After a long weekend soaking up a good dose of sunshine and the atmosphere of vibrant old cities in Southern France, I felt a holiday post would be in order. Most of us are extremely savvy when it comes to finding the deals, thanks to price-comparison websites, travel search engines, and a choice of discount airlines. We also know to avoid travel outside school term time or during public holidays when prices rocket and both roads and airports become congested.
On my travels I have picked up a few other simple tips – some learned the hard way! – that can stretch the budget further, save time, or simply make the trip more enjoyable.
- Where are you flying to and from? Discount airlines often use smaller, more distant airports to try to lower airport fees, and a long bus, train or taxi journey can significantly bump up the price. What is the total cost of your travel door to door?
- What time is your flight? The lowest fares are usually early in the morning or late at night when the connections are less frequent. Having to stay in a hotel before your journey because that’s the only way to catch that super cheap flight before sunrise is definitely false economy.
- Having said that, sometimes a flight to and from a small airport is not just the most affordable but also the most practical option. A discounted train ticket from Oxford to Gatwick with a night in a hotel can cost the same as a full-price coach fare alone to Heathrow. A good night’s sleep vs getting up in the early hours to catch the coach – I’ll choose the former any time!
- Can you use local transport for connections? Special airport shuttles are handy but using the local bus or train transport when possible is cheaper.
- Hotel location. Booking a hotel in the outskirts of a city or a bit further away from the beach to save on accommodation costs can be tempting. Can you get everywhere on foot or using local transport or would a late night mean an expensive taxi ride back?
- However, in popular destinations, such as Venice or Monaco, staying outside the city is likely to be the most affordable option.
- Are meals included in the hotel price? Despite a potential financial benefit, I have never been on all-inclusive holidays as I love to experience the local culture and sample the cuisine in the cafés and restaurants of the area. (I also want my money to go to local businesses instead of a big hotel or tour company.) Instead, I go for accommodation with a good (buffet) breakfast that will keep me going until lunch time.
- If breakfast is not included, I’ll find a nice café not aimed at tourists. The hotel breakfast on my latest trip was not worth the money so I only had it once!
- Shop at local markets & grocery stores. Locals don’t eat out every day, you don’t have to either. After a hearty breakfast, buy a few picnic items from a local grocery store or market for lunch and bring something back for later.
- When you want to eat out, remember that many food establishments, including the more upmarket restaurants, offer special lunch or early-bird menus. The same food as in the evening, just a lower price.
- Does your hotel offer a free Wi-Fi? If not, find a café, library, or even a bank that does. Even if you need to buy a coffee, it’s still often cheaper than what your hotel may charge.
Finally, pack light! Many airlines charge extra for hold luggage so if you are going away only for a couple of days, hand luggage should be sufficient. Don’t buy travel-sized toiletries with their extortionate mark-ups: buy larger sizes instead, preferably when they are on offer, and decant them before you travel.
What are your favourite savvy holiday tips? Is there something you wish you had known before you booked a trip?