Ciara McDonnell asks three travel experts for their top tips to maximise the value of your euro on your holidays
FOR many of us, the summer holiday is our biggest yearly investment. From booking early to eating out on a budget, we asked three industry experts for their top tips to beating the budget when it comes to your break away this year.
Timing is everything, according to award winning travel blogger Corrina Stone.
“If you can travel midweek rather than at weekends not only will it save you money but it’ll also save you time and stress at the airport,” she says. “When we last flew to Paris we opted for a Tuesday afternoon flight rather than a Saturday morning; not only did we save more than €500, we also parked our car, made our way through the airport, checked in with five small children, sailed through security and were airside all within 40 minutes.”
Sarah Slattery, who blogs at www.thetravelexpert.ie and has been a travel agent for more than 20 years says that when choosing your holiday package, it’s essential to compare ‘like with like’: “Regardless of whether we book holidays online or go to a travel agent, most of us will at least do our research and search prices online.
“It is important when we do this that we compare like with like. Package holidays with tour operators like Falcon Holidays or Sunway include transfers and checked baggage and rarely have any hidden extras.
“If you book flights and hotels separately you will always have to add on transfers, baggage and sometimes hotel taxes too. Make sure the deal you think you are getting really is as good as it looks.”
As a travel columnist and managing director of Host & Company public relations, Tim Magee knows the inside track when it comes to saving cash while in transit, and he says it all starts at the airport.
“Get a lounge pass — I use Priority Pass. It gets you access to lounges, which isn’t about pretending to be a VIP — you save money on food and drink and you don’t want to have to sit in most airports around the world. This gets you somewhere that usually has some space, comfort, quiet and Wi-Fi — some much better than others (Athens is very swish). It is much better than sitting on hard plastic chairs, eating off plastic plates and paying four quid for water.
“You will get drinks and snacks, newspapers and peace and quiet. Sometimes it might save your sanity. I was trapped in JFK for 24 hours, snowed in, and the lounge was the only place with hot food and clean toilets.”
Be mindful of the luggage you choose to travel with, says Sarah Slattery, because it can add cost before you have even checked in. “The cost of checking in a 15kg checked bag return with Aer Lingus to the Canary Islands, Greece, etc, is now €100.
“People are still travelling with heavy carry on suitcases weighing up to 3kg; the newer models weigh 1.7kg and are better designed to optimise space. Invest in the lightest checked and hand luggage you can find and buy hand luggage for all the family.”
Once on holidays, eat like a local and reap the financial rewards, according to Corrina Stone.
“When travelling with children opt for a hotel that serves breakfast buffet style so you’ll be sure to find something your children will eat and fill them up with a hearty breakfast,” she explains.
“For lunch, head to a local supermarket to buy supplies for a family picnic in the park. Dinners are usually a big expense when you’re abroad with a large family so find a local restaurant rather than a tourist trap, you’ll find better food at better prices.”
If you want to snag an upgrade, book via a website that has a rewards system, suggests Magee. “When you become a ‘Genius’ on Booking.com it genuinely can save you some 10% or more on your reservation, and you get other treats and benefits like late check out.
“Tablet Hotels is great if you don’t know the city or region you are going to, as they’re very strict about who is on their list, so you can rely on the hotel or the neighbourhood being worthwhile,” he explains. “
As a Tablet member again you get treats like a glass of champagne or cocktails on arrival, sometime a transfer, or late check out, and always an upgrade when available to the best available room.
“Those upgrades for me have been spectacular — I have been in the Oscar Wilde room in L’Hotel in Paris for the price of the entry-level room, and I’ve spent a dozen Christmases in NYC where one of the last times I stayed in the glorious Gramercy Park Hotel. I paid $240 for my room per night (the exchange rate was better then) but was upgraded to a loft suite for the week because of Tablet. The loft suites started at $1,500 per night.”
If something appears to be too good to be true, cautions Slattery, it usually is.
“If you see flights to the States for €199 it’s probably via two or even three different airports and may take you a day to get there,” she remarks.
“Always check the duration of the flight so you will instantly know if there are stops involved. The stopovers are often hidden in the small print at the end of the booking.
“Similarly with hotel rooms, if it states non-refundable, they mean that.
“You will often see a hotel room cheaper on one website than another but usually it is because the rate is non-refundable.
“You will have to pay in full at the time of booking and under no circumstance will you be allowed change or cancel the room.”
When it comes to saving money on car hire, getting your own insurance can be very fruitful, reckons Tim Magee. “The basic price of the hire cars you see on compare sites changes dramatically when the insurance is added,” he points out. “Sometimes it is more than the car if you do it at the desk on the day. I ignore that and buy an annual international car hire insurance from one of the half dozen companies that have them, so for about €60 or €80 I am insured for most places. You can also do it on a case-by-case basis saving a fortune.
“Again, you will save the fee on one holiday. Also think about using it here as there are some good deals on car hire in this country in the shoulder season, and rather than wearing out your own wheels, rent something new and take the edge off the fees with this car hire insurance.”
Finally, when it comes to plane food, this travel columnist has it nailed. “Most planes serve hospital food. Buy good quality smoked salmon in the Duty Free. Along with brown bread, butter and sliced lemons (if you forget to bring them ask nicely at the bar) it is the perfect plain plane food for short haul. Use the lemon to clean your hands after. “
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