It’s cold, wet, and miserable, so no wonder this is the peak summer holiday booking period. However, with the pound recently at a 32-year low against the dollar, and matching the awful rates of 2013 against the euro, this year it’s likely to be a challenge to get a decent price.
The weak pound not only hits holiday spending, but hotels, car hire and more, so here are my ten top tips for keeping costs down.
1. Pocket the perfect plastic to make the pound perform. Spend abroad and most credit cards add a 3 per cent ‘non sterling transaction fee’ which means £100 of euros costs £103 and some then load other charges on top.
However, there are a range of specialist cards that don’t add that fee. So you get that day’s same near-perfect rate that the banks do, in every country. My top two long-term picks, as well as good exchange rates, have low cash fees – the www.creation.co.uk Everyday card and www.halifax.co.uk Clarity. Spending on these is super cheap, usually easily smashing the best bureau de change rates.
Yet only do this if you’ll repay the card IN FULL each month, to avoid the 18.9 per cent-ish representative APR. It’s worth noting if instead of spending on the card you withdraw foreign cash and spend that, you will pay interest even if you clear in full, but even with that added they’re still not that costly.
For full info on top cards, and an eligibility calculator so you can see which you’re most likely to be accepted for, go to www.mse.me/payabroad.
2. One hotel room can have hundreds of prices. Once you know what hotel you want, always check to see if it’s being sold cheaper elsewhere, use comparison sites www.trivago.co.uk and www.travelsupermarket.com for a wide-ranging search (and always call the hotel to see if it’ll beat the price). The difference can be £100s.
3. With car hire book it early and buy insurance elsewhere. If hiring abroad, generally early booking is cheaper, what costs £10 a day now can be £40 a day when you get there. Here’s the three key steps:
b) Check stealth fuel charges. Some try and make you pay for a full tank and return it empty – adding £80ish if you don’t drive far. The above, apart from Kayak, let you filter by fuel policy.
c) Don’t fall for their insurance up-sell. When you pick up a car they’ll often try and fear sell you up to £25/day insurance on top – to cover the large excess if you have any claims. If you’ll pay for this, instead use excess insurance comparison site www.moneymaxim.co.uk before you go and you can often find a policy from £2 a day. Yet if you do this, or don’t get the insurance, the car hire firm will ask you to leave a deposit on a credit (not debit) card which can be €1,000+.
4. Find best holiday cash in seconds. Just use my www.travelmoneymax.com site which compares 30 online bureaux to find which gives you the best rates in seconds, factoring all fees.
5. Speedily find the cheapest flights. The obvious start point again are comparison sites. My top picks are www.skyscanner.net, www.kayak.co.uk and www.momondo.co.uk which include most airlines and booking sites like Expedia and ebookers. Yet if you really want to slash flight costs you need to get clever, such as using ethnic specialist travel agents and checking out airline code sharing deals. For full help see www.mse.me/cheapflights.
6. Don’t forget the good old fashion package holiday. Package holidays are where you usually get flights, hotels and transfers in one. They can still be the cheapest especially if you’re going away for seven, ten or 14 days in a traditional holiday destination like Benidorm.
Both www.travelsupermarket.com and www.icelolly.com have comparison sites. Then once you’ve got up a price, if you want to shave a little off, you can call up other agents to see if they’ll sell you the same holiday at a cheaper price.
7. Book travel insurance AS SOON as you book the holiday. Every year people email me saying something sadly akin to, “I’m due on holiday in a few months, but I’ve just been given a cancer diagnosis and can’t go, the airline won’t let me cancel, what can I do?” The answer is ‘that’s what travel insurance is for’.
Waiting defeats half the point of having the cover – which is to protect you in the event cancellation is needed due to illness, a death in the family or something else.
Full help on the cheapest policies, including for over 65s in www.mse.me/travelinsurance.
8. Booked Easyjet – keep checking the price. If your Easyjet price drops after you’ve booked it – excluding in a sale – you can just call it up to ask for the difference back in vouchers. Jo emailed: “We got an £803 voucher... all thanks to you.”
9. Check if your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is still valid. The free EHIC means if you’re in an EU (and a few others) country you can use a state GP or hospital for the same price as a local, so if it’s free for them, it’s free for you. It’s valuable extra protection (alongside travel insurance). Yet it’s not valid for millions, this is nothing to do with Brexit, but simply that it has a “valid until” date and 5.3 million expired in the last year.
Check yours, if it is, go to www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC to get a new one for FREE (don’t Google this, you’ll find shyster sites trying to charge you to do it who add nothing to the process).
10. Be careful boozing on holiday. A final thought. If you’re going to drink on holiday (and let’s be honest, for many people that’s half what it’s about), remember this may invalidate your travel insurance claim.
Martin Lewis is the Founder and Chair of MoneySavingExpert.com. To join the 12 million people who get his free Money Tips weekly email, go to www.moneysavingexpert.com/latesttip.