With the summer months stretching out before us, our thoughts may well be turning towards a much-needed getaway.
But while this might signal relaxation with family and friends, it also marks a period where our spending can really ramp up.
Sally Francis, consumer expert at MoneySavingExpert.com, says the good news is that with the pound having reached a four-year high, people heading abroad this summer should see their money go further. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also try to boost your budget by sourcing the best rates and pre-ordering foreign money, rather than leaving it until the last minute and getting a poor deal.
“Going on holiday is often an excuse to step away from our everyday money-sensible selves,” says Francis. “But don’t let this be you. If you’re planning an overseas trip, don’t wing it - do your research, hunt out bargains and haggle on everything.
“The more you save, the more you’ll have to enjoy your time away.”
When planning a holiday, it can pay to be the early bird and book well in advance to grab discounts quickly. Or equally, if you can be flexible and enjoy a bit spontaneity, leaving it until the very last minute, when firms are chopping prices to fill up any spare capacity, can also reap rewards.
MoneySavingExpert says it’s important not to assume when you’re trying to book your flight that websites comparing such deals will search all airlines. For scheduled flights with the major airlines, MoneySavingExpert likes websites Skyscanner for ease-of-use and Kayak for its “gizmos”.
If you’re flying to a traditional package holiday destination such as Majorca, some charter flight operators sell off spare capacity. It could be worth checking for this on the websites Avro and Flightsdirect.
Online help is also available so you can work out the cheapest time to book for each destination. The “flight insight” tab on website Momondo could help with this, MoneySavingExpert says.
Also, don’t assume that putting together your own DIY holiday is necessarily cheaper than an all-in-one package. Package holiday prices can plunge towards the end of August and beginning of September, so it may be worth hanging on for a bit if you can.
If you’re looking for a touch of luxury, the websites Lastminute.com and Hotwire offer high-end hotel rooms for knock-down prices. Staying in a villa can also often beat a hotel break. For example, MoneySavingExpert found a deal at £375 per week for a three-bedroom villa in Sicily, while a hotel of a similar standard cost £1,800.
As well as the fun side of searching for a nice place to stay, there’s also the more serious side of booking a holiday. If you’re heading overseas, it’s important to make sure you are properly covered - as the potential consequences from not doing so can be devastating.
Research by the Foreign Office and the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) found that more than one third (38%) of 16 to 24-year-olds don’t think it’s necessary to take out travel insurance when they go overseas, potentially leaving their families to pick up the bill for a mishap — costs can range from £500 to treat a sprained ankle in a popular holiday resort like Corfu to £15,000 to £20,000 for a scheduled flight, stretcher and medical escort from Australia.
One in five young people thought that a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) acts as a full insurance policy when going abroad, the research found. While these cards are very useful and provide access to state medical care in the European Economic Area at a reduced cost or sometimes for free, they do not cover costs such as bringing someone back to the UK.
One in six (16%) young people also wrongly assumed that the UK Government will pick up the tab for all treatment costs if they have an accident or fall ill while abroad.
Victoria Bacon, Abta head of communications, says the annual cost of an insurance policy can be as little as £25.
She says: “In extreme cases people have had to sell their house to cover the costs, or desperately try and get funds from their friends and family. Buying adequate travel insurance should be the top of every holidaymaker’s list.”