Get your holiday off to a flyer
From flights to currency exchange, families should be wary of travel pitfalls
It is clear the recession is over, if holiday plans are anything to go by. Research on behalf of Laya Healthcare has shown that almost €8bn will be spent on summer holidays in 2019, with less than one eighth spent on staycations. A lucky one in five people plan on taking at least three additional breaks along with their main holiday, with Spain heading the list again. This week, I'm looking at how to save money and avoid common mistakes which end up costing travellers more than they expected.
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Accidents requiring medical treatment, including food poisoning, trips and slips, severe sunburn and allergic reactions are the most common reasons to invoke travel insurance, according to the study. The reason it's first on my list is that it should be booked at the same time holidays are, rather than just before you fly. Some 40pc of all claims are made before the holiday.
The CCPC says 43pc of people have never taken out specific travel insurance, under the mistaken impression that their health insurance or airline will cover them. Not so.
Tip: Buy an annual, multi-trip policy. It's as cheap (or, perversely, even cheaper) than single trips. You should be able to find excellent cover for a family of four in Europe for €50, discounted for private health insurance.
- Use skyscanner.com to find cheap flights. Most of us just compare Ryanair and Aer Lingus, but 44 different airlines fly from Dublin Airport alone. - Consider Belfast as a departure airport. Sterling is good value and it has discount airlines like EasyJet to popular destinations.
- Use Booking.com, where it allows free cancellation up to a couple of days before departure; it's an in-built insurance in case you can't fly. Airbnb is great, but to save money, choose towns near universities - many offer their on-campus accommodation very cheaply during the summer.
- Download apps and maps for favourite attractions; many museums and galleries have podcast guides to avoid expensive guided tours or headsets.
- Visit off-peak or at night to avoid queues. Booking online, in advance, can also secure discounts, and facilitate a queue-jump.
- Transport passes are a great way of saving hassle and money. Buy on arrival at tourist information, or online if it's better value (it's not always; in Paris, for instance, the cost of posting out the travel pack makes it pointless). The London Oyster card has great food and drink discounts at a range of selected restaurants (10-20pc or two-for-one deals), along with discounted entry at popular attractions (tfl.gov.uk). It starts at £5, with pay-as-you-go credit. Under-11s travel free on buses and trams.
Despite an EU roam-like-home directive issued in 2017, many mobile providers are still capping their data allowances.
If you're on a decent monthly bill pay plan (e.g. €40), you'll probably be fine, but those on top-up or lower-priced alternatives should check in advance so they don't get a bill.
Sensible precautions like using Wi-Fi where you can and not streaming Netflix or Spotify while you're away will also help.
- Never use street kiosks to exchange currency; ignore 'no commission' signs - the mark-up is in the exchange rate, which can be outrageous. Buy in the Post Office before leaving (or your bank if you have a current account).
- Use your debit card where you can; never, ever withdraw cash using your credit card at an ATM.
Shortcuts: Tips to improve the airport experience
The airport is at its busiest during the summer. When travelling with a family, here are some tips to help smooth the passage.
1. Consider booking the DAA’s ‘fast-track’ option. It costs €5.95 to €7.99 each and will whizz you through security, with a free coffee, in 10 minutes (dublinairport.com).
2. Many holidaymakers think you can’t bring food on the plane – you can. So avoid
pricey plastic sandwiches, and bring your own (great for picky kids) instead. Also buy
bottled water airside for €1 using the honour boxes.
3. Boots (T1) and Pure Pharmacy (T2) have travel sizes of everything, and both are airside, so you don’t need to pack tiny plastic bags and juggle your items at security.
4. Medications, baby formula and milk are allowed if essential for use during the trip. Just alert security.
5. Ryanair and Aer Lingus allow pooling of baggage for people on the same reservation; two checked bags of 20kg each (40kg) can be split, by say 15kg and 25kg, within the same party. Book online; bags are much more expensive at check-in.