Seeing more of the world is a top priority for holidaymakers in 2010, as is keeping a tight grip on the budget. Follow my advice to bag a bargain and save money before and during your travels
Our recent survey of holidaymakers reveals a real determination to travel - especially among those who didn’t take a holiday overseas in 2009. But it also made clear that keeping a tight grip on budget was a clear priority for many people.
So how can you get the best value in 2010, whether you are looking for a romantic city break, or a family beach holiday? We have come up with 20 money-saving tips to help you minimise your budget, but still have a great time.
Use our money-saving guides
There are lots of websites which compare prices or claim to save you money. But which ones offer the best deals and are the easiest to use? Our money-saving guides to booking flights, car hire and hotels will help you pick the best, and make big savings.
Pick the bargain weeks
If you aren’t tied to school holidays, then June is the best month to travel to the Med. Prices can be less than half those in August, the resorts are quieter, and the weather just as good. If you have school-age children, and can’t avoid high summer, look at the brochure prices for the last week in August. These are usually a good 10 to 20 per cent lower than the rest of the month.
Book for half term
Another way families with children can get around the summer peak prices is to book a week in the May half term. The weather will be hotting up in all the main Mediterranean destinations and prices are a good 25-30 per cent lower than high summer. A great destination at this time of year, where good weather is almost guaranteed, is Crete. Get inspired with one of our travel guides on Crete.
Go for Turkey...
The strong Euro means that holidays in Italy, Greece, France, Spain and Portugal are about 15 per cent more expensive than they were in 2008. The good news is that, compared with this time last year, the pound has strengthened slightly against the Euro. However, of all the Mediterranean destinations, Turkey, which is not part of the Eurozone, still looks like excellent value. The Lira has weakened against the pound in the last year, and the local cost of living is low. For inspiration see this guide to the Turkish Riviera by Dan Hipgrave.
…or the USA
The US dollar too is currently weak - down nearly 10 per cent against the pound in the last 12 months. It is an expensive country to get to - but once you are there, you can relax and enjoy the good value. See our top-rated guides for the best holiday ideas.
Pick cheaper regions
If the classic holiday destinations of the Eurozone - Italy, France, Spain, Greece and so on - still appeal, you can still make your holiday more affordable, by choosing carefully, and avoiding the better-known (and more expensive) areas. Instead of Tuscany or Umbria for example, how about the next door region of Le Marche; or the Pyrenees instead of Provence; or Naxos instead of Corfu.
Book flights now
Most no-frills and scheduled airlines have now launched their flight programmes for 2010. To be sure of getting the lowest fares for summer departures, book now - prices will only rise from now on.
Time your departure
Whatever your destination, flying midweek rather than at weekends, will be cheaper (and less crowded).
Book late for hotel savings
The cheapest rates for hotels are available within a week or less of arrival, often through specialist websites. See step two of our money-saving guide.
Airport hotels and parking
These are much cheaper booked through specialist websites - see step three of our money-saving hotel guide.
Hire car insurance
The cost of waiving the excess on a car hire deal can be high. Save money by buying a policy from a specialist insurer - see step six of our guide.
Health Insurance Card
The European Health Insurance Card confirms that you are entitled to free or low-cost medical treatment in EU countries. It doesn’t replace travel insurance, but it may still save you money. Get it free here.
Cheaper travel insurance
A good insurance policy bought from a specialist agent will nearly always cheaper than anything sold through a tour operator or travel agent. Our money-saving guide to insurance will be published soon. In the meantime, try one of the best companies - Direct Travel Insurance.
Travel light, and pack your own lunch
The extra charges for baggage, checking-in, paying by credit or debit card, and a sandwich on board can now easily double, or even triple your airfare. Travel with hand baggage only (maximum weight is usually 10 kg, but check on the airline’s website) and take your own sandwiches, and you will make significant savings.
Hire a diesel car
If you are doing a lot of driving, a diesel engine is more economical - and in some countries, France for example, diesel costs less than petrol.
Avoid the motorways
Motorway driving in France can be extremely expensive because of the tolls - nearly 100 euros to drive to the south from Calais for example. The old system of “bis-routes” - traffic-free, country roads where you can average a good speed - is no longer promoted, but you can still plan a good route by sticking to the “D” roads, which the old bis-routes used to follow.
Once you are there
Buy a city pass
Not all passes aimed at tourists are good value, but if you want to do a lot of sightseeing and use public transport, they are worth investigating. One of the best value is the Vienna Card (www.wien.info), which costs 18.50 euros and gives you unlimited use of public transport for 72 hours, as well as discounts at over 200 museums and sights, theatres, shops and restaurants.
Eat like the locals
Locals know that fixed-price menus, or the dish of the day, offer the best value and often the tastiest cooking compared with dishes ordered a la carte. Look for the plat du jour menu in France, the menu del dia in Spain and the menu fisso in Italy. And remember that lunchtime menus are much cheaper than evening ones - so enjoy your main meal at midday and indulge in a siesta to sleep it off.
Drink like the locals
Locals also know how to keep the cost of drinking down too. With meals, regional wines will be cheaper, better quality and better suited to the menu, and nearly always better value than those imported from outside. A “carafe” of tap water will cost nothing, while bottled water might be four or five euros. Meanwhile, a beer (or coffee) at the bar rather than sitting at a table will be at least half the price, and even cheaper if you order draught, rather than bottled beer.
Rates of exchange and charges made by card companies vary hugely. But follow two main principles when paying for things abroad and you are likely to get the best deal on currencies, and minimise charges:
* use a credit card for as many purchases as possible (though this only works efficiently if you pay off the balance each month)
* use your cashpoint or debit card to withdraw cash from ATMs.