SUN, sea, sand, ski. I’ve no idea why all the best holiday words begin with an S, but that includes saving.
If heading off on a winter getaway or planning next summer’s big break, there’s a planeload of ways to keep costs down – here are my top ten.
1. UNBEATABLE rates via the best plastic
Whether euros, dollars or even dongs (that’s Vietnamese dongs, obviously), the cheapest way to spend in a foreign currency is with specialist overseas credit card. Most plastic adds a three per cent load, so spend £100 of euros and it costs £103, plus sometimes extra fees on top.
However, four credit cards are load-free worldwide with no annual fees: Halifax Clarity, Post Office, Saga (for the over-50s) and, for Nationwide FlexAccount/Flex- Direct holders only, its Select card.
These smash bureaux de change with near-perfect rates. For a full card-by-card breakdown, see www.moneysavingexpert.com/travelcards.
If you’ve a decent credit score, pocket one just to use abroad. Yet it’s only worth it if you always set up a monthly direct debit to fully repay.
2. Don’t fall for ‘no commission’
While the cards above are cheaper, if you don’t have time or want cash instead, it’s off to a bureau de change. Many try to flog their wares with a ‘no commission’ banner.
Frankly, that’s nonsense.
They make their money in two ways: commission and the rate they give. So while “no commission” sounds cheaper, often you get a worse rate. To find the genuine best deal, ask: “I want 200 euros, how much will it cost me after all fees?”
The very worst place to get foreign currency is the airport. At the very least, book online for pick-up for improved rates. Far better, do a full comparison – use my www.TravelMoneyMax.com.
3. Wear your luggage
Taking luggage on a budget flight can cost £100 per case return. So pack smart to reduce the need for check-in bags. Up to 10kg or more can usually go in hand luggage.
If you’re a little over, why not take a large coat and stuff socks and undies in the pockets? To push it further, Rufus Roo suitcase jackets (www.rufusroo.com) with enormous pockets, carry up to 10kg extra and cost £33.90 including postage.
4. Hiring a car?
Act now Don’t leave car hire until you get there – they’ll see you coming and charge you top dollar. Book it as early as possible to get it for as little as £10/day. The start point’s to use comparison sites www.Kayak.co.uk and www.Carrentals.co.uk to find the cheapest hire.
5. Consider an annual car-hire excess policy
Once you’ve hired a car, you’ll often face firms’ frighteners that you’ve only basic insurance but “have a scratch and there’s £500 excess to pay” to flog extra cover. Yet special standalone policies to cover the excess for a year’s trips are available from £38 – try comparison site www.Moneymaxim.co.uk.
6. Urgently check if yours is one of millions of expired EHIC cards
The free European Health Insurance Card gives you access to EU (plus a few other) state-run hospitals or GPs like a local. In other words, if it’s free for them, it’s free for you. Yet more than 4 million expired in 2012 alone – check your family’s cards and renew or it’s invalid. Don’t Google though – you may find shyster sites charging £15.
Go to theNHS website www.ehic.org.uk
7. Hitting the slopes?
Get the right cheap travel insurance Unless your policy’s got winter sports cover, you’re not usually covered for medical costs from ski and snowboard accidents, let alone gear and cancelled passes.
If you already have an annual policy, check to see if it covers winter sports. If not, get a quote to extend it and see how that stacks up against the cheapest one-off winter sports policies for your trip via www.MoneySupermarket.com or www.Confused.com If you’ve no insurance and plan to go away again in the next 12 months, forget about single-trip policies – annual’s cheaper. Prices change daily. Full best buys at www.mse.me/travelinsurance.
8. Annual travel insurance from £16 a year
Get insurance as soon as you book travel, or you’re not covered in case of cancellation. The following are the cheapest (non-winter sports) picks with decent cover limits: Europe: Individual Travel Guard from £16 (age-related), family from £30.
World: Individual Travel Guard £27- plus (age related), family Protect Your Bubble £48-plus.
Full best buys, including over 65s’ deals at www.moneysavingexpert.com/travelinsurance
9. Always pre-book airportparking
Leaving cars at the airport is costly. If you must drive (public transport’s often cheaper), cut costs by booking early and using comparison sites such as www.Skyparksecure.com and www.Holidayextras.co.uk
10. Cottage/villa rentals can be much cheaper than posh hotels
Going as a family group or with friends? Cottages, chalets and villas can massively undercut similar quality hotels. The bonus with these is that, as a rule of thumb, the larger the group, the bigger the per-person saving, so they’re great if there’s a party of you.
You can get big discounts by booking directly with property owners via the likes of www.Homeaway.co.uk and www.Villarenters.com. There’s less protection if things go wrong, so be careful howyou pay.
Help and warnings at www.moneysavingexpert.com/villas
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