Why do I need money-saving holiday tips you may ask…
Want the ultimate guide to getting a cheap holiday?
Or are you looking for the best way to find a cheap flight?
Being careful with your pennies doesn’t mean you need to skip that trip away – if you’re clever you can treat yourself to a holiday without forking out the big bucks.
There are many different ways to get cheap travel – and we’ve collected 50 of the best for you.
So here are the 50 money-saving holiday tips that can save you pots of money in Britain or abroad.
Got any tips of your own? Let everyone know in the comments section at the end of the article.
- General money-saving travel advice
- Getting to your destination for less
- A place to rest your head that won’t break your wallet
- Managing your money on holiday
- Food, phones, photos and duty free
- And why not..
This is our flight comparison tool from Skyscanner – it’s very easy to use and is the perfect way to finding a cheap flight.
Just enter the destinations you want to fly between, the dates on which you would like to fly, and the number of people who are flying.
1. Book early
It cannot be said too many times; if you want cheaper flights with the major airlines, especially long-haul, then you should try and get in as early as possible.
Over a matter of weeks or sometimes days, prices can change immensely. Planes, trains and buses all have a quota of seats they will sell for the lowest price and then prices just increase.
According to holiday comparison site Momondo, the optimum number of days before your holiday that you should book, depends on your destination.
On the whole, they say 56 days in advance is generally the best time to book. But if you’re thinking of going to Paris for Feb 14th 2017 then it’s best to book theoretically on 16th December (60 days ahead).
Or if you are going to New York for Feb 14th 2017, then it’s best to book theoretically on 27th January (18 days ahead).
For. a summer holiday, if you flew say on 1st August, then they suggest you book flights generally 56 days in advance – so on 6th June.
2. Embrace the internet
These days, the price of online deals usually beats those available on the high street or over the phone. Whether you’re putting together a holiday yourself or getting a package, it’s easy to find the best deals if you know the best websites.
Flightmapping can tell you exactly which airlines fly between where you are and where you want to go – plus all the possible prices for your journey.
If you’re booking a family holiday to a Disney resort, check out Mousesavers. Their site, although aimed at an American audience, list deals and money saving tips for all of Disney’s resorts. So don’t let Disney take the mickey and check out Mousesavers now.
3. Visit cheaper countries
If you want to cross the channel take into account the strength of the pound against the currency of your destination, as well as the average cost of living, when planning a holiday.
4. know about Public holidays in other countries
Many countries have their own public holidays and (just like in Britain) these are peak periods for travel.
Hotels, flights, buses and trains will all be more expensive and will book up quicker than at other times. Plan ahead to make sure you don’t get caught out!!
Public holidays may also mean shops are closed so make sure you don’t get stranded without food.
5. Haggle with tour operators
It’s tough out there for travel agents – they have to compete with the internet. So use this to your advantage.
Do some research into prices first and then challenge them to create you a package that includes a serious discount.
Many of them can rise to it and save you some serious cash.
6. Package holiday or individually tailored?
Package holidays are great when you are going to resort destinations or big festivals where thousands of people flock annually. You get accommodation and coaches organised for you and in some cases visas.
To get in and out of Munich during Oktoberfest, getting to Gallipoli for Anzac Day or going through Russia (where you need special tourist visas to step foot over the border) are all examples where a package would make life that little bit easier for you.
Otherwise planning your own trip is a lot better because you can pick and choose exactly what you want to do and where to go.
7. Sign up for special travel offers
Take advantage of promotional offers from flight companies when they send you advertising. You could come across some really good deals.
Get a separate free email address to handle newsletters that could clog up your normal inbox, and then sign up for newsletters with travel sites such as Travelbag, Trailfinders, Expedia and Accor Hotels.
8. make sure you have an ehic card
The EHIC card is very helpful if you’re travelling in Europe. It entitles you to free medical care that is on offer to local people.
