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16 May 2022

How to cut the cost of your summer holiday

Eleven money-saving tips to save on your next UK or foreign break

We’ve waited for what feels like forever to take a holiday, but the cost of living crisis means many of us are feeling the pinch right now.

Don’t despair; you can still book an escape on a budget. Here we share our best tips to slash hundreds of pounds from the cost of your next getaway, whether you plan to jet off abroad or stay in the UK.

1. Don’t assume flying abroad is too expensive

Demand may be up since Covid restrictions lifted, but flights to Europe are actually 48% cheaper than they were pre-pandemic. Research by Which? found that overall, the average cost of a flight this summer was just £92 (when booked in March), compared to £182 for the same period in 2019. We compared routes from London Stansted to popular European holiday destinations, including Venice and Barcelona, and found all six were significantly cheaper in 2022.

2. Shop around to find the cheapest price on your hotel

Use comparison sites to find the best deal on your hotel room. When we put them to the test, Trivago found the cheapest price most consistently. Meanwhile, Kayak, Skyscanner, TravelSupermarket and TripAdvisor all found the lowest price at least two out of five times. 

See our best and worst hotel booking sites, as voted by you

3. Call your hotel direct for an even better deal

Before you book, call the hotel the directly to try to negotiate an even lower price. This is because large booking sites charge a commission  – and rate-parity clauses prevent hotels from advertising a lower rate on their own website. But there’s nothing to stop them quoting a better price over the phone. Even if they can't give you a discount, they may offer perks - such as a room upgrade or free breakfast. When we put this to the test, we bagged a discount or freebie for eight out of ten hotels.

4. Choose a budget-friendly hotel

Splurging on a swanky hotel does not guarantee a better night's sleep. Premier Inn was rated one of the best large chains by Which? Members, with prices averaging just £66 per night. The chain was also awarded five stars for cleanliness, quality of the beds and Covid-19 safety measures.

See our best and worst UK hotel chains

5. Don’t assume you need to pay to sit together on the plane

Passengers who pay extra to sit together on the plane are often wasting their money. A Which? survey found that a group of four could pay up to £192 to book standard seats together on a return flight. However, 95% of respondents who didn't pay extra said they were given seats together anyway. This was true of all short-haul airlines we looked at, except Wizz Air and Ryanair.

6. Visit a lesser-known location

Choosing the right destination can have a big impact on holiday budgets. Our research found that holidaymakers can save more than £400 on a one-week UK break just by staying a few miles down the road. We compared the likes of Dartmouth with Salcombe and Tenby with Saundersfoot. And good value doesn’t mean scrimping on quality: six of our best-rated UK seaside towns and villages have hotels which average £100 or less a night. These include Llandudno in Conwy; Filey, North Yorkshire; Lynmouth, Devon; Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland and Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear,

See which destination came out on top with the UK’s best seaside towns

7. Book car hire in advance

It’s important now more than ever to book car hire at least two months in advance. Increased demand has seen brokers up their prices - and the later you book, the more you’ll pay. So, if you’re planning to travel during a peak time, it’s especially important that you book your car hire two months in advance. Customers should also avoid ‘pay on arrival’ options, as some unscrupulous companies could cancel and take a more valuable booking elsewhere. Instead lock in your deal by either paying in full in advance or leaving a deposit which guarantees your vehicle.

Looking for a provider you can trust? See our best-rated car hire companies

8. Pay in local currency (and use the right card)

Always pay in the local currency when buying goods or services abroad to avoid being hit with terrible exchange rates. Make sure to also check whether your bank charges a fee for using your card abroad. For example, Santander charges a 2.95% foreign currency conversion fee for debit card payments and cash withdrawals (excluding ATMs in Spain) - plus a 2.75% transaction fee and a £1.25 purchase fee on every item bought overseas. In contrast, Starling Bank, Barclays Rewards and Monzo are all fee-free for overseas purchases and ATM withdrawals. Halifax Clarity and Barclaycard Rewards credit cards offer the same perks, plus legal protection if something goes wrong.  

9. Visit attractions at off-peak times

Save money and beat the crowds by visiting attractions off-peak. You can bag discounts or even free admission by opting for less popular times or days of the week. For example,  we found that some museums in Paris, including the Louvre, offer free entry on the first Sunday of each month - saving €15 euros on the price of a ticket. Similarly, entry to the Vatican museum - usually €16 euros - is free to enter on the last Sunday of the month. The Prado museum in Madrid (€15 euros) is free every evening from 6pm-8pm (Sundays 5pm-7pm).  Many UK national galleries and museums are also free to enter. See the 50 best UK attractions as rated by visitors. 

10. Last-minute doesn't necessarily mean cheaper

Booking late in the day doesn’t always guarantee a bargain. Which? Research found that the best deals on hotels are usually available around three months before travel, depending on the destination. Wait too late and you could be left with limited choice, higher rates and less flexible cancellation policies. It’s only worth holding your nerve for a late deal if you are open-minded about the location or hotel.

11. Sign up to loyalty schemes

Savings can add up if you’re savvy enough to join free loyalty schemes with hotel chains and booking websites. Some supermarket reward schemes, such as Tesco Clubcard and Sainsbury Nectar Card, also have partnerships with attractions and hotels - so points on your weekly shop could equal discounts. In fact, Tesco Clubcard points are worth triple when used with partners including Hilton, Hotels.com and Warner Leisure - meaning 50p converts to £1.50. Similarly, Nectar points can be turned into Avios points for British Airways’ flights.