From bagging bonus air miles to naming your own price for a hotel room in an auction.. How you can still squeeze in a dream break – even if your budget is shrinking
- More Brits are now booking trips to make up for missed breaks in the pandemic
- Budgets may be shrinking but you can still book a dream holiday with these tips
Despite a possible looming recession, Britons are booking holidays and flights in vast numbers – as many make up for years of missed breaks during the pandemic.
Ryanair had its busiest ever weekend of sales last week.
But can you really sip cocktails on a resort sun lounger during a cost-of-living crisis?
Your travel budget may be shrinking but you can still squeeze your dream holiday into it with some clever planning – and these handy travel tips.
Despite a possible looming recession, Britons are booking holidays and flights in vast numbers
REAP THE CARD REWARDS
Reward credit cards let you earn points with everyday spending to use towards flights and hotels.
Most airline cards work in a similar way – we’ll use the British Airways American Express Premium Plus as an example.
Sign up before February 21 on BA’s site, spend £3,000 in the first three months and get 70,000 bonus Avios, BA’s air miles. If you do so via Amex it is just half that.
That’s up to eight free economy flights – or three business class ones – to Europe. You then get 1.5 Avios for every £1 spent on everyday buys, and 3 Avios for every £1 spent with BA. But bear in mind there is a £250 annual fee for the card.
There is also a standard version of the BA Amex that is fee-free, but the bonus is 20,000 Avios for a £1,000 spend in the first three months and the earn rate is 1 Avios per £1 spent.
Avios is good for short-haul trips in economy and business. But the surcharges for long-haul in business add up – often to more than the cost of buying an economy seat.
You can also earn a ‘companion voucher’ each year you spend £10,000. These allow you to bring a companion on the same flight for no additional Avios. If flying solo, you can use it to book your flight with 50 per cent less Avios. You still need to pay taxes and fees for everyone flying.
Tip: Reward credit cards let you earn points with everyday spending to use towards flights and hotels (file image)
BOOK EARLY FOR THE BEST PRICES
Book flights as early as possible. Wait until the last minute and demand – and thus prices – can soar.
Comparison sites such as Kayak or Google Flights give prices from airlines as well as travel agents – which are often cheaper.
They also display ‘codesharing’ deals, seats sold via a partner airline’s site for a different price. A great trick for long-haul flights. A Virgin Atlantic return from London to Las Vegas was £881, but the same flight booked with partner Delta was £816, MoneySavingExpert found. If you know you want to fly Virgin, check for codeshares with Air China, Air New Zealand, and Singapore. Likewise, BA codeshares with American, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Qantas and Iberia.
For popular spots such as Florida or the Caribbean, flights may be cheaper as part of a package.
Slashing your budget doesn’t mean switching the Hilton for a hostel. Many hotels and booking sites offer rooms with free cancellation. If you see a decent deal, book it now and keep an eye on prices. If they drop, cancel and rebook.
Going stateside? With Priceline, you can choose a neighbourhood and star rating then name your own price for a room. Like an auction, aim low then slowly raise your bid until a hotel accepts. Start early as you can only bid once per day.
Cashback sites such as Quidco or Topcashback have deals when booking. Quidco has ten per cent cashback on Hotels.com from March and 15 per cent cashback on Accor Hotels.
CUT EXCHANGE FEES
Take out a credit or debit card just for overseas travel. The Barclaycard Rewards card gives you near-perfect exchange rates, zero ATM fees, and 0.25 per cent cashback on all purchases. Pay it off in full each month to avoid interest. Or open a Monzo account and pay with your debit card in any currency fee-free. Monzo also helps you split bills and tabs with friends, making shared holiday spending a breeze. If you prefer cash, it’s best to withdraw from an ATM at your destination using your UK debit card. Do this in big chunks to minimise fees.
Don’t turn up at the airport and change money there – you’ll get a rate about 10 per cent worse than if you pre-order or use your card at an ATM.
MIND YOUR MEGABYTES
Many mobile phone providers have reinstated roaming fees in the EU post-Brexit. Vodafone, EE, and Three all charge £2 per day to use your allowance. Outside the EU these charges can be much higher.
Check with your provider to see what fees will apply or how to avoid them. For example with Three, switching to Pay As You Go will allow you to use your allowance for free in the EU and certain other destinations such as America.
To minimise costs, turn data roaming off and only use wi-fi while away – though this is not always possible when out and about.
On Google Maps you can download a map of your destination to use offline. Add pins to save directions to landmarks, restaurants and back to your hotel.
Download Netflix shows, movies and music before you leave.
Watch out: Many mobile phone providers have reinstated roaming fees in the EU post-Brexit (file image)
CHECK YOUR PASSPORT
Check your passport’s expiry – and countries’ entry requirements. Some require at least six months’ validity from arrival. Standard renewal costs £75.50 and officials say to allow up to ten weeks. Leave it too late and it’s £177 for the one-day service. Brexit means EU passport rules have changed. Brits now need at least three months left on their passports from the date they intend to return home.
Go directly to the official government website for passports and visas. Many private companies will set up copycat sites that appear at the top of Google search results and charge you triple.
Book travel insurance before you go in case you need to cancel. Plus, ensure you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
This lets you get medical care at state-run hospitals like a local – often free.
Pre-book airport parking as paying on the day costs more.
Got a long layover? Paying £30 to get into an airport lounge for unlimited food and drinks – and relative peace and quiet – is better value than an overpriced meal and a couple of pints at a crowded restaurant. Check if your credit card or loyalty schemes offer lounge entry.
Another pointer: Pack empty water bottles and fill them up after security for free (file image)
Although you can’t bring liquids through security, you can bring food. Families can save big by packing snacks in their carry-ons.
Some airports are introducing new bag scanners that allow unlimited liquids through but you never know if you’ll be using them.
To be safe, pack empty water bottles and fill them up after security for free. This beats paying £4 for water at a newsstand. Finally, leave room for souvenirs so you don’t get stung by overweight baggage fees on your way home.
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