However, do be aware that it doesn’t replace travel insurance. Many countries will still charge you for some medical procedures, and even fees for staying in hospital or being picked up by an ambulance, so you need travel insurance to cover those sort of things.
9. Get yourself an ISIC if you’re a student
If you are studying, the International Student Identity Card (ISIC) and the International Youth Travel Card (IYTC) for under-26s can give you thousands of discounts in the UK and around the world.
10. Find the best websites for saving money on your travel
If you are a serious traveller, and certainly if you are serious about making the very most of your money when you go away, you should make the most of all the best websites (including our own of course) which help you save money travelling.
Whether it’s getting the cheapest deal when traveling abroad or top tips on how to save money abroad, you take full advantage of the best websites out there.
11. Avoid excess baggage
One sure-fire way to put a downer on your holiday is to find yourself forking out to your airline for excess baggage charges.
To avoid this, always be sure to pack light.
Buy a light suitcase (you’d be amazed how heavy some can be), and remember, the amount of stuff you take away is never going to be the same as the amount that you bring back. If you plan on hitting the shops for a few souvenirs, make sure you have space for them.
It’s amazing how much you can fit into a carry-on suitcase, even the ones allowed by Easyjet and Ryanair. Work on creating a capsule set of clothes that you can mix and match while away. Also,decant shampoo, creams or other liquids into small plastic bottles. The air travel rules say that each liquid you carry must be in its own container of no more than 100ml (3.4 ounces).
If you’re going somewhere that is great for clothes shopping (New York for example) you could leave some clothes at home, and do your summer shopping while on holiday.
12. Plane, train or automobile?
When planning your trip, you need to strike a balance between how much comfort you want to travel in and your budget.
For example, you can take the train to Oxford tomorrow for £45 (at peak times), but it only costs £15 to go by coach in the same amount of time. The Eurostar is not always cheaper than the plane, but once you factor in the spend on airport transfers it can work out around the same. Consider when you need to arrive, and work out whether you’re able to travel off peak to save a bundle of money but still get there on time.
Even if you have decided that, say, train is the way to travel, it still pays to shop around. You could just go to nationalrailenquiries.co.uk, but you may be able to get a cheaper deal through Trainline. Booking through a call centre may also be cheaper than doing it online.
For trips across the UK it may also be worth checking out Megatrain, essentially an extension of Megabus. Rather than have their own fleet, they arrange for seats on trains by other network providers so spaces are often limited and go very quickly. But if you get there early, you can travel for as little as £1. And remember, using the train for a holiday is not limited to taking the Eurostar: check out Rail Europe for using the trains to get around once you are on the continent.
bus and coach
The bus is an increasingly thrifty alternative to the train or plane, especially now that the prices offered by Megabus has forced other bus companies, notably National Express, to offer more competitive fares to destinations across the UK. What’s more, National Express also own Eurolines, which is a network of coach companies from across Europe, meaning you can take the bus to anywhere on the continent. And remember, always to be sure to check for any special offers!
could a plane be cheaper?
To see which could be cheaper – bus, train, plane or hire car – check out GoEuro’s comparison tables.
watch your cookies
If you’re looking at a particular train or plane journey online, make sure you clear your cookies or even use a different computer when you come to buy.
A lot of companies sneakily watch your browsing history and if they see that you are very keen on a particular journey they sometimes put the price up because they know you’re likely to buy. It’s a cheek and the best way to combat it is to buy the ticket is after deleting your cookies (or using Incognito Mode on Google Chrome.)
13. Travel during unsociable hours
Off-peak travel such as early morning, late nights, mid week, and avoiding school holidays, are generally cheaper than those that are during normal waking hours.
Drag yourself out of bed at two in the morning to catch a 4am flight (or sleep overnight at the airport – a lot of people do it!)
14. Beware the budget airlines
Budget airlines can offer seemingly low fares by charging you for every extra imaginable, so that flight advertised as costing 1p or even as free never will be. It’s a disgrace, but that’s how they work.
