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Martin Lewis: Booking your holiday? Here are my top 10 money-saving tips

Are you planning your summer holiday already? Following Martin Lewis's top tips could save you money. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire.

Are you planning your summer holiday already? Following Martin Lewis's top tips could save you money. Photo: Nick Ansell/PA Wire.

It’s cold, wet, and miserable, so no wonder this is the peak summer holiday booking period.

However, with the pound recently at a 32-year low against the dollar, and matching the awful rates of 2013 against the euro, this year it’s likely to be a challenge to get a decent price.

Here are my top tips for keeping costs down.

1. Choose your card wisely when spending abroad.

Most credit cards add a 3% ‘non-sterling transaction fee’ which means £100 of euros costs £103 and some then load other charges on top.

Some specialist cards that don’t add that fee. So you get that day’s same near-perfect rate that the banks do, in every country. My top two long term picks, as well as good exchange rates, have low cash fees - the www.creation.co.uk Everyday card and www.halifax.co.uk Clarity.

Yet only do this if you’ll repay the card in full each month, to avoid the 18.9% ish representative APR.

For top cards and an eligibility calculator, see www.mse.me/payabroad
2. One hotel room can have hundreds of prices.

Once you know what hotel you want, always check to see if it’s being sold cheaper elsewhere, use comparison sites www.trivago.co.uk and www.travelsupermarket.com for a wide ranging search (and always call the hotel to see if it’ll beat the price). The difference can be hundreds of pounds.

3. With car hire, book it early and buy insurance elsewhere. If hiring abroad, generally early booking is cheaper, what costs £10 a day now can be £40 a day when you get there.

First, do a comparison to find your cheapest - try www.kayak.co.uk, www.carrentals.co.uk and www.skyscanner.net.

Then check stealth fuel charges. Some try and make you pay for a full tank and return it empty - adding £80ish if you don’t drive far. Filter your results by fuel policy.

Lastly. don’t fall for their insurance up-sell. When you pick up a car they’ll often try and fear sell you up to £25/day insurance on top – to cover the large excess if you have any claims. If you’ll pay for this, instead use excess insurance comparison site www.moneymaxim.co.uk before you go and you can often find a policy from £2 a day.

4. Find best holiday cash in seconds. Just use my www.travelmoneymax.com site which compares 30 online bureaux to find which gives you the best rates in seconds, factoring all fees.

5. Speedily find the cheapest flights. My top comparison site picks are www.skyscanner.net, www.kayak.co.uk and www.momondo.co.uk which include most airlines and booking sites like Expedia and ebookers.

Yet if you really want to slash flight costs you need to get clever, such as using ethnic specialist travel agents and checking out airline code sharing deals. For full help see www.mse.me/cheapflights.

6. Don’t forget the good old fashion package holiday. Package holidays are where you usually get flights, hotels and transfers in one. They can still be the cheapest especially if you’re going away for 7, 10 or 14 days in a traditional holiday destination like Benidorm.

Both www.travelsupermarket.com and www.icelolly.com have comparison sites. You can then check with other agents to see if they’ll beat the price.

7. Book travel insurance AS SOON as you book the holiday. Every year people email me saying something sadly akin to, “I’m due on holiday in a few months, but I’ve just been given a cancer diagnosis and can’t go, the airline won’t let me cancel, what can I do?” The answer is ‘that’s what travel insurance is for’. Yet many people only book it just before they go.

Full help is at www.mse.me/travelinsurance.

8. If you’ve booked with Easyjet, keep checking the price. If your Easyjet price drops after you’ve booked it – excluding in a sale – you can just call it up to ask for the difference back in vouchers. Jo emailed: “We got an £803 voucher... all thanks to you.”

9. Check if your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is still valid. The free EHIC means if you’re in an EU (and a few others) country you can use a state GP or hospital for the same price as a local, so if it’s free for them, it’s free for you.

But 5.3 million of them expired last year. If you need a new one, get one for free at www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC

But don’t Google this - you’ll find shyster sites trying to charge you to do it who add nothing to the process.

10. Be careful boozing on holiday. If you’re going to drink heavily on holiday, remember this may invalidate your travel insurance claim.

So take it easy, and if you won’t take it easy, at least think about what belongings you’re taking with you!

Martin Lewis is the Founder and Chair of MoneySavingExpert.com.

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