Cutting the cost of your summer holidays
If you want to save money, travel midweek, don’t hire a car, buy local deals in advance and plan ahead
Timing is off
Depending on your circumstances you should either book your holiday well in advance or leave it until the last minute. If you’re travelling with children and have certain requirements that must be met, then forget about leaving it late. It absolutely never works.
The last-minute wonder deal is the holy grail for many travellers and it can work. But it most likely won’t. And if it doesn’t you could end up paying inflated fares or end up in some flea-ridden kip overlooking a partially built sewage works in North Africa – and yes, Pricewatch is speaking from bitter experience.
Airlines use discount cycles and increase prices incrementally as departure comes closer. According to Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary, buying your seat between six and eight weeks before departure is the best way to get the cheap seats.
According to some self-styled experts, airlines’ automated systems dump reserved, but unbooked, cheap seats on Wednesdays between midnight and 1am in the time zone of their home city so that is when you should go looking. It is worth a try.
When Saturday comes
While the best time to buy is up in the air, one thing is certain, the day you fly can make a big difference to the price you pay.
Tuesdays and Wednesdays are the cheapest days to fly – weekend breaks are over and most business travellers depart for their destinations on a Monday.
The well-regarded British consumer group Which? says 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.
If you are trying to save money, car rental is not the route you want to go down. If you rent a fairly small family car for two weeks it will add about €1,000 to the cost of a holiday. So don’t do that.
Instead, pick destinations where car hire is unnecessary and use public transport. If you need to go on day trips, hire a car for a couple of days in the middle of your holiday rather than for the duration. This has the added advantage of allowing you to circumvent the premiums which most companies charge if they rent the car at the airport.
A survery published last year by the AA found that te 40 per cent of people who hired a car abroad had a negative or “somewhat bad experience”.
“Hiring a car abroad is simple enough but you need to look out for hidden charges and make sure that you know what you are paying for,” says the AA’s director of consumer affairs Conor Faughnan.
“When returning the car, make sure that you get a receipt from the car hire company and that they have agreed before you leave that there is no damage, fuel charges or other issues. It is far easier to take the time to do this before you leave the country than having to engage in a long-distance dispute afterwards when extra charges have appeared on your credit card.”
Do more deals
Nearly two-thirds of Irish adults use online coupon services but a much smaller number think of spreading the net wider and registering for the deal services in the place they are going on holidays.
If you sign up to every deal site you can find in your destination about six weeks before you depart – now, basically – you will find cheaper eats and discounted activities.
Let’s say you’re going to the Costa del Sol this summer. In five minutes on Groupon we got ourselves a four-course meal including a bottle of wine in a fine-looking restaurant for just €16 for two people. Another restaurant was offering a steak-heavy menu for two with starters, desserts and drinks for €19, again for two.
With Google Translate doing the hard work for you, you won’t even need so much as a word of the local lingo to secure your deals.
DIY vs Package
There is a place for tour operators – particularly if you are travelling with a young family and want the most hassle-free holiday on the market – and when it comes to the packages at the bottom of the market, they are very hard to beat.
But if your budget is more than €600 per person, DIY deals should almost always be better value. Getting brochures from travel agents and then sneakily booking direct with the hotel can save money – particularly off-peak.
There’s also the likes of lastminute.com and Expedia. They do not always offer the best value for money; however, they are still worth looking at if you are searching for long-haul flights.
And remember to cast your net wider: don’t just check flights leaving Ireland or the UK. Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt often have much better deals and can be very cheap to get to.
All in the planning
Don’t change money at airports, either at cash desks or at ATMs. You will lose out. An Post currently offers the best value for money for major currencies.
Ddownload 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 databaseand it will save you money.
The travel writer - Fionn Davenport
Don’t go for the B&B option in hotels in Europe – breakfast in a bar is better and cheaper.
Take as much public transport as possible, especially in cities with an underground or light rail system: it’s cheaper than a taxi and gives you a sense of the city’s scale
Get off the tourist path: the best and most affordable restaurants aren’t on the Boulevard St Germain, around Piccadilly Circus or the Roman Forum.
Consider a house or apartment stay over a hotel: sites like Vacation Rental By Owner (vrbo.com), Air B&B (airbnb.com) and Home Away (homeaway.com) are reputable and increasingly popular with short-term visitors looking for a homestay rather than a hotel.
Generally, what you get is far better value for money.
The tour operator - Falcon Travel
DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Make sure that you are aware of the total cost of yourholiday from the outset, especially if you’re considering assembling your ownDIY package.
When booking with Falcon your check-in, baggage allowance, flight, transfer, accommodation and a resort rep are all included in the price of the holiday as well as the peace of mind that you will have care and assistance in the event of a delay.
