Money-saving tips to enjoy cheap vacations and avoid costly booking mistakes

Internet searches for “cheap summer vacations” jumped 151% last year, with many sun-seekers looking for ways to save money when traveling abroad. After several months of travel restrictions, some would-be vacationers may be a little rusty when it comes to cutting costs when traveling on a budget.

Jonathan Merry, managing director of the international money transfer comparison site,, shared a selection of common mistakes people make when trying to cut their vacation costs. By circumventing these mistakes, travelers can get the most out of their budget.

Booking flights too early or too late

It can be easy to assume that booking flights early will save money. However, booking a flight too early could actually cost more, with airlines often slashing prices for flights closer to the departure date. But wait too long and prices could go up due to demand the week before the trip. Research has shown that it’s best to book around three to four months in advance to avoid paying more.

Pick the wrong day

Friday nights and weekends are known to be the most expensive days to fly, with most airlines charging more for flights on these days. Choosing a mid-week flight could save you huge sums.

Choose travel insurance

Although some travel insurance costs just a few euros, many UK holidaymakers generally assume they won’t need travel insurance for unforeseen incidents, risking bills of thousands of euros if things go wrong. These incidents can include illness, injury, stolen valuables and cancellations. In the United States, for example, stitches to seal cuts or scrapes can cost between $500 and $1,500, while in Spain it will cost up to €300 for a single trip to the ER.

Not comparing hotel/flight prices

By shopping on several different airlines, it is possible to save money by opting for no-frills airlines and non-direct flights, clearing the browser cache and monitoring prices months in advance.

Correct currency choices

When traveling, avoid paying in British pounds and always pay in the country’s local currency to avoid being hit by high exchange rates. It can be tempting to pay in pounds rather than local currency when a retailer gives you the option. However, this could potentially result in an additional 5% charge for travelers. Always check before accepting a card transaction and insist on paying in the local currency to avoid such charges.

Use the wrong credit card

Before travelling, always check whether a bank charges for using a card abroad. Some banks will charge fees on all purchased items and overseas credit card transactions. Another option can be a prepaid card, with cash loaded before travel. For a longer stay or more expensive purchases abroad, the most cost-effective way to pay is to use a money transfer provider, as they offer much better exchange rates than the big banks.

Explore a few money transfer providers to find the most suitable – use a Transfer rate tool to help.

Leave the change until the last minute

Changing currency at the airport may seem convenient, but it will inevitably cost more. If the holidays are last minute and there is no alternative, most airports allow you to buy currency online and collect it at the terminal. This can be arranged the day before a flight and offers a much better rate than in person on the day.

Overweight baggage

Fines for overweight baggage can be costly, so always weigh baggage before arriving at the airport. Try to wear all bulky clothes and shoes such as jackets or sneakers, to avoid having to pack them.

Check the rules on liquids

Any liquid in hand luggage must not contain more than 100ml and containers must be in a single clear, resealable plastic bag measuring approximately 20cm x 20cm. Remembering this rule avoids having to throw away products.

Visiting attractions and traveling during rush hour

Often tourist attractions charge more during peak hours, which tend to be weekends. Some countries also offer free entry to museums on certain days, for example, Barcelona offers free entry to most museums on the first Sunday of every month. Most museums also offer off-peak visiting hours, so planning visits for early morning or later in the evening can also help you save money – not to mention avoiding the crowds.

Dinner with the locals

Eat like a local on vacation, not only for better value, but also for a more immersive travel experience. Restaurants in tourist hotspots will almost always have higher prices and lower quality food than places frequently visited by locals.

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This also applies to room service and the mini bar in a hotel. Head to the local supermarket for all food and drink where prices will be much more affordable.

Reduced transport costs

Most cities have excellent public transport options such as trains, buses and subways. Although hailing a taxi is quicker and more convenient, it will cost more. To book an airport transfer, make sure it is done well in advance to avoid having to pay the high prices on the day.

Payment of tourist transport tickets

Before paying for tourist or travel passes, always calculate if they are worth it. Try to plan an approximate route before traveling to check if it is worth it.

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