Ten Top Tips to Make your Travel Money Go Further

Apparently the economy is now improving, but it most certainly is not getting through to the pockets of the average man and woman. So when travelling, it is important to make your money stretch as far as possible.

Of course if you are a city banker, then please stop reading. As always, they are doing very nicely and don’t need money-saving tips! But for the rest of us, my tips here will help you eke out your funds and limit how much of your hard-earned cash is handed over to the bankers and their friends in the form of exchange rates, card charges, insurance costs and such-like.

1. WHERE TO VISIT – If you want to save money, choose somewhere to visit that is inexpensive on a day to day basis. Post Office Money provides what they call a Travel Cost Barometer which adds up the cost of a basket of items such as a cup of coffee, an evening meal and a bottle of mineral water.

Within Europe this basket varies in price from £31 in the Algarve to £76 in Sorrento. If travelling further afield, then the same basket of items costs £40 in Cape Town and, most expensive of all, £105 in Auckland. Multiply those differences by a two week holiday and that’s a lot of dosh!

Cape Town - An inexpensive place to visit
Cape Town – An inexpensive place to visit

2. FOREIGN EXCHANGE – Don’t be fooled by the ‘No Commission’ claims at many money exchangers. They are not fairy godmothers giving you something for nothing. Of course not, they get their profits, sometimes massive profits, from the difference between the ‘buy’ and ‘sell’ rates, which can be as much as 20%.

When comparing exchange agencies, check exactly how much foreign currency you get for a specific amount of your cash. Online exchangers like MONEYCORP and TRAVELEX  give far better rates than, say, the Post Office. Never, never buy foreign currency at departure airports; the exchange rates are crazy.

In many countries you get far better exchange rates by waiting to change money until you arrive, so check this out before you purchase foreign currency at home.

3. CREDIT CARDS – If you have the right type of credit card, then that can be the best solution for both cash and purchases overseas. By the ‘right type’, I mean one that doesn’t charge commission for exchanging money and gives a fair exchange rate; for example, the Halifax Clarity Mastercard converts currency world-wide at the exchange mid-rate and there are no extra charges other than the usual interest on cash withdrawals.

4. TRAVEL INSURANCE – Yes you do need travel insurance, this is not an area to neglect even if you are short on the readies. But that doesn’t mean you should waste money by purchasing expensive travel insurance on the High Street, rather look to online providers. If you are travelling overseas more than once in a year, then consider taking out annual travel insurance.

A company like AnnualTravelInsurance, which provides good cover at a reasonable price and is a Which? Best Buy, will cover an adult worldwide for a year for £42. Children can often be included in a parent’s insurance free-of-charge.

5. EUROPEAN HEALTH INSURANCE CARD (EHIC) – If travelling in Europe, then in addition to travel insurance, make certain also to get an EHIC card before you set off. It’s free of charge from the NHS website and allows you to receive medical treatment in another EU member state for free or at a reduced cost.

Auckland - An expensive place to visit (2)
Auckland – An expensive place to visit

6. LOW SEASON TRAVEL – If you can, then avoid school holidays when travelling. It’s a lot cheaper, and for those without children, a lot quieter.

7. FLY ON A TUESDAY – Well not necessarily Tuesday, although that has been shown to be the day with the lowest airfares. In general avoid the more expensive weekend flights.

8. CAR HIRE – Don’t go directly to the big boys, Hertz, Avis and such-like. I’ve always been pleased with the service provided by Auto Europe, which checks out several different hire companies to get you the best prices. I also take out separately Car Hire Excess Insurance to cover me for all possible excess charges including tyres, windscreen and underbody.

9. HOTEL DISCOUNTS – Prices charged by hotels for the same room can differ enormously, with the highest prices normally being when you simply arrive and ask for a room. Advanced purchase can often save you 25% or more. You can sometimes get bargain prices using hotel comparison sites like trivago.

Look out for special discounts; for example, there are lots of Hotel Deals for Seniors.

Another tip, and something I personally have found very useful, is to collect hotel loyalty points, for example IHG Reward Club Points from the Holiday Inn hotel chain. It costs you nothing, and once the points build up, you can claim free nights.

10. BOOK IT YOURSELF – I recently researched how much an independently booked holiday in Sri Lanka compared in costs with exactly the same holiday on the same flights booked through an agency, in this case SAGA. The Research Results showed that booking everything yourself saved more than £400 per person, provided you could manage without SAGA’s home-to-airport taxi service!

Follow my ten tips and you could easily save 10% or much more on your travel costs. That will come in nicely for some gastronomic specials and a few toasts to celebrate beating the bankers and their friends for once!