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Cost of living crisis: Top tips to cut costs on holiday

Which? found that the average cost of summer holidays flights to Europe has actually decreased in price since 2019. Photo: Getty
Which? found that the average cost of summer holidays flights to Europe has actually decreased in price since 2019. Photo: Getty

As holiday goers look for last-minute Jubilee weekend deals or summer holidays, finding a bargain given the ongoing cost of living crisis is a priority.

Here are a few top tips from consumer group Which? for how to slash hundreds of pounds from the cost of going on holiday, whether you plan to go abroad or stay in the UK.

Shop around

Take the time to research and compare prices on websites, travel agents and airlines.

It is worth browsing online comparison sites for longer stays in hotels, as the cumulative savings can be substantial.

In 2021 Which? investigated the best and worst comparison sites and found that consumers could make substantial savings on lengthier bookings by using a comparison sites. Trivago (TRVG) found the best prices most consistently, but Kayak, Skyscanner, TravelSupermarket and TripAdvisor (TRIP) also performed well.

Book directly with the hotel

Using comparison sites to check prices and locations is a good place to start but don’t be afraid to contact the hotel or B&B directly.

Which? found that holidaymakers can often get even better rates or perks like free breakfasts or champagne on arrival by booking directly.

Don’t assume the price of travelling abroad has increased

Despite increased demand and a further relaxation in COVID testing rules, the consumer group found that the average cost of flights to Europe has actually decreased in price since 2019.

In fact, the average cost of a summer holiday flight from the UK to Europe this August — booked in March 2022 — was just £92 compared to £182 in March 2019.

Read more: Cost of living crisis: Top tips to save hundreds on car and home insurance

When Which? compared six individual routes from London Stansted to popular European holiday destinations, including Venice and Barcelona, all were significantly cheaper in 2022.

Don’t pay to sit together on the plane and save up to £192

For most airlines, passengers needn’t waste money by paying extra to sit together on an aeroplane. The consumer group found that a group of four people could expect to pay up to £192 to reserve standard seats together on certain flights.

However, of those surveyed, 95% of short-haul passengers who didn't pay extra said they were given seats together anyway.

Which? found that it’s usually only worth paying for seat selection if flying with Ryanair (RYA.IR) or Wizz Air (WIZZ.L). Of the four major airlines Which? looked at, Ryanair is the most likely to split up passengers around the plane if they don't pay extra for an allocated seat.

Booking a budget room? Pick one that still offers value for money

Paying more for a hotel does not guarantee a better night's sleep.

Which? found budget hotel chain Premier Inn was rated one of the best large chains. Prices averaged at £66 per night, and the chain was awarded five stars for cleanliness, quality of the beds, COVID-19 safety measures, and the room description matching reality by respondents.

Read more: UK's worst hotel chain revealed

Although the price of staycations has increased in recent years, it is still possible to find a room offering good value for money.

Visit a lesser-known location

Choosing the right destination can have a big impact on holiday budgets.

Which? found top-rated seaside staycation destinations with an average hotel rate of £100 per night or less and a rating of at least 70%.

Llandudno, Conwy; Filey, North Yorkshire; Lynmouth, Devon; Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland and Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear, were ranked in the top five.

Book car hire in advance

Which? Travel experts would usually recommend booking car hire two months in advance. However, due to increased demand in recent months, brokers have ramped up their prices meaning that the later customers book, the more they’ll pay. So, if you’re planning to travel during a peak time, it’s especially important that you book your car hire at least two months in advance.

Read more: Top tips to cut broadband and mobile bills

Customers should also avoid "pay on arrival" options, as some unscrupulous companies could choose to cancel and take a more valuable booking as rates rise. With this in mind, it is worth "locking in" a deal by paying when booking, either by paying in full or choosing a company which takes a deposit and guarantees the booking.

Pay in local currency and use the right card

Travellers should always pay in the local currency to avoid being hit with worse exchange rates and check to see if their bank charges a fee to use cards abroad.

More expensive cards add a fixed fee, which could be around £1.50 or 2.95%, per transaction on debit card payments and cash withdrawals in a foreign currency (excluding ATMs in Spain).

Some cards offer fee-free purchases, but will still charge you if you take money out at a cash point overseas. Starling Bank and Monzo offer fee-free overseas purchases and ATM withdrawals when using your debit card. The same goes for the Halifax Clarity and Barclaycard Rewards (BARC.L) credit cards — plus you have additional legal protection if something goes wrong.

Visit attractions at off-peak times

It might be more convenient to visit popular sites throughout the day, but visitors might be able to get free admission by opting for off-peak times and less popular days of the week instead.

For example, Which? found that some museums in Paris, including the Louvre, offer free entry on the first Sunday of each month, which would save €15 on the price of a ticket. Similarly, entry to the Vatican museum — usually €16 — is free to enter on the last Sunday of the month. The Prado museum in Madrid (€15) is free every evening from 6pm-8pm (Sundays 5pm-7pm).

Read more: Cost of living crisis: Top tips to save hundreds on food bills

For those staying closer to home, many UK national galleries and museums are free to enter. Which? members gave high ratings to St. Fagans National Museum of History in Cardiff, Beamish: The Living Museum of the North in County Durham, National Railway Museum in York, Royal Air Force Museum in Cosford, Shropshire and the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

Remember: last-minute doesn't necessarily mean cheaper

Which? previously found that booking last minute isn't necessarily the most effective way to get bargains.

The best prices for hotels can usually be found around three months before travel, depending on the destination.

The downside of booking last-minute is that customers could then be left with less choice, higher rates and less flexibility when it comes to cancellation policies.

However, booking at the last minute can work out if travellers are open-minded about the location or hotel. If you have a particular place in mind, the consumer group suggests booking in advance.

Sign up to loyalty schemes

While it won’t provide instant savings, it could be worth signing up to free loyalty schemes with hotel chains and booking websites to save money when booking trips away. Some supermarket reward schemes such as Tesco Clubcard (TSCO.L) and Nectar often have partnerships with attractions and accommodation, so it's worth looking into saving up some points that way and letting your weekly shop do something for you.

In fact, Tesco Clubcard points are worth triple the value when used with a Tesco Rewards Partner, such as Hilton (HLT), Hotels.com and Warner Leisure — meaning 50p converts to £1.50. Similarly, Nectar points can be turned into Avios points to be used on British Airways (IAG.L).

Watch: Airline refunds: What are your rights as a consumer?