23 ways to cut the cost of your holiday
Having the summer of your dreams doesn't have to cost you the earth! You could save £100s on your holiday with these tips.Holidaying in the Caribbean might still be a bit out your reach if you're living off your student loan, but there's nothing to say you can't enjoy a fun-in-the-sun-packed holiday for minimal dollar.
We've put together the ultimate list of ways you can bag a top trip without having to break the bank and, because we're nice, we're going to share them with you.
23 ways to bag a cheaper holiday
Snag cheap flights
It's likely that one of the biggest expenses of your jolly holiday will be flights, meaning they can be real a deal breaker.
Don't fall for the rookie error of just typing “cheap flights” into Google and going for the first thing that comes up. Take your time, check multiple flight aggregators and compare prices.
Skyscanner and Momondo are both great options for scoping out the best deals available, and both have handy features to indicate if you'd save any cash by flying on a different day on the week you're booking. Great option if you're able to be a bit flexible!
If you're looking to go pro on finding the cheapest flights known to man, check out our expert tips for students.
Check your luggage allowance
The most common blunder that can leave you financially stung is hand baggage allowance.
Your bargain £30 flight to Paris for the weekend can suddenly double in cost if you don't stay within limit – make sure you know the deal or you might end up having to pull a stunt like this!
If you're worried you might've gone a bit overboard with the multiple outfit changes, you might be worth investing in some luggage scales to check you're safely within the restrictions (or splash out on some digital scales if you're looking to use every gram you can).
Watch out for in-flight extras
If you're flying with a budget airline, you might find your bargain prices are quickly dwarfed by a mounting list of extras to fork out for.
Some extras – such as the privilege of choosing your own seat or boarding the plane first – you'll just have to suck up and learn to live without.
Others, however, such as earplugs or food should simply be a case of bring your own. While you're not allowed to take liquids over 100ml on a plane, it's not a coincidence that they sell alcohol miniatures aplenty in duty free (just sayin').
You can also take your own food, so stock up before you go to avoid extortionate prices.
…or ditch flying entirely!
Is flying your only option? If you don't mind a longer haul and you're not planning to travel too far, it's definitely worth checking out trains and (dare we say it) coaches.
Megabus can get you to various locations across Europe such as Belgium, France, Germany or the Netherlands – sometimes even leaving you with change from a twenty!
Check out offers on the Channel Tunnel and ferry crossings too – you never know where you could snap up a bargain.
Similarly, you could just make travelling all part of the holiday fun and go interrailing across Europe. Check out our guide to getting the most out of interrailing.
Wangle cheap travel insurance
While insurance might seem like a luxury you can't afford on holiday, you'll be kicking yourself if you end up with a ski-holiday induced broken leg and zero coverage.
At the very least, you should always make sure you've got a valid European Health Insurance Card (E11), which is free, so there really is no excuse – just apply online.
However, this card will only cover you for basic health treatment within the EU, so it's really not a replacement for insurance. You might think it's going to add on big bucks, but choose wisely and you'll only have to shell out a few quid.
We've got the lowdown on how to get cheap student travel insurance right here.
Check out private sales
If you're looking for a little bit of luxury in your life but can't afford the hefty price tag, have a gander at some private sales websites.
You will have to sign up for these websites though and they won't appear on price comparison websites, but even finding one good deal makes it well worth the hassle.
Warning: Although you can find a great deal on secret sale sites, it's worth being wary of inflated RRP prices on these sites. It's easy to get sucked in to a deal that says your hotel was £2,000 for 4 night and now it's £300, but do you really believe that?
Be open-minded about accommodation
We all love the luxury of staying at hotels (coming home to a neatly made bed each day? Yes please!) but is it really worth the cash when there are so many alternative options these days?
Often you can get way more bang for your buck if you get a private let from Airbnb, and renting a room in a shared flat through Airbnb can be a great option if you're travelling solo (just make sure you do a bit of reading into who you'll be sharing with!).
If you're on a serious budget, a bit of couch surfing can work out great, and is a nice opportunity to make friends with locals.
