The beach on a budget
One in five of us* will be swapping our sun lounger for the sofa and enjoying a ‘staycation’ this year, which means enjoying days out closer to home rather than a two-week break abroad. But whatever your holiday plans, there are lots of ways to make your money go further.
Look beyond the Euro zone
Check out destinations like Bulgaria and Turkey, as they’re tipped to be cheaper. And when comparing holidays, don’t just look at the brochure price; add in what you’ll spend once you’re there. That includes meals out, bottled water and your hire car. Even unexpected costs can put a hole in your pocket; a spare bottle of sun cream could cost £6 in Turkey, but a whopping £15 in Greece.
Booking your holiday
Protect your holiday. Over 20 airlines went bust last year, along with big holiday companies like XL, so always look for ATOL bonding when booking. This means you’ll get your money back or get flown home for free if your tour company goes bust. Booking through an ABTA member (the Travel Association) gives you extra protection too.
Always pay for flights by credit card
Booking flights on airline websites doesn’t offer the same level of protection, so pay by credit card if the cost is over £100. Under consumer law this makes your credit card company liable if the airline goes to the wall, so you’re guaranteed a refund. Free child-inclusive destinations sound like a great deal, but look at the overall ‘family’ price when comparing holidays. And when booking hire cars, check if you’ll pay more for a child car seat, as some companies charge for this, while others include it in the price.
Don’t buy a policy from a travel agent – shop around and you could save up to 30%. If you take more than one break a year, it’s often better value buying an annual policy which covers UK breaks as well as abroad. Look at the payout, not the policy price – the insurance industry recommends minimum medical cover of £2 million for European holidays. And it’s worth taking an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) too, as this gets you free medical treatment across Europe. Get a form from the Post Office to apply.
Get more currency for your pound
Don’t buy at the airport; exchange rates are usually lower on the high street. Get your currency commission-free from the Post Office or M&S. And make sure you take a credit card that doesn’t charge ‘loading’ fees (that’s commission) on purchases abroad. Many charge around 3%; that’s £3 on every £100, which all adds up. Once abroad, don’t fall into the trap of converting local prices back to sterling. Shops offer this option, but it’s usually a poor exchange rate and can boost the bill by 5%. And limit cash withdrawals on your credit card, as you’ll be charged around £3 each time.
Take a ‘staycation’
Children may prefer this option as they won’t spend hours in airports, cars or on planes. Look in the papers and on websites for discount vouchers for theme parks, or get four times more for your money cashing in Tesco Clubcard vouchers. Going self-catering will also save you money, and you can save money ordering your groceries online before you go, if you’re holidaying in the UK. This way, it’s delivered to your holiday home too.
Camping and free activities
Well worth considering - you can save money buying a tent and any equipment on eBay, plus the kids will love the excitement of a holiday under canvas. And there’s lots of free museums across the UK - have a look on the internet, check your local paper, or contact your council for details of activities for kids during the summer holidays.
Swap your home
There are lots of house exchange websites where you sign up and offer to ‘swap’ properties. You’ll save money, as you won’t be paying a hotel bill, and as you won’t normally be staying in tourist areas, you won’t pay rip-off prices for food, drink and souvenirs. There’s usually an annual fee to register your property and you can swap in both the UK and abroad. It’s often a way for kids to learn more about the local culture.
Sources *1 in 5 of us are opting for staycation – figures from Legal & General’s Changing Face of British Home (April 4th 2009)
Sun cream costs from Thomas Cook ‘Holiday Cost of Living’