So don’t get caught out – always be sure what exactly the fare includes and what hidden costs will be involved in your travel. Things to look out for include
- booking costs,
- credit card fees,
- insurance, air passenger duty,
- carbon off-setting,
- baggage check-in fees
- and on-plane meals.
Plus, many of the cheap airlines fly to out-of-the-way airports where you have to travel an hour to get to the main city, so add on another amount for transport costs.
If you still want to squish yourself onto a flight with a budget airline, here are a few other tips.
- If you book online, be sure to tick the box that says you will check-in online: that’ll save you money on check-in fees
- Take a small suitcase that will fit as carry on luggage, that way you won’t be charged baggage check-in fees;
- Pack yourself a few nibbles or a sandwich for a longer flight to save £2-10 on buying food on the plane.
15. Look out for overbooked flights
Many ferry companies, bus companies and particularly airlines will routinely overbook: i.e. they will sell more tickets than they have seats available.
They do this as they can always be reasonably confident that a certain number of people won’t turn up, for example business travellers whose plans are often subject to change at the last minute. If that doesn’t happen, and everyone with a ticket turns up, clearly not everyone can travel.
To get round this, the airline will usually offer some pretty good incentives if you want to travel at a later date: you can get free flights another time, or get upgraded to first-class on a later flight or be offered plain hard cash. So if you’re flexible with your travel plans and fancy a few added extras, listen out to see if an ‘overbooked’ call goes out next time you are queuing for check in.
16. Travel outside of school holidays (…if you don’t have kids)
Travel, hotels and holiday packages are significantly cheaper outside of school holiday dates. If you possibly can, travel during these times.
If you don’t have children and you’re wondering when the holidays are look at you can find a list of dates on DirectGov. If you can’t do this,you could try to book mid-week flights or departures at anti-social hours – they are usually cheaper.
17. Consider alternative transport
If you plan to travel to and around continental Europe you could consider taking the train.
The European rail network is so efficient and cheap that it offers a real alternative to flying. Use the clever Momondo website and you can compare flights and train journeys simultaneously to see which is the cheapest to your chosen destination.
It may also be worth looking at Rail.cc to check time and pass train tickets/passes across Europe.
18. Travel Britain using a railcard
Two out of three Britons qualify for a travelcard. Mature students and 16-25-year-olds can get a third off all rail fares across Britain with a 16-25’s railcard.
The senior’s railcard will take a third off rail fares for those over 60; and for groups travelling with children make sure you have a family and friends railcard.
You can also now get the Two Together Railcard. This allows two named people to get a third-off when they travel together. It’s ideally suited for couples, but you can use it with whoever you travel most with, so you can even get one with a best friend.
19. Share journeys
By sharing a journey with a stranger you save money, reduce CO2 and even make a new contact or friend.
20. Use your credit card to get a free flight
If you pay off your credit card each month some will reward you with cashback, points or airmiles. These are a great incentive to stay out of the red and treat yourself to a holiday.
Read more about credit cards with rewards and check out the Virgin Atlantic White Card which offers 3,000 Flying Club miles with your first purchase, then 1 mile for every £1 spent.
21. Know your flight rights
New regulations mean airlines should compensate passengers affected by delayed or cancelled flights.
The law applies if you have a confirmed reservation and check-in time for your flight, and depart from an EU airport, or one that has its headquarters within the EU. The airline must offer you (if appropriate) meals and accommodation, two free phone calls or emails, and compensation according to the distance you were supposed to travel.
For journeys up to 932 miles you get £180, from 932-2174 miles you get £287 and for flights over 2174 miles you should receive £430 in compensation.
22. Drive gently to save petrol
It goes without saying that you must drive carefully anyway, but be aware that stopping and starting often and zooming along the motorway will not help you financially as you’ll use more fuel.
Plan your trip and where you are going to stop for petrol so you don’t pay huge prices.
When purchasing train tickets it can sometimes work out cheaper to buy two single tickets rather than one return ticket.
