Here's How You Can Maximise Your Holiday Budget In 2023
As winter draws to a close, you may well be considering booking your next holiday for the coming year in the year, and who can blame you! Here are some of my best tips on how to be savvy and get the best price on your holiday, find holiday savings while you are away and get the best possible return on your travel fund. Hopefully, these simple tips will help you save on your holiday expenses and help you have a good time for less.
Compare prices: Travel comparison websites and airlines' websites are good places to compare prices and find the best deal for your holiday budget. These travel experts have huge resources and are an easy way to monitor live price changes and deals, and can list some great offers, but always shop about; If you have found where you want to go and stay, do a search for the same dates with the airlines/hotels direct to see if it's cheaper to book with them, rather than a comparison site, as that can sometimes be the case. It takes a little bit of planning, but the good news is that they can really reduce your holiday costs and travel costs, leaving you extra cash for spending while away.
Pay by credit card! - Even if you have the money in your bank account and plan to pay by your debit card, use a credit card. If you pay for your holiday with a credit card, you have added protection under the Consumer Credit Act, which can help you recover your money if things go wrong, such as if the tour operator goes out of business.
Also, many credit cards offer rewards and points for purchases, which you can redeem for discounts, free flights or upgrades, and other benefits.
Also, paying for a holiday with a credit card can allow you to spread the cost over a longer period, which can be useful if you're not able to pay for the holiday upfront, but only if you have a decent interest-free period; there's no point paying interest on your payment if you have the money in the bank; leave it as long as possible before paying off the holiday with your debit card, to keep your money in your bank account, or ideally a savings account, longer, making much better use of your money.
If you have an expensive holiday, use the holiday cash to buy Premium Bonds, and you may well get a month in the draw if you time your purchase and card payments carefully; who knows, you may win some extra holiday spending money!
Be flexible: If you're flexible with your travel dates and destination, you can often find lower prices during a particular time of year. If you have kids, you'll know that going away during the school holidays is likely to be much more expensive! If you travel when kids are at school, you will find far better offers, which isn't helpful if you want to take the kids off course, but sometimes the fine for taking the kids out of school during term time still makes the holiday cheaper than going at peak time, so long as the school play ball, of course!
It's worth remembering that other countries may have different peak times than the UK. As an example, British Wintertime is Australian Summertime, and so where you might think its cheaper to head to Oz in January, you may find it to be far more expensive than you thought, as the schools are on Summer holiday from mid-December until late January and everyone is hitting the beach and tourist attractions, so hotel availability and prices may not be in your favour! The best way to check is by checking online resources to see when the school holidays are in the area you want to travel to.
Book package deals: Package deals that include flights, hotels, and transportation can sometimes offer better value than booking each component separately.
It's always worth getting prices for package deals and booking all the components of your holiday needs, such as flights, car hire and hotels, separately, as deals can vary massively.
Factor in all-inclusive deals, as if all your meals are included in a package, this can make a big difference to your budget and the amount of spending money you will need, which is especially helpful as currency conversion rates are generally pretty poor at the moment for travellers, so not having to spend money on food could save you a lot of cash, but make sure if you are going somewhere where meals are provided you:
1. Check other traveller reviews on the food; you don't want to eat somewhere where reviews are negative!
2. You check out the menu before you book to ensure the food is suitable for your family. If you are taking children with you and they are the fish finger and chips kinda kids, but the restaurant is a squid and seafood or spicy curry type establishment, it's going to go down poorly!
3. In addition to the above, see if the hotel has more than one restaurant; variety is the spice of life, and if you're staying at the same hotel for a couple of weeks and they have only one restaurant and a limited menu, you're family members are going to get bored of the same food every day, and so may end up spending more money than you intended going out and having to pay for food at other restaurants.
Use loyalty programs: Join loyalty programs and collect points to use towards your holiday. Popular loyalty schemes include, but aren't limited to:
Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: The Virgin Atlantic Flying Club allows you to earn miles when you fly with Virgin Atlantic or one of its partner airlines and then use those miles to redeem flights, upgrades, and other travel-related rewards.
Nectar: Nectar is a loyalty scheme that allows you to earn points when you shop with participating retailers, including travel companies, and then use those points to redeem rewards.
EasyJet Plus: EasyJet Plus is a membership scheme that allows you to earn points when you fly with EasyJet and then use those points to redeem flights, upgrades, and other travel-related rewards.
Avios: This scheme allows you to earn points by flying with British Airways and other partner airlines and then use those points to redeem flights, upgrades, and other travel-related rewards.
