Holidays are rarely cheap, but you can cut the costs of yours by planning ahead (so you don’t have to buy your travel money at the airport), shopping around (so you can get the best value car hire) and making sure you don’t use your credit or debit card without knowing the charges. Here are some ideas on how to make your money go further.
1. Order your foreign currency online to get the cheapest rates.
Don’t pay by bank transfer as it could be risky if the company goes bust. Pay by debit card instead. If you use your credit card, you’ll normally be charged interest straight away and an extra fee.
SAVVY TIP: If you’re only going to order a small amount, check the minimum order levels and find a company that lets you pick up your order in the airport, ferry terminal or at a branch. Some companies charge delivery costs or a handling charge on small orders.
2. Never take out money at a cash machine abroad using your credit card. It’s a really expensive option as you’ll be charged interest from day one and normally a handling fee (as well as possibly losing out on the exchange rate).
3. Check the charges on your debit or credit card before using it for shops or restaurants when you’re on holiday. One or two cards (such as Halifax’s Clarity card and the Post Office credit card) have no or low charges in the EU, if not elsewhere.
SAVVY TIP: Prepaid credit cards can be a useful option if you want to stick to a budget or if you’re worried about theft or ID fraud.
4. Don’t assume a budget airline is the cheapest, especially if you’re booking near to your flying date. Once the extras have been added in (such as checking in a bag etc), the flight may not be so cheap after all.
SAVVY TIP: Skyscanner is a good place to start looking for cheap flights. Travelsupermarket.com is also worth trying. Package deals (hotel plus flight) can be cheaper if you can be flexible about dates.
5. Always book your airport parking in advance. You can save a lot compared to the on the day costs.
6. Be careful when comparing car hire costs. Booking a hire car — and not getting ripped off with extras — can be a big challenge. Check all the extra charges, such as what happens if you return the car to a different drop-off point from where you picked it up, whether you should return it with a full or empty tank and whether you’ll be charged extra for a sat nav or child car seats etc. Find out more in Save money on car hire; if you’re booking a hire car, make sure you don’t pay sneaky extra charges.
SAVVY TIP: Don’t buy ‘excess insurance’ or ‘super collision damage waiver’ cover (which will reduce the insurance excess from a few hundred pounds to zero) from the hire car company. You can buy this cheaper independently.
7. If you’re overcharged by your hotel or car hire company, get in touch with your bank or credit card company straightaway. If you didn’t agree to the charges, your bank should refund them promptly (it’s included in some regulations that were introduced in 2009, so they have to do it).
8. If you’re going away for a break in Europe, take an EHIC card. This applies if you’re in the EEA (made up of the EU, Norway, Lichtenstein and Iceland). If you have an EHIC, you’ll be able to get basic medical treatment for free. But it’s not the same as travel insurance as you won’t have any luggage, cash or cancellation cover.
SAVVY TIP: You can read all about using your EHIC or European Health Insurance Card elsewhere in this section.
9. Check your household insurance cover. If you have ‘possessions away from home’ cover on your household policy, you can claim if you lose some luggage or your camera or phone etc while you’re on holiday. But bear in mind that you’ll lose your no claims bonus on your household insurance if you make a claim. Travel insurance is a must if you’re travelling outside the EU and especially if you’re going on an adventure holiday, going somewhere remote or to the United States (where medical costs are hugely expensive).
SAVVY TIP: Don’t just choose the cheapest travel policy, check the limits and look at the evidence the company will expect if you make a claim. Some insist you contact the police within 24 hours, which could be difficult if you’re staying somewhere remote. I’ve written an article about Ten tips on getting the right travel insurance policy for less.
10. Watch your phone use! If you’re taking your smartphone with you, make sure you disable data roaming so your phone doesn’t connect to the internet without you being aware of it. Tell your mobile phone provider you’re going abroad, and buy a roaming SIM card if you want to use your phone a lot.
SAVVY TIP: Your mobile phone usage will be capped in the EU, but not if you travel outside. Your mobile phone company will normally have cheaper data bundles if you need to get online a lot while you’re away.
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