You may also be able to get a better deal by talking to the phone booking centres and having a look online as sometimes the prices can be different. Prices can also vary on the exact same website as well, so buyer beware.
24. Train compensations
If your train is delayed or cancelled and the problem was down to the train company, then you have the right to claim a full refund for day tickets if it made you miss your intended train. If you arrive more than an hour late at your intended destination station you are able to claim at least a 10% refund.
You will need to keep your ticket as evidence, but you can claim other expenses such as a taxi to complete your journey (as long as you keep the receipt). You can claim refunds at the station, by writing to the train-operating company or by using one of their complaint forms. The independent national rail watchdog Passengerfocus can help rail passengers get the best deal.
25. Park for cheap
People who live near, say, Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted airports offer their driveways for much less than the airport parking.
It’s also a great money maker if you have a driveway.
26. Only take out the amount of money you’ll need
According to research from Skrill, UK holidaymakers return home with an average of £27.93 each year in leftover foreign currency.
This means tourists have been stockpiling more than £1.3 billion in foreign currency since their last holiday abroad, and more than a quarter never use it again.
So try to keep the cash down and when you come home, either deposit it in your bank account (for ease) or give it to charity if it’s just small denominations.
27. Hotels for dummies
If you find the trip you want, be sure to have a look on cashback sites such as Quidco to see if you can book through one of those.
28. Try a house-swapping holiday
If you have a family and need a big space (not just a couch) then you can swap houses with anyone in the world. It’s usually for 2-4 weeks and cars are included. No money swaps hands. People post descriptions of their house and facilities, their exchange destination and how many people they would bring to stay in your house. You can become a house swapper with Home Exchange and Intervac.
If you don’t have a home to swap, try couchsurfing. Couchsurfing is a great way to meet new people and have a ‘local’ experience rather than a tourist experience. You choose who to stay with and they give you a bed to sleep in. They also often tell you the best places and take you out to see the sites. It’s great fun for an individual traveller, and you could potentially spend six months travelling Europe without having to pay for accommodation. Of course, you can then repay the gestures and sign up as a host yourself. Other sites like this include globalfreeloaders and Hospitality club.
29. Snuggle into a hostel
Forego the flash hotels with free towel and mint on the pillow, and join the throng of travellers banding together in a dorm room in a hostel.
Depending on your preferences and how many there are in your group you can stay in rooms with anything from two beds to 16 beds. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s lots of fun because you get to meet many people just like you.
Hostels are a lot nicer than they used to be, and sometimes can resemble a three-star hotel. Some offer breakfast and they all have reasonable facilities (such as free Wifi or cheap-to-use internet) to help you get by during your stay.
Book with Hostelling International, Hostelworld or Hostel Bookers. These sites have extremely helpful reviews of all the hostels from people who have stayed there so you can easily check each hostel’s reputation before you book.
30. Happy Camping
The biggest cost for any holiday is usually accommodation. What’s more, it’s one you can’t avoid.
If you want budget accommodation without hostel grunge, campsites can be a great option, especially for families and large groups. And it’s not necessarily just a case of pitching your own tent in a field either; companies like Eurocamp run sites with loads of amenities, you can have a choice of accommodation from a basic tent up to a plush motorhome and they can work out at less than £10 per person per night.
31. Stay with strangers
Thanks to the internet it’s now possible to stay really cheaply in people’s homes. A cut above Couchsurfing is renting someone’s spare room for a short time.
Airbnb is a great site to find cheap places to stay in quite expensive cities. We think it’s the way to go, particularly if you want to stay somewhere for a week or more. The price of a hotel room or serviced apartment can really rack-up, but if you’re staying in someone’s home you could have access to the kitchen to make your own food and it’s a fraction of the cost of a hotel.
32. Change money before you go
Avoid changing money at airports. ATMs and currency exchange facilities are not there for your convenience, but to take your money by giving you bad rates because you were too lazy to organise your money beforehand.