Whichever airline you decide to fly with, make sure you check if they have a loyalty club/app, as you may be able to earn points to put towards a future flight, or grab discounts at the airport, or while onboard the aircraft, and maybe even score access to the airport lounges for a reduced price, or even free!
Consider alternative accommodations: Consider alternative accommodations such as vacation rentals, hostels, or camping to save money on lodging costs.
Camping: Camping is a budget-friendly option for those who enjoy the great outdoors. Various camping options are available, including wild camping, caravan parks, and glamping.
Hostels: Hostels offer basic accommodation at a lower price than hotels and often have shared facilities such as kitchens and lounge areas.
Vacation Rentals: Vacation rentals, such as holiday cottages, apartments, or Airbnb properties, can offer more space and privacy than traditional hotels and can sometimes be cheaper, especially if you're travelling as a group.
B&Bs: Bed and breakfasts can offer a more personal and homely experience than hotels, and often at a lower price.
House-sitting: If you're willing to take care of someone else's home while they're away, you can save money on accommodation by house-sitting.
Couchsurfing: Couchsurfing is a hospitality network that allows you to stay with locals for free, allowing you to experience local culture and save money on accommodation costs and not spending much money.
AirBNB - Although not always cheaper, during off-peak times, you can grab some great deals if you aren't too worried about where you go and when!
Watch for deals and discounts: Look at travel companies for last-minute deals. Last-minute deals have been less available in the last year or so due to airline limitations, post-Covid, but the better deals are now starting to creep through again now that airports and airlines have been able to increase staffing and the number of flights they can run, and airline profitability has increased, (Ryanair is a good example, posting a huge profit increase in January 2023), meaning they have better resources for offering better deals and more flights.
Equally booking in advance and looking for 'Early Bird' offers could great you some decent savings, plus could also mean you are less likely to be affected by fluctuations in currency rates, cost of living rises or fuel costs, which can be passed onto holiday prices and cost you extra money.
Cashback: If you are buying a holiday online, make good use of cashback sites to see if they are offering any special cashback offers. These are a great place to grab cashback of up to 12% on the cost of your holiday, plus even more on add-ons such as car hire, and travel insurance (which you should take out BEFORE you pay for your holiday as you will then be covered for any unexpected issues, which the insurance may cover, but the holiday company you book through doesn't. Holidays are often a large purchase, and there's nothing worse than something happening that ruins your plans).
The cashback is normally paid once you've been on your holiday, rather than before, so bear that in mind. The reason for this is that if they pay you cashback before you go, you may cancel your holiday and get a full refund, plus you will have made a cashback profit, which isn't good for their cash flow!
Your holiday spending money - Taking money with you on holiday is a must, but think carefully about in what form you take your holiday cash with you, and always have a credit card as your emergency fund in case of issues while you are away.
Use a specialist travel credit card: Consider using a specialist travel credit card that offers low or no foreign transaction fees and competitive exchange rates, and sometimes credit card points. Examples include:
Halifax Clarity: A credit card with no foreign transaction fees, no cash withdrawal fees, and no hidden charges when used abroad.
Barclaycard Rewards: Charges no fees or interest on spending AND overseas cash withdrawals, provided you repay in full.
Post Office Credit Card: A credit card with no foreign transaction fees, no cash withdrawal fees, and competitive exchange rates. I have this one and have had no issues with it!
118 118 Mastercard: No fees on spending or ATM withdrawals overseas or interest on cash withdrawals if paid In full. Higher APR than other cards, but the card is easier to obtain
Other cards with similar benefits exist, but these four are regarded as good options for travellers. Remember that the more cards you apply for, the higher the impact on your credit score.
Choose the right exchange rate: Check the exchange rate offered by different providers, including banks and currency exchange offices, to find the best deal. Pre-order the currency if you can to lock in more competitive rates, and NEVER get your currency at the airport, you will get horrible rates!
Avoid using ATMs abroad: Using ATMs abroad can be expensive, as you'll be charged both a foreign transaction fee and a cash advance fee.
Use a local currency: When shopping or eating out, pay in the local currency instead of sterling to avoid the conversion fees that can be added by your card issuer. If you are taking a lot of money with you, remember most countries have limits on the amount of local currency that can be brought in or taken out. These limits are set by the country's central bank or government and are subject to change. The limits can vary from country to country and may depend on factors such as the purpose of the trip and the traveller's nationality. In general, it's best to research the local currency regulations for the country you're visiting and to declare any large amounts of currency when entering or leaving the country. Some countries also have restrictions on the amount of currency that can be taken out of the country, so it's important to check the regulations before you travel.
Bon voyage, don't forget to send me a postcard!