Sunday, February 1, 2009

Saving money on Holidays, Flights and Travel Insurance

January and February are traditionally the months when most people book their summer holidays and there are ways that you can make huge savings by doing your research and booking hotels, apartments, travel insurance and flights direct. 5 years ago when I went abroad for the first time in 4 years, I picked up a brochure from the travel agents and was astounded to see the cost of a holiday for my chosen destination, for a family of 6. I then went online, searched the hotel and booked direct and then found our flights and again, booked them direct. I booked our taxi transfers via the internet, also our travel insurance and made a saving of a whopping £1,500! Over the next few years the hotel prices increased and although I continued to book our holiday this way, the saving got less and less. In year 3 my eldest child didn’t come and then last year, neither she nor the next one came, so there was only 4 of us. We were already feeling the effects of the credit crunch and booked a very last minute holiday to the same destination, but this time we booked an apartment near to the hotel we normally stay at, but for a fraction of the cost. We chose the Owners Direct website, which has worldwide accommodation, searched the area we wanted to go to and then searched the special offers section for that area and we got a fantastic deal. It was only for 6 days rather than 7 but we got it dirt cheap. It is obviously down to each individual villa/apartment owner what special offers they chose to give, but if they have a gap that they can’t fill, some will offer a very good price and you can expect some good deals this year as I would think a lot of owners will worry that they won‘t get their properties full this summer with the state of the Euro/Economy etc. We booked our flights direct with Monarch as we had in previous years and again got some very cheap flights - so it can be done. If you don’t have to worry about funds and can book a fortnight in Dubai - then well done you, but do remember that a lot more companies will go bust this year and lots more people will be losing their jobs, so be cautious when booking in advance, incase its you! Check the right hand panel for links to useful travel insurance/holiday/flight company websites.

My top tips for booking a holiday are:-

1. Flights are usually cheaper midweek, so avoid travelling at weekends.
2. By booking through a travel agent you have the security of being ATOL protected and will get your money back and a flight home should your chosen company go bust whilst you are away.
3. If you book via a travel agent, don’t be cajoled into paying for their travel insurance find a great deal on the internet. The cheapest I can find as this post is published, for a family of 4, single trip insurance to Europe for only £9.35 with direct-travel. For an extra £3.40 you also get cancellation cover, great if booking a package deal.
4. If you take a chance and book your hotel and flights separately without the use of a Travel Agent who is ATOL protected, ensure you have enough money in a bank account or on a credit card to get you home should anything go wrong.
5. Booking online via the High Street Agents websites, usually secures you an extra 5 or 10% discount than if you use their call centres or branches.
6. Do compare prices, don’t just settle for the first agent you speak to - let them fight for your business telling them you can get a cheaper deal on the same holiday elsewhere, to see if they can match it.
7. If booking flights direct - remember the initial bargain price you see will then have taxes added, costs for inflight meals and baggage are also usually extra.
8. Do budget your spending money - think about the amount you believe is reasonable to live on each day, but do factor in young children who will be constantly requiring drinks and ice lollies! Allow a days extra money as a contingency or to spend on your last night, if it is left over, you may like to enjoy a meal out rather than eating in the hotel.
9. Always ensure you factor in currency for the Airport. There is nothing worse than having a long flight delay and no money left to buy food and drink when everyone around you has a nice ice cold bottle of water! (yes you guessed it, I was that person pre kids, usually on my way back from an 18-30 jaunt to Ibiza!).
10. If you need new Sunglasses, are running out of your favourite Chanel lipstick or perfume - hold out and buy Duty Free from the Airport.
11. Be careful when using a comparison travel website, as the price you see is rarely there when you click through to the flight companies site. Just think about the airlines that may fly to your chosen destination and go directly to their sites.
12. There are no commission costs for foreign currency when using the Post Office and if you have any left when you get back, they change that back to Sterling for free aswell, unlike some Travel Agents.
13. Don’t be afraid to book your hotel via Thomson and your flights with Thomas Cook, you are in charge and it is your money!
14. Remember the old E111 form you could get from the post office which covered you for medical expenses if travelling to Europe? Well now it has been replaced by a card called EHIC which you can apply for online via their website, they also offer travel insurance.
15. Is it me or does Suntan Lotion always seem to be more expensive when bought abroad? Always make sure you take enough with you. Boots usually have good buy one get one free offers, especially on their own brand range, Soltan (don't forget to buy online using a cashback site for extra savings, both cashbackkings and topcashback give 3.5% for this retailer). So don't be afraid to start buying now. 16.Start buying your holiday tolietries/medical supplies each week when doing your weekly shop as to buy it all in one go, just before your holiday, can cost a fortune and really take a nasty chunk out of your spending money. This way you will hardly notice it and can take full advantage of buy one get on free offers when they have them on shampoo, showergel, toothpaste etc!
17. Don’t forget it is far better to be Frugal on holiday than not to have one. In this day and age, there is so much peer pressure on children, that last year we really only went away for the sake of the kids. It is awful when everyone else goes back to school with a tan or talks about their holidays and your child is the one who hasn’t been anyway. Think about going for 5 days rather than 7, If you go Friday till Monday, get an early morning flight on Friday so you have from lunchtime onwards and then a flight back late Monday night to get the most out of your stay. If you can drive - consider camping holidays to the South of France/Brittany etc - my kids once had a fab time doing this with their Dad (it was the only time he ever took them abroad, but hey ho!). We all need a break sometime and if like me, you are determined that your kids won’t suffer from our economic decline - hopefully you will find a way!

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