Holidays are more expensive than ever. With the pound weak against the Euro and still falling, a trip to the Costa del Sol, the Greek islands or Paris will cost you around 10% more this year than it would have done in 2016. Dollars cost more too. On a trip to the States, food, accommodation and entertainment would set you back about 5% more than it would have done two years ago.
It’s no surprise, then, that according to the government’s Office of National Statistics, lots of us are changing our holiday habits. Staycations are increasingly popular, and the blue skies we’ve been enjoying this year have made taking your holiday at home even more appealing. For those who just have to go abroad, shorter breaks are becoming more common. Other holidaymakers are looking into alternative destinations. Bulgaria and Turkey have enjoyed an uptick in summer visitors, as sunbathers seek an alternative to the more expensive beaches of Greece and Italy.
However, increasing costs are no reason to give up on the holiday of your daydreams. Smart consumers can still find ways to save money on accommodation, transport, food and other expenses. Here are a few tips to help you put together your dream holiday without breaking the bank.
You’re used to booking your flights and accommodation well in advance. On those big-ticket items, the savings you make by buying ahead are too enormous to be passed up. However, a lot of people forget that the same principle applies to smaller items. Try to lay down your itinerary in as much detail as possible—even hour by hour!—and as far in advance as you can. Once you’ve decided what you want to do, you can book attractions, tours, museum visits and anything else on your list. Not every attraction will offer a discount for advance bookings, but many will, and some discounts are substantial: two tickets for the price of one, or free transport to and from the attraction. Review sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor often offer information about discounts, as well as useful info to help you decide what to do.
Detailed planning saves you money in another way too. It’s often when you’re at a loose end or when you make last-minute plans that you end up spending more than you bargained for. For instance, if you decide to dash to a museum at the end of your last day and find you can only get back to your hotel in a taxi, you might end up doubling your expenses for the day.
Those boots were made for walking
Speaking of taxis—avoid them! For travelling longer distances, take public transport. If you’ve planned carefully in advance, you should be able to navigate most public transport systems without too much difficulty (few subway systems are as complicated as the Tube!) Wherever possible, however, it’s best to avoid even public transport. In many cities, the cost of a one-off journey by bus or train is exorbitant. It’s a deliberate strategy to push more of the costs of the transport network onto visitors and save locals money. Before you leave, spend some time on Google Maps and work out where you can walk to. Not only will you save money, you’ll burn off those holiday pounds, and best of all, you’ll discover sights and experiences you could never have had on the broiling-hot back seat of a public bus.
Get compensated for flight delays
We’ve all been there: you’re into Departures, you’ve already got your sunhat on, maybe you’ve even had your first drink, you’re ready to go—and your flight is delayed. All it takes is a thunderstorm at a connecting airport, a serious security hold-up (like someone’s electric toothbrush going off in their suitcase), or the sudden arrival of several delayed flights. If you miss a connecting flight as a result, or a night in a hotel you’ve already paid for, you might rack up considerable losses. Not every delay entitles you to compensation for those losses, but in some cases, if your flight is substantially delayed, you might be claim back any money you’ve lost. Speak to a legal expert if you’re unsure about your entitlement. Don’t worry about legal fees. Flight delay claims are usually handled on a No Win, No Fee basis.
However carefully you’ve budgeted for your holiday, and however long you’ve saved to be able to afford it, once you’re out there soaking up the sun the chances are you’ll get a little lax about spending. What the hell, you’re on holiday! It happens to the best of us. It’s especially dangerous if you’re not used to the local currency.
The best way to avoid a holiday splurge is to choose an all-inclusive package. Online travel agents offer an increasingly diverse and customisable range of all-inclusive holidays. You can easily find packages which include not only flights, accommodation and food, but the whole gamut of local sights and attractions, tours, tastings and adventures. Pick and choose what you want, and you’ll know before you even leave the house exactly how much your holiday is going to cost you. As you should with any big expenditure, read the Ts & Cs carefully before you get your credit card out, and be wary of anything that looks too good to be true.
Make sure you’re insured
Most of the time when a holiday goes over-budget it’s not by much. If you need to re-book flights it might add 50% to your costs. One thing that can cause your holiday expenses to spiral out of control is if you or anyone you’re travelling with needs medical care while you’re abroad. Within the EU, your treatment will be covered by the NHS, so long as you have an up-to-date European Health Insurance Card, so don’t forget it! If you don’t have one, you can apply through the government’s website, free of charge. Outside the EU, you will need an insurance policy that covers medical expenses. Check the small print of your policy, and make sure you’re covered for any activity you’re planning. Many standard policies won’t cover potentially risky activities like cycling, base-jumping or snowboarding.
Consider cheaper accommodation
When you’re booking a holiday, the big-ticket items are flights and accommodation. As far as flights are concerned, your options are probably fairly limited—but don’t forget to check several price-comparison sites, like Kayak and Skyscanner, before booking flights. In some cases you can also save on flights by flying to an airport further from your destination and completing your journey by train or in a rental car. You have more options when it comes to accommodation. Many campsites have very comfortable facilities, including a pool, bar or sports area. Airbnb and other home-sharing sites frequently have bargains, especially if you book well in advance. Couchsurfing is a great option if you enjoy meeting new people, and if you get along with your host, their insider knowledge will probably save you money, too.