Travelling abroad is one of the most expensive activities you can undertake. While in recent decades the cost of overseas travel has drastically reduced (not least due to budget airlines), it can still take a hefty chunk out of your wallet.
Thankfully, there are a number of ways to reduce the cost when you’re heading off into the sunset. See our most popular tips below.
If you are travelling to a country with a currency other than your own, you will likely have to exchange money before you go. It is best to do this prior to travelling as the rate is often more attractive than when you arrive on location. Using high street bureau de changes or those from providers like the Post Office is preferable than exchanging money at the airport. Online exchanges are also possible and you can find competitive rates by browsing the Internet.
When it comes to spending money, cash is the most cost effective way to go, rather than using credit cards. Having said that, credit cards are highly useful for emergencies, but try to avoid using them unless you have a specialist card with a low (or free) usage fee.
A handy alternative to the credit or debit card is a travel money card, available from companies like FairFX, the Post Office, among others. Load the card up with money before travelling and take advantage of free ATM and transaction fees in the currency of your choice. Better still, it’s far safer than walking around with a stash of money in your pocket!
Airports are notoriously expensive and if you are not careful, you can find yourself paying over the odds, especially for food and drink (or for those headphones you forget to pack!). It is a good idea to eat beforehand or take your own food. Parking is also something to consider if you are travelling by car and leaving your vehicle at the airport. Booking in advance and checking the various tariff options will ensure you get best value for money. It also worthwhile looking at train fares for airport travel, since this can often be a convenient and affordable alternative.
Bartering for goods is the norm in some countries. Therefore, if you are travelling to a destination where this is the custom, be sure to brush up on your haggling skills. Don’t pay the first price you see. It will save you a small fortune!
Booking a flight can be a real deal-breaker when it comes to keeping costs down. Timing is a key factor in ensuring you get the best value. Book too late and you could find yourself paying over the odds, book too early and you could miss out on some great deals. When researching flights, it is good practice to keep checking the major airline flight prices, either by visiting their websites directly, or via third party services, such as Skyscanner. It may be that a better deal can be found by booking separate outbound and return flights, so don’t immediately rule this out. Package holidays will include a flight as part of the overall price, but you can sometimes find more affordable deals by piecing together your own holiday (e.g. by booking flight and accommodation separately). Don’t forget to take advantage of any promotions and discount codes available online, and when you find a decent deal, take action. Flights get booked up extremely quickly, so getting organised and planning ahead is crucial to secure the best offers.
Checking in your suitcase for a short break can incur additional fees. While you will need to do this for longer stays, if you only intend to travel for a few days, taking hand luggage is usually free of charge. Aside from the financial benefits, it also means you will bypass the luggage carousel, thereby saving time. Remember to check what the maximum size for hand luggage is with the airline, otherwise you may have to pay for your baggage to go in the hold. And be sure to check the weight to avoid any surprise fees at the check-in desk.
It is recommended that you take out travel insurance as soon as possible after booking your holiday. The cost of insurance varies widely from provider to provider, and person to person. The destination and any applicable medical conditions all factor into the overall cost. Comparing providers using popular price comparison sites is a reliable first port of call, but remember, some insurance companies only offer quotes directly – so shop around. Similarly, if you have specific needs, research specialist companies via the Web. Annual travel insurance can be more affordable in the long run if you travel regularly. Your bank may also offer affordable travel insurance, either as part of your bank account package, or separately. Remember to read the fine print before taking out a policy to ensure the price and cover is suitable for your needs.
After landing at your destination, you will usually need some form transport to the resort. There are three popular ways of achieving this. The first is to book a coach transfer at the time of booking your holiday. This is among the most affordable, but it is not without its downside, namely: you will have to wait for all passengers to arrive and then endure what can often be a tedious round trip for everyone’s hotel.
In light of this, some people use a local airport taxi. While more expensive than a pre-booked coach transfer and more suited to shorter journeys on account of the cost, this can get you to your destination much quicker. Specialist transfer companies are also worth researching and many advertise on the forums of popular travel sites like TripAdvisor. A simple search will uncover other specialist providers.
Taking a mobile phone abroad is something you will likely want to do, either to keep in touch with back home or for grabbing holiday photos. While international mobile rates are more affordable than in times past, it is important to follow a few simple rules to ensure you don’t get overcharged. One key factor is the area of the world you’re travelling to. In Europe, mobile rates are generally very affordable, but this may not be the case further afield. It may be more affordable to invest in a local “pay as you go” SIM card, available in most convenience stores or via the Internet before you travel. Some mobile providers have special tariffs for travelling abroad, so research these to obtain the best value for money. And if you own a smartphone and intend on using the Internet, be sure to switch off your mobile data and only access the Web via Wi-Fi. Otherwise you may be left having to pay a hefty bill.
When booking a holiday abroad, you will need to select a type of accommodation, whether that’s room only, self catering, half board, full board, or all inclusive. Self catering can be a flexible and affordable option if you intend to cook meals yourself, or if you want the freedom to eat where you please. It can also be cheaper than hotels, but remember: eating out has its own costs and could prove more expensive than eating on half or full board.
All inclusive accommodation is also something that you may wish to consider. Although not the cheapest, if you like to spend a significant amount of time in the hotel, this can save money in the long run. Drinks and food will be free in the hotel/resort, plus you still have the flexibility to visit local restaurants. Ultimately, your selection will largely depend on the type of holiday you want and your budget. Weigh up the costs and come to a sensible decision.