Top 10 holiday saving tips.

Wednesday 05 December 2012 11.21
Research before you book and see the savings
Research before you book and see the savings

If you’re going on holiday this year, you’ll want to keep as much as you can for the spending kitty while you are there. With this in mind there are ways to save a little extra along the way so that your holiday money stretches further.

Whether it’s booking a hotel, renting a car, using your card abroad and even booking airport parking, there are ways to get the best deals and to avoid paying extra.

Tina Leonard tells  Today with Pat Kenny her Top Ten holiday saving tips.

1. Get the best hotel room price

What you shouldn’t do is contact the hotel of your choice directly and leave it at that.

Instead if you’ve chosen a specific hotel you should also check on various websites to see where the best price is advertised. An easy way to do this is at www.trivago.ie, which compares the prices on around 8 sites, including ebookers.ie, lastminute.com, expedia.com, hotels.com and more.

2. How to find out what the ‘secret’ hotel is on lastminute.com

If you don’t mind what hotel you stay in but want a good one, an idea is to try the ‘secret hotels’ section on lastminute.com, which offers discounts on expensive hotels of around 45%. They don’t tell you the name of the hotel but give you a description of it, the star rating and the price offered. A useful trick here is to copy and paste the description and Google it. As the description is often taken directly from the hotel’s web site you may be able to find out exactly what hotel is, see if you like it and compare the prices offered.

3. Use deal sites and cash back sites

Don’t forget to look for cash-back or discounted vouchers so that your money will stretch further.

For example on cash-back site www.fatcheese.ie, you can get 5% back from Budget and Hertz car rental; 2% back from Air France; 8% back from Clickandgo and ebookers; up to 10% back from expedia and you’ll also find other holiday related cash-back offers for example 6% back from Alton Towers.

Check the daily deal sites also for holiday deals, but if you do this be sure to check first to make sure you are getting what you want and that it is the best price. If travelling to the UK or another country where you speak the language, you could also register on that country’s deals site (i.e. Groupon / Living Social), to buy discounted vouchers for meals or events while on your holidays.

4. Don’t double up on travel insurance – you may have it on another policy

According to National Consumer Agency research just one third of those travelling this summer will buy travel insurance.

If you’re not sure whether to fork out or not, consider the following money first, to make sure if you are buying travel insurance that you’re not doubling up:

If you have private health insurance, check it as it may provide medical and illness cover for travel, which means you can take this element out of any travel insurance you buy.

Also check your credit card to see if it comes with travel insurance.

Check your home policy to see if you have ‘al risks’ cover that includes items lost or stolen outside of the home, even when abroad.

If you’re concerned about cover for lost, damaged or delayed luggage, bear in mind that the airline is liable to provide compensation for this anyway under the Montreal Convention.

If you’re concerned about cover for cancellation, remember that if you have to cancel due to a pre-existing illness that you haven’t declared (yours or that of a family member of friend), you won’t be covered.

Multi-trip travel insurance is generally cheaper than buying travel insurance per trip.

5.Check that your EHIC card hasn’t expired

If you have a European Health Insurance Card, make sure it hasn’t expired as they are valid for two years only after issue. If it has, or if you don’t have one go to www.ehic.ie or your local health office to get one. Your new card should be sent to you within ten days.

Do not go via a dodgy online agent that charges to supply them. Remember the card is free to get and is your entitlement.

You need one for each family member and the card gives you access to public health services across the EU, EEA (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) and Switzerland, as though you were a citizen of that country, when you are on a temporary stay there. (If you are an Irish resident you don’t need one for the UK however.)

If you have a Smartphone you can also download the free EHIC App (from the European Commission), which gives information and advice on the public healthcare services available in each country.

This can be useful if you need to visit the doctor or hospital while you are abroad, so that you’ll know the difference between public and private visits so that you can avoid the latter. This information is also available on the EHIC website if you don’t have a Smartphone.

6. Car rental – beware of the add-ons

Don’t leave it until you’re there to rent a car as you’re likely to get a better deal in advance.

But don’t be sucked in by the advertised upfront daily price alone. Consider the add-ons and extras such as for insurance, damage waiver, child seat, crossing a border, alternative pick-up or drop off point, and so on. They will quickly add up and the actual rental price you pay may not be anything like the initial, advertised, price.

Make sure you get a ‘collect full, return full’ fuel policy, as if you have to return it empty, you’ll be charged a higher fuel price by the rental company.

Whatever you do, check the car for scratches and scrapes before you drive off and again on return, taking pictures for reference. And if the car rental company tries to charge you for damage you didn’t do afterwards, or if they try and add some other charge that you had never heard of before, don’t let them. Contact the European Consumer Centre for assistance in getting a refund if you were wrongly charged by a car rental company in another European country.

