40 money-saving tips for your next holiday
We've tried, tested and recommended all the best money-saving tips to help make that holiday money go a little bit further.
For 40 years, Holiday Extras has been looking after our customers' cars while they go travelling, and in 2023 we expect to park our 100 millionth car at a UK airport.
As part of our 40th anniversary celebrations, we asked our team and we asked you for the best money-saving tips from the past 40 years. Here's a run down of our top 40 ways to save money on your next holiday.
Proper planning and preparation can save you some holiday spending money before you've even bought your flights and hotel!
1. Check the whole price.
The cheapest flight isn't always the cheapest flight, once you've paid baggage fees, booking fees and fees to sit together.
2. Book early.
Book everything early. Flights, hotels, insurance, extras like your airport parking and lounge. This year especially we're not expecting to see last-minute deals so the longer you leave it the more expensive it's likely to get.
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3. Browse privately when searching for flights or holidays.
If you don't, you might notice the prices go up the next time you search. This is because the site can see if you've visited before and may increase the prices to pressure you into booking.
4. Be flexible.
Dates, durations, stopovers and especially destinations. If you're happy to just get away somewhere, you can search for deals by month and pick the cheapest one for a budget week on a beach somewhere.
Skyscanner and equivalent sites search all flights and all providers, and if you're more concerned about the price than the service or the flight time you can hit a real bargain.
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5. Use those discount codes.
It's always worth doing a quick Google for discount codes as you never know how much you could save. Or install the Honey extension to your web browser which will scan the internet for any codes you can use and automatically apply them. Here's how.
6. Buy your insurance through comparison sites.
This is one of the easiest ways to get the cheapest deals, plus some sites give you a freebie if you book your policy through them. For example, comparethemarket gives you 2 for 1 cinema tickets and discounts at selected restaurants.
7. Make the most of your loyalty schemes.
Shop at Tesco? Exchange your Clubcard points for money off flights, hotel stays, Eurotunnel and more. It's also worth checking if your phone service provider has any discounts for you. Vodafone's VeryMe service often has discounts for airport parking and prize draws for holidays.
8. You shouldn't pay to apply for a visa.
Some destinations, like America, still require a visa/waiver to visit. If you search for US visas some of the top results will be intermediaries offering to help, for a fee. Ignore them. You can do it yourself for free – though you will still need to pay for the visa itself.
9. Book your insurance as soon as you book your trip.
A good travel insurance policy will cover you for cancellations, so as soon as you pay for your trip you should book insurance too in case your plans have to change.
At the airport
Getting from your house to the plane doesn't have to be the most expensive bit of the holiday
10. Don't pay for hold luggage.
Most airlines will charge you a chunk extra to put a suitcase in the hold (which you'll have to pay for on your return as well). You'll be surprised how much you can fit in just one cabin bag. If that's just not enough, think about sharing a suitcase with a travelling companion and splitting the cost between you.
11. Wear your biggest and heaviest clothes on the plane.
This will save space in your bag or cut down on the weight in your suitcase if you're nearing or over the limit.
12. Do the travel pillow hack.
Take your travel pillow and remove the inside, then fill the case up with anything you can't fit in your bag. You'll be surprised how much you can squeeze in there.
13. Pre-order your toiletries at Boots.
This one only works if the airport you're flying from has a Boots. If there are specific products you want, or you want to take more than your limit of fluids in your carry-on, do an order on the Boots website. Then opt for click and collect, and pick it up from the store at the terminal. Just make sure you do it at least 7 days in advance and select the airside store.
14. Don't buy water at the airport.
Instead take an empty bottle with you – you're allowed to take these through security – and fill it up on the other side. Most airports have water fountains or you can ask for a refill at a restaurant. Check out the handy Refill app to see where you can get your bottle topped up for free.
One of your biggest holiday expenses is always going to be where you stay. So choose wisely!
15. Stay where the locals stay.
Most major tourist destinations have a 'tourist area', near the main sites. If you want to go to sleep with a view of the Eiffel Tower behind the curtains, it's going to cost you and the nearby shops and restaurants will also be expensive. Stay (eat and shop) where the locals do and you'll be paying local prices, not tourist rates.
16. Use public transport.
It's almost always much cheaper, so pick accommodation off the strip that has good public transport links you can use to get about.
17. House-sit or pet-sit.
If you're saving the pennies, there are lots of places you can stay for free if you can be trusted as a house-sitter or pet-sitter.
18. Experiment with a capsule hotel.
Some places – most notably Japan but they're spreading to other parts of Asia – offer capsule hotels, a simple bed for the night in a clean and comfortable but very small space. If you're travelling alone, these can be a sensible choice – you're not going to waste your holiday in bed anyway, so don't splash out on more than ten feet of accommodation at night.
