The global financial crisis and the following recession has hit the nation hard since it first crashed in 2008. But, if you’re one of the lucky ones who can afford a break in 2013, chances are you’ll be looking for ways to save and make your pound go further.
Savvy holiday makers start looking deals well before they even leave their living room. The Guardian listed the Gatwick Express as one of the biggest rip-offs when it comes to setting off into the sunset. Apparently “the Southern service between the same stations takes five minutes longer and has a standard price of $17.50 each way, but you can buy two $8 singles if you book sufficiently far in advance.” In fact their top four tips all involve ways to save simply getting to the airport.
Once you’re actually away from home and on your holiday, that extra ice cream, bargain bikini or celebratory bottle of Champagne seems like an excellent idea but even the smallest daily indulgences can mount up over a fortnight. Instead of ruining your holiday with a miserably tight daily budget, why not start saving before you’ve even left the house? Following these savvy suggestions when you’re planning your trip means there’ll be more in the kitty for a little extra extravagance when you’re away.
Check up with your provider on extra charges incurred overseas and any restrictions you may encounter. You don’t want to be welcomed home with an enormous mobile bill. Be aware that restrictions might affect you even if you’re simply the recipient of calls and texts and roaming internet charges can be astronomical. If in doubt, switch off! If you need to be available, it might make sense to take a cheap handset and just buy a cheap pay-as-you-go SIM on a local network when you’re away.
Shop round for the best money rates
Use independent online comparisons sites to ensure you get the most bang for your buck. Deals can change hourly if not daily, so if you have time, monitor fluctuations over a few days and then make your judgement. These days a combination one or two prepaid cards, preloaded with a fixed amount on a fixed rate and some cash is ideal for traveling abroad. Prepaid cards often offer the best deals when it comes to forex and have the added bonus that they won’t incur fees with every swipe like a credit card. Sometimes you can get a discount for picking up your currency in person, for exchanging a certain amount. Never, ever leave it ‘til the airport at the last minute, where you’re guaranteed to pay above the odds for a paltry return.
Take one, buy one
Research prices on the things you might have planned to buy when you arrive. If toiletries are cheap, travel light and stock up when you get there – but if the reverse is true, ensure you carry adequate supplies. Similarly, check up on medicines and sun protection prices and plan your purchases accordingly. If you’re heading somewhere where clothing, technology and activity equipment is cheap, you might even find that traveling light could actually save you cash.
If you can’t do without your morning cuppa pack your own rather than buying expensive imported goods when you’re there. Taking your own snacks and some more satisfying food to eat whilst you travel also means you avoid expensive packaged fast-food and the lure of airport restaurants.
Save on your stay
Rather than automatically opting for a hotel, explore the options. A vacation rental where you’re hosted by a family allows you to get closer to a culture and benefit from local knowledge. A working holiday on a farm or project could even mean you’re the one getting paid to stay. A home swap means free accommodation, provided you’re happy for a family to stay in yours whilst you’re away.
If you’re visiting somewhere where drinking, dining and entertainment are expensive, it could pay to go all-inclusive. If you’re happy to stay in and cook, self-catering facilities mean you can save on pricey restaurant meals. Check up on local food costs – will it be more budget-friendly to bring your own larder items, or hit the local markets?
Make sure you know about restrictions and regulations on the items you can carry in your luggage, and clue yourself in on baggage allowances regarding both size and weight. Plan your packing accordingly in order to avoid hefty excess charges, and ensure you’ve been accurate with at-home weighing and measuring. Pack as light as possible and, if possible, avoid checking in any luggage at all – some carriers now have no minimum free allowance whatsoever.
Arriving at the airport
You might have booked a budget break, but it’d easy to overlook the initial and final outlays – getting to and from the airport. If you plan to take a minicab, get a number of quotes and choose the most favorable rate. Book in advance to ensure a car will be available. If possible, use public transport – it can be a headache with baggage, but also saves you cash.
If you need train tickets, use discount services and book as far in advance as possible. There are also a number of minibus services that will pick you up directly from your home or a designated stop. Driving to the airport and parking your car onsite is always pretty expensive, but you can lessen the outlay by advance booking – or seeing if a friend would travel with you and drive your car home after you depart.
Reporting from London on lifestyle topics ranging from fashion and parenting to travel and finance, Sarah Thompson enjoys sharing tips on how to afford life’s little luxuries on a tight budget. You can read more of Sarah’s articles in a wide variety of blogs and websites.