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Ultimate money-saving hacks for holidaymakers

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Cut the cost of your flight in half, save £80 by picking the right plastic and put an end to expensive roaming costs. We reveal the best tips to save you money on your holiday.


Timing is everything.

By booking your trip 53 days in advance, you can get the cheapest tickets with an average saving of 26%, research from comparison site Momondo reveals.

It scoured billions of flight details and found the most expensive day to fly is a Saturday and generally it costs more to fly before 3pm.

But book your flight to depart on a Tuesday and between the hours of 6pm and midnight, and it’s much cheaper.

Loella Pehrsson, a travel expert at Kayak.co.uk, says the time of day you actually book can also have a big impact on price.

For summer holidays, making your booking in the early morning, around 4am, can save travellers up to 42% compared to other times of day.

So, when’s the best time to fly to this year’s popular destinations?

If you’re looking to go to popular Malaga, the best time to fly out is a Thursday, returning on a Monday. For Palma de Mallorca, it’s best to go on Saturday with a return on Wednesday. For Faro, flying out and returning Wednesday is the best option for the lowest airfares, Kayak research shows.


Make sure you buy travel insurance. An European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) card isn’t sufficient.

EHICs ensure you receive the same level of state medical care in abroad as would get at home. Medical treatment may be provided for free or at a reduced cost in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries including Switzerland, all 27 members of the European Union (EU) plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.

They are valid for up to five years and you can apply for one via the government site – if you’re asked to pay for it, it’s a bogus site.

However, EHICs should be a complement to, rather than a replacement for travel insurance. It’s always best to compare quotes when buying your travel insurance and here are five tips from Gemma Sonfield, head of travel insurance at comparethemarket.com, to ensure you get the best cover:

  • Take out insurance as soon as you book your flight
    Summer holidays can be expensive and are often booked well in advance. It is a good idea to buy travel insurance as soon as you have paid for your flights so that your insurance protects you if you can’t go on holiday due to unforeseeable circumstances, for example illness or redundancy.
  • Always disclose medical conditions
    As a general rule, standard policies do not offer cover for pre-existing medical conditions but if you fail to answer questions about your health honestly then you could end up invalidating your policy. Some insurers may agree to cover certain conditions if you pay a little extra on your premium and it is also worth investigating specialist providers. If you’re pregnant you should check your policy wording as many insurers will not provide cover after 28 weeks.
  • Check for missed departure cover
    Over one in ten single trip insurance products available in the UK do not include cover for missed departures, so it is vital to check the details of any policy before you purchase. Those policies tend to only pay out if the circumstances were completely out of your control; so if you overslept or got carried away in duty free, it’s unlikely insurers will pay out. Check the level of monetary protection in your policy to ensure it covers the cost of a flight home.
  • Check for exclusions on risky activities
    Banana boating, sky-diving, shark diving and swimming with dolphins are considered high risk by many insurers, but lots of policies include an option to cover additional sports as standard. Read your policy carefully to find out if you must alert your provider of your intention to undertake these activities before you go abroad, and remember that you may not be covered for personal accident or liability.
  • Insure your gadgets under a home insurance policy.
    Nearly half of travel insurance products only cover valuables worth £250 or less, but a high-quality camera could be worth thousands of pounds. Rather than paying extra for additional baggage or valuables cover, consider whether more expensive possessions are already insured under a contents insurance policy or under separate gadget cover.


Many holidaymakers stick to their everyday credit card to pay for goods and services abroad. But by picking the right plastic, you could save around £80 in charges in a fortnight.

Research from Andrew Hagger of Moneycomms reveals we could save around £6 for every £100 currency equivalent ATM withdrawal and around 3% on every purchase made on a specialist credit card that doesn’t charge for overseas use or cash withdrawal fees.

Below are the top five credit and debit cards to use overseas.

YM CreditCardsTable

YM Credit DebitCardsTable

Research from Asda Money suggests UK families are set to splash £43bn on summer breaks both in the UK and abroad, of which £17bn is spending money alone. So here are four tips from Caxton FX, a foreign exchange firm, to ensure you get the most bang for your buck:

