I've written already about how to save money on day trips in the UK and many of these would apply to holidays in this country too. for those of you heading further afield this summer, here are my top tips for saving money on your trip abroad.
This can be a big expense and it can be all to easy too get caught out on poor exchange rates or high commission charges unless you spend ages shopping around. Taking a pre-loaded cash card is a great way to take your spending money on holiday. It's much safer than carrying cash, you can use it just like a debit or credit card in stores to pay for items, or withdraw money from ATMs and there's no need to go somewhere special to exchange it. You can load up what your budget allows for spending money, and stick to it, leaving your other cards at home. Of course, there's always the worry that you might have some emergency which requires extra money, but with a card like Caxton FX, you can simply add more via a text from your phone. There's no commission and they guarantee great exchange rates, as well as a host of extra benefits.
2. Airline Resrictions
Make sure you're up-to-speed with the latest airline restrictions. Getting items confiscated is not only annoying and inconvenient, but it can cost you money to replace them. I've seen grown women cry at security desks when they've had to ditch their designer perfume or expensive cleanser. Most of us are aware of the liquid restrictions now - make sure all liquids, pastes, aerosols and gels are bagged separately in a clear plastic resealable bag. No liquids over 100mls will be allowed. Rather than buy expensive holiday minis from the shops, buy a travel bottle set (many discount or pound stores sell them) and decant your products from home. Or use up all those hotel toiletries you've been stashing!
The newest security restriction which may catch some people out this summer is on battery operated equipment in hand luggage. You may now have to power up your mobile phone/laptop/tablet/camera etc to prove it has a working battery, so if your phone is flat you risk having it confiscated or missing your flight while you charge it. Airlines are still coming up with policies on how or if they'll return these items for you, but chances are you'll be out of pocket as well as inconvenienced.
3. Weight allowances
Check and double check your weight allowance if you're flying. Then check and double check the weight (and measurements) of your luggage. Don't get caught out with unexpected excess baggage charges. And if you're planning to bring home souvenirs, remember to leave a weight allowance for that on your way home - or you'll be having to wear 4 layers of clothing! Yeah, been there...
4. Pack Smart
Speaking of weight allowances, try to pack as cleverly as you can. Minimise your clothes by packing a 'capsule wardrobe' - mix and match clothes that will work hard for you. A large scarf for example will dress up a daytime outfit, work as a sarong on the beach and a pashmina in the evenings. Pick one or two key colours, and work your outfit choices around that. We're probably all guilty of packing too many clothes on holiday, but free up space for other items you'll need but which are expensive to buy from resort shops such as sun cream, swimming goggles - dare I say it, umbrellas?!
5. Be Prepared
Nothing takes the shine of a holiday more than being ill or being involved on an accident, but when it ends up with costly medical bills it's even more of a nightmare. Make sure you have adequate travel insurance for your family. Shop around for the best deal and policy for your requirements - remember generally cheaper policies have less cover and a higher excess. Check if you have cover included on things like your general insurance, your bank account, union membership or as an employee benefit. The Caxton FX card also offers discounted medical insurance. If you're travelling within the EU, make sure you sign up for the free EHIC card. Use this official link to apply free, and make sure you do it in plenty of time before your trip. It will allow you access to free or reduced cost medical treatment (check full terms and details).
6. Be Book Savvy
Travel books, guides and maps are expensive and chances are you might never use them again after your trip, so pop to your local library and see what they have on offer for you to borrow for free. There are also loads of free apps you can download - tourist guides, restaurant reviews, what's on sites etc.
7. Learn the Lingo
It's always nicer when you can say a few words in your host's language, but did you think that it could save you money? I went to France last summer with a friend who happens to be a languages teacher and was amazed at the deals she managed to get. I'm not suggesting you mug up to A-Level standard, but being able to exchange a few pleasantries will certainly ingratiate you with the locals and helps no end at markets, restaurants and most especially at boot sales flea markets. Learn some key phrases before you go.
8. Kid's Cash
Holidaying with children can be expensive. Constant requests for drinks, ice creams, inflatable beach toys, various bits of plastic souvenir tat and amusement arcades can soon drain your pockets. If your kids get pocket money, encourage them to save that up and bring it with them. It's interesting to see how much harder they think about whether they really want something, when they're paying for it themselves!
9. Dining Out
If you're eating out abroad, try to explore slightly off the beaten track for smaller, better value restaurants. Consult your library-borrowed guides and phone apps. Seek out the ones the locals use rather than the over-priced touritst traps on the main drag. Generally you'll find better food, better service, less crowds and cheaper menus.
10. Holiday Snaps
Gone are the days of sending off your holiday films to be processed. Nowadays most of us use digital cameras or our phones, but there's no reason why you shouldn't still get them printed rather than leave them languishing on a memory stick forever. Check out the latest deals for 50 free prints at Snapfish; Truprint and 100 free with Jessups.
What are your holiday money-saving tips? I'd love you to share them here.
This post is my entry for the Britmums / Caxton FM #holidayplanmum competition.