Load your holiday budget onto a prepaid card – This provides extra security as you are not carrying cash and offers more control because you only spend what you load.
Look for prepaid cards that offer the best fixed FX rates and low fees and you won’t be left with any nasty surprises after your holiday ends.
33. Get the best exchange rate you can
When you’re changing money ‘commission-free’ does not mean profit free. There will be deals that are better than others both on the high street and online.
However, do try a few to see which offer the best price and the best service for you.
34. Keep track of your cash
It can be difficult to remember how much foreign money converts to. Take a currency converter with you, or some basic figures on the back of an envelope, so that you know how much you’re really spending.
If you’re really ill-disciplined then just take cash with you. You can have an emergency credit card with a low credit limit (to avoid temptation) but make sure you never use it, unless it genuinely is an emergency.
Only use the cash for the entire holiday. It’s much easier to budget when you can see the money physically going out of your wallet.
35. Take the right credit card
Take a pre-paid credit card to avoid fraudsters and make sure you stick to your budget. You just load the card up with the amount of cash you want to spend on your holiday. There is no way to borrow on it, which will stop you spending over your limit. You pay in the normal way you would use your regular debit or credit card, but fraudsters don’t have access to your bank details.
If you must use your debit card, do it only once – Many debit cards will charge you a small fee when you use them abroad. If you are intending to use a debit card abroad, be aware each time you do, it could cost you more than you think. If you use it, use it for something big rather than for smaller transactions to make sure you get your money’s worth from the charge you will receive.
36. Get the right travel cover
Insurance policies for travel can range between £15-150. If you have more than two holidays a year, you are better off getting annual cover. But you might need even more expensive cover if you are doing things like extreme sports.
Bear in mind that the greater the ‘excess’ is, the lower your premium will be. (The excess is how much you agree to pay towards any claim you make. So if the excess is £100, and you make a travel insurance claim of £2,000, you will pay the first £100).
Insurers know you are more likely to make small claims than big ones, but you will both make more if you don’t claim for small items. If you don’t claim for small items because of a high excess, you will retain your no-claims discount and next year’s premium will not be increased. The best thing is to shop around on a comparison site or two – like this travel insurance site.
See our travel insurance article here about how to pick the best travel insurance for you.
If you’re over 50 you may want to check out Saga who have no upper age limit and who will provide insurance even if you have a pre-existing medical condition.
37. Smart car insurance
Never buy car insurance from the place where you are going to hire your car.
They will want to charge you at least around £10 a day, but by getting your own insurance online you can save a lot and can end up paying as little as £4.50 a day from sites like insurance4carhire and worldwideinsure.
38. Use a travel guide for cheap eats
Pick up the latest travel guides from Lonely Planet, Rough Guides or Let’s Go and see what they say about eating.
Most will give you an idea of those tourist-centred places where you’re bound to get ripped off, and instead direct you to cheaper, nicer places that will give you more of a local experience.
You can also book abroad with OpenTable and gain points that will help you towards a free meal.
39. Keep in contact online
If you travel with your laptop or can find a cheap internet café, then you can save money by using the internet to call home and let Mum know you got there safe and are eating properly.
Companies like Skype offer what are called Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services. What that means is that just by attaching a headset to your computer and downloading VoIP software you can use the internet as a phone line, letting you call home and tell everyone what they’re missing out on.
40. Take advantage of Three’s ‘Feel at Home’ service
Three is leading the way when it comes to saving you money on your phone bills when you go abroad.
The ‘Feel at Home’ service from Three allows contract and pay-as-you-go users to use their normal allowance of minutes, texts and data abroad in 18 countries.
Even if you’re not a usual customer, you can get a free PAYG Sim from their website. You will then need to use your credit to buy a Three add-on bundle of calls, texts and data which cost from £5 to £25. ‘Feel at Home’ works automatically when you arrive in any of the 18 countries. You will be able to use the allowance in your add-on the same way as in the UK.
