Expert tips to cut holiday costs

Picture of a beach bag and sun hat for my post on expert tips to cut holiday costs

More beach, lower bills


Fancy a fab holiday without breaking the bank? Read on for expert tips to cut your holiday costs!

Last week, I headed off to London for a “Beach Budget Ready” event at B, the eye-poppingly colourful digital banking arm of CYBG, alongside Yorkshire and Clydesdale Banks.

Holidays are essential to relax and recharge (or at least, if you have kids, to experience the same chaos in different surroundings). However, that get-away-from-it-all break is less relaxing if you return to a massive bill – and a third of British holidaymakers spend more than they can afford, according to B’s research.

Only about half of British consumers actually save for flights, accommodation or spending money. Trouble is, holidays can cost a lot. Think on average £1,175 per person on a summer holiday – plus another £118 shopping beforehand, on stuff like sandals, swimsuits and sun cream. Overall, 57% just whack the cost on a credit card, and 10% said they had no idea when they’d be able to pay it off (gulp).


Picture of cocktails at B's Beach Budget Ready event for my post on expert tips to cut holiday costs

Sometimes I really love my job

I really enjoyed the Beach Budget Ready event, and not just because of the gin and grapefruit cocktails. B had got together a panel of experts to pass on top tips to stretch your holiday spending, including Alice Beer, consumer editor at This Morning, Jasmine Birtles of financial website Money Magpie and beauty journalist Sophie Qureshi.

These were my favourite tips to cut your holiday costs:

Holiday locations

  • Switch destinations: the experts tipped the Costa Brava, Greece and Turkey as good value for money. Egypt and Tunisia remain competitively priced, as they try to lure holidaymakers scared off by terrorism. Cate Dixon from Kuoni also suggested swapping destinations for similar but cheaper alternatives: so try Ajman instead of Dubai, or Bali and Thailand instead of the Maldives. Personally, last year we swapped the Maldives for the Isle of Wight, and that ferry certainly cost shedloads less than the flights…
  • Book super early or super late: cheap flights go on sale about six months before departure, but if you’re booking a holiday package Cate recommended buying as far as a year ahead. Alternatively, wait right until the last minute, if you’re willing to be flexible about the destination. It’s obviously a lot cheaper to go outside school holidays, if you can, or consider a staycation in summer before heading off for warmer weather during October half term.
  • Stay for free: Jasmine Birtles particularly recommended house swaps, to cut accomodation costs, using one of the many house swap websites or Facebook groups. I’ve only every tried this with friends, but it certainly makes weekend breaks much more affordable.


Picture of the B advert "more sand for your castle" about avoiding foreign transaction fees for my post on expert tips to cut holiday costs

Pick the right card for spending abroad

Holiday money

  • Opt for annual travel insurance: if you go abroad more than twice a year, annual travel insurance is often cheaper than separate single trip policies. Just make sure any insurance covers the right destinations and activities, and always ‘fess up to any health issues. Jasmine pointed out that some insurers regard banana boats as a dangerous sport, not just obvious candidates like ski-ing or bungee jumping. I’m all for cutting costs, but even I regard travel insurance as essential. Medical costs can be hideously high if you suffer from illness or accidents abroad, especially in America.
  • Avoid changing currency at the airport: it makes sense to take local currency for tips and taxis, but don’t leave it to the departure lounge, as the exchange rates are rubbish. I nip along to the Post Office, but if you’re running out of time, at least trying ordering online to collect at the airport.
  • Cut out foreign credit card charges: choose the right card if you’re going to flash the plastic when abroad. Most credit cards whack on foreign transaction fees if you’re spending overseas, and use expensive exchange rates too. Instead, look out for credit cards that don’t charge foreign currency fees, from the likes of B, Monzo, Starling Bank and the Halifax Clarity card. I’ve also been checking out Revolut, which means you benefit from the same exchange rates banks use themselves.
  • Avoid mega mobile bills: Luckily, the cost of calls and data inside the EU is no longer terrifying. However, if you’re heading further afield, Jasmine recommended switching your mobile to airplane mode when you’re outside wi-fi areas. Alice Beer had bitter memories of a £45 bill just for downloading a map in Istanbul.
  • Harness technology to help save: Check out banking apps that allow you to set up saving pots, to set aside cash for holiday costs, or see your spending in categories, so you can cut back. B is also developing a fab app so you can scan price tags or menus in Europe, and it shows you the cost in pounds. Magic.

Holiday shopping

  • Shop from your own wardrobe: before splashing cash on new clothes, check what you’ve already got. Alice Beer suggested trying on stuff when you feel at your best (think: hair done, make up done, fake tan on and after magically shedding a few pounds). I can’t see myself getting a spray tan just to try on summer clothes, but I certainly recommend digging out lighter layers from previous years.
  • Cash in on clutter: if you do find clothes you won’t wear again, Jasmine suggested selling them to raise holiday funds. Get the kids involved in ransacking your home for clothes, toys, gadgets and elderly mobiles to sell online or at a car boot sale.
  • Check for cheaper prices: souvenirs can be a great source of holiday memories. But before you get carried away in the souk, mall or market, consider if you need it right now, or could actually get it cheaper at home. David Judic, the customer innovation expert from B, suggested checking prices on Amazon, in case you could get the same product delivered to your door for less. Watch out in duty free too – best bets for bargains are booze and scent, but many other products are actually cheaper elsewhere.


Picture of Alice Beer and Jasmine Birtles at the Studio B Beach Budget Ready event for my post on expert tips to cut holiday costs

Expert tips on where to spend and save: Alice Beer and Jasmine Birtles

Holiday beauty

  • Downshift sun cream brands: Sophie Qureshi pointed out that supermarket sun cream, from places like Aldi or Tesco, often works just as well if not better than pricey brands. Essential however to use a lot and replace bottles each year, as the filters in sun screen do degrade, especially if the bottles are left out in hot sun. I think I’ll be happier binning elderly sun cream, if I know I didn’t spend so much in the first place.
  • Snap up decent beauty products for less: it was refreshing to hear a beauty expert point out that many brands charge a huge mark up for packaging and advertising. Instead, Sophie particularly recommended “The Ordinary” products, named after the active ingredients they contain, and Beauty Pie, which sells products made by the same suppliers as the big luxury brands.

Holiday luggage

  • Cut the cost of check in baggage: if you’re travelling as a family or with friends, consider paying to check in one bag for everyone’s lotions and potions – then rely on free carry on bags for everything else. Or, if you can travel really light, see my top tip about how to cut the cost of checking in liquids on flights.
  • Snap up second hand suitcases: given how airlines treat luggage, there doesn’t seem much point in spending a small fortune. Jasmine had an interesting tip about buying unclaimed baggage at auction, so you nab a decent suitcase for less, and then sell or donate the contents.


Now – over to you. What are your best tip to stretch your holiday budget? Do share in the comments, I’d love to hear.


This is a collaborative post with B.

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