Published Monday, 27 January 2014
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Slash flight costs using the right comparison
For scheduled flights, don't wait till the last minute as flight costs soar.
Cheapest price on normal flights: Here, use flight comparison sites like Skyscanner and Kayak.
Check cheap charter flights for resorts: Going on a traditional package holiday? Check for spare tour operator flights via Avro and Flights Direct.
Find the perfect time to book: Enter your flight details on comparison site Momondo, and then use the Flight Insight tab to find out when the perfect time to book is. On average 59 days ahead is best.
Find the cheapest price for your hotel room
Don't trust the star system. It isn't standardised worldwide and is often about facilities, not quality. The ubiquitous TripAdvisor's reviews help, and it has a basic price comparison function too. As a rough rule of thumb: ignore the best and worst 10% of reviews.
Then double-check comparisons sites including Trivago to see if the room you're lusting after is cheaper elsewhere.
If you're looking for the really big bargains, you need to get clever.
- Uncover secret hotels. Lastminute.com and Hotwire sell secret hotels, where you get big discounts but aren't told the name till you've paid. But there are a number of tricks you can use to uncover secret hotels' identities before you pay, such as Googling key phrases from the description.
- For HUGE discounts - Priceline bidding loophole. Fiddly, complex but devastatingly lucrative. Holiday booking site website Priceline lets you bid for rooms based on how much you're willing to pay. Win, and you pay that price. Lose, and you don't pay anything. The problem is you're normally allowed only one bid in a day - but there are tricks you can use to manipulate the system to get far more (such as adding an area you don't want to stay in, but that doesn't have suitable hotels). It's complex, but use this and you can massively save, as one person reported back: "Just booked a hotel in NYC for 7 nights at £518. Direct price with hotel: £2,118."
See Martin's step-by-step help: Martins tricks to uncover secret hotels and bidding loopholes.
Package holidays can undercut DIY web bookings
If you're booking 7, 10 or 14 days away in a traditional resort, package holidays can often be cheaper than DIY web bookings - and with extra protection. For prices skimpier than Rihanna's bikini, book very late. Yet if you need special facilities (eg, for families), book now. And don't think prices are fixed - you can often haggle travel agents down to shave more off.
Build your own protection
Package holidays have been protected under the Atol scheme for a long time, so you're owed money back or help coming home if something goes wrong.
But since 2012, if you book a flight plus separate hotel or car hire together (or within 24 hours) from the same travel (not airline) website, you now get Atol protection, just as with a package holiday.
Plus, if you book flights and a hotel together, websites Expedia, Travelocity, Ebookers and Lastminute.com sometimes give extra discounts. Compare this to booking the cheapest flight and hotel separately to see if this protection 'costs' you.
Posh villas often undercut posh hotels
If you're going as a family or with friends, cheap villas may massively undercut similar quality hotels. A 3-bed Sicily villa was £375/week compared to £1,800 for a similar-quality hotel. Or consider renting rooms in homes, eg, Barcelona flat £26/night, similar hotel £61/night.
Check sites including HomeAway, Villarenters and the holiday rental section on TripAdvisor, which collates 500,000 listings from two big letting sites.
When choosing to rent, make sure you do your research first to check it's a legit operator and there is good feedback.
Also think carefully about how you pay. If possible book using a credit card so you're protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act if something does go wrong, if not, use a debit card - these have more protection than a bank transfer or cheque.
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