41. International calling cards
While we are still in the EU we can take advantage of the recent drop in roaming charges. British mobile phone users can now make phone calls, send text messages and use data in other EU countries without charge
But if you’re in another, non-EU, country this doesn’t apply. This is where it can be useful to have a prepaid international phone card.
Phonecard companies buy ‘bulk minutes’ from line carriers at huge discounts and so they are able to pass on savings to their customers. You’ll get a lot more minutes for your money using a phonecard than you would if you used your mobile.
For example, Tesco have a calling card which offers calls from 1p per minute!
42. Use your mobile for the best photos
Don’t get stuck in the dark ages using expensive disposable camera, come into the digital age and use your mobile.
You get some great snaps, can take as many as you like, delete the ones you don’t want, and you don’t have to pay lots of money to have them printed while abroad, or carry film cases around.
A good idea is to get a second memory stick – there are good prices at Staples.
By signing up to these three photo galleries you can get yourself 150 free digital photo prints. Photobox often giveaway 50 free prints – look out for special offers and discounts on personalised gifts. Snapfish also offer 20 free prints with your first upload. Both offer an excellent service and are highly recommended.
43. Indulge in duty free
If you want to buy jewellery, electronics, alcohol and chocolates then the airport duty-free shop is normally a winner – there are usually some fantastic bargains to be had.
One word of warning, however: make sure you know the prices in the UK beforehand to ensure you are actually getting a good deal; it may be duty free, but the basic price of some goods may be higher in a different country anyway so be sure you will make a saving.
Finally, especially when it comes to alcohol and cigarettes, be sure to keep within your customs allowance.
44. Discount sports stores
If you are going on activity holiday, buy your ski or summer gear before you go. And bypass the flashy and expensive top-brand shops for those hidden discount warehouses and even online shops that will offer you good kit at a far better price. Kitbag and JJB Sports have some great deals.
45. Go away with friends
Lots of places – accommodation, restaurants and tourist attractions – offer discounts for big groups.
So gather together your mates and plan a fun trip away, telling everyone it is a lot cheaper than going independently.
46. Buy your holiday from a cashback site
If you find your holiday on high-profile online search engines like Expedia, buying it through a cashback site will let you book it and take your share of the affiliate marketing revenue. The cashback can be quite low; only about 2.5% of the price of the holiday, but some providers will give you as much as 10% cashback which effectively means you get a 10% discount on your holiday.
If you don’t know how cashback sites work, have a look at our cashback sites article.
47. Go green
The greener option is usually cheaper too, so go for a green holiday like walking or cycling. You will keep fit and cut down hugely on transport costs.
Find more tips in 50 ways to save money and the planet.
48. Make money from your trip
If you have a talent for writing and want to get paid for blogging about your holiday then visit Pay Per Post.Y
ou have to submit samples and they must first be approved, but if they are you could earn as much as £10 a post. We’ve got a whole host of ways to make money on holiday.
49. Free phrases
You can download a free phrasebook on to your mobile phone, iPod or iPhone from Coolgorilla.
You can either learn them by listening to them or simply play the relevant phrase out loud to the person you are trying to communicate with.
Languages available are French, German, Greek, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.
50. Latest travel bargains
Get all the newest travel bargains by signing up to our free weekly newsletter. Also, for tonnes of exclusive deals, head to the Holidays and Entertainment section of our website where you can find the most recent travel articles and money saving tips.
And don’t forget your bike!
If you’re getting the ferry, it may be worth it to bring your bicycle with you. Countries such as Holland or Denmark are particularly good destinations for bike holidays as they are very flat and bicycle friendly.
Make sure you tell the ferry company in advance. You can inform them when you buy your tickets or call them afterward. The procedure varies with each ferry operator. Some charge a small fee of about £5 and others allow you to bring your bikes for free.
This will also save your loads on taxi’s and public transport. You can read more at Cycletourer.