If you haven’t set your heart on a particular destination and can vary your travel dates you may find you get a much better holiday deal.
Travel prices rise during the school holidays. But if you can be flexible about the date you travel, and even the day of the week you travel or the airport you fly from, you can save yourself hundreds of pounds on your holiday.
Tips for getting a good holiday deal in the January sales
Go for a package
For a while, DIY travel was what savvy vacations were all about – until now. The package holiday firms have hit back with better holiday deals to lure independent travellers back into their fold.
Package holidays can give you many valuable add-ons, such as airport transfers at your resort and the services of a company rep if things go wrong – or you may simply want to book excursions.
Last but not least you get that all-important ATOL and ABTA protection, which gets you home or gives you your money back if the worst should come to the worst and one of the providers of any part of your holiday ceases trading.
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Choose a good credit card
Ideally use a card which doesn’t charge you “exchange rate loading” – an extra charge simply for changing the amount you spend abroad into sterling for billing purposes.
You should always pay in the local currency and let the card company do the conversion. This is particularly important if you have a card that does not charge exchange rate loading.
But you should generally avoid agreeing to having your account charged directly in sterling. This is a process known as “dynamic currency conversion”, where the retailer or service provider sets the exchange rate, and this will invariably be less competitive than the rate the card would charge you.
Pay your bill in full when you get home to avoid interest charges. If you are going to be away on a payment date, set up a direct debit to take care of the bill to avoid late payment charges.
Should you use a credit or debit card abroad?
Shop around for your foreign currency
Even if you intend to put most of your spending on a credit card you will still need some foreign currency for small purchases such as drinks and taxis.
If you want to change your money in the high street you can usually get a better deal from various outlets than the banks.
Handier still are online services which will courier money to your home.
Saga Travel Money, for instance, offers 0% commission on over 60 foreign currencies and free home delivery on orders over £400 (and it's just £4.95 for lower amounts).
If you want to take very large sums of cash, use a currency broker rather than a bureau de change, as you will almost certainly be offered a better rate.
Tips to keep you and your possessions safe on holiday
Buy travel insurance
Not buying insurance is not saving money, it’s madness. Foreign Office figures show that as many as one in ten over 55-year-olds admit they don't always take out travel insurance before going on holiday.
Older people often resent the higher premiums they may be asked to pay compared with younger family members, and the "cliff-edge" pricing that makes prices soar from one birthday to the next.
The unavoidable fact is that older people are a higher risk when it comes to needing medical treatment at the more expensive end of the spectrum, and it’s better that an insurance company carries this risk than you.
Just having your appendix out in the US could cost £20,000, even assuming there are no complications.
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Don’t try to skimp by not declaring your pre-existing conditions. The Foreign Office says that as many as one in five travellers who do take out a policy are willing to risk invalidating it by not declaring an existing condition because they are on medication which allows them to manage it.
The truth is, invalid insurance is worse than no insurance. At least with no insurance you haven’t wasted money on a policy that you have rendered useless.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is no substitute for proper medical insurance. It is only valid in Europe anyway, where the level of care that can be accessed varies from country to county.
You will also very probably need further insurances apart from medical costs, such as cover for theft of your belongings, travel delays and third party indemnity insurance in case it’s you who injures someone else and they sue you.
What cover does the EHIC offer?
And what about travel insurance closer to home?
Most of us think of travel insurance when going abroad – but hiccups can happen closer to home.
Some UK policies will cover the cost of extra accommodation or travel home if you or someone you’re travelling with is taken ill or hospitalised.
It’s also important to check cancellation policies of hotels, guest houses or self-catering accommodation so that you don’t lose money as well as your holiday if something untoward happens.
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