7 ways to make your holiday cheaper, according to experts

Jun 7, 2022

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As the ancient Greek philosopher, Democritus, once said, “A life without holidays is like a long road without inns.”

It’s a loose translation from ancient Greek (the word could also mean “festivity”), but the point stands: where would we be without a sun-soaked getaway once in a while?

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Trouble is, the rising cost of fuel is driving airfares skyward, record-high inflation is killing the once-mighty British pound, while – as we revealed last week – hotel prices in many of the most popular parts of Europe have already risen way beyond pre-pandemic levels.

Add that to a cost of living crisis that is grinding many of our “travel funds” into dust, and life’s long road feels more blockaded by the month.

Related: Want to avoid surging European hotel prices? Try these countries

But is there a way to go on holiday without blowing your annual energy bill? We spoke to some experts about how to make your holiday cheaper without scrimping on the fun.

The last week of the summer holidays is almost half the price of the first week

According to Skyscanner, the first two weeks of the school holidays are by far the most popular weeks to go away this summer.

Related: European hotel prices are rocketing — here’s where they’re rising the most

And yet, this is the most expensive time to travel. Skyscanner’s data (based on all bookings made from the UK to all destinations this summer) shows that, on average, travellers can save 44% by travelling the last week vs the first week.

Source: Skyscanner

Digging into the data, this trend can vary slightly by destination so it’s imperative to shop around to get the biggest saving on your chosen destination.

“Using the month view search on Skyscanner not only shows you the prices on different days of the week, if you’re able to be truly flexible it also allows you to look weeks or months either side of your initial dates to see if there are savings to be had, says Skyscanner’s Travel Trends and Destination Expert Laura Lindsay.

Families who choose Spain in the last week of the summer, for instance, will save over 20% on average, which is £188 for a family of four. Families heading to the USA, meanwhile, can save on average £872 by flying out in the last week, versus the second week, as flight prices drop by up to 30%.

Think about where you eat

“Food is one of the key expenses when you’re on holiday and all those meals can start to rack up,” says Brian Young, managing director at G Adventures, an adventure travel operator aimed at young travellers on a budget. “We always advise our travellers to eat in as many local restaurants as possible.

Related: Italy and Cyprus drop COVID-19 entry requirements

“Not only is this a  much more affordable option than tourist-focused restaurants, but it also is a great way to distribute wealth into the local economy, support locally-owned businesses and taste some pretty delicious delicacies.

“If you aren’t sure where to go, then ask a local, be it a guide, a bartender or a taxi driver for a recommendation.”

Never travel on a Saturday

Anthony Bourdain famously warned foodies to never order fish on a Monday. Well, Skyscanner warns travellers to never travel on a Saturday.

Source: Skyscanner

“Prices are more dynamic than ever, and it could be that a Tuesday flight could save you money on your trip to Athens,” says Lindsay. “But booking on a Wednesday is cheapest for your travel to Malaga.”

For instance, by flying to the USA on a Tuesday during the summer holidays rather than a Saturday, a family of four will save on average £380. Or, a Greece flight on a Thursday instead of a Saturday will save £244 on average.

Travel during ‘shoulder seasons’

“If you’re looking to visit a seasonal destination, you need to be aware that prices will be hiked up in peak season,” says Young. “That doesn’t mean you need to tolerate a monsoon to get a good deal though; try opting for shoulder seasons, when prices will be lower and tourist numbers less as well.”

Northerners can bag big bargains by crossing the border

Another hack for any English family forced to travel during the school holidays, this — particularly if you live in the north of England.

Skyscanner reveals that flying from a Scottish airport is usually cheaper than flying from anywhere in England during the peak holiday season.

This is because Scottish schools go on holiday at different times to English schools.

Related: Belgium has dropped almost all of its COVID-19 restrictions

And while Summer holiday dates vary slightly from school to school in different areas, Scottish kids tend to return to school in mid-August — a full three weeks earlier than English kids.

According to Skyscanner’s data, a flight from Edinburgh to Alicante between 20 and 27 August can save on average £336 for a family of four, compared to one from Newcastle (at £225 per person from Newcastle, against £141 per person from Edinburgh).

“Thinking outside the box can mean real savings as well as more convenient flight times,” says Lindsay. “If the flight out of your nearest airport doesn’t suit your desired travel time, the flight from a neighbouring one might. Not only could [this tip] save you some serious spending money, it could give you more time to enjoy the sun, snow, or sea at your chosen holiday spot.”

Know your sales months

“Savvy bookers will know that January and November are notoriously big sales months for the travel industry, with big discounts on offer across many different types of travel,” says Young. “If you’re looking at a bigger holiday and are planning in advance, then booking in these months is a great way to make your money go further.”

Pick a tour with a customisable itinerary

“Let’s face it, not all of us want to be on a nine-to-five itinerary while on holiday, but while we may want some downtime, we do still want to enjoy some epic moments as well,” says Young. “By opting for a more flexible itinerary, you’ll have the benefit of lots of free time and a much more affordable tour, which you can then customise with the optional extras that you really want to spend your money on.

“A great example is our 18-to-Thirtysomethings travel style, where young travellers have the freedom to build their own itinerary with lots of free time and optional activities on the agenda. It’s perfect for those wanting more flexibility and an affordable option.”

Featured image by Uwe Krejci/Getty.

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