cally Worden
Winter gloom is enough to prompt many of us to start thinking about our summer holidays. But as with any big expense, it pays to do your homework before parting with your cash. Avoid being drawn-in by mesmerising images of sun-kissed beaches and keep a focus on the numbers. There is plenty of time ahead to lose yourself in dreams of vacation bliss. Here are some tips and tricks to help keep the cost of your holiday down, leaving you more cash to spend on flip flops and sangria.
The huge benefit of the package deal is that you get all your travel and accommodation arrangements sorted at once. But be aware that you may pay a premium for this, or that a cheap deal is so cheap because the flights are at unsociable times, from inaccessible airports and your accommodation may be at best basic.
Package deals are, however, recognised to be one of the very cheapest ways to travel to certain popular destinations in the Med and to resorts in the US. It can be hard to beat these types of deals, but do shop around if you’re not fussed about your precise destination. Less popular resorts are often cheaper and you can snag some stunning cut-price deals if you are prepared to book early.
Travel agents will often price-match for you too, so if you have a preferred provider then shop around before you approach them for a deal.
If you are prepared to spend some time seeking out the best deals, you can create a unique holiday that suits your needs at a very reasonable price. Here’s how:
Use the Right Sites for Flights
Price comparison sites can lull you into imagining they have done the leg-work for you. While that may be true in some cases, it’s important to remember that comparison sites are not infallible. Using the right ones for the right bits of your holiday is key:
- Scheduled Flights – last minute deals are severely limited, so booking in advance is best. Good sites to use are Skyscanner, Kayak and Travel Supermarket
- Charter Flights – these flights are laid on to cater specifically for the holiday package market. The majority of places are taken by holidaymakers on package deals, but there is often spare seating capacity. Check out Travel Supermarket, Avro Flights and Flights Direct for seat-only deals, or compare the price of a package deal with that of a scheduled flight – it may be that booking a whole package works out cheaper, even if you don’t plan to use the accommodation
- For the Flexible Traveller – if you don’t mind when you travel there are some real bargains to be had. Budget airlines make headlines by promoting ¬£1 flights, but in reality these are few and far between unless you are a totally free agent on your travel dates and destinations. Use the FlightChecker website to see the best deals from more than 10 budget airlines at once
Book Hotels Direct
Hotel comparison sites offer a great chance to discover accommodation that is tailored to your specific needs, in a style and location of your choosing. Try Expedia, Opodo and Travelocity for some great deals. Once you’ve narrowed down your choice to one or two hotels, always surf a little further to see if you can secure an even better deal elsewhere before you book. This may take a little time, but can pay huge dividends. I saved 35% on the price of Paris hotel by doing this last Autumn.
Other Money Saving Tips
- Buy into free-flight offers – you may be required to sign-up for a credit card to benefit, for example, but there is nothing to stop you jumping through the specific hoops of a deal and then legally cancelling out of your obligations later on
- Use EasyJet’s Flexifares option – savvy travellers can book flights close to their desired dates and then may be able to use this EasyJet tool to change their flight dates later at no extra costs. Check out the constraints to be sure you don’t get caught out, but many families have been able to snag cheaper school holiday flights in this way
- Check out niche travel agencies – providers have been springing-up across the UK to cater for the increasing demands of ethic travellers to certain parts of the world. There are often great deals to be had from these niche market providers, especially to destinations such as the Caribbean, China and Israel
On a final note, always try to ensure your package providers are ABTA and ATOL registered to offer you the best protection if the company gets into difficulties. Be aware that booking individual elements of your holiday from various providers may mean you lose this kind of protection – always ask your provider what compensation is available in the event of problems with their business.