Do take some care with private rentals though; make sure you check out the reviews of a place first and always use trusted sites.
Brave your fear of hostels
If the idea of staying in hostels still conjures up images from dodgy horror movies, it's time you got over it!
If you're willing to forgo some luxury, then hostels are a great option for your holiday and (for the most part) they're clean, safe and a great way to make friends with other holiday-goers.
If sharing a bunk room with strangers is what's putting you off, it's worth knowing that most hostels also have the option of private rooms, and they're normally much cheaper than a room at a hotel.
Top tip: search for the best prices on the comparison sites above and then check the price with the Hostel direct – sometimes it can work out cheaper.
Travel with friends
No holiday of a lifetime would be complete without your bezzies to share it with you. So be sure to pack them; they can probably bring the cost down too.
Sharing rooms and booking in groups will often lower costs, or even better – if you've got any friends living abroad, just crash at theirs!
A small side note: We wouldn't recommend recruiting any old acquaintance to come on holiday with you just to keep costs down. If you don't get along swimmingly this can have a disastrous effect on your time away – stick to friends you know you'll travel well with!
Turn off your roaming data!
There's nothing worse than making a point of resisting the temptation to instagram every meal on holiday, only to find when your bill comes through that you've clocked up a hefty hundred pound bill anyway.
Depending where in the world you're holidaying, forgetting to turn of your data roaming can have frightening implications!
Smartphones, for all their wonderful traits, are like black holes for data as apps will be rattling through your allowance even when you're not actively using them.
So, wise up and make sure you turn off roaming data before you leave the country. The social media detox will probably do you good anyway.
Check your passport
It's all very well knowing your passport is safely stowed in your knicker drawer, but have you checked it's still in date?
Not only will you be unable to travel if your passport is expired, but many countries will refuse you entry if there's 6 months or less left before you need to renew.
Renewal fees jump massively if you need a short turnaround, so avoid any nasty surprises making sure you have this covered well in advance!
Don't snub package holidays
Booking a holiday can be a complicated game, especially with all this comparison malarky and pulling all the components together.
Make sure you check out package holidays too – Thomson and First Choice generally being the…first choice. You could find package holidays are a hell of a lot cheaper and these deals are not to be sniffed at!
You'll be amazed at how much you can save by opting for an all inclusive package, particularly if you're heavy on the indulgence, as your meals and booze are included in the price!
Some companies such as Invasion even run student specific package holidays, so you can be sure you won't be surrounded by holidaying pensioners, either.
Be smart about travel money
So you've counted out all your pennies and put together a holiday spending budget, meaning you can relax with the knowledge that you won't run out of cash. Right?
Wrong. When it comes to splashing the cash abroad, there's a whole lot more to think about than just how much you've got in your bank account.
Whilst some people prefer to exchange currency before they leave, this doesn't always ensure you get the best rate and if you lose cash, most travel insurance policies will only cover you for a small fraction.
Nowadays, there are a whole slog of handy prepaid cards that will save you cash as well as being super convenient for travel (you can even disable them yourself using the app if you lose your card at any point).
Once you've set your holiday budget, you can pop the balance on your prepaid card and keep an eye on your spending using your smart phone. Check out our guide to the best prepaid cards for more info on how to use prepaid cards.
For more on how to get the best rates as well as tips for spending abroad, check out our travel money guide.
Swat up before you go
Save yourself from any awkward misunderstandings without having to splash valuable funds by taking a trip to your local library for a bit of research before you set off.
You should be able to find a good range of phrase books and visitor's guides (Rough Guide and Lonely Planets are normally your safest bets), which you can pack with you in your luggage free of charge.
Knowing a bit of the lingo as well as where to go and which overpriced tourist spots to avoid is sure to save you a few bob.
Just make sure you don't leave your library finds behind or drop them in the pool or you could face a fine!
Hit up the pound shops
Bits and pieces like travel accessories and toiletries can really add up, so if you've a fair few things to buy before you go – get yourself down to the pound shop!
