15 ways to have a cheap holiday this summer and autumn
It’s not too late to get some sun at a good price. Conor Pope finds last-minute deals
'Save money on accommodation by staying in an apartment.' Photograph: Getty Images
Is it too late to find a summer holiday somewhere sunny? Not remotely. Even though the back-to-school ads are all over the radio and the Galway Races are over (which means we won’t know it ’til Christmas, as the saying in the West goes) there is still time to jet off somewhere sunny and it won’t have to cost you a fortune.
1. Ryanair has a 25 per cent off sale until Tuesday. While some of the destinations are not exactly where you might wish to go for a summer break – we’re looking at you, Newcastle – there are some great deals to the sun, particularly if you are flying out of Cork. Ryanair also has a (fairly new) holiday service which allows you pick just your departure airport and your dates and it will find you the deals. Flights plus seven nights in a Madrid hotel at the end of the month could be yours for €367.
2. An alternative to the Ryanair random holiday selection – and random means random, as the airline has become so found of telling us recently – is the Skyscanner.ie/Hotwire. com option. Skyscanner allows you to search for flights from Ireland to anywhere in the world over a set period and then rank them in price from cheapest to dearest. Pick the cheapest and then go on to hidden hotels website hotwire.com to find a cheap place to stay. The catch is you won’t know the name of your hotel or what it even looks like until you pay. You will know the location and the number of stars so unless s you go with a one-star in a drug den option you will be probably be okay.
3. In a DIY world it is easy to overlook the tour operators, and while some of the top-line prices should always be viewed with at least some scepticism, they do have some very good value. A week with Sunway in the three-star Esat Hotel in the Turkish resort town of Kusadasi is €484 per person with flights leaving Dublin on September 1st. That price includes flights, transfers, accommodation and a healthy baggage allowance. There is also seven nights in the Bayside Salgados apartments on the Algarve for €464 with the flights leaving on September 1st.
Club Travel has an even cheaper deal in Gran Canaria where a week in the Apartamentos Carlota in Puerto Rico will cost €379 per person with flights leaving on August 30th.
The best-value family deals will be found on campsites around Europe. The Eurocamp website promises some “amazing” late August deals. There’s the International Maisons-Laffitte campsite near Paris where a week in a two-bedroom caravan on a site next to the banks of the Seine will cost just €868, although you will have to leave this coming Saturday. The most remarkable deal we found was in the fabulous sounding Camping Village Fabulous near Rome where six nights in a 2-bed caravan at the end of August will cost €492.60. The camping prices do not include flights.
4. Don’t throw away all your savings by over-packing. If you are travelling to Spain, Italy or Greece with Aer Lingus this summer and check in a 15kg bag on both legs of the flight you will pay €70. If you are travelling to Europe’s furthest reaches you will pay €100. Ryanair is not a whole lot better. So just pack smarter. Lay out everything you reckon you are going to need on your bed and pack half. Roll clothes to save space. Buy sun screen, toiletries and towels overseas
5. Don’t just look for flights out of Dublin or London, especially if you are going long haul. Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Helsinki offer great value. Use specialised search engines to find the cheapest flights. Google’s flight search allows you to search for a destination and a date to find out when and with which airline it is cheapest to fly. The aforementioned skyscanner.net is good for this too, as is momondo.com.
6. You will always pay more if your break starts at a weekend. On the other hand if you fly from a Monday to a Monday, you might see prices tumble by as much as 40 per cent.
7. Don’t blow your savings by forgetting to pay for parking in advance and online. Park in Dublin Airport this way and you pay a daily rate of €25.95. If you just drive up it costs €40 so not being organised will see you waste €100 in just seven days.
8. Speaking of wasting money unnecessarily, do you really need to eat or drink on the plane? If you are flying in Europe the chances are the journey time will be less than three hours. So do you really want to spend six quid on a warm can of lager – when you know you will be able to get it for 70 cent when you touch down? Of course you don’t.
9. In any big – or even middling – city you go to, public transport will be better than anything we have at home and cheaper than taxies. Go to wikivoyage.com to find out virtually everything you need to know about the transport options wherever you are off to and save money getting around on holiday.
11. The abolition of roaming charges in Europe (sort of) means mapping apps won’t cost you the earth. And you won’t ever have to ask “Ou est le centre Georges Pompidou?” again. Yes, that IS kind of sad.
12. If you’re travelling with kids, look at Airbnb. Two adults and children can say in a two-bedroom penthouse in Rome or Paris for a week for less than €700. The system is easy to use and pretty foolproof but just remember never pay for Airbnb accommodation outside the platform. Scam artists list properties on the site offer “substantial discounts” if you transfer the money directly to them. If you do that you will be screwed. Fact.
13. If you are staying in a hotel in a European city, do not pay for a hotel breakfast. You will get better food for less in a nearby cafe or bar.
14. When ordering wine or beer, go for local offerings. Do you really want to be the person who travels half-way around the world only to order Guinness?
15. Don’t eat in restaurants with picture menus. And do remember that the best and best-value restaurants are always off the beaten track – and that does not mean you have to walk miles to find them. Trip Advisor has a great restaurant finder that uses your phone’s geo-location software to identify the best places to eat near exactly where you are standing and then guide you to them.