19. Make it a working holiday.
If you want to spend a month in France getting to know the language and the culture, try getting a job in a vineyard. Lots of backpackers make their way around Australia picking up jobs in bars and restaurants, or even cleaning in exchange for a bed in a hostel. If you want to see the world without spending any money, earn some instead.
When you land, how to keep hold of the pennies (cents, groszys, satangs and fen).
20. Use cashback sites.
Sign up to cashback sites and see what you can earn back on your holiday. TopCashback has some exclusive offers with popular holiday companies like TUI and Jet2 so it's definitely worth taking a look.
21. Travel to countries with a good exchange rate.
If you want to be extra frugal with your pennies while you're away and you don't have your heart set on a specific place, do a little research before you go. Turkish lira often stretches well against the pound, just be aware that exchange rates are always changing.
22. Don't just use your bank card overseas.
Just using your bank card while away is pretty much guaranteed to set you back a few quid in extra charges. Get yourself a Monzo or Revolut card which let you spend in or exchange to the local currency without any charges. If you don't fancy opening a new bank account, try a currency card like Caxton FX instead. You can pre-load it with your spending money and might even get £10 cashback for free!
23. Pay in the local currency.
When paying by card, always select the option to pay in the local currency. This will usually get you the best exchange rate and won't stick you with any fees. Probably.
24. Exchange your money when you get back.
Still got a few euros or dollars burning a hole in your board shorts? Remember to change them back to pounds so they don't go to waste. Or if you know you're travelling again in the future, tuck them away somewhere safe and use them next time.
25. Claim for delayed or cancelled flights.
If your flight is delayed by three hours or more you're entitled to compensation. You won't need to claim on your travel insurance either as it's up to the airline to give you the money. This also applies if your flight was cancelled. Depending on how far you're travelling and how long the delay is, you could be entitled to more than £500.
26. Avoid roaming charges.
Before you go, check your phone network's rules on usage while abroad. Some will let you use your regular allowance for free, while others will charge for it. This largely depends on your contract and provider. To avoid charges completely, pick up a local pay-as-you-go SIM or get yourself an international SIM that works in multiple countries.
27. You don't need the extra car hire insurance.
You've booked car hire. You get off the plane, a bit tired and frazzled and just want to get to bed. Unscrupulous car hire shops will insist you book their insurance or some sort of waiver before you can go. You don't need it.
28. Get your GHIC.
We used to have EHIC cards, a reciprocal arrangement that got us free medical care in the EU. Those still work, if they're in date, but if yours has expired you can save a lot of bills if something goes wrong by getting yourself the new GHIC which does exactly the same thing.
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29. Book excursions in advance.
What's true for flights, hotels and parking is just as true for excursions and seeing the sights. If you know what you're going to see and you already have a plan, you can save some money (and the sales pitch from the hotel reps) by booking before you get there.
30. See the free stuff! Lots of cities, especially in Europe, have plenty to see and do for free.
In Paris many of the museums are free for 18-25 year olds, and plenty are free to everyone. The Smithsonian and MOMA are free to visit, as is the Nationalmuseet in Copenhagen (and the National Gallery in London). If you want to see local cultural treasures without putting your hand in your pocket, pick a destination accordingly.
31. You're going to be taking your gadgets on holiday, so make them pay their way for once!
Take one adaptor and one multi-extension cord.
However many devices you need to charge on holiday, you still only need one adaptor. Just take an extension cord with as many sockets as you need as well.
32. Download before you go.
Going to be watching Netflix? Download it before you go. Going to be using Maps? Download them before you go. Kindle? You get the idea. You've got plenty of bandwidth at home. It's expensive overseas. So fill your phone or your laptop before you fly.
33. Solar-powered battery charger.
Get one. Charge your gadgets for free when you're at the airport.
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34. Get a reusable water bottle.
You can fill it from public water fountains for nothing rather than pay tourist prices when you've been out in the sun. You could even invest in a Water-to-Go bottle which has a filter so you could drink tap water in pretty much any country.
35. Take a picnic.
You don't have to pay airport prices if you've packed sandwiches.
36. If you're staying all-inclusive.
They'll usually pack you a lunch for the day if you ask.
37. If you're not staying all-inclusive.
You can load up on breakfast at the buffet until you're straining at the seams and save on lunch.
38. Eat where the locals eat.
Same as hotels and Airbnbs, the tourist areas are priced to part tourists from their money. Locals eat more cheaply so ask where they go, and go too. Often the local markets will sell the best, cheapest and most authentic things in town.
39. Find happy hour deals.
Bars will usually do a cheap deal at quieter times, so if you want to try the local wine or beer find a happy hour and do it cheaply and in peace.
40. Blag a free taxi home.
You're not staying in the centre of town, right? So when you're done exploring for the day, order a takeaway for delivery to where you're staying and then ask politely to get a lift with the driver (who it turns out is heading that way anyway).
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