It’s nearly ‘that’ time of year – buckets and spades at the ready everyone…last one in the sea’s a sissy.
But with four in five of us having taken a well earned holiday last year…and, according to research by ABTA, one in five stating that an overseas holiday is a necessity rather than a luxury, how much do we think about the financial implications of our summer jaunt?
According to The Travel Association, the cost of a holiday is less of a priority than safe accommodation, financial protection or ATOL and ABTA accreditation. Value for money ranks 5th most important and having the lowest prices down at 9th.
Whilst many would never take a holiday that would leave them in debt, a fifth would take a holiday at least once a year regardless of their personal financial situation. For some, it’s not just finding something cheep and cheerful, 29% of those who’d classify themselves as ‘financially struggling’ took an overseas holiday in 2013, and 18% of these spent £1000 or more on their last holiday!
I have been fortunate to be able to afford some sort of holiday when I’ve wanted one – finding someone to go with has been the difficult part. That said, I have had occasions where cheap and cheerful has been the theme, and I’ve tried many things to get the best deal for my dough.
Like many, the UK ‘staycation’ isn’t quite my stick of Brighton Rock, and I find I spend more in funding activities out of the rain. It may be too late for this summer, but if you’re still insistent on travelling abroad, my top tips for bagging a holiday without the painful financial sunburn are…
1. Set your budget up front – whether it’s for All Inclusive (which are handy for controlling spending), or whether you allocate a per day allowance in addition to flights/hotels etc, and don’t forget to budget for excursions and the kiss-me-quick souvenirs
2. Pick the best booking time – the later you leave it, the more discounts can be available to sell those last empty rooms, but the later you leave it, the more flexible you need to be. If you want more certainty of specific locations or hotel features (such as kids clubs) the best deals are usually the earlier the better
3. Book or travel during a major international event – it’s a bit late to take advantage of England’s participation in the World Cup this year, but as many are distracted by supporting their country, sales of holidays fall and some good deals can be found
4. Avoid peak times – obviously school holidays will be more expensive and have less room for negotiation, so if you don’t have these restrictions, take advantage of the off peak seasons
5. Location, location, location – some countries and resorts have fallen out of fashion and some are emerging as new tourist destinations and are offering great bargains to tempt the travellers, such as Sunny Beach (Bulgaria), Marmaris (Turkey), the Spanish Costa’s, The Algarve, Paphos (Cyprus) and the Greek islands. The relative strength of the pound to Euro means European destinations have become attractive options again
6. Be unsociable – choosing your flights carefully can greatly reduce costs. Be prepared to travel on early morning, late nights and mid week (Tuesday to Thursday) as these are usually cheaper. You can also try breaking your flight rather than flying direct
7. Package vs bespoke – Check if a package deal is cheaper than build your own flights and hotels. Packages are great for standard breaks of a standard length, but if you’re looking for something more bespoke, build your own may be cheaper
8. Be alternative – how about a house swap or camping, or try booking a secret hotel/allocation on arrival? Getting international trains, ferries or driving can also be an adventure and could have cost savings if you plan carefully. Cruises can also offer great deals
9. Check online comparison sites – you can’t haggle on the web, but do ask travel agents if they can get you a good deal. Most will now match the same product online…but remember, it’s their job too and they need the commission from your sale, so be polite, and don’t waste their time if you know you’re not going to book through them.
So, all that remains is for me to wish you all a happy holidays. Be sun-smart, stay safe, remember your E111 and travel insurance…and I hope your passport arrives in time. Mine’s currently in the HM Passport Office’s Bermuda Triangle!