Expert tips for saving money when booking a holiday abroad

7 May, 2024

If you haven’t noticed, we live somewhere it rains quite a bit! And as much as we love Glasgow, we love to get away and catch some sun too!

Today, we have compiled for you a cheat sheet on how you can save money when travelling.

Let’s dive straight in.

  1. A package holiday can be safer and cheaper

Okay, this doesn’t seem like an industry secret but one thing you should remember when booking a package holiday through a travel agent is that you will have ATOL protection. This means that you are covered if something goes wrong and you will receive your money back. If you have been stretching your budget and saving for a while for your big summer holiday and it gets cancelled, then at least you will be able to get that money back to spend on another holiday.

Another reason to book a package holiday is that sometimes your travel agent will be able to unearth a diamond and get you a week or two in your favourite sun trap for less!

  1. DON’T book a package holiday. Buy flights yourself.

While you don’t have the same security as when booking through a travel agent, booking a holiday yourself can allow you to make serious savings.

First off, we recommend looking for flights on Skyscanner. If you’re really in an open-minded mood, the site allows you to browse ‘cheapest month’ and allow you to book flights when they are at their most affordable. You can choose return flights or one-way flights, so if you’re planning a multi-city trip then you can make great savings by booking two one-way flights. Make sure to tick ‘nearby airports’ as well, so that you can check which airport is cheapest to fly from.

There is conflicting information on the internet about browsing flights in incognito mode – some say that airlines track your searches and hike the prices but others say this isn’t true. Personally, I don’t think it hurts to do this – so you may as well!

  1. Book directly with the hotel or consider an Airbnb

Okay, you have flights sorted. It’s now time to sort out where you’ll stay. Use sites like Trivago to compare hotels so you can make the most informed decision and not miss the best deals. If you book your hotel directly, you can make the most of any sales or promotions that are on offer.

Another favourite of ours is Airbnb. If you haven’t booked through Airbnb before, then we understand because you often don’t have the same facilities of a hotel and you are just dealing directly with another person so there is always a risk that you don’t get what you expected from your host. However, if you’re savvy like us, you can make sure you only book Airbnb’s that have ratings of over 4.5 stars, especially ones with recent reviews. The other thing to keep in mind is that many Airbnb’s offer cancellation up to 48 hours before checking in for an extra piece of mind.

The other economical thing about Airbnb’s is that you will often have your own washing and cooking facilities, so if you’d rather eat out at a restaurant one night you can check out the local (probably cheaper than the ones here) supermarkets and make your own dinner.

By using Airbnbs and Skyscanner to book flights, I have personally managed to book a 2-week holiday to Croatia for £800 – considerably less than what you would be looking to pay for.

  1. Set up price alerts

Many sites will allow you to set up price alerts. You just have to be patient and wait for some bargains to come your way.

  1. Consider an annual travel insurance policy

This is another very easy way to save a few pounds that would be better spent on food and drink! If you think you might be booking another trip, an annual policy is usually not much more expensive and will save you time and money going through the process of organising travel insurance again.

The best place to check for travel insurance deals are sites like Compare the Market.

  1. Consider smart transport options when you are there

It might require you to be a tad more adventurous but there are plenty of ways you can save money when moving around.

Remember, many travel companies’ prices are based on tourists paying a premium because they’d rather not deal with the hassle of doing it themselves. Sometimes it is worth going with these options depending on where you are and what time it is, but a bit of research goes a long way.

We have found on many an occasion that a local train service that is just a short walk away can save you an extra meal’s worth when compared to an organised shuttle bus!

One step further, carpooling apps like Blablacar can sometimes be a fraction of the price of trips to new destinations if you are travelling to new destinations on holiday. With BlaBlaCar, locals are taking advantage of making some money to cover their fuel, and you are taking advantage of people who are already on their way! Alternatively, a taxi exists simply to make money, so have a look at more creative ways of getting about next time. As with everything that requires more independent decision-making, make sure you have read reviews and are confident in what you are doing.

There’s also Flixbus which can be a decidedly more affordable way to travel in places where transport is a bit pricier.

  1. Google ‘kids go free’ when planning your destination

If you are travelling as a unit, you should know that there are many hotels that are vying for your custom. Many of them will offer kids go free prices for families, so as a general rule of thumb, do a quick Google search for this when you have settled on where you’re going.

  1. Travel off-season

Sometimes this isn’t possible when you’re booking a family holiday or depending on what your job is, but booking during a destination’s off-season can frequently see you save upwards of 30-40% off.

Don’t think that ‘off-season’ means going when the weather isn’t great, there are plenty of places where the prices drop as soon as the school holidays are over.

The summer holidays can actually be considered off-season for hotter destinations such as Dubai – prices are slashed during the summer because people prefer to travel when it’s not so hot, but there’s a lot you can do here for families that doesn’t involve baking in the sun!

  1. Make sure you know what the script is with roaming charges

Want a personal anecdote? I was on holiday outside of Europe and had turned on my mobile data for a grand total of five minutes. By opening WhatsApp (which started downloading a whole bunch of messages, photos and videos) I ended up having to pay £100 in roaming charges!

So it’s always worth checking in with your phone provider on what the rules are for where you’re travelling to. You can look at packages that will suit you for what your needs are.

For travelling outside of the EU, we also suggest taking a look at eSims.

  1. Book last minute

What’s a great way to live life spontaneously and with more money in your bank account? Booking last minute of course.

Just like sandwiches are reduced in Tesco when they are about to go out of date, hotels and airlines do the same thing – it’s time to turn the tables on them!

By booking last minute you can sweep in and get great deals – you’ll feel smug talking to your neighbours about how lovely your room is when you paid half the price they did!

You usually start to see prices drop about two months before the departure date with the best deals coming up the very week before you leave!

  1. Be smart about currency exchange

This one is really easy yet people tend to be a bit lazy about it! How often have you come home from your holiday with a nice tan or glowing sunburn but leftover euros or currency that you’re not going to use?

Try browsing cards like Revolut which allow you to exchange your money instantly online, so that you only ever use what you need.

  1. Take out a holiday loan with PCU

Last but certainly not least, our holiday loans are a very affordable option if you need a hand to pay off part or all of your holiday. Our loans start from 7.7% APR and are paid off on a decreasing balance, meaning your repayments get smaller as you pay off your loan. The interest rates are fantastic and you can rest assured that you’re borrowing from a trusted, empathetic and flexible lender.