As thousands of Britons jet away this summer, many will be searching for ways to keep costs down while they’re abroad.
Here are Which?’s top tips for how to slash hundreds of pounds from the cost of going on holiday.
1. Pay in local currency and use the right card
Travellers paying by debit card should always pay in the local currency, rather than converting the transaction to GBP (pound sterling), to avoid being hit with worse exchange rates. They should also 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 cent, 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 extra to take money out at a cash point overseas.
Starling Bank and Monzo debit cards offer fee-free overseas purchases and ATM withdrawals when using your debit card abroad – however, Monzo may charge fees on ATM withdrawals depending on what kind of account you have, and where you’re travelling. If you opt for a travel credit card, Halifax Clarity, Barclaycard Rewards and Virgin Money Travel credit cards work out cheapest – plus you have additional Section 75 protection if something goes wrong.
2. Don’t exchange money at the airport
Preparing and packing for a holiday can be a stressful business, but travellers shouldn’t leave getting their travel money until the last minute. Which? found that changing money at the airport could cost much more than using a competitive high street outlet. Airport bureaux de change rarely offer the best currency exchange rates as they have a ‘captive audience’ of holidaymakers.
3. Shop around for currency
Bureaux de change offer different money exchange rates and charging structures. Some also impose a fee for buying foreign currency – so it is important to consider the total cost of changing cash before handing it over. Which? recommends asking exactly how much foreign currency you will get from each outlet in return for the pounds sterling you are seeking to exchange.
It’s worth comparing the deals on offer from several companies before changing your money, and you may also want to steer clear of high street banks. Which? research found that banks typically fail to offer the best exchange rates and may only offer currency exchange services to existing customers.
4. Be aware of data roaming charges
Since Brexit, many providers have removed the provision for free roaming in the EU and the cost can vary between different networks. Be sure to check what charges you’ll now face for using your phone data abroad to avoid any unwanted bills. Also, find out if you have any roaming ‘add-ons’ tied to your bill.
There are still some providers that allow users to use their UK bundle at no extra cost, including Giffgaff (capped at 5 GB for EU roaming), O2, Smarty and Virgin Mobile – so if you’re looking for a new mobile provider, it is worth checking the roaming policy on offer.
5. Book car hire in advance…
Which? Travel experts would usually recommend booking your car hire two months in advance of your trip. 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 as early as possible. 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 that takes a deposit and guarantees the booking price.
6. … and watch out for pricey extras
If hiring a car while abroad, be wary of companies charging over the odds for extras such as sat navs. Instead, Which? suggests downloading a free app, such as Navmii, before travelling, which can access maps offline. Child car seats are also a pricey extra, so it is worth bringing your own where possible. Some airlines, including Jet2 and easyJet, allow passengers to take a child car seat for free, so it is worth checking in advance.
7. Factor tipping costs into your budget
When working out holiday budgets it is worth factoring in tipping, especially if visiting the USA where the going rate is 15-20 per cent. Dine in New York and a three-course meal for two people with wine will cost, on average, £74, with a tip being an extra £15. Bar staff also expect $1-2 (75p-£1.50) per drink, so costs can soon add up.
8. Find the best price for insurance
To find the best price for travel insurance, Which? experts suggest using several price comparison websites to view the biggest range of policies and prices. Travellers should carefully consider their requirements and the protections they need before taking out a policy as there can be major differences between them, for example, some won’t include any cancellation cover, or offer protection for baggage or belongings. Which? recommends travellers take out an insurance policy that includes at least £5 million emergency medical cover, £1 million personal liability cover, £2,000 cancellation, curtailment and missed departure cover (or the value of the trip), and £1,500 personal belongings and money cover.
9. Compare prices before booking airport transfers
It is worth comparing the price of transfers from the airport in advance to get the best deal. Generally, getting an unbooked taxi on arrival will be more expensive than booking transport in advance. Skyscanner provides pre-book prices of private taxis, shared shuttle buses and coaches, as does GoCompare, HolidayTaxis and Hoppa. Travellers can enter the details of their arrival airport, destination, date, time and party size, and will be given a list of what’s available.
Which? Travel previously used Skyscanner and saved €31 on the standard price (€104) of a taxi from Malaga Airport in Spain to a hotel in Estepona. It would have been an extra €29 cheaper to take a shared shuttle.
Guy Hobbs, Which? Travel Editor, said:
“Many of us are set to travel abroad this summer and with the cost of living adding pressure to household budgets, it’s particularly important not to pay over the odds while you’re away.
“Luckily, Which? has found several ways to keep costs down. When you’re abroad, be sure to pay in the local currency to avoid paying high exchange rates. If you’re looking to exchange currency before you travel, avoid buying it at airports and shop around for the best rates. Check your mobile phone provider’s data roaming charges before you travel to make sure you’re not hit with any unexpected bills.”
Notes to editors:
Over the coming months, Which? will be highlighting free and useful money-saving advice every Monday to help consumers manage the ongoing cost of living crisis. The series will cover a range of topics, from how to save money on household bills, to childcare and travel.
- Best and worst travel insurance
- Can you take a child car seat on a plane?
- Best travel credit cards
- How to find cheap travel insurance
Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.
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