You can still afford a holiday however tight the financial squeeze
As inflation rockets to 9 per cent and a recession looms, millions of families are wondering whether they can really afford a summer holiday this year.
But there are creative ways to keep costs down – and even get a holiday for free – if you know how to do it.
Here are our top tricks for saving hundreds of pounds on travel, accommodation and while you’re away.
Save hundreds of pounds on travel
Go by coach
Holidaymakers mostly prefer to travel by car, plane or train, but going by coach is usually cheaper. For example, Megabus has tickets from London to Cardiff for less than £7 or Manchester to Edinburgh for £10. BlaBlaBus coach service has tickets from Paris to London for £25.
Share a lift
If you are going to an event or festival, share a lift. GoCarShare and LiftShare are two websites that match up people who are driving with those who need a lift.
Lifts are offered to the Reading Festival, Womad World of Music, Arts and Dance Festival in Wiltshire, and the Hay Festival in Wales for a few pounds from around the country.
Book a cheaper flight
It is often all the extras that add up, rather than the plane ticket itself. Make sure you keep these in check. Buy your ear plugs and eye masks before you go. Avoid purchasing expensive travel-size toiletries by decanting products you use into small containers.
Make a sandwich for the plane and check your luggage allowance to avoid paying an excess. You may also be able to save costs if you’re not fussy about reserving your seat in advance.
Save on cost of car hire
Car hire prices surge over the summer, but it is often the add-ons that stack up. A bit of planning can save hundreds of pounds.
For example, renting a child’s car seat costs £58 on average and a sat nav £82 for a fortnight, according to studies by iCarhireinsurance. Remembering to bring these can ensure significant savings.
Also make sure to buy your excess waiver insurance in advance. Most car hire services require you to pay the first few hundred pounds towards the cost of repairs if you damage the car – or offer excess waiver insurance.
But if you buy the insurance separately, rather than from the car hire company, the cost will be much lower. Use a price comparison website to get the best deal.
Your accommodation can even be free
Swap homes Find yourself a home to stay in for free – by swapping it with your own for a week or two. If you know someone who lives near where you might like to stay, and who might fancy a change of scene at your home, contact them.
Otherwise, there are several websites that match homeowners willing to switch places for a week or two, for a small subscription fee. They include lovehomeswap.com, home-exchange.com and trustedhousesitters.com.
You can either do a direct swap on the same dates, or stay at someone’s home on the agreement they can stay at yours another time.
Alternatively, house swap websites allow you to earn points when you let someone stay at your home. You can then use these points to stay at someone else’s home. The websites typically charge £10 a month and offer a resolution service if something goes wrong.
When staying at someone’s home, you may be required to take on extra jobs such as watering plants or feeding pets. But the upside is that the guest at your home can do the same for you.
Check with your home insurance provider that your policy will not be affected. In general, accidental damage and theft are not covered by your insurer if you do a swap.
Aviva, for example, says its standard home insurance allows people to let out their homes on a temporary basis, but cover excludes theft or accidental or malicious damage by paying guests.
Anna Tatton-Brown, 40, goes on two to three house swaps a year through Love Home Swap and regularly lets her London house out.
She and her husband Hugh, 41, have stayed at places in Spain, the UK and Santa Fe, New Mexico, with their two boys, Jake, five, and one-year-old Zach.
Florida is her favourite location. She says: ‘People think I’m a multimillionaire because of the places we stay. But if you’re only paying for flights and your accommodation is covered, it’s so much cheaper.’ She adds: ‘You get to stay in areas you wouldn’t necessarily visit and can explore neighbourhoods you wouldn’t if you were staying in other accommodation. As a parent of two young kids, having a well-equipped kitchen and place where you can spend the evening is ideal.’
Help out for cut-price trips
Volunteering is another way to cut holiday costs as you receive free or cut-price accommodation in exchange for helping out.
Opportunities are listed on websites such as helpstay.com. Options include gardening at a house in southern Italy and helping to run a B&B in Quebec, Canada.
Some charities offer volunteer holidays. The Waterway Recovery Group has week-long stays in which participants help with waterway restoration, in which they can learn traditional skills such as bricklaying and stonework.
If you would like to learn about organic farming, consider Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms UK. Your host will provide basic food, accommodation and knowledge in return for your help on the farm. Go to wwoof.org.uk.
Find a mountain bothie or hostel
Hostels are not just for young people – they can be ideal for families and people of all ages on a tight budget. The Youth Hostels Association has hostels everywhere from city centres to rural escapes. Go to yha.org.uk for details.
If you feel like going somewhere remote, stay in one of the 100 bothies scattered around remote parts of the UK. These are basic free shelters that are ideal for walkers looking for an alternative to camping. See mountainbothies.org.uk.
Other ways to save while you’re out having fun
Pay in the local currency
When you use a cashpoint machine or make a card payment abroad, you are often asked if you would like to pay in pounds or in the local currency. The latter is always cheaper.
Pay in pounds and you are beholden to the exchange rate offered by the retailer or bank – which is unlikely to be better than the one used by your own bank.
Keep a lid on data costs
Millions of British holidaymakers will once again have to pay roaming charges to use their smartphone in Europe this year.
Phone operators have been permitted to charge for roaming since we left the European Union and have gradually been reintroducing fees.
EE, Vodafone and Three have introduced them for some customers, although O2 and Virgin Mobile have said they have no plans to do so this year.
Check your phone operator’s rules
To keep costs down, connect to free wi-fi while travelling rather than using phone data.
If you do use data, you may be able to save costs by buying a data bundle from your provider in advance, rather than paying the daily roaming charge. You can also keep data costs down by downloading films, ebooks and podcasts on your home wi-fi before you travel.
You can download maps using a function on Google Maps, which you can access even when offline.
Save on currency exchange
Whatever you do, don’t wait until the airport to change money – the rates represent poor value for money. Instead, shop around and buy in advance.
If you prefer to pay by card, consider a debit or credit card with no foreign exchange fees.
Among the best credit cards for overseas travel are Halifax Clarity and Barclaycard Rewards Visa.
They do not levy exchange fees for overseas spending or cashpoint withdrawals.
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