1. GET JABS AT YOUR GP CLINIC
Many GP clinics don’t charge for some common travel vaccinations. For example, mine doesn’t for hepatitis A or typhoid. At a commercial travel clinic, you’d pay £76 for the same immunisations.
2. PRE-BOOK YOUR AIRPORT PARKING
You can halve the cost by booking ahead – many car parks require 24 hours’ notice for their advance rates – and slash prices further by opting for an ‘off-airport’ car park. For a fortnight in August, you’ll pay £208.60 if you just turn up at one of the official long-stay car parks at Heathrow, compared with £64.50 at the cheapest off-site car park offered through www.compare-airport-parking.co.uk.
3. RESEARCH WAYS OF GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
If you need to travel to or from the airport at peak times, you may save a small fortune going by coach instead of train – see www.nationalexpress.com. Also, look out for train deals: Gatwick Express offers a four-adults-for-the-price-of-two deal, and a single on the Heathrow Express is £3 cheaper if you book online instead of buying your ticket on the train.
4. FIND AIRPORT HOTEL DEALS
Stay-and-park rates at airport hotels can work out cheaper than the parking alone at an airport car park. For those who like to gamble with comfort, Holiday Extras (holidayextras.co.uk) offers bargain Undercover Hotels deals, where you don’t find out the name of your airport hotel until after you’ve booked.
5. TAKE OUT ANNUAL TRAVEL INSURANCE
If you travel abroad more than twice a year, it will save you money over single-trip policies. You’ll also make savings by putting the whole family on one policy. I use Direct Travel Insurance (direct-travel.co.uk), which offers competitive annual policies with good levels of cover.
6. GET AN EHIC
The free European Health Insurance Card (dh.gov.uk/travellers) entitles you to reduced-cost treatment within the state healthcare systems of the EU and a few other European countries. While the card is no substitute for travel insurance, it can save you money, as you may avoid having to pay the excess on a medical claim.
7. CUT BAGGAGE FEES
Most no-frills airlines now charge to check in bags: a family of four with one checked-in bag each could pay as much as £128 extra on return flights with Ryanair. If you can’t travel light, pay online in advance as the charges usually double if you pay at the airport.
8. TAKE A PICNIC FOR THE FLIGHT
On A Ryanair flight, a 500ml bottle of water will cost you £2.50 and a sandwich £4.20. Food and drink from airport shops should be much cheaper (but buy your drinks after security to avoid restrictions on liquids).
9. USE THE RIGHT CREDIT AND DEBIT CARDS
On foreign currency transactions, almost all card providers impose hefty commission charges, adding from 2.75% to 5% to the bill or cash withdrawal. An exception is Nationwide (nationwide.co.uk/travel). It imposes no charges for overseas cash withdrawals from ATMs or purchases made with its debit card, and there are also no charges on overseas purchases made with its credit card.
10. PAY IN LOCAL CURRENCY
Cashpoints abroad, along with shops, restaurants and hotels, are increasingly offering customers the option of converting credit and debit card transactions into sterling. Don’t be tempted: the exchange rate is likely to be lousy. It’s best to pay in the local currency instead.
11. DON’T BUY CURRENCY AT THE AIRPORT
Airport bureaux de change offer some of the worst deals. You’re better off pre-ordering your currency and picking it up at an airport bureau. Based on exchange rates earlier this week, Travelex at Gatwick Airport’s South terminal was offering €346 for £300, compared with €372.54 if booked online through Online FX.
12. USE YOUR MOBILE WISELY
While you pay to receive calls on your mobile phone while abroad, rates for doing so are usually about half of what they are to make calls (in the EU this summer, the rates are capped at around 18p per minute to receive calls, 37p to make calls – some operators charge less). Travelling outside Europe and a heavy mobile user? See if your operator offers an international package with lower rates in return for an upfront fee.
13. WATCH OUT FOR TEXT MESSAGING CHARGES
Texting abroad is much more expensive than in the UK – on, say, Orange’s standard pay monthly plans it costs 40p to send a text in the USA against 12p in the UK. Some mobile operators have deals covering text messaging abroad: Orange offers 100 texts sent in mainland Europe for £15, a 50% saving.
14. AVOID AIRPORT TAXI TRANSFERS
Taking a shared shuttle transfer between the airport and resort will be much cheaper than using a private taxi. A shuttle booked through ResortHoppa (resorthoppa.com) between Tenerife South airport and Puerto de la Cruz costs about £40 for two people – in a private cab the journey would cost at least twice that.
15. SKIP ORGANISED EXCURSIONS
For a family of four to take a daylong excursion from Marbella to the Alhambra in Granada, Thomson quotes £209.50 for transport and entrance tickets to the palace. You could do it yourself for under £100 (£23 for a hire car for the day, about £35 for petrol and parking, £40 for tickets).
16. BEWARE BILLS FOR CAR-HIRE SCRAPES
The excess on car-hire insurance can leave you hundreds of pounds out of pocket if the car ends up with just a minor scratch. A cost effective way of scrapping the excess is to turn to Insurance4carhire (insurance4carhire.com for annual policies, dailyexcess.com for daily ones).
17. GET AROUND OTHER EXTRA CAR-HIRE COSTS
Take your own child seat rather than renting one, and return the car with a full tank of petrol to avoid rental companies’ rip-off refuelling charges.
18. CUT THE COST OF DRIVING IN EUROPE
Fuel costs have shot up not only in the UK but across Europe. Unleaded petrol in France currently costs about the same as in the UK. However, diesel is around 18p a litre cheaper – so wait until getting to France to fill up if your car runs on diesel. Fuel sold in French supermarket garages costs as much as 8p a litre less than elsewhere. And avoid motorway tolls – which come to about £75 if you drive from Calais to Nice.
19. BOOK AHEAD FOR THEME-PARK TICKETS
A family of four would pay £122 for tickets to Legoland with tickets bought at the gate. Buying at least three days ahead through lastminute.com lowers the cost to £82. Booking Alton Towers tickets ahead on altontowers.com would save a family of four £24.
20. SKIP THE HOTEL BREAKFASTS
In some countries such as France and America, hotels usually charge separately for breakfast. It will work out much cheaper if you have breakfast in a nearby cafe or diner instead.