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How To Get A Bargain Holiday

Holiday Bags

Although most of us are cutting back on our spending in these hard times, a holiday is hard to sacrifice - if anything, escaping the gloom for a week in the sun is something of a priority.

The good news is that with a little planning, research and good old-fashioned cunning, you can find a holiday you'll like, at a price you'll love. So read on bargain hunters...

  • Do

    1. GO SOMEWHERE £-FRIENDLY. No matter how cheap your flight or hotel, if you go somewhere where the local currency is stronger than Sterling, it'll eat into your savings.

      Avoid the Eurozone and head for current Brit favourite (thanks to the weak Lira) - Turkey. Other good currency exchange options include South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Thailand. Have a rough idea of what the local currency converts at, so you don't get confused by lots of zeros: there's nothing more annoying than realising the bargain scarf you thought cost £1.00, actually cost £100.00.

    2. GO AWAY FOR LONGER. Fly further, stay longer - and chances are your hotel, car hire company etc ... will be willing to do you a deal. In countries like Thailand or Turkey, where the cost of living is so much cheaper than Britain, these savings soon mount up. Ask for a discount and your two weeks in Thailand could cost the same as a long weekend in Paris.

    3. BARGAIN BEDS. Budget hotel chains like Travelodge and Holiday Inn have seriously upped their game recently. And what they lack in charm and character, they more than make up for in convenience (located near major tourist attractions), family options and special offers. For a more deluxe budget hotel experience, check out the stylish Dakota chain, with hotels across the UK.

      Youth Hostels have similarly improved: the YHA in Hong Kong, for example, has great rooms-with-a-view in town; the Y in Melbourne, Australia has a pool and the Y in NYC holds barbis and trips to the local comedy club.

      Or Stay Up All Night and don't pay for a room at all! An overnight train or bus is a bit of an adventure, gets you where you need to be and saves on a hotel room.

    4. SIGN UP, SIGN UP ... Sign up for newsletters and loyalty programmes from airlines, hotels and travel companies, and be the first to find out about the special deals, discounts and upgrades they offer. Yes, you'll get some extra emails, but one of them just might save you some money.

    5. HEDGE YOUR BETS. Most airlines will take a reservation, then give you a couple of days to make up your mind. Take advantage of this by reserving a flight, then using the time before you need to pay, to shop around for a cheaper deal (websites like www.kayak.co.uk will 'price watch' a flight, and email you if the price drops).

    6. DITCH YOUR TRAVEL AGENT. Booking through a travel agent can save time, and does give you a certain amount of security, but you pay for that in commission.

      Dealing with the hotels and car hire companies directly, generally means better rates -and your chance to ask for a discount. Just remember to take out adequate insurance to cover yourself should anything go wrong.

    7. GET A PACKAGE. I know we just said 'Ditch Your Travel Agent' , but package holidays can be real bargains. Especially if tour operators are trying to shift unsold holidays by offering amazing last minute deals. How do you find those deals? See Tip 8....

    8. RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH .... Comparison sites such as Skycanner.net and www.kayak.co.uk allow you to compare prices and availability across all the major airlines, tour operators, hotels and car hire companies. This means you can pick the best deal, or choose to pay a little extra for the date or destination you want.

      It's also worth checking out hotels before you check in, with review sites such as www.tripadvisor. Pre-warned is pre-armed.

    9. TRAVEL AT STRANGE TIMES. Many flight comparison sites, such as www.kayak.co.uk have a chart that shows you the cheapest dates to fly. The general rule? Avoid Fridays and Saturdays - the busiest days of the week - and, if you are travelling with school-aged children, see if your holiday dates co-incide with the schools in the country you are visiting. If not, book your trip through a local operator and you will get off-peak rates.

  • Don't

    1. BOOK IN ADVANCE. Traditionally if you knew where and when you wanted to go, you'd get the best price by booking in advance. But now the airlines are offering lots of last minute deals - be flexible and keep checking availability on line.

Last Updated: March 2009