Sunday, 18 March 2012

How to have a super-cheap minibreak

Have you ever picked up a super-cheap holiday package - only for the costs to somehow spiral out of control?

One minute, you're patting yourself on the back after bagging a 'flights + hotel' deal for under £100. The next, you're stepping back off the plane, wondering how you managed to spend well over twice that. Here's how to dodge all those extra costs, so you really can have a super-cheap minibreak...

Getting to the airport
These days, travelling to a UK airport can sometimes cost more than the cost of the flight! But it doesn't have to be that way.

If you're going by public transport, try to avoid specialist, 'airport shuttle/express' train services. Very often there will be other, regular train or coach services that visit the airport too, and cost far less to use. Just remember that - because these are usually stopping services - you'll need to allow more time for your journey.

Airport parking prices are the stuff of nightmares. It gets much more costly if you book parking at the last minute; so at the very least, book a week or more in advance.

Even better, investigate some private parking alternatives. Sites like ParkAtMyHouse and YourParkingSpace help you find parking spaces - let by private homeowners - near the airport of your choice. The rates are likely to be a fraction of those charged by official airport car parks.

What not to do with your credit card
It's always a bad idea to use your credit card to withdraw cash - for several reasons:

- You're likely to be charged a set withdrawal fee (around £1-£2) each time you do it.
- A massive rate of interest will be charged on the amount withdrawn.
- This rate will kick in immediately (rather than in a month's time, as with other credit card transactions).

However, when you're on holiday, financial good sense often goes out the window - and suddenly you're using credit cards to withdraw cash all over the place.

Don't do it! Instead, make sure you convert enough currency in advance, or use a debit card designed for fee-free withdrawals overseas.

Currency conundrum
Which brings us on to currency conversion. In all the rush and excitement, many of us end up getting our foreign currency at the airport.

Unfortunately, this is effectively pouring money down the drain: You may see a sign saying '0% commission', but the actual conversion rate you're offered is likely to be absolutely awful.

Instead, use a good value online currency conversion service and get it sorted well in advance. This Guide shows you where to get the best currency deals at the moment.

Do. Not. Touch!
An oldie but a goodie: Don't, whatever you do, touch the minibar. The drinks prices are usually astronomical and almost never specified - and of course, the more you drink, the less you care!

And finally, you should also be very wary of consuming any hotel extras you assume are 'complementary'. A friend drank a bottle of mineral water she found positioned by her hotel bed, assuming it was a nice freebie. When she came to pay the bill, she realised that water had set her back an extra £5! 

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