We all deserve a break every now and then but can we have a good holiday on a budget? Here are some tips on how you could save a few pounds when booking your next trip away.

Destination Unknown

What are your holiday criteria? Do you have a hankering to go somewhere in particular or will anywhere do as long as you escape the daily routine? Being open-minded about your holiday destination could save you money. 

Consider lower season options. Not much good if you want to ski and there’s no snow but for other holidays this could serve you well.

For example, Thailand is extremely popular from November-February and the prices go sky-high, but if you visit slightly later in March or April you should miss the rainy season and the temperatures are still bearable. It will be less crowded and you might even experience one of the annual Thai festivals and enjoy the colourful processions and musical performances accompanied by free samples of local cuisine. 

Or try Budapest whose national currency is the Hungarian Forint. October and May are reported to be the best off-season months to visit when the weather is still mild but tourist trade is down, leaving you to explore both the historic west (Buda) and urban east (Pest) sides of the Danube comfortably. You might even catch the Café Budapest Contemporary Arts Festival where entry to most events is either free or, applying today’s Forint to Pound Sterling exchange rate, around just £5.

Leaving on a Jet Plane (Maybe!)

Whatever your choice of destination you will be looking at cost-effective ways to get there. 

If you are not restricted by school holidays or company constraints try to avoid peak times. It can also pay to be flexible with your dates and investigate travelling a day or two earlier or later than you had in mind – I have just researched a flight from London Gatwick to Palma de Mallorca at the beginning of July and travelling just one day earlier with the same airline saves £47.62 per person.

Do not restrict yourself with regards to airline options because some routes have attracted enormous competition – you can travel directly from London to Larnaca at this time of year with at least 7 different carriers.

Read the small-print (contract of carriage) when you book to establish whether you will be entitled to a refund if the airfare subsequently drops. You may be charged a fee for processing the refund but that could still make your request worthwhile. This would only be an option if you booked direct with the airline, and not all companies provide this facility, but it is worth checking out if you have the time to do spot-checks on flight prices. One company that acknowledges the concern is easyJet, whose price promise ‘means that if you have made a booking and the same flight subsequently becomes available at a lower fare, then we will give you an easyJet Flight Voucher on the difference that you can use on future flights with us.’

If you have enough air-mile rewards on a credit card or with a carrier use them! You are better off calling the airline to discuss your options. It might be that you have enough points to get you to one holiday location option but not enough for another so establish the possibilities. Additionally, if you belong to an airline programme at the right membership level, you might be entitled to free drinks and food in their VIP lounge so make the most of that and save money at the airport bar.

Remember that flying is not the only way to reach your holiday spot. If feasible look into driving, coach tours or rail journeys which, in addition to the possible price benefits, can be much less stressful and you will view more splendour out of the window than a fluffy cloud. Direct journeys to your ultimate destination are not always the best way forward either – you can save money with a twin break. Fly to a stop-over location en route, stay there a day or two cost-effectively and then get a cheaper onwards journey either with a local airline or by a different mode of transport – two holidays for the price of one anybody?

Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn

There are numerous types and styles of holiday accommodation out there so compare and decide what is right for you.

You could arrange a house-swap (think The Holiday starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet) whereby you only pay for your journey and then stay in a home belonging to somebody else while they stay in yours. Another alternative is house sitting.

Resort hotels and self-catering apartments are the norm but if there is a group of you have you considered sharing the cost of hiring a villa and the freedom that brings with it? 

Many bars and restaurants in local towns and villages have their own accommodation which can save you money compared to a hotel on the seafront, and hybrid hotel/hostels are having a moment combining the socially interactive benefits of a hostel with the more upmarket amenities of a hotel. If static living is not your thing, then you can always compare the cost of hiring a camper van or motor home.

Show me the Money

One of our favourite pastimes on holiday is eating and drinking so can you save any money there? All-inclusive hotels are a good option if you want to make the most of a free bar and food throughout your stay, and you can get even better deals sometimes by comparing flight & hotel packages on the compare websites rather than booking them separately. Does your accommodation include a free breakfast? If so make the most of a hearty meal in the morning and save money at lunchtime. Local produce will be cheaper so give your taste buds a treat. And you can enquire about local venues which might have early bird dining deals or happy hours, often there is free entertainment thrown in too for good measure. 

Does your credit card, bank or household insurance include holiday travel? Read your policy or ask the customer service team to find out as you don’t want to buy duplicate cover unknowingly. You do need to ensure the cover is adequate. If you need to purchase a policy do not automatically buy it from your airline or travel agent – sites like confused.com are there to help too.

There are always free places to visit and explore, look at a local map or guidebook to find out your options. If it is too far to walk, local transport costs are more cost effective than a taxi, or you could always hire a ‘Boris Bike’ if they have them in your chosen destination.

Finally, your currency. The worst place to buy your currency is at the airport bureau de change. They know this is your last chance to exchange currency and the cost will be hiked accordingly. To save being ripped off you can compare exchange rates at your Post Office or a High Street vendor such as M&S. Your best bet, though, is to use a specialist currency transfer company. 

If you don’t want to carry cash consider a prepaid travel card, available in euro, dollar or sterling. Accepted anywhere you see a MasterCard or Visa sign, this card will save fees and other charges that your bank or credit card would have imposed.