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£119,800 - What your holidays really cost

Harriet Meyer
Tesco Car Insurance
(Image © Fotolia)

Brits took a total of 56,837,000 holidays last year, according to the Office for National Statistics. The majority of people take one or two holidays a year with over 55s taking the most at 1.93 holidays a year, according to research by

So taking an average of 1.5 holidays a year until age 65, how much do we rack up? From 18 to the typical retirement age we shell out a staggering £119,800 on our annual holidays – or £2,548 a year per person – and that’s before we take even more during our twilight years.

Flights and hotels - £26,508

Together, these total an average of £564 a trip, although of course this is at the cheaper end of the scale with far flung trips costing a great deal more. That adds up to £26,508 between 18 and 65.

Cutting the cost
Pay careful attention to booking your trip for the best value. While unfortunately paying airport taxes can’t be avoided, there are plenty of other costs that can.

Booking early is typically one of the biggest cost cutters, and the way to bag the best deals.

Many airlines, particularly the low-cost carriers, offer good value for money, releasing their cheapest seats first.

Typically, early morning weekday flights are the cheapest, while weekend daytime flights are the most popular and therefore the most expensive.

Bear in mind that airport hotels often offer very competitive rates and significant discounts on their usual rates outside of peak times. This means you could cut the cost of your travel by booking an extra hotel night instead of flying a few hours later.

Booking your accommodation well in advance will give you more, cheaper, options. It can also be possible to save a considerable amount of money by simply juggling your travel dates and times around a little.

Pre-holiday essentials - £25,004

This includes clothes, travel insurance, sun cream, books and medication, and on average Brits spend almost as much as on the holiday it self, at £532 per person, according to ABTA.  That adds up to £25,004 between the ages of 18 and 65.

Cutting the cost
Look for good value travel insurance deals rather than using one that comes with the holiday and try to avoid splashing out on expensive duty free goodies when you get to the airport.

Decant toiletries you already have into small plastic bottles rather than forking out for pricey miniature versions at the airport. This way you’ll stick within the 100ml airport security requirement without spending to excess.

For the rest, buy own-brand supermarket products for items such as sun cream to keep costs down.

Airport parking

Book this well in advance if needed, as turn up on the day and you'll be shocked by the price you have to pay just to park your car for a week. A study of 10 of Britain’s busiest airports this summer shows that it could be cheaper to leave a light aircraft for a day at an airport than it would be to leave a car for the same amount of time.

A seven-day stay in August at the Heathrow Terminal 5 long-stay car park cost £68 if booked early. In contrast, it would cost £125.30 for the same amount of time for holidaymakers starting their stay without booking in advance.

Cutting the cost
Check for off-site parking offers with a courtesy shuttle to the airport, and ask your insurer or breakdown provider for special tie-in offers. Also, check hotels that offer one-night, or pre-flight stays that include long-term parking. Ideally, of course, get someone to drive you there, and collect you after your holiday.

Sites such as can help

Spending money - £21,761

After the cost of flights and accommodation, day to day spending hikes up the average holiday bill, and this starts as soon as you arrive. On cards alone, Brits spend an average of £463 each, according to the Post Office, and this can include hefty charges. That’s £21,761 over a working lifetime.

Your card issuer charges a handling fee for using your credit or debit card abroad, and some also charge an extra percentage of the amount withdrawn as commission. On top of this you can then get stung by a poor exchange rate offered by the local bank or airport.

Even if the exchange service is advertised as "commission free", the cost may be recouped by offering you a worse exchange rate.

Cutting the cost
There's little point cutting your travel costs only to run up charges on exchange rates and card purchases. Travellers are charged an average £12 each in credit card fees while abroad, according to the Post Office.

Most high street banks add fees to transactions made overseas as well as giving a poor exchange rate. So consider getting a credit card exclusively for use abroad, with no foreign exchange fee.

There are also some bank accounts that offer no fees for overseas use, others that offer reduced charges and pre-paid cards that let you load money onto them from a UK bank account online, then use them abroad without incurring charges.

To avoid paying over the odds for your foreign currency, you should therefore check the rates as well as the commission payments. Online services often offer better rates than high street outlets and will often deliver the cash to your home address for free before you travel.

[Related feature: The best cards to use abroad]

Eating out - £7,050

Consider your dining options when booking your holiday, as according to Asda Money Brits spend an average of £100 on holiday meals.  Sometimes you may find all-inclusive to be great value for money, although self-catering offers more flexibility.

Cutting the cost
Those who like to enjoy eating out while on holiday should invest in a great guidebook to hunt down the best value restaurants. The Lonely Planet ‘On a Shoestring’ guides are a good starting point.

Using your mobile phone - £10,504

Using a mobile phone to make and receive calls, send texts and go online while abroad can be extremely costly. On average uSwitch says we spend £149 each holiday just on our mobile phone bill – that’s more than we pay to eat out.

Charges can really rack up when travelling outside the European Union (EU), where Brits rack up millions in roaming charges.

New data roaming rules that came into force across the EU in July capping charges at 68p (inc VAT) per MB of data used. This will fall to 20p by July 2014. But there are still pitfalls consumers should be aware of to avoid 'bill shock' on their return from holiday.

Cutting the cost
There are several ways to avoid high charges. For example, Carphone Warehouse suggests ensuring a data cap is in place, use applications to check data usage, turn off 'data roaming', avoid data-intensive applications such as Google Maps and YouTube and use wi-fi spots to update social networking sites.

Ask your network provider about holiday roaming packages before you travel, and change your voicemail message to tell people you’re away and ask them to text you rather than call if they really need to get in touch.