How to holiday abroad without breaking the bank

Everyone needs a break at some point. Even those of us working our dream jobs come to a point a few times a year where everything seems like a struggle. If you're feeling exhausted and burnt out then chances are you could do with a rest. But, for most of us, choosing a holiday destination isn't just as simple as putting a pin on a map. Budget plays a key role in dictating where we can afford to travel to and we often play it safe by visiting the same old holiday resorts again and again. However, it doesn't have to be like that and with a few tried and tested strategies you can have a holiday to remember without breaking the bank.

Finding a good deal

The internet has totally revolutionised the world of holiday booking. Whereas in the past a visit to a high street travel agent was step one of booking a holiday, it's now more likely to be Google or Bing where holiday makers start their journey. Let's look at some of the options available to you when searching for a bargain holiday.

Flight comparison websites

One of the biggest shocks to the system for the travel industry has been the birth of flight comparison websites like Skyscanner, Kayak, Momondo, Expedia and more recently, Google Flights. Users simply input their planned holiday dates and the location they would like to visit and the comparison websites produces a list of available flights in price order. This allows the user to find the cheapest flight possible at the specific time and date they request, effectively cutting out the middle man – or holiday agent. However, you are left to your own devices in terms of booking your transfers and accommodation. If you want to get the best deal possible then try and be as flexible you can with your dates and maybe consider some winter sun in Morocco or the Canaries rather than travelling in the summer holidays when prices are at a premium.

Extra tips:

  1. When using flight comparison websites always do so in 'incognito' or 'private' mode on your browser. Some websites store your most recent searches and then inflate the cost the next time you perform the search so you end up paying more. Do your search under the radar to avoid paying extra.
  2. Another good tip to remember when using Skyscanner is that if you pick your dates, which airport you want to fly from and then type 'everywhere' in the destination, the results will show you all the available destinations that you can fly to from that airport. A great tool if you're stuck for ideas of where to go and want to see where the cheapest destinations are.

Travel Agents

Whether you should use a traditional travel agent rather than booking everything yourself online really comes down to your needs. Using a travel agent drastically cuts down the time it takes to book a holiday for most people. When booking everything yourself you have to spend lots of time researching. You need to find a good flight, find a good hotel and read the reviews and book all your own transfers. However, by using a travel agent you can have the whole ordeal over and done with in no time at all. What's more, travel agents tend to have lots of specialist knowledge of holiday destinations and can sometimes get you special packages and upgrades that wouldn't be available online. However, be aware that travel agents often work on commission which means it's not in their interest to get you the cheapest price possible. This is why if you're trying to save money you should always take a couple of days to research recommendations from your travel agent before you book anything – scouring the internet for a cheaper price.

All inclusive or self catering

One of the great dilemmas that people face when booking a holiday is whether to go all-inclusive or self catering. Some people prefer to go self-catering because they like the independence, while others like their every need catered for so opt for all inclusive packages. In terms of saving money, it can work both ways. If there are just two of you then so long as you have basic catering facilities you can keep food costs low by sourcing your meals from local food markets. On the other hand if you are planning a family holiday then you might find that having drinks, snacks and meals available on site helps too and means you only have to worry about spending money. There is no right or wrong choice here as both options can save money for different types of holiday makers.

Extra tips:

  1. If you do decide to go self catering then hiring an apartment from a provider like Air BNB may be a good option. Rather than staying in a hotel or bed and breakfast you hire out a room, apartment or entire house and many will have full cooking facilities to be enjoyed.
  2. If you go all inclusive then be careful to plan your day out carefully so that you aren't caught short whilst away from your hotel. Be resourceful and ask if it's OK for you to have your leftovers, or pack some light food up to take away for the day. Hotels are often happy for you take away food that would otherwise be wasted on quiet days.

