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10 essential holiday cost-cutters

Basking in the sun this past bank holiday weekend, it felt like summer had finally arrived. It's thus only natural to look ahead to the coming months, and the holidays that lie in store.

For those going abroad, it can be an expensive time, especially when travelling with family. The temptation can be to go gung-ho on holiday, and put prudence to one side. Yet maximum fun need not involve paying over the odds, and there are many ways to trim down costs with a minimum of effort and sacrifice – thus ensuring there isn’t a black hole in your finances when you return.

Here are 10 cost-saving measures we've identified to help you...

  1. Master the art of cheap flights
    Data from comparison site Skyscanner found that those who book flights on a Saturday tend to pay 5 per cent more on average for the same flight booked on another day of the week. Given how fluid airline ticket pricing strategies are, there are a number of other such nuances involved, which is why you should use the 'Best Time to Book' tool when looking at flights.
  2. Consider villas, rather than hotels
    Villas are ideal for families or large travelling groups, and they tend to be considerably cheaper forms of accommodation too. In fact, comparisons with nearby hotels of a similar level of luxury often show that the savings can be well into the hundreds of pounds - depending on the size of the travelling party, and duration of stay. Sites like HomeAway, Clickstay and Airbnb are reliable means to find good value in your choice of accommodation.
  3. Currency change
    There should be no excuse for acquiring currency at the last minute, and suffering from the appalling rates of exchange (plus commission and fees) associated with merchants at airports. While you can get better rates at places like the Post Office, the real value can be found through specialist cards, and fintech solutions such as Revolut, who are leading the way in terms of price and convenience. Alternatively, a new 'borderless' debit card offered by TransferWise allows Brits to set up a free account in EU countries, Australia and the US.
  4. Getting to the airport
    This can be a costly affair, with airport-bound express trains generally charging a significant premium, and airport parking becoming increasingly expensive. Prize number one is to get friends or family to drop you off. Failing that, it's worth looking at the options associated with the particular airport. EasyBus is one cheap and efficient way of getting there and back, while price comparison sites can help when it comes to booking airport parking in advance. And other sites like Gumtree even facilitate cheap parking at people’s residences near airports.
  5. Take food on the plane
    British Airways recently added itself to the list of airlines to not offer complementary in-flight meals. Not only that, but they appear to have followed the lead of their compatriots by charging eye-watering prices for basic food as well. If there are a lot of mouths to feed, this can really add up. Yet while there are restrictions on liquids, there is nothing stopping you from bringing pre-packed food on board.
  6. Get car rental right
    First and foremost, the earlier you book your rental car, the more you're likely to save. Again, price comparison sites are helpful in this respect. Make sure you get a car that ticks all the right boxes, but avoid unnecessary (and costly) bells and whistles. Be wary of hefty excess insurance too, which car rental firms will invariably try and force on you at the point of pick up. By arranging this in advance with local insurers, this shouldn't cost much more than £1 a day. But if public transport is of a good standard, it may make sense to avoid car rental altogether.
  7. Pay in local currency
    If you get asked whether you want to pay in euros or pounds, always choose the former. The latter involves dynamic currency conversion, which means the foreign bank (or shop or restaurant) does the conversion for you. This almost always involves a poorer rate of exchange, and usually cheeky commissions too.
  8. Plan your own day-trips
    It will seem preferable to simply hand over money to a local tour guide when looking to do activities and sightseeing in a foreign place. But, very often, arranging your own transport and doing a bit of research beforehand can save you a bucket-load of money, while still maximising enjoyment and enrichment from your days out.
  9. Think ahead when it comes to dining out
    Exploring the town and spontaneously stumbling across a restaurant is a joy that you might be reluctant to give up. But with a myriad of voucher sites, early bird menus and competitive deals available online, booking your meals ahead of time can yield significant savings.
  10. Sort your travel insurance in advance
    Policies with household insurers start at less than £10, but the real value, especially for those who are likely travel more than once a year, lies in annual, multi-trip policies. Make sure you shop around, and include only the additional extras you need. Also, check that your EHIC is still valid when heading to the Continent. It's free to renew, and will ensure you are entitled to the same medical treatment as local residents.

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