Tuesday, 21 January 2014

How to beat the January Blues with a Cheap Holiday Deal!

January can be a depressing time for some, with many people already dreaming of their summer escape to a more exotic locale. The January sale season can be a great time to grab a deal. Tour operators, travel agents and airline companies are all competing for your custom and reducing prices to get it. Since the start of the year, there has been a 10% jump in the number of people booking summer breaks. To ensure you get the best possible deal, you should take into account the following...

As with any deal always look at the very final price you will pay. Watch out for any add ons and hidden extras and then compare the cost with other deals. Be particularly aware of any small print which could make you liable for extra charges at the end of the trip, such as bed linen and electricity use for apartment hire.
If you want to travel in the off season, be very cautious about booking your holiday early unless you are sure you're getting a bargain. Both tour operators and travel agents often slash prices a month or so before departure, so often a last minute deal can be the cheapest. The problem with last minute deals is that you will usually have to compromise on destination, holiday type and when you go, but if you're flexible there are amazing bargains to be had.
Even when you think you've got a great deal, it's worth contacting rivals holiday providers and seeing if they can beat it. At this stage they're often desperate to get your custom.
Cheap Flights
January can be the best time to book flights, especially if you're travelling outside the peak summer months where airlines usually struggle to fill their seats, but you should always watch out for additional taxes and charges. 
For the month of January British Airways and Virgin offer discounts on most their long haul routes. Most airlines will release more discounted fares later in the year, so make sure you sign up to their mailing lists to get the deals first. 
Also remember that discount airlines are likely to charge you extra for baggage, this can be as much as £45 return with operators like Ryan Air.
Small Deposits
Many companies offer low upfront deposits in January to appeal to people strapped for cash after the Christmas period. However, when you pay the balance differs greatly. Some may require you to pay the balance eight weeks after booking or two weeks before departure. This can seriously effect your cash flow and ability to afford the holiday so make sure you check.
Children Go Free
Tour operators often offer this incentive to make you book early, typically though the child will already be sharing a hotel room with you anyway. So in reality the only "free" part of the offer is the child's meals and flights. These offers are an effective marketing ploy, but it may still be possible to find the holiday cheaper elsewhere without the offer.
You should get travel insurance straight away upon booking your holiday, so that if you are forced to cancel, you are covered. Buy this through an insurance company and not a travel agent. If you become ill and have to cancel your holiday, you cannot then take out insurance to cover your losses. Likewise, you cannot hear about potential serious disruption, such as a natural disaster, and expect to be able to claim unless you have already taken out cover.
Also check terms and conditions carefully. Many travel insurance policies do not cover losses if a holiday company goes bust. This leaves holidaymakers out of pocket if they have booked a flight and hotel separately, as DIY holidays are not Atol protected, unlike package holidays.
Often credit cards offer additional protection on your holiday, you should be able to get your money for payments up to £30,000 if the travel company goes bankrupt. Paying with some cards may incur charges, but it is worth it for the protection it offers. Look into which companies either cap credit card charges or charge nothing at all.
Hire Cars
Booking your hire car in January will save you money compared with later in the year, due to various deals and saving available. However, be aware of additional costs, which could add hundreds to the original quote. Fuel, additional drivers, car seats, insurance and the quality of the car can all effect the cost of the deal.
Price-match guantees
Once you've booked the holiday it is likely you'll wash your hands with the whole process until you are ready to pack. However, to take advantage of price match guarantees such as a Lastminute.com's, you need to make sure you can't find anything cheaper within 24 hour. If you do find a cheaper deal, they will refund the difference once you have sent them a screenshot of the better offer. Shopping around for the best deal initially is always the best course of action though.
Europe has recently been very expensive for the British tourist due to the Pound's weakness against the Euro. However with Sterling's recent rise, the prices in Euro Zone countries have become more favourable to a British tourist. 
So should you buy currency now, whilst the rate is favourable? Well this is not an exact science and the rate could go either way. If you want certainty buy now or put your money on a pre-paid card which will remain at today's rate. Although if sterling strengthens further you will lose out on any benefit. 
To find the best exchange rate try moneysavingexpert.com's travelmoneymax service. The number one advice with foreign currency is to never change cash at airports, which always has the worst deals.

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