Many of us dream of jetting off on a plane and feeling the hot summer sun on our faces or a cool dip in a refreshing pool, but how can you be sure you’re finding the best deal on your summer holiday?
Best time to book
Booking a holiday always seems to involve the same dilemma: will I save by booking early or are there better deals available at the last-minute? The best offers are always available at the last minute, right? Wrong! According to research, the best time to book a holiday for the most competitive price is 56 days in advance.
If you have school-aged children, work in a job with restricted holiday periods or have a set idea on the type of holiday you want to go on, you are best to get booking early. Booking early usually means you get the pick of the bunch and will be able to have the holiday of your dreams, without having to compromise. Booking early can often mean free or highly discounted child places.
However, if you’re just after a week away in the sun or are happy to be inspired by available deals, booking late and waiting for a bargain might suit you better. Playing the game of ‘holiday roulette’ can often pay off with some excellent late deals; but you won’t find many last-minute bargains on peak dates.
It is good to note that any holiday involving a low-cost or scheduled flight is highly unlikely to ever get cheaper, except on an off-peak date to a destination that is not currently popular, prices for these trips often increase in price the closer you get to the date.
Online travel agents, such as Expedia and Travel Republic, have holidays on sale as far ahead as flying schedules allow – 11 months for scheduled flights such as British Airways, while the likes of easyJet and Ryanair usually release their summer flights for next year after the current summer season ends. Sign up for alerts and you can be one of the first in the know.
Paying now vs paying later
It can be tempting to put off booking a holiday until the last minute to avoid paying anything now but it is good to note you will need to pay the full amount straight away. Early bookers can benefit from special schemes to encourage early booking – deposits can be as low as £1 per person, with the balance being paid as late as four weeks prior to departure.
However, for a package holiday you would usually expect to pay around £50 – £100 per person, with the full balance due around 12 weeks prior to departure. Go ahead and shop around for deals – this gives you plenty of time to save up for your balance and spending money, especially if booking for next summer.
You can slash the price by checking comparison sites, tour operators and flash-sale sites
First, benchmark a decent price on the web. To get an idea of the type of price you should be paying, start by searching the major package holiday listing sites. Remember though, while many places shout about special offers, don’t be drawn in without checking the final cost – you might find a cheaper deal elsewhere, without a specific sale or code.
Heading to once-in-vogue holiday hotspots that are no longer so popular can be a good way to save yourself some money. Often if demand’s off the boil, massive hotels can lie virtually empty.
The same applies to destinations off the beaten track that aren’t popular with the masses yet, though capacity at these may be more limited. Opting for Bulgaria rather than Greece, for example, can help save, while Sri Lanka used to be a cheap option for tropical package holidays (though it’s now becoming more popular).
If you don’t fancy a package, city breaks tend to cost less in summer, as cities are less obvious destinations.
Package holidays can be cheaper than flights if you’re heading to a popular resort
If you’re going away specifically for seven, 10 or 14 days to a traditional holiday destination, package holidays are often best. They can sometimes be much cheaper than booking a scheduled flight… even if you DON’T want to use the hotel.
A holiday is usually two weeks at most – don’t spend all year paying for it
We all deserve a holiday now and then but do remember it’s only two weeks a year for most – a holiday you spend the rest of the year worrying how to pay for isn’t relaxing, nor helpful for long-term finances.