Avoid changing money at airports: branches there have the worst exchange rates. Change money somewhere at home — thomasexchangeglobal.co.uk for example — or take a debit card and make a single withdrawal while travelling, so you only pay one handling fee.
Smart times to book
Are your dates flexible? Weekday travel is almost always cheaper than weekends, so aim to depart on a Tuesday or Wednesday if possible. Skyscanner.net gives a graph view of rates across a month around your chosen route, while its Price Alert emails can advise you about sudden fee drops on desired dates.
There are numerous vehicle-rental hacks to protect wallets — fill up at supermarkets; avoid toll roads; go diesel — but none save more pennies than pre-buying cover from a specialist and then waiving the insurance excess. Consult insurance4carhire.com or questor-insurance.co.uk for quotes.
Travel outside EU member states and you can claim a VAT refund on purchases from shops registered for national tax-free schemes in destinations such as the Bahamas, Iceland, Morocco, Turkey and Singapore. You must keep all receipts and present them when leaving the country. Mine globalblue.com for precise advice.
Cheap ways to get to an airport
Travelling by public transport is slightly slower, but cheaper than official airport trains. Returns aboard the Gatwick Express cost from £31.60, for instance, versus £24 through southernrailway.com. Taking the Tube to Heathrow is even more economical, time permitting. Another option is to skip flights altogether and travel by a long-distance carpool, such as blablacar.co.uk.
Pre-book airport parking
Leaving a car at the likes of Gatwick or Heathrow can be prohibitive, especially if left to the 11th hour. Book in advance and use a site like parkbcp.co.uk to scope out the various rates.
Dodging the low-cost bullet
Do you really need that priority boarding? Almost all budget airlines now employ allocated seating, and you’ll generally find overhead stow room if you join the queue in good time. Carefully weigh and measure your luggage beforehand to avoid falling foul of hefty fines, and pre-purchase food. A 40g tin of Pringles costs 80p at Tesco — but £1.80 aboard an easyJet flight.
Take free holidays
On volunteering trips, your accommodation and meals will be covered by the provider or charity. Search bunac.org and vso.org.uk for positions from teaching English to tagging monkeys. And also consider a ‘paycation’, where you take up a temporary, salaried job overseas. Tree-planting in Canada (tree-planter.com) is a classic, as are ski-season positions — try natives.co.uk.
It’s obvious, but in-room beverages can have an eye-watering markup: think £5 per small bottle of beer and about as much for mineral water. Drinks down at the hotel bar will generally be cheaper, and those at a nearby supermarket still more so — around £2 for a bigger lager. Cheers.