Booking a summer holiday can be a great way to beat the winter blues, especially if you bag a bargain by booking early.
Travel companies offer their best deals in the first two months of the year, said the Association of British Travel Agents, “with potential savings of hundreds of pounds” for savvy customers. These offers may include free child places, which can help cut costs “if you’re restricted to travelling in school holidays when prices go sky high”, said The Money Edit.
Here are other tips to cut the cost of your next getaway.
Find the cheapest day to book and fly
As well as where you go on holiday, when you go and for how long can have a big impact on how much you have to pay.
Airlines charge a premium for travelling out and back in “predictable chunks of time like one, two, three or four weeks”, said the Daily Mail, and flying on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays is often especially expensive. Booking a ten-day trip instead with departure on Monday and a return flight on Wednesday, for instance, will increase your chance of “striking better deals”.
When you book matters too. Avoid buying flights on a Friday, as airlines often run out of cheaper seats by the end of the week and hike up prices. According to Expedia’s 2023 Air Travel Hacks Report, booking on Sundays rather than Fridays can save travellers, on average, about 15%.
You can make further savings by going on holiday when many other people can’t, such as outside the school holidays. Or if that isn’t an option, said MoneySavingExpert, prices usually “drop rapidly” towards the end of August, as “many people don’t want to be away the week before schools go back”.
Websites such as SkyScanner and GoogleFlights are useful tools to compare flight prices for different dates and times.
Shelling out for a package or all-inclusive deal that covers food, drinks and snacks, and sometimes even luggage and airport transfers, can save cash overall, especially for larger families.
Research by the Post Office found that a family meal out for four including wine and soft drinks came to around £64 in the Costa del Sol last year – which works out at £448 a week “just for evening meals”, said MoneySavingExpert.
So provided you don’t mind eating in your hotel, the site said, “it’s worth weighing up if you can save by going all-inclusive, factoring in local costs and exchange rates”.
Make use of free cancellation and payment flexibility
Accommodation booking sites such as Airbnb, Booking.com and Hotels.com sometimes offer free cancellation. And that “could enable you to pre-book and lock in a deal with the added bonus of being able to keep shopping around”, said The Money Edit.
You can then cancel if you find a cheaper deal or if your plans change, but check the terms and conditions for the deadline date for making amendments.
Some hoiday companies such as Tui are also offering zero-deposit holidays, allowing you to secure a deal without any upfront payments. Others, including Jet2, offer “pay monthly” trips allowing customers to pay in interest-free installments.
Holiday homes vs. hotels
A hotel may offer extra comforts such as daily housekeeping, but renting a holiday home could be cheaper.
Many holiday villas can house a large number of people, said the Oliver’s Travels blog, “meaning you can get the gang together and split the cost – and it’ll often come up less per night than a hotel”.
You may also save on restaurant bills if you rent a home, as you can buy and cook your own food. And while guests may enjoy a wide range of amenities in hotels, “they lack the extra authenticity that more and more travellers are looking for when planning their holidays”, travel website Wimdu suggests.
Staycation vs. sunseeking
Last summer’s airport chaos “wasn’t a great advert for venturing overseas”, said The Telegraph. By contrast, staycations are “seen as a way of controlling costs at a time when outgoings are spiralling”.
VisitBritain’s January 2023 Domestic Sentiment Tracker found that 70% of a total 1,500 respondents were planning a UK break in the coming months.
However, while holidaying at home has traditionally been seen as cheaper, the Daily Mirror warned that “the cost-of-living crisis in the UK has made that a thing of the past”. Recent research by consumer champion Which? found that the price of a February half-term holiday home had “shot up” by as much as 50% in some areas over the past three years, the paper reported.
So if you are planning to holiday in the UK, be sure to shop around for decent deals.
Don’t forget insurance
Having travel insurance can save you a lot of money if you have an accident or other potentially costly issues during your break. Insurance can cover the cost if you need medical treatment, or if your flight is delayed or cancelled.
A key thing to remember is that “you need the policy in place from the day you book, not just the duration of the holiday”, Which? said.“That way you’re covered if any unexpected situations prevent you from travelling.”
Marc Shoffman is an award-winning freelance journalist, specialising in business, property and personal finance. He has a master’s degree in financial journalism from City University and has previously worked for the FT’s Financial Adviser, the financial podcast In For a Penny and MoneyWeek.