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Knocking Pounds Off Your Summer Hols

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by MarcLockley)
at 8:54AM Saturday 16 July, 2011
under Travel and Holidays

By Marc Lockley, Guardian Online Columnist and Author of "How to Pay Less For More"

Having not been on a sunny, summer holiday abroad for three years, I was determined to book a family holiday to Portugal during the school break. However, searching for flights in March almost stopped this idea in its tracks finding, to my horror, that flights to Faro for four (a tongue twister itself!) were going to cost nearly £1300.

So, I put my money-saving hat on and thought about this quandary. The Algarve was the area we wanted to stay in but what about airports other than Faro in close proximity? A quick look at the map showed that Lisbon (a place I have always wanted to visit) was only around 2 ½ hours away by car. So I looked up the flights; £600 for four people, an immediate saving of £700, making the trip a more adventurous, two-stop holiday.

Pleased as punch I booked the flights, car, accommodation and insurance, realising that there are so many additional elements to zap the holiday budget that looking in advance at these can help save you hundreds of pounds.
Airport parking can be expensive. Check out HolidayExtras or essentialtravel.com for good savings on all the little extras like parking and lounges. It's normally best to book around a month in advance to establish the best rates. Off-site parking does tend to be cheaper but I prefer to park my own car and take the keys with me. An alternative cheaper option is ParkatmyHouse, where you can choose from a list of home and business owners renting out their spaces. Cheaper still, why not ask a friend for a lift in return for taking them to and from the airport for their holidays?

As a frugal individual, getting the best Euro for my Pound is a must to me and, with an exercise I did recently on foreign exchange, I found that shopping around highlighted differences of around 5% which, if you are exchanging around £2000, is enough to pay for a good meal - or three - out.
There are plenty of places offering foreign exchange both on and off-line including BUPA, Marks and Spencer and the Post Office to name a few. It's just a matter of searching in time and remembering to account for delivery time if you are not buying from the high-street. It's important to be assured of the company you buy from and Which offers a guide that can help in your purchases.

The obligatory holiday read is best thought of in advance to gain any value. I am off to borrow one book from the library and the other, A Game of Thrones, is normally £8.99 but I only paid £3.99 with Amazon; certainly better than paying the full whack at the airport. For those of you who have never used Audible, they are offering a free download of a book of your choice without obligation but do remember to read the terms and conditions.

You hear horror stories of astronomical mobile phone bills when abroad. As I only use my phone once or twice when away, I avoid the phone bundles but if you are going to use it significantly more, it's best to speak to your provider about their travel offers. I make sure I switch off 'data roaming' on my phone and look out for 'free Wi-Fi' signs when out and about. Often you can use either Skype or Facetime (if you have an iPhone) to call and even see loved ones for free, staving off the need to use your own cash for calls! This saved me a small fortune during a recent trip to Ireland.

Finally, I will avoid the £5 sandwich and bottle of pop (x4 people) combo in the airport lounge and make my own! Now I just have to hope that there are no delays to hamper the journey. Mind you I do have a good book to read!