PAYING IN STAGES
Avail of low booking deposits to help secure your holidayand take advantage of facilities that enable you to pay your holiday off in stages. Falcon’s deposit is just €75 per person with the full balance to be settled eight weeks prior to departure.
EARLY BOOKING OFFERS
Make the most of early booking offers to secure your saving, rather than wait to see what may be available later and risk potential disappointment. Falcon’s brochures offer thousands of free places for children, free grandparents’ and group places, up to €300 off per couple, one-parent family savings and free room upgrades – some deals are available on a first come, first served basis, with others available for holidaymakers who book by a specified date.
The cost of a holiday isn’t just the price that you pay to get there but also what you spend when you arrive.
Many resorts offer great value for money and countries such as Bulgaria and Turkey have become increasingly popular due to the value they offer in resort.
Falcon’s brochure has a money guide for each country so that you can compare the cost of living before departure.
Take the kids out of school a few days early. Saves hundreds. Stephen Mulligan
If travelling with Ryanair make sure to follow all the t&c’s so you’re not overcharged. Eoin Dineen
Check with your bank, or health insurance to see if travel insurance inclusive; my bank did for free! Sharon Ní Icí
Stay out of Zara whilst in Spain!
Careful with car hire (take photos on return). Proper insurance. Oh, and don’t buy ice cream withn sight of a bridge in Venice. Conor Faughnan
Try to find places locals eat in, they generally are cheaper. Aisling Browne
Book private rooms in hostels instead of hotels. Never eat in restaurants that display English menus or pictures of the food. Damian Byrne
Always ask if there are any special offers eg family deals, free wine with dinner, early bird offers, reduced entry tickets etc. Ciara H
Take only hand luggage. Angela Holohan
When renting a car, always rent a cheap one and at rental desk ask if they can upgrade you to better car for same price. works! Matthew Mulligan
Where to find value - Joan Scales
Finding the elusive great travel deal is getting harder all the time with airlines and tour operators carefully controlling capacity off this island. The days of holidays at rock bottom prices being dumped on the market are gone. Instead we have to be flexible, think fast and book rapidly when a good deal, fare or holiday appears.
Accommodation is easier to book with dozens of hotel websites and a lot of additional self-catering units in the market. In Spain, our favourite destination, flights on the principal routes of Malaga, Alicante and Murcia are more expensive than ever. Prices are returning to pre-2007 rates. Other routes to Spain are more competitive. The Barcelona area has flights to the main airport, El Prat, and to Gerona and Reus. All of these routes will give you easy access to the coast and the resorts of Costa Brava and Costa Dorada.
Accommodation this year in Spain is expected to cost less than previous years due to the domestic holiday market suffering from the recession. Flights to Santander will get you into the more reasonable provinces of Cantabria and Asturias on the Atlantic coast. The lovely historic city of Santiago de Compostela is better value in high summer when it is too hot for Camino walkers.
Look at the less obvious places for cheaper fares – in France, Carcassonne, Marseille, Nantes, Rodez and La Rochelle are well priced, under €200. For Portugal, the city of Porto is lovely and from Lisbon there is easy access to the seaside resorts of Cascais, Estorial and Sintra. In Italy there are three airports around Milan and a good train service to take you into the lakeside resorts around Lake Garda and Lake Como. Flights to the islands of Sardinia and Sicily are also quite well priced at present.
If you live within easy access of Belfast or Derry airports, some holidays are cheaper. Check late deals on thomson.co.uk, thomascook.co.uk and jet2.com. Turkey will be good value again this year with value for money exchange rates and plenty of competition between the main tour operators and newer entrant Wings Abroad.
Online travel agents are the ideal way to find a good deal if you are flexible on dates. Companies like clickandgo.com, lowcostholidays.ie, steintravel.ie, ebookers.com, flexibletrips.ie, lastminutes.ie, latedeals.ie, travelcheaper.ie, aerlinguspackages.com and travelnet.ie offer a wide range of accommodation from two star to luxury all inclusive.
Using geography, you can also find that if you take a chance on the weather, prices can be considerably cheaper. The rainy season begins in the Caribbean in June and prices drop. In the tropical zones like Thailand the rainy season is July-October, and while downpours do happen they are usually short and sharp and the weather is still warm. You can get a week in Thailand during our summer for about €1,000pps. See trailfinders.ie and gohop.ie.
In the drier regions of the Middle East the temperature climbs towards 45 degrees, but you could be staying in a luxurious five-star resort for a fraction of the usual price. See what Tropicalsky.ie has on offer in Dubai; some deals include meals.
The best value to the United States this year will be after September. Most holidays for the summer are booked and although we have a lot of additional US flights this summer, the prices have not come down. Travelling with a specialist tour operator such as touramerica.ie, flydriveusa.ie and americanholdiays.ie will provide better value.