The first week of January is a rough one; you’re probably back at work, your pockets much lighter and your middle a bit heavier, and you feel like you haven’t felt sunshine for six months. On top of that, there’s expectation to quit drinking, go vegan and overhaul your fitness. All you really want is a holiday, right?
When is the best time to book a holiday?
It seems everyone else has the same idea, because Saturday, January 4 is set to be one of the busiest days of the year for holiday bookings.
“Over the last few years, the holiday industry has seen the rise of a trend dubbed ‘Sunshine Saturday’, when people rush to book a holiday amid January blues,” explains Louis Bridger, head of UK and Ireland at International Currency Exchange (ICE).
“With travel firms packaging up as many holiday offers as possible to tempt customers, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of booking your next holiday and lose sight of the all-important finances.”
So how do you keep your head and actually get a good deal?
How to get the best holiday deals
1. Book with a credit card, not a debit card
One of the biggest travel companies, Thomas Cook, went into liquidation in 2019, which left thousands unsure of what would happen with their holiday. Last month the Insolvency Service said £585 million was still owed to customers.
“Booking with a credit card will give you additional financial protection if the company does go bust,” says Bridger. If something goes wrong, the credit card provider will be as liable as the retailer for refunding the card holder (always check the small print with your credit card provider first).
2. Opt for a DIY holiday
“Gone are the days when we needed to rely solely on package holiday deals or book with the same airline there and back for the best prices. Travel price comparison sites, such as Jack’s Flight Club, Trivago and HolidayPirates mean you could bag a bargain outbound flight with one provider and inbound with another, as well as booking cheap hotel stays.
“You can shop around to get the best prices and places that suit you, so don’t get sucked into the first deal you see. But if you can find the perfect package deal, these actually offer great consumer protection from any changes, for example if a travel company goes bust beforehand, you’ll get a refund, or if you’re flights are cancelled while abroad, you’ll get different ones,” says Bridger.
3. Be flexible on holiday dates
“If you can be flexible about the day, time or even the month you fly, you could save serious money on the cost of your flight,” he says. “Flying very early in the morning or the evening can save you some serious cash if you’re willing to get to your destination later in the day. Utilise comparison tools such as Skyscanner to see where the biggest savings are.”
Skyscanner’s 2019 Flight Insights report found that Friday is the cheapest day of the week to fly.
4. Look outside the Eurozone
If you’re in the UK, it’s likely the value of the pound will face more uncertainty as Brexit approaches.
“There are other destinations outside the EU where the pound remains strong or has even strengthened,” says Bridger. “To get the most value for money, we recommend choosing a holiday destination where your pound will go further, which might mean looking outside the Eurozone in 2020.
“Destinations where Brits can enjoy excellent value include Turkey, South Africa, Poland, Romania and Morocco. The ongoing weakness of Turkish lira means that holidaymakers can see their pounds stretch more than 14% further in Turkey today compared to January 1 2019.”
5. Get the best deal on your currency
If you’re worried about the value of your home currency going down, Bridger says you could hedge your bets and exchange some money now and some just before you travel.
“Avoid buying your holiday money at the airport where the fees are much higher,” he says. “Instead, opt for convenience and security by shopping for your travel money at home using a click and collect or home delivery service.”