Paying for your holiday

Cash or Card

One of the first financial decisions that you'll need to wrestle with is whether to pay for your holiday on a credit card or with cold hard cash. Generally speaking it is much better to pay for your holiday with your own money, if you can afford to do so. Paying for your holiday on a credit card might mean that you can go on holiday sooner, but you'll most likely have to pay more for it in the long run. Stats from the Money Advice Service show that most holiday makers end up paying £300 more in fees when paying for their holiday on a credit card. One of the perks of paying for a holiday on credit card is that you may be protected should the airline or holiday company go bust, but for many people it makes more sense to save that extra £300 in credit fees and put it towards their holiday.

Extra Tips:

  1. If you're unable or unwilling to pay for your holiday on credit then make sure you are motivated to save, save, save! Budgeting software programmes like Pear Budget and Mint can help you to cut your expenses and meet saving goals, but good old fashioned post it notes can be just as effective.

Paying for essentials

It's a good idea to think far in advance about what you'll need to prepare, and spend money on for your holiday. Here are some essentials to remember and a few ways to save some cash.

  • Travel insurance is absolutely essential for holidays outside of the UK and you can often find good deals on comparison websites. The last thing you want is to skip over insurance and accidentally have a fall or contract an illness. It can also cover you for cancelled flights and lost luggage.
  • Visas are needed in order for you to travel to some countries and more often than not they incur a fee. Don't delay applying, there can be lots of red tape to get through when travelling to some countries and while some applications can be filled out online you might need to fill out and send off paper documents or even make a visit to the nearest embassy for an interview process.
  • Vaccines and immunisations protect you from tropical diseases – you should arrange a visit to your local GP or nurse to discuss what jabs you and your family may require. Most injections are covered under the NHS but some may incur a cost.
  • Travel to the airport – you'll need to arrange your transport to get you on your flight. If you're driving then this means finding a car park. If car parking looks particularly expensive then have a look around to see if it might be possible to park elsewhere and get a taxi or public bus for the last leg of your journey. If you aren't driving yourself then you should think about how you might be able to get there by other means such as a train, public bus or perhaps a lift from friends or family.
  • Mobile costs – If you want to avoid a nasty phone bill then speak to your mobile phone operator before you use your phone abroad. Many networks offer free roaming internationally now but some countries still aren't covered so it's best to check.
  • Spending money can be obtained either before you leave for holiday or while you're abroad but if you're trying to save the pennies then take a look at the exchange rates and pick the best method for you.
  • Holiday supplies are your last essential. Sun cream, mosquito spray, sunglasses or other climate specific clothes/equipment and of course your suitcases. Only by what you need, borrow where you can and try and scout the best deals on the internet for anything that you do need to buy.

While on holiday

Holiday saving doesn't stop once you're on holiday, if you want to stretch your budget as far as you can then you need to remain frugal while out and about. Here are some techniques and strategies to follow.


Assuming that you aren't planning on spending all day, every day at the beach then you'll most likely want to be out and about seeing the sights. Excursions are often a great way to do this. However, it always pays to look up prices in advance. Some trips to museums, castles or natural landmarks might be far cheaper if booked online and you may find from reading reviews on websites like TripAdvisor that you don't really need a tour guide, and there might not even be an entry fee. So, always do your research.

Walking is free

It's easy to fall into the trap of relying on taxis to get you around cities, but in most cases it's the most expensive way to travel around. Unless you're in a rush then try and make your way around by yourself. Many cities have affordable travel options like undergrounds, metros, trains and buses and you could always travel by foot. Ask your hotel or friendly looking locals for directions or search for the route on Google Maps.

Extra tips:

  1. Sometimes travel providers and tourist destinations will group together to offer special discounts to tourists. For instance you might be able to get a bus pass which allows you unlimited travel to all the top tourist sites, or a pass which allows you access to multiple museums.
  2. Be sure to research local customs. We all know about bartering but did you know that in some restaurants in Europe and in particular in Italy, you can save money by ordering your drinks at the bar rather than taking up a table? Draught beer also tends to be less expensive than bottled beer and in some countries its good manners to tip the cleaner in public toilets.

Do you have any special tips for getting the most out of your holidays for the smallest amount of money? Tweet us at @TimeForYouGroup and let us know.