How to cut the cost of your holiday

12 April 2012

It's no secret that holidays are expensive. The cost of flights, the hotel room and eating abroad is only the beginning, and additional costs can quickly burn a hole in your pocket. These tips may seem obvious to most but they are easily forgotten and can save you a small fortune while away, and before you travel.

1. Exchange cash before you leave

Change up your spending money into the local currency before you go and search for the best exchange rate. Take more money than you need, as you can always change what you haven't spent once you've returned.

If you don't want to be taking loads of cash with you - and who can blame you - avoid using your credit card as most providers add on a hefty fee for use abroad. Instead, look into a prepaid card. You can load it up before you go and it is not linked to your bank account.

Keep one step ahead of exchange rates

2. Travel insurance

If you're travelling in Europe, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a must to protect you against illness or accidents – and best of all it's free. However, it doesn't protect you from other holiday mishaps.

It's easy to tick the travel insurance button when buying your flights, but this isn't necessarily the cheapest or best option for your needs. Shop around.

Use a price comparison engine to search for the best deals, and buy before you fly – but make sure that all of your requirements are covered.

3. Don't hire a car at the airport

If you haven't hired a car before you leave, it's tempting to hire one as soon as you land. Instead, get to know the area in which you're staying. Hotels can normally recommend a trustworthy car rental at a lower price. Or why not travel like a local? Grab a guide book and a map, and try out the public transport rather than taking taxis.

4. Book your transfers in advance

It's often best to book a transfer with your flight or look for a cheap deal online, as there will be plenty about.

5. Go all inclusive

More and more operators are offering all inclusive boards for a variety of destinations – it may seem like a hefty price upfront but it can be a saviour if you have kids who are constantly asking for an ice-cream or a drink. Just take enough spending money to cover the extras.

6. Watch your mobile costs

The EU has taken steps to prevent holiday makers from receiving extortionate bills for calling, texting and roaming while abroad in Europe. But this only goes so far in solving the problem. You should invest in a ‘pay as you go' international Sim card before you travel. It's easy to do and you'll receive better rates for calling, texting and data.

Unlike domestic operators, some providers even make it free to receive calls and text messages when abroad saving you additional money. Being ‘pay as you go', you can control exactly how much you're spending, topping up what you need, when you need it.

Cut the cost of international phone calls

7. Make a checklist

Make a list of all the essentials you'll need for your trip to save you from having to buy those forgotten items at duty free or local shops.

Travel adapters, razors, toothbrushes, tweezers and nail clippers are usually the forgotten suspects. If you're travelling to a tourist hotspot, you could end up paying over the odds as the local retailers push for a high price on items you can't get through the holiday without.

8. Tipping

Understand the etiquette – in some countries tipping is not necessarily expected, however, if the service has been good it's polite to leave something. Unlike Britain, 10 per cent is not always customary; just leave a euro or two if the service has been good.

9. Excursions

Shop around online before you travel – look for family package deals and money off coupons. Online prices always tend to be cheaper, just make sure the website offering you money off is reputable. You can't always rely on your holiday provider to offer the best price possible.

10. Barter your way to a bargain

We all love a souvenir on holiday, yet we all want a bargain. Take yourself to a local market for the day to snap up a piece of local culture, but don't pay an arm and a leg for it. Keep your bartering cap on and stick to a price you wish to pay.

John Assiter is marketing manager at

This article was written for our sister website Money Observer

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