Money-saving tips to enjoy cheap holidays and avoid costly booking errors

Internet searches for ‘cheap summer holidays’ have surged by 151 per cent in the last year, with many sunseekers looking for ways to save money on their trips abroad. After many months of travel restrictions, some potential holidaymakers may be a little rusty when it comes to cutting costs when travelling on a budget.

Jonathan Merry, chief executive at international money transfer comparison site,, has shared a selection of common mistakes people make when trying to lower their holiday costs. By side-stepping these errors, travellers can get the best from their budget.

Booking flights too early or too late

It can be easy to assume that booking flights early will provide cost savings. However, booking a flight too early could actually wind up costing more, with airlines often reducing flight prices nearer the departure date. But wait too long and prices may jump back up owing to demand in the week prior to travel. Research has shown that booking around three to four months in advance is best to avoid paying more.

Picking the wrong day

Friday evenings and weekends are known to be the most expensive days to fly, with most airlines charging more for flights on these days. Choosing a midweek flight, could save huge amounts.

Choosing a travel insurance policy

Despite some travel insurance costing just a few pounds, many UK holidaymakers commonly assume that they won’t need travel insurance for unexpected incidents, risking bills of thousands of pounds if things do go wrong. These incidents could include illness, injury, valuables being stolen and cancellations. In the USA for example, stitches to seal any cuts or scratches could cost anywhere between 500-1,500 dollars, whilst in Spain, it will cost up to €300 for a trip to the emergency room alone.

Not comparing prices of hotels/flights

By shopping around on several different airlines it is possible to save money by opting for no-frills airlines, and non-direct flights, clearing the browser cache and monitoring prices months in advance.

Correct currency choices

When travelling avoid paying in sterling and instead always pay in the country’s local currency to avoid being hit with high exchange rates. It can be tempting to pay in pounds rather than the local currency when given the option by a retailer. However, this could potentially land travellers with an extra five per cent charge. Always check before agreeing a card transaction and insist on paying in the local currency to avoid such charges.

Using the wrong bank card

Before travelling always check to see if a bank charges for using a card abroad. Some banks will charge fees on all items purchased and ATM card transactions overseas. Another option may be a prepaid card, with a cash sum loaded before travelling. For a longer stay or more expensive overseas purchases, then the most cost-effective way to pay is by using a money transfer provider, as they offer far better exchange rates than high street banks.

Explore a couple of money transfer providers to find the most suitable – use a Transfer Rate tool to help.

Leaving currency exchange until the last minute

Exchanging currency at the airport may seem convenient, but it will inevitably cost more. If a holiday is last-minute, and there is no alternative, the majority of airports allow currency to be purchased online and picked it at the terminal. This can be arranged the night before a flight and offers a much better rate than in-person on the day.

Overweight luggage

Fines for overweight bags can be costly, so always weigh any bags before arriving at the airport. Try to wear all bulky items of clothing and footwear such as jackets or trainers, to avoid having to pack them.

Check rules on liquids

Any liquids in hand luggage must hold no more than 100ml and containers must be in a single, transparent, resealable plastic bag measuring approximately 20cm x 20cm. Remembering this rule avoids having to throw away any products.

Visiting attractions and travelling at peak times

Often tourist attractions will charge more during peak hours which tend to be weekends. Some countries offer free entry to museums on specific days as well, for example, Barcelona offers free entry to most museums on the first Sunday of every month. Most museums will also offer off-peak visiting times, so planning visits early in the morning or later in the evening can also help save you money – not to mention avoid the crowds.

Dine with the locals

Eat like a local on holiday, not only for better value but also for a more immersive travel experience. Restaurants in tourist hotspots will pretty much always have higher prices and poor quality food in comparison to the venues visited frequently by locals.

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This also goes for room service and the mini-bar in a hotel. Head to the local supermarket for any food and drink items where the prices will be a lot more affordable.

Cutting transport costs

The majority of cities have great public transport options such as trains, buses and metros/subways. Although hailing a taxi is quicker and more convenient, it will cost more. To book an airport transfer, make sure it is done well in advance to avoid having to pay the high prices on the day.

Paying for tourist travel passes

Before paying for tourist or travel passes, always calculate whether they will be worthwhile. Try to plan a rough itinerary before travelling to check if it’s worth the money.

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