Do remember to be smart with these stores though, and don't fall for the common misconception that if it has a £1 price tag on it, it must be a great deal.
For example, hand sanitiser might only be 50p in the chemist, but it's £1 in the pound store, etc.
Suncream from pound stores can be a goer, but you need to be a bit cautious. Make sure it comes with a UVA sticker and has a high enough SPF (15 is the recommended minimum). If there's no expiry date on the bottle, put it back on the shelf!
Touch base with fam for free
Keeping in touch with friends and family can be a huge hidden cost of holidays, and the worst bit is you often don't realise how much it's costing you 'til you get home.
All you need to do is find a free WiFi hotspot and you can contact away, without fear of any nasty surprises (remember what we discussed in point 8!).
Decant your toiletries
You won't be wanting to lug around massive bottles of shampoo and conditioner around with you, and if you're flying with hand luggage only – any bottles over 100m won't be an option anyway!
Avoid spending over the odds on travel-size bottles (we all know these are a complete rip-off – no matter how cute they look) by picking up a pack of empty minis for a few quid, decanting what you need into those.
Don't forget to label them though, or you're bound to find yourself brushing your teeth with shampoo at some point!
Download free travel apps
There's an app for pretty much everything you could ever want these days, so it's worth doing a bit of research to find which ones will be of use to you.
Of course, there's the obvious perks Google Translate (you can even photograph text now and have it translated instantly – this is a game changer! You can keep your English dinner menu!) and Google maps (you can now download maps of your area in advance so you don't waste data when out and about).
If you fancy yourself a bit of a foodie, Foursquare is also a great addition to your app collection as it finds bars, cafes and restaurants in your surrounding area that are rated by locals and other foursquare users. Think TripAdvisor, but minus all the bogus certificates and awards – Foursquare's users tend to be younger, meaning the ratings are much more reliable for other young travellers.
Another great idea is to download free tour guide apps for where you're travelling to. Organised tours can cost a bomb, and apps like Pocketguide and TourPal let you walk at your own pace, learning all about your holiday location along the way – without forking out a penny.
So you've probably heard this one a zillion times before, but being flexible with when you travel really will help you snag all the best deals.
Try and stay off-season with your bookings – so steer clear of school holiday dates, bank holidays and half terms too, as tour operators will really hike the prices then.
Oh, and they will be lots of screaming children around, and no one wants that.
The cheapest times to travel would be holiday days themselves, as few people want to travel on New Year's Eve or Christmas day, for example…but it's worth asking yourself, do you either?
If you're the kind of irritating so and so that can fall asleep anywhere, it makes sense to book an overnight flight or crossing.
Many operators will slash prices at inconvenient times, but if you're the kind of person who could sleep through the apocalypse, you'll still end up with a decent night's kip anyway.
With our post-Brexit currency going haywire of late, there's been a rise in popularity of ‘staycations' in the UK rather than jet-setting somewhere abroad.
There are so many great places to visit on the this fair isle (we're four countries in one, right?) so you've got plenty to choose from!
Rather than travelling abroad, why not think about travelling somewhere nice nationally instead? At least you won't have to exchange your cash before you set off (although don't hold your breath for good weather).
Take student ID
It might not be the first thing you think to pack, but your student card can still work its magic when you're abroad – especially when it comes to museums/ galleries and tourist attractions.
£12/month will get you an NUS Extra student card, which not only gets you heaps of discounts here at home, but (since March 2016) now also comes with an ISIC internationally-recognised student badge so you can take advantage of discounts on your hols, too.
Earn whilst you holiday
So we've covered how you might save money on your holiday, but why not earn it too!
One way of doing this is to take up a summer job somewhere warm – there's loads of jobs out there for holiday makers from club reps and bar work to something as big as teaching English abroad (although admittedly this likely crosses the line from holidaying to emigrating!).
Got any top tips we've missed or have you had the holiday of a lifetime on a shoe string budget? Make sure to let us know your experiences in the comments below!