Tip 1: Forget last minute booking!
Ten years ago, last minute booking was the way to get the best prices (remember Lastminute.com?) – but those days are over. Due to finely-tuned discounting throughout the year, if you book at the last minute you now risk being left with the accommodation nobody wants. And nobody wants to be held to ransom by budget airlines for your last minute flights. Ever since Boxing Day the leading tour operators such as Virgin Holidays, Thomas Cook, The Co-Operative Travel and Expedia have been advertising 10-30% off their holidays. And even more deeply discounted deals are already here, with savings in the 30-60% range – if you know where to look for them. To help you keep track of deeply discounted holiday deals from Groupon, Living Social, Wowcher, Secret Escapes and many more, we’ve created special pages that are constantly updated. Choose from Europe and the Med, Longhaul or UK breaks under £100. We’ve also designed a discount travel search – just enter your search criteria and check back as often as you can.
The deals on all these pages are updated daily from sources such as Groupon, Living Social, Wowcher, Secret Escapes and many more – meaning you only have to check one place for a selection from across all of these.
Tip 2: Know the school holiday dates – and avoid them if you can
If you don’t have kids this knowledge is priceless as it can save you hundreds of pounds if you avoid the holidays. This year, for England at least, Half Term is likely to be 18th-22nd February, and the Easter holidays are likely to be the first 2 weeks of April. Summer Half Term will be the 27th-31st May, and the Summer holidays are likely to start from 19th July and right the way through to the end of August. Holiday dates are different in Scotland, with the summer break starting as early as the end of June until the third week of August. Up-market all-inclusive Mediterranean beach-based activity holidays with companies like Mark Warner can be fantastic value if – but usually only if – you travel at either end of the season and avoid the school holidays. You may also want to check out their “Big Summer Sale” running until 31st January.
Tip 3: Don’t fall for pricing gimmicks – look at the total price
Check the full cost really stacks up against the competition before falling for headline prices that seem too good to be true. Offers such as ‘Kids go free’ which sound attractive, aren’t always what they seem and the overall price can sometimes be even higher than comparable alternatives, so do your homework.
Tip 4: Consider countries which might sound a bit risky
For instance Croatia is a well-kept secret but many don’t consider it because of the war that took place there over 20 years ago. Today it’s just as stylish as Greece or the Balearics and has wonderfully well-preserved coastal towns. The island of Hvar is a stunner and only a short hop by ferry from Split. Another well-kept secret is Slovenia, the only country in Europe that combines the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Pannonian Plain and the Karst.
Tip 5: Go to the mountains, not the beaches
In the mountains near the Med the climate is wonderful during the summer as the extra altitude takes away the worst of the heat. Once the snow is gone, many European ski resorts offer cheap summer accommodation. The chalets and ski resorts of Europe offer some of the best value holiday accommodation out of season like Grindlewald in Switzerland, The Burgenland in Austria or Luz Saint Sauveur in France among others.
Tip 6: Find a specialist holiday company which caters just for you and strips out what you don’t value
For instance if you’re traveling alone you can save money on single supplements by booking with a specialist tour operator such as Solos Holidays. If you want a walking holiday but don’t need a guide, choose a self-guided walking specialist such as Macs Adventure, who offers many European trips including the Tour du Mont Blanc. On the French Atlantic island of Ile de Ré you can find some great-value apartments. This is a great budget choice, offering superb beaches, a long summer season and great cycling across flat paths that crisscross the island.
Tip 7: Go outside the Euro zone
The cheapest Euro zone destinations are Athens, Prague and Rome, but be wary of Venice if you’re looking to watch the purse strings.Northern Cyprus is a great destination for cheap holidays because it’s outside the Euro zone – it uses the Turkish lira. Prices on the ground are remarkably low and you’ll find some great special offers.
Similarly Turkey and Bulgaria offer affordability and a fantastic destination for culture, food and activities, while Budapest and Warsaw are the cheapest cities. Be wary of Oslo, Zurich and the most expensive European city Stockholm.
Tip 8: Go a little further afield
If you just want cheap sun on a one-week or two-week package, we recommend Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, a five-hour flight from the UK. Tunisia also has great beaches, delicious food and good-value hotels, though it can get a bit chilly in the mid-winter months. It’s better in October or March. The Canary Islands are popular choices and with good reason. The flight is 4-5 hours but the climate is excellent. Tenerife has a great variety of destinations from lively package resorts to charming country hotels. For nature lovers, we suggest La Palma, for walking, culture and quiet beaches. We also recommend The Gambia on the west coast of Africa – six hour flying time from the UK, with excellent beaches, friendly hotels and plenty of excursions on your doorstep. The Cape Verde islands are also great value.
Long haul options include Thailand where it’s possible to get by without spending too much at all.
Tip 9: Use the shoulder seasons to your advantage
The Aegean coast of Turkey has a very long season, as does Malta. A little further afield, Egypt has superb autumn and winter weather with near guaranteed sunshine, even in January. We also recommend Morocco, which combines great weather with cultural treasures and fascinating street life.
Tip 10: Go overseas without going abroad
The Isle of Wight is often overlooked, but it has a great diversity of sights, beaches and great-value places to stay, ideal for families. Steeped in history with 60 miles of stunning unspoilt scenery and a wealth of attractions, the Isle of Wight has something for everyone. From historic sites to music festivals and major national events, it’s a unique holiday destination.