10 last-minute travel tips

Holiday season is upon us and many of us will already have spent, or be planning to spend, hundreds - if not, thousands - of pounds on getting away. The average family of four spends a whopping £860 per person on an annual holiday, according to charity travel booker Give as you Live.

With a summer break costing so much it is important to get the best deals on everything so you only pay what you have to. Here is a round-up of expert tips on where you can make savvy cutbacks and get great deals so that your holiday budget goes further.

1. Book direct

If you haven't booked your trip yet, think twice about how you book. "While visiting comparison websites and travel agencies is a lot easier, you really can save a lot more money by contacting hotels directly," says Nick Swan, chief executive of VoucherCodesPro.co.uk.

"Ring or email your desired hotel, then ask what it can offer you. It'll often be cheaper as they can then avoid the agent fees from using comparison websites or travel agents."

2. Travel with friends

In recent years, there has been, "a change in the way we go on holiday with more people cutting their costs by inviting friends and family along", says Gareth Shilton a spokesperson for Ocean Finance. Research by the company found that two-thirds of us now save money by sharing a villa or hotel room with friends or family.

3. Get discounted gear

Need a new camera or suitcase for your holiday? Get the best deal by shopping around online. Or if you are too busy prepping for your trip, try using Flubit.com. Find what you want to buy on Amazon and tap in the details on Flubit and it will come up with a personalised money-saving deal for you.

4. Contact the tourist board

Before you set off, email the local tourist board at your destination. "They will offer guidance on what to see and will even sometimes offer discounts on travel around the city," says travel blogger Tom Bourlet of Spaghettitraveller.com. "They will also know of any special offers on events taking place and how to go about safely booking a ticket."

5. Get the best exchange rate

One great way to save is by shopping around to get the best possible exchange rate. "Avoid waiting to buy your travel money when you get to the airport," says Simon Phillips, head of retail at travel money specialist No. 1 Currency. "Although the airport is convenient, you pay for that convenience with some pretty awful rates."

Instead use a comparison service such as TravelMoneyMax.com to find the best deal and then order online before you go.

6. Use a pre-pay card

Avoid the expensive transaction fees debit and credit card providers charge when you are abroad by using a pre-pay foreign currency card instead. WeSwap is a new card that allows you to hold up to 16 different currencies on one MasterCard. You also get a great exchange rate as users "swap currency directly with other travellers for only a 1% fee, and at the perfect interbank exchange rate", says Mimi Brown from WeSwap.

7. Get to know your insurance

Don't go on holiday without travel insurance. It will help you if you are injured, robbed, fall sick or are caught up in travel delays. But also make sure you know what is and is not covered. Many people don't realise that they are only covered for a limited amount of cash. Take too much with you and you won't be able to claim for it all if you lose it or it is stolen.

Compare travel insurance quotes

"Cash can prove extremely useful when going abroad," says Amber Howard, branch manager of Holidaysafe.co.uk. "We recommend that you check the cash limits on your insurance policy to make sure you are adequately covered. Precautions such as always keeping cash locked in a safe or keeping it on your person should always be taken."

8. Take a packed lunch

You might not be able to take your own liquids on to a plane but you can take food. "I always bring sandwiches on to the plane, as the airports and airlines charge a fortune for what is basically a bit of bread and cheese," says Bourlet.

9. Know your rates

Despite our best intentions, many of us overspend on holiday due to mistakes in currency conversion. "Many people do try to stick to a budget when on holiday but things don't always go to plan," says Katherine Wilson, chief marketing officer for Barclaycard. "Currency conversions you do quickly in your head can often lead to a big headache later. It's all to easy to spend more than you intended on a designer deal or shiny souvenir."

To avoid overspending, most banks and credit card companies can set up alerts to tell you if your balance falls below a certain level. Also, make a note of the exchange rate and keep it in your wallet to help you work things out. For example, 1 euro= 71p, 10 euros= £7, 50 euros= £35 and 100 euros= £71.

10. Get a local sim card

The cost of using your mobile phone when you are abroad may be falling, thanks to new EU rules, but it is still easy to rack up a big bill. Avoid the worry with a local sim card. "When it comes to calls and text messages, a great way to keep costs down to a minimum is to buy a local sim card, put it in your phone and simply top it up," says Ernest Doku, technology expert at uSwitch.com.Then simply switch off data roaming and use local wi-fi when you want to check the internet or your emails.

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