3 years, 8 months ago
Unless you’ve become unimaginably wealthy over the past 12 months, it’s probably right about now you’re looking for ways to make your holiday budget work a bit harder. We love a bargain, getting something for nothing and beating the system now and then. So here are our 20 top money saving travel tips to cut costs without resorting to eat-all-you-can buffets and wearing your wardrobe on the plane.
1. Avoid airport ATMs
Many European and UK airports have ATMs operated by ‘currency exchange specialists’. They might offer ‘Free Withdrawal’, but the exchange rate could lose you as much as 11% on your transaction. Always use Bank ATMs when you’re travelling.
2. Disable Data Roaming on your phone
If you don’t want to overrun your data allowance, disable Data Roaming on your phone before you go. This stops it automatically looking for mobile connections to update apps. Downside is you need to find local Wi-Fi hotspots to connect to the internet.
3. Tell your mobile provider you’re travelling
Most mobile charges are capped in Europe now. But some providers offer special deals, rates and packages if you ask. Remember, you have to ask because they usually won’t tell you.
4. Get a free European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is free to all UK citizens and gives access to healthcare across the entire European Economic Area, either free of charge or at reduced costs.
European Health Insurance Card
5. Know your budget airline rules
Carriers like Ryanair are rigid about rules and breaking them can cost you a fortune. Print out your boarding passes clearly (if the barcode doesn’t scan, you’ll have to pay). Measure your cabin bags and weigh your hold luggage (the allowances are clear and strict). Don’t sign-up for extras you don’t need. And double-check your booking before you finalise it.
6. Travel as light as you can
If the worst comes to the worst, all you really need are your passports, travel docs and bank cards. Keep that in mind when you’re packing. Don’t take clothes ‘just in case’. If you’re away for two weeks, pack for one. Take versatile clothes, especially for kids. And if you’re going to shop, make allowances going out, so you don’t have excess baggage coming home.
7. Compare car-hire costs with Skyscanner
Search and filter over 800 car-hire companies in about 30 seconds. Always make sure you get unlimited mileage. And airport pick-up and drop-off is usually cheaper than town or city centre.
8. Rent a holiday villa or apartment instead of hotel accommodation
Renting a villa or apartment saves loads and gives you more space, privacy and freedom than a hotel. And you can have your own pool and garden, city views, historic location or even historic building.
9. Rent accommodation outside city centres
Book holiday accommodation outside city centres. It’s less expensive and a good way to discover interesting districts, avoid crowds and live at local prices. And most people working in cities don’t live in the centre, so public transport is designed and priced with that in mind.
10. Buy own brand sunscreen
Sunscreen’s essential and priced like a luxury. But there’s no difference between expensive brands and inexpensive own brands; you still need to re-apply often or it’s ineffective. Buy own brand before you go.
11. Register online with attractions, museums and galleries
If you know where you’re headed, register with the places you want to see before you go. Sign up for email bulletins, special offer alerts and newsletters. Follow them on Twitter and add them to your Facebook feed.
12. Register with official city sites
Almost every major city has an official visitor website and it’s worth registering. Sites like IAMsterdam or Visit Paris Region always have offers, up-to-date news about events and plenty of information on free things to do and see. Again, follow them on Twitter and add them to your Facebook feed.
13. Book online for big ticket attractions
If you’re travelling as a family or in a group, book ahead for things like the Vatican Museums, The Louvre or Disneyland. You avoid queues and get better deals – special discounts are admin-intensive and very few major attractions offer them on-site.
14. Good timing can cost less at theme-parks
If a couple of hours at a theme park or waterpark is enough, it often costs less to go after lunch or later in the afternoon.
15. Use major supermarkets for day to day shopping
Cutesy morning markets in little towns and villages are lovely to wander round and buy the odd thing. But they’re often surprisingly expensive. For essential shopping, visit larger supermarkets. Avoid town mini-marts – they can charge up to twice as much for basics like a ½ litre of milk. And don’t use resort supermarkets, ever.
16. Buy wine like a local
Visit caves, wine co-ops or bodega, take an empty 5L plastic water bottle and buy wine in bulk. It’s a fraction of the price of bottled wine and it’s what most locals drink, so the quality’s usually excellent.
17. Avoid restaurants near major attractions
Sounds obvious we know, but you don’t need to avoid restaurants in historic city centres all together. Walk two or three streets away from Piazza del Duomo in Florence and the prices fall by almost half. Eat in Paris’s Belleville Chinatown instead of the 13th arrondissement Chinatown and it costs significantly less. Lunch in Rome’s cool Trastevere district costs more than in nearby and cooler Testaccio or Garbatella. And in Barcelona, stroll away from Barceloneta towards Poblenou, save a fortune on beach bar tapas and still have a sea view.
18. Compare City Passes and public transport prices
Some city passes are great – the Vienna Pass includes all public transport and the Lisboa Card has transport and free entry to the city’s biggest attractions. But several passes are just overpriced ‘Transport Cards’. Look at the cost of local transport, think about what you’d really use and compare that to the cost of a City Card.
19. Travel outside school holidays or in October break
If you aren’t tied to school holidays, avoid them. Accommodation and flight prices are lower for late season skiing, spring beach holidays and autumn city breaks. And if you have kids, think about taking your big holiday in October rather than summer. It’s technically off-season in Europe, but the weather can still be great in lots of places and everything costs less.
20. Avoid toll-roads or use them wisely
Unless you’re in a hurry, avoid toll-roads. In France alone the charges vary dramatically from region to region and on newer Péage they can be surprisingly high. Non-motorway costs nothing anywhere in Europe and it’s a lot more interesting.
And if you’re in cities or large towns, don’t forget to walk, it’s better for you and saves a fortune.