What is the best way to book a cheap holiday?

Holidays are important. If gotten right, they can easily be the highlights of any year. The memorable moments we cherish from spending quality time with friends or family. But holidays, like everything else these days, have become super expensive! Outside of perhaps camping, it can seem like there are few other affordable options, particular for families. That’s why Money Tips Blog has created list of ideas for how best to book a cheap vacation.

Finding cheap flights

It doesn’t pay to be loyal to any particular airline. Instead, use a website such Skyscanner to find the cheapest dates to fly. Once you’ve entered your departure and destination airports Skyscanner indicates to you which dates are cheaper to fly (those coloured in green). Using the example below, a holiday from 8th to 15th of March would be cheapest.

Checking in luggage can add considerable cost to your flat, as can extras such as pre-selecting a seat. To keep costs low, try to avoid such extras. Travel light and pack miniature toiletries (below 100ml) to avoid having to check in a bag.

Perhaps it’s stating the obvious but certain times of year a much more expensive to fly than others. For example, May, June or September are cheaper months versus July and August because they are outside of the school holiday period.

Sourcing affordable car hire

We recommend searching for cheap car hire via a brokerage site such as Autoeurope. Autoeurope also offers an optional full insurance add-on, which includes refundable excess, and is typically much cheaper than that which the car hire companies offer at the point that you pick up your vehicle.

The cheapest holiday accommodation

Often one of the biggest expenses when going on holiday is food and drink. Eating out for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day can be hugely expensive and hence it can be a good idea to opt for holiday accommodation that includes access to a kitchen. With this in mind, Airbnb can be a great option. A high-end Airbnb property can be rented out for the same price as a hotel whilst providing more space and amenities such a kitchen meaning you don’t need to eat out for all your meals.

If you do decide to book a hotel, then typically it is cheapest to book directly from the hotel’s own website, rather than a website such as Booking.com.

Avoid getting stung on currency conversion

Don’t bother visiting a Bureau de Change before you go on holiday. You will almost certainly get a better exchange rate simply by paying for things with a Monzo or Wise debit card. If you opt to do this, it’s important to remember to pay in the local currency of the country that you’re visiting e.g. Euro in France. Sometimes you are offered the option (via the card terminal or ATM machine) to pay in Great British Pounds but this “Dynamic Currency Conversion” option typically results in an unfavourable exchange rate being applied therefore always stick with the local currency.

Avoid package holiday websites

Whilst it may be more convenient, having tested a variety of websites including Expedia, Booking and Tui, it’s often cheaper to book the components of your holiday (i.e. flight, car hire, accommodation) separately. In many of the cases I tested, the difference was no small – it was literally hundreds of pounds.

Consider the cost of living for your destination

We are all too familiar with the high cost of living in Western Europe but the cost of a long haul flight must also be taken into consideration. There are sweet spot destinations for which the cost of flights are afforable and the cost of living is considerably lower relative to the UK. Such countries include Morocco, where a return flight can cost as little as £44, and Turkey for which a return flight can cost £150.

To give an example of how affordable Turkey is, check out this two bedroom apartment priced at just £75 per night for May 2024.