Find out more about Clare Walsh
How to book a cheap spring break
The excitement of Christmas and New Year is over, and if the cold, dark days are making you feel gloomy, the good news is that now is the perfect time to bag a cheap deal on a spring break.
There is no better tonic than a great holiday to look forward to, and even if you’re feeling the post-Christmas pinch, there are plenty of cheap deals out there and a number of ways to cut costs.
Here are some of our top tips…
1. Choose your destination…and get booking
If your motivation for booking a break is to escape the grey skies of the UK, you need to be careful about where you choose to go, as not everywhere will be basking in spring sunshine.
Good options are destinations such as Malta and the Canaries which will offer a guaranteed sunshine injection, with temperatures in Tenerife reaching a comfortable 22 degrees in April.
To ensure you get the best deals on flights and accommodation, look out for sales, plan ahead and book in advance. For example, a search on TravelSupermarket returned a holiday in Lanzarote for two adults, staying in three-star accommodation, departing from Manchester on April 6, for just £291 per person.
2. Compare different types of holiday
Weighing up the type of accommodation on offer can also afford you big savings. For example, booking an all-inclusive deal could take the pressure off your holiday budget, while self-catering would enable you to cook meals in and make packed lunches, saving you from forking out for expensive meals all the time.
To help you with your decision, read the pros and cons of self-catering and all-inclusive accommodation in my article.
If you’re booking a hotel but are unlikely to spend much time in it, it may be worth looking at lower grade accommodation to ease your holiday budget. And, if you are planning a city break, consider staying on a Saturday and Sunday night rather than Friday and Saturday, as Sunday nights are often cheaper as this is a quiet night.
3. Be flexible
If you are looking for the best deals, you need to be prepared to be flexible. This means travelling at times that may be slightly unsociable, such as early in the morning or late at night.
Although it’s not possible for everyone, avoiding school holidays such as Easter and May half term is also likely to get you a better deal, and not travelling on bank holidays when demand is greater will keep costs down too.
If you’re booking a city break, try to avoid travelling at the weekend and instead opt for a mid-week bargain while comparing various dates to find the cheapest for you.
4. Consider the cost of your destination while you are there
It isn’t just the price of getting to your destination that you have to consider, but the overall cost of your trip while you are there. For example, Budapest was found to be the cheapest place to go for a European city break in the Post Office’s December City Costs Barometer, which compares the cost of a variety of items you are likely to buy while on holiday such as drinks and snacks. It revealed that a cup of coffee in Budapest would set you back £1.20, while a three-course evening meal for two including a bottle of wine costs, on average, £25.33. In comparison, Paris was found to be the most expensive city break, with a cup of coffee costing £1.72 and a three-course evening meal costing £51.36.
Bali came out as the best value worldwide holiday destination, followed closely by the Algarve in Portugal.
It is also beneficial to research potential discounts on attractions and transport while you are on holiday. For example, cities such as New York, Paris and Vienna offer a sightseeing pass which allows you to pay a set price that covers admission into a number of popular attractions and has the added bonus of allowing you to skip time-consuming queues. Some passes also incorporate transport discounts into them too.
5. Get your travel extras early
We often don’t buy our travel extras until the last minute – and then watch the cost stack up as it eats into our holiday budget. However, booking your extras such as car hire, airport parking, extra baggage and transfers in advance and online could actually save you thousands of pounds. Read more here.
Being organised with your currency can also make your holiday budget go further. You’ll get the most for your money by comparing rates and ordering online, but even pre-booking for collection at the airport will afford you better rates than just turning up on the day.
If you are travelling on a short break, opt for hand-luggage only and avoid checked-in bag fees. With Ryanair for example, this can cost up to £30 each way for a 20kg bag.
6. Buy your travel insurance when you book
Few of us think to buy our travel insurance at the time of booking our holiday, but doing so could save you hundreds of pounds. For example, it would cover you if you had to cancel your holiday for any reason, such as due to illness, meaning that you would get your money back.
Additionally, if you are going to be taking two or more holidays in the year, it may be more cost-effective for you to take out an annual policy that covers you for a number of trips, rather than several single policies that only cover you for one. It also means you can take advantage of last-minute deals and jet off without having to worry about organising cover.
7. Apply for an overseas credit card now
If you are planning a spring getaway, now is the time to think about applying for a credit card designed for overseas spending. This way, you don’t need to worry about racking up fees on your everyday credit card. Look out for cards that don’t charge a loading fee (this is usually around 3%) every time you spend, such as the Halifax Clarity card and the Post Office Platinum card. For those with a less-than-perfect credit score, try the Capital One Classic Extra card.
However, remember that this is only going to be a cost-effective option if you can repay your balance in full every month, otherwise you’ll be hit with steep interest rates. Also avoid using your credit card for ATM withdrawals as you’ll pay interest from the day you make the withdrawal.