How to book a cheap holiday...and other travel tips!

How to book a cheap holiday...and other travel tips!
beach-holiday-hammock

We've asked the experts for their best travel advice - from saving money to bagging an upgrade.

Get the best holiday deal

  • “To get the best price on flights, book in the wee hours,” say Reigo Eljas, Country Director for Lastminute.com. “Tickets that were on hold overnight, usually for business travellers, are released at about 1am so be an early bird and grab that worm!”
  • For the cheapest stay on a city break, arrive on a Sunday. That way weekend travellers will be gone and corporate guests won’t have arrived yet. Plus, you’re much more likely to get an upgrade to a suite as the hotel will be quieter.
  • Many cities that are popular with business travellers, such as Frankfurt, Zurich and Milan, have great room rates at the weekend when they’ve left. You can sometimes nab 5-star hotels for under £100 a night.
  • “Often booking direct with a hotel can lead to great savings, as many keep the best deals for their loyal customers,” says Debbie Neate, Head of Marketing for Hallmark Hotels. “Make sure to sign up to hotel group newsletters to be the first to take advantage of flash sales or discount codes.”

Last minute vs booking ahead?

  • “The rules on when to book differ depending on what time of year you want to travel,” says Paul Joseph, co-founder of Health and Fitness Travel. “For a spring holiday, book four to six months in advance. The best deals on winter holidays tend to be the last minute ones if you’re heading to Europe – but if you’re going long-haul book at least four months ahead. For a summer holiday, book six months ahead to avoid disappointment on availability.”

Protect yourself and your money

  • “Beware of booking with any company unwilling to take payment by credit or debit cards,  says Daniel Landon, Director of Protected Travel Services. “All reputable companies should be able to handle these transactions and paying by credit card also means you’re covered if you don’t receive the holiday you expect.”
  • Book your insurance as soon as you book your holiday, so that you’re immediately covered for cancellations.
  • “Not many people know that annual travel insurance also covers nights and weekends away in the UK, as long as you’re staying at least 25 miles away from home,”says Glyn Clouting, Product Development Manager at InsureandGo. “This could come in handy if you’re a mini-break fan.” (Accommodation needs to be pre-arranged and for at least two nights to count).

Make your money go further

  • “Before you book your holidays, check for weak currencies to help you get the best value for money while you’re away,”says Emma McWhinney of Secret Escapes. “For example, South Africa currently has a good rand to pound exchange rate.”  

  • “Don’t rely on internet rates if you’re buying travel money in-store,” warns Liam O’Hara, M&S Bank. “Many providers have different rates online and some change their rate throughout the day so you may be disappointed.” Preordering currency online to pick up in store can help you avoid this.

  • Change your money before you get to the airport, as the bureau there will often offer less competitive rates.

holiday-packing

Pack smart

  • “Make your packing more efficient by keeping shoes in a plastic bag or shower cap to protect your clothes, and packing two tops for every pair of trousers (you’re much more likely to re-wear bottoms than tops),” says Niamh Walsh, of HolidayPirates . “Avoid taking a heavy guidebook by taking photos or scans of the pages you need.”

In the air

  • “Always check your aircraft map on Seat Guru before choosing your seats when you check in online,” says Josie Self, Travel PR Manager at Hills Balfour. “The website maps out and logs the top-rated seats on your plane with feedback from other passengers, so if you’re looking for the most legroom or seats far away from or near to the loos, you can find it.”  

  • “Stay comfy on your flight and protect your back by sitting upright, with support in the small of your back,” says Jan Vickery, of AXA PPP Healthcare. “Your knees and hips should be level and your feet should be flat on the floor – raise yourself up with a jumper or coat underneath you if not.

Beat jetlag

  • “Consider using a melatonin supplement,” says Paul Joseph, co-founder of Health and Fitness Travel. “It’s a naturally produced hormone that helps your body know when to sleep, and supplements may help reset your body clock.” As always, take according to guidelines and check with your GP before taking any supplements.

Car hire

  • “In certain countries there might be a mileage cap when you hire a car, and if you go over this you’ll be charged,” says Ant Clarke Cowell, Communications Director at Holiday Extras. “Equally, some providers charge you for picking up and dropping off the car in different places, so if you’re planning a long drive it’s worth finding out about these hidden fees first.”

  • Photograph the car from all angles before you set off so you have a record of any existing damage, and won’t be blamed for it when you drop it off.

Cheap holiday hot-spots to book now

  • Many key destinations, including Spanish and Portuguese resorts have dropped massively for holidays this summer. For example, average prices for travel to Ibiza have fallen by 32 per cent according to Suzanne Perry, travel expert at Kayak.co.uk

  • Flight prices to Faro in Portugal have fallen by a fifth, while Pula in Croatia is down by 43 per cent thanks to an increase in airline routes.

  • If you’re looking to go to the USA, average hotel prices in Las Vegas are down on average 39 per cent; in San Francisco 34 per cent; and even New York has seen hotel prices fall by 32 per cent.