British Summer Time starts today but before you head for the sun, read our top tips on how to make the most of your holiday cash – that means less time balancing the budget, and more time on the beach..!
Budget before you book
Do your homework and check your dates – if a special event such as a festival or sports fixture is happening in your chosen destination, both accommodation & travel rates will spike. Moving your plans by a couple of days could save pounds.
If your budget is tight, consider a home swap – LoveHomeSwap is the world’s largest home swap club, offering stays in destinations all over the world…just remember to let your home insurance company know, to make sure the policy is valid for any damage guests may cause in your house. Or if you don’t like the idea of letting strangers into your abode but do quite fancy a stay in someone else’s place, then Airbnb is your friend – and their newly launched Experiences let you live like a real local (hopefully at residents rates rather than tourist trap prices!)
When booking flights, try kayak.co.uk or skyscanner.net to compare rates – or go direct to the airline and ask for their best available rates. Even if you book with an agent, don’t be afraid to haggle as they often have a degree of margin to play with – plus a package deal with an ABTA bonded agent offers the added insurance of ATOL protection should anything happen to the holiday company before you travel. You can also safeguard your Summer hols further by booking on your credit card – then you will be automatically covered for any amount over £100 and £30,000 under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.
And on the subject of insurance, if you go away several times a year, take out an annual family travel policy – these can often be just a few pounds more than a single use plan and cover you for travel within a 12 month window ( If you take away only one thing from this article, make sure it’s the fact that swerving on the travel insurance is a complete no-no)
When you’re booked and heading for the hotspots, remember that low cost airlines make their money via add-ons – so make a point of subverting them all. Download movies in advance on our tablets, take your own refreshments (you’ll need to buy after security checks) and if you think you’re in danger of heading for excess baggage – wear a few extra layers!! Though if you’re a family with small children, you may wish to avoid running the gauntlet of free for all seating– bite your tongue and pre-pay to choose in advance, otherwise you have no guarantee that Junior will be anywhere in sight of Seat 7A.
When in Rome…
Cash back on your credit card means that that the family trip to Florida will net you a seriously big supermarket shop on your return…just remember to pay it off when you get back otherwise you’ll negate any savings with interest payments.
If you’re really worried about your wildly shopaholic tendencies, try a pre-paid currency card to limit your spending to the amount on the card. MoneySupermarket lists the latest deals for each region of the world, with many offering zero transaction fees and cashback offers. ICE Travellers Cashcard Euro for example is currently offering a free card, with replacement if lost or stolen, no purchase or withdrawal fees plus 1.5% cashback. They will also buy back currency at the same rate if by some miracle you manage not to overspend. Do take care when withdrawing cash via debit card abroad unless absolutely necessary – many machines will charge, and the exchange rates can be dire!
When shopping, forex still foxes many a traveller – try the XE Currency app which offers live currency rates (very useful for checking on the fly how much that donkey/sombrero/litre of tequila really costs…!)
To make sure your mobile phone bill doesn’t rise as fast as the Tenerife temperature, speak to your provider before you leave to make sure your understand what international rates you will be paying, and whether your inclusive minutes apply. Some operators only allow you to bolt on international bundles from your billing date – which means a frantic call en route to Stansted may well be too late. And if you are one of those people permanently glued to the mobile, take a peek at KitFresh, the most reliable rechargeable smartphone battery that holds its charge impressively. The lithium-ion battery charges an iPhone or Android in under three hours and can do so 1.5 times before requiring to recharge itself – which it does via USB/AC adapter in six hours.
Smart Summer savings
To save a fortune, and guarantee a more “authentic” trip, avoid tourist traps and go where the locals go – for good insider knowledge, try the Spotted By Locals app which avoids all the obvious, impersonal and dated tips in travel guides and hand picks local “spotters” to write about their favourite spots (all unbiased, no commission paid!!) Also try the Viator app which is packed with handpicked pre-vetted tours and activities, coupled with reviews, guaranteed low rates & VIP treatment across the globe.
It sounds obvious but do your homework when it comes to big excursions as there are plenty of discount vouchers about at this time of year – but also don’t forget that free is also fun! If you’re having a UK staycation, remember that all national museums in England, Scotland & Wales are free (check out Magic Freebies for lots more days out without a price tag). It’s also worth noting that there is a surprising abundance of “Adults go free” tickets around for major UK attractions – you may just need to eat your own bodyweight in breakfast cereal to attain them…
Out & About
Car hire costs can vary hugely so, again, it really pays to shop around – also aim to book a rental car for collection midweek as weekend collections attract a hefty premium. You can also save a fortune on child car seats if you take your own or seek a low cost provider at the airport – the difference between this and the hire firm’s weekly rate can be as much as £40.
And when it comes to travelling with little people, it’s more about saving your sanity, rather than saving pennies. For older kids equipped with tablets, arm yourself with an in car Wi-Fi device from EE which allows users to hook up laptops, phones, games consoles and tablets to the internet while on the move. It charges via a car’s cigarette lighter and comes in a package designed to fit into a cupholder – genius!