  • Use a prepaid card
    Prepaid cards allow holiday makers to pre-load currency on to the card, helping you to budget and they also tend to offer great exchange rates, and few to zero charges when spending abroad. Some also don’t charge you for using ATMs abroad, saving you an average of £3 per transaction compared to your debit card.
  • Avoid airport bureaux at all costs
    Always avoid picking up your travel cash from the airport, as you are bound to get significantly less for your pound. Being captive markets, airports will take a much higher margin for foreign currency, as this is consumer’s only option. Even if the rate is just 2% higher, this could be as much as £40 on the average family’s holiday spending money – or the price of a round of drinks.
  • Watch the rates
    Being aware of what’s going on in the currency markets can help you get more for your money. Keep an eye in the rates in the months before your trip, and take note of how the pound is performing. When the pound is ‘strong’, it’s a great time to buy your holiday money. For example, euros are at the best price they have been for weeks, so now is a good time to buy.
  • Always pay in the local currency
    If you are using a debit, or credit card when travelling abroad, always be sure to pay in the local currency if you are presented with the choice. People mistakenly believe they should pay in pounds, as this is the money sitting in their account. However, by paying in sterling, the money will actually be converted twice, resulting in extra charges. In some cases this could be as much as £6 per transaction, which quickly adds up over the course of a holiday.


New mobile roaming price caps came into effect in April 2017 within the EU member countries making it cheaper to make and receive calls, text and browse the web.

Here’s the maximum you’ll pay on top of the domestic price, excluding VAT:

Outgoing voice calls: up to €0.05 per minute, down from the previous €0.19 cost.
Incoming voice calls: 
up to €0.01 per minute, down from the previous €0.05 cost.
Outgoing texts: 
up to €0.02 per SMS, down from the previous €0.06 cost. It’s free to receive texts.
Online data download per MB: 
up to €0.05 per MB, down from the previous €0.20 cost.

There’s also an overall data spending cap of €50 a month so if you don’t tell your provider you want to download more, the usage will be blocked at this amount. You should receive a text message from your provider when you’ve reached 80% of this limit.

If you know you’re going to be using a lot of data while you’re away, have a look at bundles you can add to your existing package.

Otherwise, if you have a smartphone, you need to actively turn off mobile roaming to avoid the device accessing the internet while you’re abroad.

iPhone users can go to ‘settings’, click on ‘network’ and you’ll see ‘data roaming’. Switch it off. If you have a Blackberry, go to ‘applications’, then select ‘options’ , ‘mobile network’ and ‘data services’. You can then select ‘off when roaming’. For Samsung users, tap the ‘settings’ key, ‘connections’, then ‘more networks’, then ‘mobile networks’ and tick/untick data roaming to turn it off/on.


If you plan to hire a car, follow these top tips from the UK’s Chartered Insurance Institute:

  • Book in advance to save
    Paying to hire a car in advance of your holiday can often save you money.
  • Check the fuel policy
    Find out what the fuel policy is before booking. Do you need to return the car full or empty?
  • You may be asked for a code
    The hire company may ask for a hire code from the DVLA to check whether you have any penalty points on your licence. It’s valid for 21 days. You must remember to take your driving licence with you as well as the hire company will not release the vehicle without this, regardless of the code.
  • Drive down the insurance excess
    Most car rental firms impose an excess which can often be several hundred pounds. An excess is the amount you have to pay in the event of a claim. However, there are some insurers which specialise in providing cover for the insurance excess which allows you to claim the money back if you’re charged. The good thing about arranging cover yourself is that your policy will usually cover parts of the car (such as windows, tyres, the underbody and roof) that are specifically excluded by car hire companies.
  • Bring your own Sat Nav
    Consider taking your own Sat Nav and child seat to avoid paying extra for these. If you do decide to get them from the hire firm, make sure you pay in the local currency rather than sterling as a poor exchange rate may be applied.


You can use cashback sites to claw back cash on every aspect of your travel experience – hotels, car rental, travel by land, sea and air, days out, travel insurance, travel money and airport parking, says Hannah Maundrell, editor in chief of Money.co.uk.

Here are her top tips when it comes to using cashback sites:

  • Do your research and focus on finding the cheapest deal first and only then check for cashback. Don’t just go for the deal that promises the best cashback return or you could find yourself out of pocket.
  • You can get as much as 3% cashback on flights so could save a lot of money – especially on long haul. Always compare flight prices first to be sure you are making a genuine saving.
  • If you are determined to get the best deal every time, sign up to more than one cashback website because rates for the same merchant will often differ. Some sites guarantee they will match the offer of rival sites – just be wary of multiple membership fees.
  • Premium members often get exclusive rates, but check the fees before committing and decide whether you spend enough to make the extra cost worth it.
  • It can take several months before you receive your cashback and sometimes you may not get it at all – don’t bank on it, see it as a nice extra.
  • Withdraw any cashback you receive immediately just in case.