If you’ve got the New Year blues, there’s just one easy way to make them magically disappear. Planning a fabulous holiday somewhere special is a great way to lift your mood. For one thing, it gives you something to look forward to in the coming months. So, whenever you’re feeling a little glum, you can look ahead to your great escape. What’s more, if you’re sick of the cold, dreary weather here, you fancy some much-needed sunshine sooner rather than later.
There’s just one problem. Holidays are anything but cheap! Sadly, getting away for a few days or even a week will come with a hefty price tag. If you’ve only got a shoestring budget, it’s time to get a little creative. Here are a few things that you might want to try.
1. Haggle with the travel agency
Most of us would not dream of haggling when it comes to the price of our holiday. However, when you’re buying something with a definitive ‘sell by’ date on it, you can afford to be a little cheeky. When booking last minute, you may get an excellent deal by bargaining with the travel agency and trying to get things just a little cheaper than they would otherwise be.
It’s important to remember that the last thing agencies want is empty flights and hotel rooms. Selling space on holidays is their job, and so they will likely be willing to knock a little off the price if it means making that final sale. You don’t have to be rude when you haggle with them. You can just state that the cost is a little out of your price range and ask them what they can do to help. Remember, if you don’t ask, you really don’t get.
2. Take a gamble on a secret hotel
If you’re looking to stay in a 3-5 star place but don’t quite have the funds to cover the cost of it, never fear. There is a shockingly easy way that you can save a load of cash on your hotel fees, but you should know it’s a bit of a gamble. Both Lastminute and Hotwire offer secret hotel deals which are usually available right before you plan to travel. The truth of the matter is that opting for a so-called ‘secret hotel’ may mean that you end up getting a real bargain for a fraction of the cost it would normally be.
Of course, there’s just one tiny catch. You see, as the name suggests, a secret hotel is one that is a complete mystery. When you book (and, yeah, pay for) the stay, you will have no idea where you’ll be staying. Sure, you will get some vague information like the general location and how many stars the place has, but that’s it. You do lose some control over where you stay when you choose this option. However, it’s also a great way to save cash and stay in luxurious places.
3. Avoid the school holidays
Okay, this one is tough if you happen to have children (if you do, see our next tip!). Still, if you’re child-free, you might be able to nab yourself a real deal by avoiding the school holidays. When the kids have a break, it means that more people travel in general. What that means is that travel companies hike up the cost of everything from flights to hotel stays. It’s not the major ‘rip off’ that some people like to believe it is. In fact, it’s simple economics – supply and demand. The more demand holidays are in at a certain time in the year, the more they will set you back.
If you don’t have to worry about taking the kids out of school, it really will pay to avoid the holidays at all costs. You may not know when they are, but take a look online before you even consider booking your break. Making sure that you don’t accidentally choose a break in ‘peak times’ means that you could save a whole load of money!
4. If you have kids, travel in October
While the summer holidays are likely the most popular time for families to travel, they are not the only time that your child has free. The October half term break might seem like an odd time for a family getaway, but choosing to go then could save you a whole load of cash. If you want a low-budget break without having to take your kids out of school (tut tut), October is actually the best time to go.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First of all, many people start saving for Christmas around this time of year. Also, the weather will not be as dazzling as it might be in the summer, especially if you’re traveling to mainland Europe. Booking at this time could save you as much as 25%-40% which is nothing to be sniffed at. It’s well worth checking out various deals online so that you can find the one that suits you.
5. Travel light and take only hand luggage
If you’re the kind of person who needs to take a billion things on holiday with them, you will likely struggle with this next one. The fact of the matter is that you really don’t need 15-20Kg of luggage for your holiday, unless, of course, you’re going away for more than a couple of weeks. You will end up paying an extra £30 to £40 if you decide to check-in some bags when you book your flight. That’s money that could be much better spent elsewhere (like on some Sangria when you get to your destination!).
So, when you decide to take only hand luggage, what will you weight allowance be? Well, it can vary depending on which airline you decide to go with. Even budget airlines tend to give enough of an allowance to pack comfortably. For example, both Flybe and Ryanair offer a 10Kg hand luggage limit while Easyjet doesn’t set a limit at all (so long as your bag fits their given dimensions.) Packing light may sound tricky, but the truth is that you don’t actually get that much more room when you check-in bags. What’s more, it’s really not worth the extra money.
Hint: You should also make sure that you get a lightweight cabin bag. That way, your empty bag won’t way all that much, and so you will be able to afford to pop more things in it.
6. Get a ‘wearable luggage’ jacket
If you do find that you need extra room but don’t want to fork out for extra baggage, here’s a novel idea that you just might want to try. You may not have heard of them before now (they’re new to us too!), but there are now things called wearable luggage jackets. Yeah, they are basically what they say on the tin – a jacket in which you can also store some sneaky extra luggage for your trip. Genius, right?
Unsurprisingly, there are quite a few different luggage jackets on the market now. Each of them looks a little like a puffa jacket and comes with a range of hidden pockets so that you can store all your little holiday extras. These beauties will set you back around £70 which is quite steep (especially given that checked-in baggage will cost about the same both ways!). Still, you should think of these things as investments. Once you have one, you will never have to pay extra for your luggage again.
7. Avoid paying for breakfast
When you’re buying a package deal, you might think that getting breakfast included is the best way forward. You should remember that this is not always the cheapest deal out there. If you’re paying an extra £10 per day for breakfast, consider whether you could get it cheaper elsewhere. In reality, package deals can sometimes work out more expensive than you can imagine.
If you want to save money on food on holiday, taking little packed lunches and snacks out with you could save you a whole load of cash. When you’re out and you start to get peckish, it’s all too easy to end up splurging on something very expensive. Instead, the moment you get there, you should head to a local supermarket to buy essentials, such as bread, cheese, and some fruit. That way, you will have things that you can eat without forking out too much at a time.
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8. Find cheap airport parking
When you’re in the midst of planning a getaway, one of the very last things that you think about is the cost of airport parking… but perhaps you should. You can get seriously get ripped off if you decide to leave this until the very last minute. It won’t come as a massive surprise that the earlier you book, the more money you will end up saving in the long run.
Before you head off on your trip, you can check out some airport parking deals online. Just putting that extra bit of thought into things before you go away could make all the difference to your bank balance.
9. Shop around for your currency
So, here’s the bad news: the pound is not so strong in the global market right now. What that actually means is that our exchange rates are worse than ever. You will notice that you get less dollars or euros for your money than you would have, say, a few years ago. That’s why you absolutely have to be savvier than ever when it comes to your currency conversion. Do not ever leave this chore until you get to the airport. Doing so will mean that you get the worst exchange rates ever.
Before you go away, you should make sure that you compare the rates that different companies are offering right now (see below). By checking out what’s available, you can get the best level of conversion for you. If you want to be extra clever, you could also get a Travel Credit Card ahead of time. That way, you will have an almost perfect rate of exchange no matter where you travel.
10. Consider an apartment rental
If you’re travelling as part of a large group, a hotel might not be the cheapest option for you guys. We all know about AirBnb now, but there are actually a great many sites that you might want to try for yourself. It’s well worth checking out what your options are before you book a place to stay.
One of the great advantages to having a break in a rental is that you will have the freedom and self-catering facilities that you need. Be sure to check out what you can and can’t use in each home before you book. Plus, if you happen to have a house in a desirable location, you might want to take things to the very next level. A house swap is a simple way to save yourself some cash and still have a great getaway.