Don't rent a car
Pricewatch editor CONOR POPEsuggets 10 ways to save money on holidays
1. Don’t leave it late
Booking a flight late can lead to great bargains but more frequently you pay through the nose for tardiness. Airlines use discount cycles which mean prices increase incrementally as departure comes closer. Some specialist sites claim the best time to book is between midnight and 1am on a Wednesday morning, in the time zone of the airline’s home city as this is when computer systems dump reserved, but unbooked, cheap seats. The worst times are 1pm-2pm and 6pm-8pm. Industry sources are, however, sceptical this forensic attention to timing will help you save money.
2. Never fly on Saturday
There are ways of tweaking time which will definitely cut costs. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly. Weekend breaks are over and most business travellers depart for their destinations on a Mondays.
By Thursday people are starting to take long weekends while actual weekends are a no-no for the canny flier. According to British consumer group Which? you can save nearly €1,000 on the cost of a fortnight in the sun for a family of four just by moving the day of departure from a Saturday to a Thursday.
3. Drive a better bargain
Renting a car for two weeks adds about €1,000 to the cost of a holiday. It is better for your wallet to choose destinations where car hire is unnecessary and then rely on public transport – it is efficient, comfortable and cheap – and your smart phone can be used to find the right stops at the right times. If you do hire a car never buy car insurance from car rental firms. It is much cheaper to find your own insurance. Sites such as insurance4carhire and worldwideinsure are much better value.
4. A cheaper alternative
Couchsurfing is old hat and crashing for nothing in a random person’s spare room or on their couch just to save money might not be everyone’s thing. There are more promising alternatives which are a lot cheaper than staying in a hotel. Airbnb.comallows you rent rooms – and sometimes whole apartments – in central Madrid, for example, for as little as €30 a night. Or how about a loft in New York’s Soho for €100 a night? Then there is Vacation Rentals by Owner – vrbo.ie– which offers 190,000 houses and apartments in cities all over the world.
5. Deal with it
More than 60 per cent of Irish adults use online coupon services such as Living Social and Groupon, but most of us only use them to find bargains close to home. Spread the net wider. If you are travelling overseas, sign up to every deal site in your destination to keep an eye on restaurant and activity discounts. If you see a bargain, buy, stow it away and redeem it while on holiday. You could knock up to 70 per cent off the cost of your break. When we looked on Groupon last week we could have got a seafood tasting menu including wine for two in a harbour-side restaurant in Barcelona for €26.90, while a massage and spa session in a Hilton Hotel in central London was just €50.
6. Look around
When flying long-haul, don’t just check flights which leave from Ireland or the UK. Flights to South America, Asia and Africa frequently cost less departing from Paris, Amsterdam or Frankfurt and with the euro so weak against sterling, you will avoid being hit by penal exchange rates too.
7. Online works
Online deals almost always beat offline ones but the key is knowing where to look for them. Getting brochures from travel agents and booking direct with the hotel can save money – particularly if you travel off peak. Search engines such as lastminute.comand expedia can be hit and miss and do not always offer the best value for money, but they are still worth looking at if you are searching for long-haul flights.
The Flightmapping website – flightmapping.co.uk– details exactly which airlines fly between the UK and where you want to go and will list the prices for your journey, while kayak.comwill do the same for flights to and from anywhere in the world. Hotwire.comis a good mystery hotel booking option – you select the number of stars you want your hotel to have, select an area and book – the discounts are substantial.
8. Pack your insurance
Do not go without travel insurance, but do shop around for better value. Sites such as comparetravelinsuranceireland.comare there to do the donkey work for you. If you take more than two holidays a year, take out a multi-trip policy.
9. Plan ahead
Never change money at airports, either at cash desks or at ATMs. They will rip you off and give you the rates you deserve for being so disorganised before your trip. When you are changing money, do shop around. An Post currently offers the best value for money for major currencies.
10. Phone home
If you have a smartphone download Free Wi-Fi Finder. It uses GPS to find wifi hotspots wherever you are. It has thousands of locations all over the world in its database.
When you have your wi-fi sorted, use the Skype or Viber app to make calls at no cost. It might also be worth buying an international SIM card so you won’t be charged for receiving calls or messages while away. The main international SIM providers are Go SIM, SIM4travel and GeoSIM.