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The ultimate holiday money-saving guide for 2019

Written by: Paloma Kubiak
Planning a trip away can be stressful, time-consuming and expensive so here are the industry’s top tips to ensure you bag a bargain and ensure your holiday’s memorable for the right reasons.

Flights and accommodation

With the school summer holidays approaching, you may be thinking about booking a last minute holiday. Airlines and hotels are notorious for bumping up prices when the kids are off, but according to comparison site Kayak, it can pay to be spontaneous if you’re planning to travel to Europe.

With the exception of Spanish favourites Alicante and Tenerife, the right time to book for top European destination tends to be any time within six months of departure.

For example, flights to Faro and Arrecife can be booked just one month before departure, with possible savings of up to 26 per cent and 37 per cent respectively.

For accommodation, again waiting can pay dividends. Kayak found that Brits can save an average of 26 per cent on accommodation worldwide by booking hotels one to three months in advance.

We all know holidaying in the peak summer holiday period comes with a hefty price tag, but TravelSupermarket has uncovered an airport loophole which could save families hundreds of pounds.

Schools across the country break up for the summer holidays at different times so if you travel to an airport in an area where kids are still at their desks (or returned to school at the end of summer), this means demand for flights and holidays is lower, and ultimately, so is the price.

See The airport trick that could save you £100s on your family holiday for more information.

Travel insurance and the EHIC

Buy travel insurance as soon as you’ve booked your flight or holiday to ensure you’re protected in case you can’t go due to illness or redundancy.

You should always disclose previous medical conditions or you could invalidate your policy. As a general rule, standard policies don’t offer cover for pre-existing medical conditions but some insurers may agree to cover certain conditions if you pay extra on your premium so it’s worth seeking quotes from specialist providers.

If you’re planning to go banana boating, sky-diving, shark diving or swimming with dolphins, these activities may be considered high risk by many insurers. Some policies may include cover for additional sports as standard. Read your policy carefully in case you need to tell your insurer about such activities.

Worried about your gadgets while overseas? You could consider stand-alone gadget insurance, but make sure you check your phone or tablet isn’t covered by your home insurance policy first. You don’t want to be insured twice.

Don’t assume your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is a substitute for travel insurance. Think of it more as a complement to travel insurance.

EHICs ensure you receive the same level of state medical care abroad as you 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.

Currency and cards

Foreign currency and how you’ll be making payments overseas shouldn’t be an afterthought. It’s a sensible idea to buy currency in advance of your trip to get the best exchange rate, but you may want to put your credit card away for the transaction. This is because the majority of credit card providers treat these transactions in the same way as withdrawing cash from an ATM or for gambling. As such the transaction attracts interest and the rate of exchange.

But using your everyday credit or debit card for overseas spending can also cost you big. Research by Moneyfacts revealed a typical debit card can charge £9.50 for a £250 cash withdrawal abroad while for credit cards, the same transaction could set you back £11.96.

It lists the following credit cards as the best for withdrawing cash abroad: Santander Zero Credit Card Mastercard and Halifax Clarity Credit Card Mastercard.

And for debit cards, these are the top picks: Starling Bank Current Account (worldwide), Nationwide FlexPlus (worldwide) and Metro Bank Current Account (in Europe).

Another option to consider is prepaid currency cards. These can be topped up in a similar way to topping up a mobile phone and they’re great for budgeting as you can’t spend more than what you have loaded on them. Moneyfacts adds that for those with no or a poor credit history, these cards may be a good choice.

Caxton Currency Card Mastercard, Seasons Travel Card Visa, ICE Travellers Cashcard Mastercard, Lyk and Fairfx are good choices.

Finally, avoid airport bureaux at all costs as you’ll get a far poorer rate.

Car hire and driving overseas

Around £475m is spent by Brits covering additional costs of car hire, highlighted at the rental desk when holidaymakers collect the vehicle.

According to TravelSupermarket, the most common extra charges relate to fuel policies, excess mileage and cleaning the vehicle after use.

But there are a number of ways you can avoid extra charges before you go away, on arrival and when returning your car.

Top tips include avoiding the ‘full to empty’ fuel policy, taking your own child seat and satnav, paying in the local currency and thoroughly inspecting the car.

See 10 ways car hire firms try to rip you off for more top tips.

Mobile roaming

Changes to European mobile roaming introduced a couple of years ago mean holidaymakers can use their minutes, texts and data across the EU as if you’re at home. Monthly allowances remain the same so as long as you don’t go over, you won’t pay a penny more.

But Ernest Doku, mobiles expert at, says it’s crucial to keep on top of how much you’re using your phone while away.

“It might be worth resisting the urge to share hundreds of holiday photos to save yourself from going over your data limit. The moment you go over your quota, the costs can really start racking up.

“It’s a different story outside the EU with charges varying by both the network and the country you’re in so it’s definitely worth checking with your network before you jet off. For example, an O2 customer on holiday in the USA pays £2 per minute to make or receive calls and £7.20 per MB of data. However, a Vodafone customer can use Roam Further for £6 a day to utilise their normal home allowance.”

Doku says that where you need to download something sizeable while abroad, such as a new movie or music, see if you can connect to WiFi to avoid incurring additional charges.

Rewards for your holiday

Once you’ve found a deal, check out cashback sites to see if you can get some money back on hotels, car rental, travel insurance and airport parking.

You could also consider signing up to rewards schemes such as on hotel stays, or to gain frequent flyer miles such as Avios when taking out a new credit card.

A quick note on airport parking: compare quotes online well ahead of your holiday and book in advance to save as much as £268.

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