If, like me, you have been living in a bubble of being able to go on holiday whenever you want for the last four years, it can be a bit of a financial shock when your first born starts school. Suddenly your holiday window is reduced to the same six weeks as everyone else and prices seem astronomical.
Once you have got over the shock and start looking for a space to pitch a tent, you discover that availability is minimal because everyone else booked their holiday months ago. So what do you do?
Take a look at our Top 10 tips for finding a wonderful, yet affordable summer holiday:
1. Book early
Tour operators/hotels often offer early booking discounts such as free or discounted child places, free night deals, meal deals, or even room upgrade deals if you book by a certain date (normally around the end of February). You’ll also get the benefit of being one of the first to book so you don’t have to compromise on your departure date, hotel, room type or holiday length.
2.Book last minute
If on the other hand, you are flexible with your dates and don’t mind taking a risk then book late, i.e. six weeks or less before you want to travel. Tour operators have already paid for the hotel rooms/flights and they need to sell them to cover their costs so there are often some great deals. Clearly, you have to be quick and you can’t be picky but if you just want a quick week in the sun then this is a good option. This isn’t a good option if you are looking specifically for a family friendly hotel with Kids Club – these will all have been booked months ago.
3. Travel as late as possible
Most families are keen to go away as soon as school breaks up so prices will be high in late July and early August. Towards the end of the six-week break, families are keen to get home and prepare for ‘Back to School’ so prices tend to be lower in the last two weeks of the summer holiday.
4. Subscribe to newsletters for budget airlines and other travel websites
Be in the know by subscribing to the budget airline websites, Easyjet and Ryanair. They will inform you when flights for the summer are about to be released and you can be one of the first to book often at bargain prices. You will also be the first to know about any upcoming sales.
5. Use flight comparison sites
There are many websites that can help you on your way to find an affordable holiday. Flight comparison sites are incredibly useful. Our favourites are www.skyscanner.net and www.kayak.com. Skyscanner gives you the option to add nearby airports which increases your chances of finding an affordable flight plus you can filter by flight times if you categorically can’t face an evening flight with toddlers.
6. Be a savvy flier
Travel midweek to midweek
Flight prices are cheaper if you fly Tuesday to Thursday. This means you miss the Monday morning business travellers and those jetting off for a weekend mini-break. Avoid Fridays as this is consistently the most expensive day to fly.
Consider non-standard airports
Flights to non-standard airports tend to be cheaper. Sure, they tend to be further out but if you are planning to hire a car anyway then it shouldn’t make too much of a difference.
Fly between 6pm and midnight
If the kids travel well and if it’s just a short hop then an evening flight will help keep costs down.
Delete your browser history
Prices can increase based on the number of times you re-enter a particular website so make sure you clear your cache regularly. Sadly it’s not like ASOS, where if you repeatedly look at the same item, you eventually get an email with a 20% off voucher code.
7. Useful accommodation websites
In terms of the amount of space you get for your money, villa holidays are hard to beat. However, prices can vary considerably. You are likely to get the best deal if you contact the owner direct so for that reason we recommend HomeAway, Holiday Lettings and of course Airbnb. We also love looking at Alistair Sawday for inspiration and finding direct links to owner’s website.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a low-cost boutique hotel or something unusual then try the budget section of I-Escape, Cool Stays and Mr and Mrs Smith. I am a HUGE fan of I-Escape due to their honest reviews where they list the ‘Highs’ and ‘Lows’ of each property. You know how much I like lists.
Whilst booking flights and accommodation separately does gives you a lot more flexibility, they can work out more expensive than a package deal. So if it’s a package holiday (flights, accommodation plus sometimes food and drink) that you are after then there is a plethora of websites to help you narrow down the options. Our favourite is Holiday Pirates, but it’s also worth checking out Travel Supermarket, Travelzoo, Ice Lolly,
Or you could always house swap . . . www.nightswapping.com
8. Villa share
If you have your heart set on a villa but can’t quite stretch to a villa for you and your 2.4 children, how about finding a larger villa and invite the grandparents/friends? It often works out cheaper per person plus the added bonus is that these larger properties tend to have better amenities (larger gardens, pools, living space, etc.). It is such a well-known trick of the trade, that in the travel industry it is known as ‘Villa-nomics’.
For example, I found a fabulous gite in the Dordogne that slept four people but it was just too expensive for a week (£1200). I subsequently discovered a large chateau style holiday home nearby with a huge pool, large garden plus a cinema room that slept 10 people. I invited the grandparents and my sister’s family and suddenly the weekly charge when split three ways (£695 per family) seemed much more affordable. The other benefit of inviting the grandparents is the excellent babysitting opportunities.
9. Under-occupancy discount
Often villa owners and operators are happy to offer larger properties at discounted rates if the party is much smaller than capacity. So call/email the owner and see what they can do. For instance, I found a six bedroom villa in France but the 6th bedroom was surplus to requirements. Upon contacting the owner, she suggested that if we didn’t use one of the rooms she would give us a £150 discount. Voila!
10. Book direct
Avoid booking through a booking engine or agency and liaise directly with the hotel/B&B/cottage owner. As a reward, you could receive discounts, room upgrade or a complimentary extra night.
Over to you
What are your favourite tips for finding that amazing yet affordable summer holiday?