7.Always pre-book airport parking.

If you can’t get public transport to the airport (which is likely to be cheaper than driving and parking), then cut parking costs by booking in advance and using comparison sites.

You can choose between the airport’s short and long-term car parks but also other privately run airport car parks such as quickpark near-by and even hotel parking near airports.

You can search for all the different prices and car parks available at the Irish airport you are using on www.parksmart.ie. For example, a search for parking at Dublin airport from this Saturday for one week, gave options for different car parks from €29.75 to €40.

8. Avoid airline charges

If you are flying with a low-fares airline like Aer Lingus or Ryanair, remember that there will be extra charges, for example for putting your bag in the hold, priority boarding, and even for paying with certain types of cards.

Plan this carefully in advance as these charges are higher at the airport than if you buy beforehand.

For example, if you’re flying with Ryanair and forget to print your boarding card you’ll be charged €60 at the airport. If you pre-book sports equipment it costs €50 each way but €60 at the airport. And for your first piece of luggage to be put in the hold (15Kg) during high season it costs €30 in advance but €120 if you have to book at the airport.

With Aer Lingus putting your bag in the hold costs between €15 and €20 if you pre-book but is between €30 and €40 if you do it at the airport. For sports equipment the cost jumps from €30 to €40.

9. Passports and visas

Remember to check you have a valid passport and visa if necessary, and if you’re getting a new passport check that all the details are correct as that is your responsibility.

Double check whether the country you are visiting requires that you have a long period of validity left on your passport i.e. 6 months, as otherwise you will not be allowed into the country. Checking now will avoid you losing the cost of your flight or even the whole holiday if you are unable to fly.

If you’re travelling to the US under the visa waiver programme you’ll need to buy an ESTA. That stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation and costs $14. (You don’t need an ESTA for work, toursim or study related trips). But avoid any third party sites that sell the ESTA for more than that. You should buy it only from the US government so go via the information and links provided by the US embassy.

10. Using credit and debit cards

If you’re traveling in the eurozone, you can use your debit card (with the Maestro, Cirrus, Plus or Link symbol), at an ATM or in-store to make a purchase and that does not cost any more than it would at home.

But if you’re travelling to a non-euro country like the UK, or outside Europe, using your debit card at the ATM or to make a purchase will cost you; you’ll be charged a transaction fee and a foreign-exchange fee. Ask your bank what these are and work out if it’s cheaper to exchange currency in advance.

If you use your credit card at the ATM or in-store you’ll be charged a transaction fee whether in the eurozone or not. You can add currency conversion fees to that if you’re outside the eurozone.

Some people lodge their holiday money to their credit card to avoid paying cash withdrawal fees at the ATM. But be warned - some banks still charge a fee, so double check this with your bank before you travel.

Roaming

From 1st July the latest EU price caps on roaming charges came into effect. They are: 29c per minute to make a call; 8c to take a call; 9c per text and 70c per Megabyte for data downloads (all prices ex VAT).

There is also a limit of €50 for data downloads (unless you’ve agreed otherwise with your network), and your network has to alert you when you reach 80% of that spend. Once you reach the €50 limit you’ll be given the option to keep going and spend more or else you’ll be cut off. From 1st July than applies when you’re roaming outside of the EU also.

But bear in mind that you may even get better deals from your network provider under their roaming packages, a lot of which are free but you have to actively sign up to them.

For example if you opt-in to Meteor’s Europe roaming offer the charges are cheaper that the maximum cut off charges and taking a call is not charges at all. And with Vodafone you can opt in for data download at €2 per day for 500MB, which is significantly cheaper than the 70c per MB cut off under the EU rules.

Using credit and debit cards

If you’re traveling in the eurozone, you can use your debit card (with the Maestro, Cirrus, Plus or Link symbol), at an ATM or in-store to make a purchase and that does not cost any more than it would at home.

But if you’re travelling to a non-euro country like the UK, or outside Europe, using your debit card at the ATM or to make a purchase will cost you; you’ll be charged a transaction fee and a foreign-exchange fee. Ask your bank what these are and work out if it’s cheaper to exchange currency in advance.

If you use your credit card at the ATM or in-store you’ll be charged a transaction fee whether in the eurozone or not. You can add currency conversion fees to that if you’re outside the eurozone.

Some people lodge their holiday money to their credit card to avoid paying cash withdrawal fees at the ATM. But be warned - some banks still charge a fee, so double check this with your bank before you travel.