Book a package
With travel disruption still a possibility as the world continues to navigate Covid, it is really important to make sure you are financially protected so that you don’t lose out if things don’t go according to plan. If you book your holiday as a package – essentially paying one price through one company – the travel firm is legally responsible for providing a refund for your holiday if one element fails. You are also financially protected from extra costs incurred if the travel company goes out of business while you are abroad.
Look for the Atol protection logo for holidays that include flights and Abta protection for those that involve rail, cruise or self-drive.
Both package travel regulations and Atol reform are under review, assessing funding arrangements and the protection of customer money. Both could have significant impacts on consumer protection; results are due later this year.
Insure without delay
Robust travel insurance is more essential than ever, given the risk of Covid infection. If you are buying coverage that includes “Covid cover”, be sure to check the small print. It could include anything from cover in the event that you or someone else in your party catches Covid before the trip, to hospital or repatriation costs should you fall ill while away.
It is also important to buy your insurance as soon as you’ve purchased your holiday, as you will be covered for any eventuality, such as sickness, from that point until your return.
Factor in Covid costs
Make sure your Covid vaccinations are up to date – it could save you hundreds in testing fees. While Covid jabs are free, testing to travel because you forgot to get boosted is not.
Some destinations want to make sure that their vaccinated arrivals are insured for Covid-related healthcare, others are charging for mandatory policies, such as Belize (BZ$36/£14). Still others have rigorous testing requirements regardless of vaccination status, and many will be at the cost of the holidaymaker. Restriction-free travel is opening up, from Ireland to Mexico, but check before you travel.
Don’t rely on price-comparison sites
In the age of the no-frills airline, price-comparison sites have become less useful for comparing like-for-like prices. Unless you are the kind of person who can travel with nothing but a small backpack, it might not be until you reach the final booking page – having added extras such as carry-on bags and seat reservations – that you know the final cost of your flight.
There is no easy fix, so slogging through the entire booking process with each airline before comparing the grand totals is the only way to know the best deal.
Choose your travel dates carefully and be flexible
Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday are generally the cheapest days of the week to fly; Friday and Sunday tend to be pricier.
There is a trend for maximising holiday time based around UK bank holidays, but that can be costly. While you might get more days away, air fares and hotel prices are likely to be higher. November is a good month for travelling long-haul for less, before the peak Christmas season kicks in, while flying on Christmas Day or New Year’s Eve/Day can bring costs down.
For train bookings in the UK, start searching when the booking window opens – around 12 weeks ahead of travel – but bear in mind that most booking systems are dynamic, adjusting prices according to demand.
Some sites such as trainline.com allow you to sign up to alerts for sales; it also predicts when tickets are likely to go up or sell out (thetrainline.com/price-prediction). However, book your tickets directly with the train operating company to avoid fees. Split ticketing – buying tickets for each leg of a journey if you need to change train midway, rather than one through fare – can also save money.
And if you travel by train more than once or twice a year, consider buying a railcard for discounts.
Packing light can save you cash and help cut your environmental footprint (Photo: Peter Dazeley/Getty)
As airlines unbundle everything from seat reservations to in-flight catering, packing light can help you travel more cheaply. If you regularly travel on no-frills carriers, finding a backpack that corresponds to the dimensions allowed on board, from a brand such as Cabin Max, can help you pack in as much luggage as possible. Plus, travelling light is better for the environment.
Join a subscription club
Travel subscription clubs such as Ultimate Travel Club, Opodo Prime and BRB can keep you up to date on “secret” deals and price-drops.
Subscription newsletter and mobile app Jack’s Flight Club (jacksflightclub.com) collates the best flight deals, sales and even error fares for bargain holiday deals. It is free to join, with a premium £39 annual subscription for exclusive deals, weekend trip alerts and more.
Flight comparison sites such as Google, Skyscanner and Momondo allow you to set up free custom price alerts for when fares drop.
