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How To Take A Winter Break Without Breaking The Bank

Save Money Stamp

We're now in the aftermath of the Christmas and New Year period and many of us have been tightening the purse strings. It's usually around this time of year that a holiday seems like an expensive impossibility. But There are many ways to have an inexpensive winter break that doesn't involve staying at home eating leftovers. This month Essential Travel offers you a few helpful ideas on how to have a blast without blowing your budget.

Find A Destination That Offers Value For Money

A holiday is made far more special when you're surrounded by nature. In fact, being in a beautiful environment can often do you more good than spending a fortune getting pampered at a spa. Whether you’re looking for something relaxed and luxurious or some place fun and adventurous, the easiest way to work out how much money you’ll have to spend is to check the currency exchange rate of your desired location. Countries in which the pound is strong will cost you far less to enjoy. You’ll be able to do more and buy more.

Speaking of shopping, it is also worthwhile to do a little research into the local cost of living. Numbeo.com is a great source for exactly that purpose. And who knows? You may score some vital retail therapy in a tax-free country like Dubai. In the end, doing a little bit of homework on the place you’re interested in can save you hundreds before you've even left your home.

Foreign Currency Check foreign currency exchange rates.

Choose A Date And Time Carefully

When your journey begins is especially important for air travel. Airlines offer cheaper tickets during key periods of the year, week and day. Being flexible about your departure date and time can mean great savings. For the least expensive tickets, avoid travelling during school holidays. Flights are also cheaper mid-week and in the very early hours of the morning. For a variety of bargains, plan your trip towards the end of the ski season. Places like ski resorts that operate during winter will be more accommodating just before the warmer months roll in.

Aiport Departures Board Start your travels mid-week or at unsociable hours for lower prices.

Look For Special Deals, Discounts Or Packages

Did you know that you can saves tonnes of cash simply by booking online? Sounds crazy, but the bureau de change, hotels, airlines and travel insurance companies all offer discounts to people who book online. The internet is also a source of special deals. Many companies now have social media pages and advertise bargains on Facebook and Twitter that could shed a few extra pounds off your holiday expenses.

For even more discounts, consider taking a packaged deal. You can find airfare, hotel stays and car hire in one convenient package - which is often cheaper than buying each separately. UK and Irish residents can get such airport hotel and parking packages through Essential Travel. We guarantee* that you can’t book airport hotels cheaper.

*Find the same airport hotel (with or without parking) cheaper on the same day of booking with us? Simply let us know immediately and we'll refund you the difference in price.

Book Online Get incredible discounts simply by booking online.

Don’t Be Afraid To Negotiate

Once you have decided where and when you want to go, and checked all readily-available deals, it’s time to drop your inhibitions and go after those other discounts - the ones you have to work a little harder for. While bargaining might appear scary, you have every right to ask about added benefits during your trip. Personal communication is key. It is best to approach a hotelier or airline face-to-face or via the telephone. You have four basic bargaining options:

  • Ask the company how you can benefit from discounts already offered, i.e. by changing your dates or room.
  • Quote your minimum budget, an amount slightly lower than your actual minimum, and ask for something within that price range or free extras and upgrades to get their best deals.
  • Quote prices from other companies, but state your actual preference for the company you’re speaking to.
  • Lastly, in the case of accommodation, ask for a quote one day less than you’re actually planning to stay, then request an additional night at no extra cost.

When it comes to negotiating, as long as you remain polite and stay away from any sense of entitlement, you'll find that a surprising number of companies are willing to accommodate these requests.

Hotel Check In Negotiate better deals or free extras in person.

Consider Other Modes Of Transportation

Transport to and around your holiday destination will most likely be your biggest spend. So cut as many costs here as possible. If you’re going to fly, include the expenses of getting to and from the airport, and parking, should you use your own car. Also, be flexible about the airline and airport you use. Budget airline tickets may be cheaper, but they make money elsewhere, like charging for food and drinks, seat reservations and baggage checks. Plan well and pack light. Better still, consider coach tours. Not only will you get to see all the major sights and attractions, you’ll have the convenience of an expert guide who will ensure you won’t need a map or phrasebook.

If you’re set on travelling by car, save by using your own - even though Essential Travel brings you the lowest priced car hire and car hire insurance. Don’t exclude train trips. They’re low hassle and travel to a variety of popular cities throughout Europe. Cruises also have amazing special offers, especially if you book closer to the departure date. Operators eager to fill unoccupied cabins are known to give fantastic discounts. For instance, enjoy a 15-night cruise to Norway on board Voyages of Discovery’s MS Discovery from as little as £1,779 per couple. The cruise will depart from Bristol beginning February to October 2014.

At your destination, talk to friendly, helpful locals and ask for their transport suggestions. The tourist information centre can also provide advice on alternative modes of transport available in the area, like bicycles or shuttle buses. It’s all about surrendering to new experiences.

Travel On Bicycle See the sights on a bicycle to reduce transport costs.

Get Shared Or Secret Saver Accommodation

Why not turn your winter break into a social affair? Invite couples, friends or family along and take advantage of group discounts. Not only can you split the costs of general things, but the bigger the group, the bigger the savings. Instead of staying in a hotel, rent a cottage, apartment or house. If you choose a self-catering option, you’ll slice even more off the price. For instance, you can rent a charming thatched cottage at Chideock village in Dorset from just £630, with enough room to sleep seven, only a short walk from the Jurassic Coast where you can fish, swim and hunt for fossils. The more adventurous can spend a self-catered week skiing at Pas de la Casa in Andorra at a four person sharing Apartment.

Booking your stay at a Secret Saver Hotel is another cost-effective option. Top airport hotel brands provide Secret Saver guests lower-than-normal rates to fit any budget. The secret is that, while you’re provided information on all the hotels available including the distance from your selected airport, you won’t know which hotel you’ve been placed in until after you’ve booked. But, on the plus side, the offer applies to group bookings too, so the entire family can save.

Rent A Cottage Rent a self-catering cottage for cheaper accommodation.

Spend Money Wisely

To reduce the amount of money you spend abroad, buy as many essentials at home as you can. You’ll probably find it cheaper or already in your closet. Unsure what will make it through customs? Get detailed advice at www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk for information on what is allowed in and out of UK borders. And if your load gets too large, ship your luggage ahead and limit the charges placed by airlines.

After you've covered all your travel essentials, resist the urge to splurge. Try and carry only as much local currency as you need per day, and keep your credit card for emergencies. Finding a destination that offers free or cheap attractions and activities, or fantastic natural sights and sounds that you can indulge in during a stroll or bicycle ride, is another perfect way to keep the whole family entertained for less. England is great for free local fun with places like Sherwood Forest Country Park in Nottingham - the home of the Robin Hood legends. Internationally, Paris offers free access to numerous museums and monuments, some only available from November to March. As dinner is usually the most expensive meal of the day, make lunch your main meal and stick to light suppers. Not only is it thrifty, it is also healthier, and you will have more energy for your travels.

Cash In Wallet Carry only enough cash as you need for one day.

Last Updated: January 2014

Guest Travel Writer

Your Essential Travel Experts can't be everywhere all the time, so we often welcome guest travel writers. This article was written by one such visiting travel enthusiast whose experience of different places and advice for travellers makes for an interesting read. Enjoy!