Many people turn to Airbnb for self-catering stays, but average prices are up to £81 higher than comparable hotel room rates in most cities, according to a new study by onlinemoneyadvisor.co.uk.
In all 51 cities surveyed, the average Airbnb was more expensive than the average night in a hotel. Worst was the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik, where the average one-night hotel stay was £31 while the average Airbnb price was £112.
The best prices are often direct with the accommodation’s own booking portal rather than a third-party site.
Avoid the single-parent supplement
Travelling as a single parent usually means paying over the odds, given the cost of a room is priced as a double. However, an increasing number of travel firms offer discount codes for single parents travelling with one or more children – from specialist sites such as Single Parents on Holiday (singleparentsonholiday.co.uk) to major operators such as Virgin Holidays.
Jet2 offers a holidays discount of £60, using the code J2HSPF60 at check-out, while TUI offers a discount of up to £200 for parents travelling with one or more children aged two and over at tui.co.uk/holidays/single-holidays.
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Pay for one, not for two
Paying for a room on your own can be especially pricey on cruises, but Facebook groups such as Cruises for Solos help like-minded cruisers pair up to share a cabin.
Cruises lines offer regular no single supplement sales, but you would need to be flexible with dates, usually avoiding peak season. Hurtigruten offers no single supplements on most of its cruises on select dates at hurtigruten.co.uk/offers/no-single-supplement-exp.
On land, companies such as Friendship Travel (friendshiptravel.com) offer friendly unstructured holidays for singles of all ages, so any single supplement is built in to the cost. Mercury Holidays (mercuryholidays.co.uk) offers a range of no single supplement breaks.
It is always worth signing up to travel reward schemes, particularly if you travel regularly on a certain route. For those who don’t, try to sign up to schemes that have no expiry date on their miles. For example, instead of signing up to Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club, create an account with its partner airline Delta. The same goes for Oneworld group, of which British Airways is a member. BA is a good place to cash in miles earned from flights on any Oneworld partner, as Avios do not expire.
According to the latest Post Office “Holiday Money Report”, sterling’s biggest gain has been against Turkish lira in the past couple of years – visitors will get almost 75 per cent more lira for their pound than a year ago. The pound has also strengthened against the euro in the past 12 months, at around £1 to €1.15.
Inside the eurozone, Portugal offers good value, with Cyprus, Spain and Malta close behind; outside, you’ll find everyday items cheaper in Bulgaria, Croatia and Turkey; further afield, Thailand and South Africa offer excellent value for money.
Cash is fast disappearing from daily life, particularly since the pandemic. This also applies abroad, although having a small supply is handy. When paying with a card, be mindful of foreign transaction fees levied by your bank each time you tap.
You can sign up for a pre-paid debit card such as Revolut – which allows you to pay in a local currency at the interbank exchange rate with no fees – or debit card such as Monzo, Starling or Currensea, which also don’t charge fees and use Mastercard’s exchange rate.
For cash, never buy currency at the airport – this will almost always yield the worst exchange rate. Deliveries or collections through Thomas Exchange Global and Travel FX typically offer good rates, though you can also compare on third-party sites in advance.
Take care when accepting Ryanair’s currency conversion
For itineraries starting in Europe, Ryanair’s booking system will display prices in euros then switch to sterling before taking payment. While this may appear useful, it will in fact end up with you paying more for your flight.
Ryanair will offer a poor exchange rate (as much as 7 per cent below the current market rate) when it converts the cost of your flight from euros to sterling, allowing the airline to pocket the difference. It is not until you type in your card details and are about to hit “purchase” that the page displays an easy-to-miss piece of text informing you that Ryanair will be converting to sterling and that it will be taking a fee for the service. Only at this point are you given the option to opt out and avoid Ryanair’s exchange rate by paying in euros.
It should be noted that there is one situation in which paying over the odds for Ryanair’s conversion might be a smart idea, and that is if your bank charges an even higher conversion rate and/or a high fee for making payments in euros.
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