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Summer holiday money management – how to make your travel budget go further

summer holiday money management

Everyone loves going on holiday, but just how many Brits will spend more on holiday than they need to.

Did you know that the average British family holidays twice a year, spending more than £6,000, which represents a quarter of the household disposable income AND holidays typically cost £855 per person each time though a quarter of holidaymakers splash out £1,000 or more? (According to the Nationwide’s 2018 spending report) So, we are not talking insignificant sums of hard-earned cash!

Did you also know that UK holidaymakers spend almost £1 billion a year at airports just to “get rid” of foreign currency?  It’s also frightening how many people tell me they borrow money to go away.

We work hard all year to be able to enjoy our holidays, so having good money management to make every penny count will help you get the most from your trip. Here I want to share some of my ‘quick wins’ to help your summer holiday budget go further – and it’s not too late to prepare a budget and look at the best and cheapest option to afford your holiday.

Raise extra cash before you leave

Pull together a holiday budget.  First, make a list of all the items you’ll need to take care of before you go: i.e. Travel money, Travel insurance, Accommodation, Sun cream and toiletries, Travel (flights or fuel costs), Holiday clothes and swimwear, Car hire (and car excess insurance).  Remember to hunt around for the best bargains online.  Second, think about the day-to-day expenses on holiday like: Excursions, Holiday treats, Entertainment, Food and drink, Duty Free and Airport transfers.  This will give you a rough guide of how much money you will need.

There are things you can do that’ll help you find extra money that you can put towards your HOLIDAY MONEY:  Some ideas are to sell things on eBay, look at Airbnb, check your getting all the benefits you are entitled to; reduce spending, make the weeks running up to your holiday alcohol free (it will help your liver too), downshift your supermarket shopping in the run up to the holiday.  Check out for other ideas.

Cheaper air travel

If you’re booking flights only, then don’t forget to compare. lets you compare prices simply on any device as does and  It’s all about using the right tool and service to get the cheapest flights.  If it’s just cheap hotel rooms that you are after I often use to compare rooms and is great if you want to delay payment to give you time to build up reserves.

Better plastic

When you’re using your plastic, it’s easy to be caught out by hidden fees and poor exchange rates.  I’m a big fan of the Monzo card, which offers a debit card that you can charge up before you travel. Based on the Mastercard exchange rate, you’ll pay no fees to use it abroad in just about any currency, so it keeps your spending simple. You can also withdraw up to £200 cash for free in any 30-day period.

Via your smartphone, Monzo will also keep track of how much you’ve spent in sterling, and lets you know the exchange rate after you land.  The Revolt card is another good example

Alternatively, although I am not a big fan if you’re not good with money, credit cards including Halifax Clarity, the Post Office and Saga offer fee-free transactions overseas, but you should only use a credit card if you’re financially organised and have a direct debit set up to clear your balance each month to avoid interest charges.

Other cards can add 3% in fees when used abroad, which might not sound like much but can quickly add up to a nasty surprise when you get home.

Never exchange cash at the airport…and always pay in currency of the Country you are in

If you prefer cash to cards, then get your currency before you reach the airport. Exchange rates are horrendous at the departure lounge, because you’ve no other choice by that stage.

Use an online comparison tool to search for the best exchange rates before you travel, keeping a close eye on the fees charged and not just the headline rate. It’s well worth spending a little time calculating the amount you’ll end up receiving from each provider once the fees are factored in.  My favourite is:

Don’t forget – If they ask, “Pay in pounds or Euros?” The answer’s Euros.  This question is becoming more common when paying or using ATMs in Europe. If you say “pounds” it means the foreign bank or shop is doing the conversion for you, and it’s usually at a worse rate than if you let your own bank do it by saying “Euros”. This is especially true if you’ve got one of the specialist overseas cards.

A long delay can bring compensation

EU law dictates that a flight delay of two hours or more means you’re entitled to compensation on certain routes into or out of the UK, EU, Iceland, Norway and Switzerland. Amounts vary according to where you’re departing from or going to, and how long you’ve been held back.

To claim, you’ll need to contact the airline. It’s free and simple to do online on most carriers, so you don’t need a third party to claim for you. If the airline is unresponsive, you can elevate your claim to the Civil Aviation Authority or the official ADR providers and

Avoid the numerous companies who charge for reclaiming, it really is a simple and easy process that you can do yourself.  I would start with who are a free service.   If your delayed flight was into or out of Europe, you could be entitled to up to €600 in compensation. … EU law EC 261 says you can file a claim for cash compensation if you arrive at your destination more than three hours later than planned.

Arrange your car hire at home…

It’s simple and fast to shop around online to get the best car hire deals. If you wait until you get to your destination, you run the risk of your costs going through the roof: double the price of an internet quote is not uncommon.

Sites like or offer easy comparisons and great deals. The major rental firms also all publish rates on their websites.

…and your insurance too

You’ll be offered accident excess insurance by pretty much very car hire firm, and because the excess for any claim you make (even for a paint scratch) is usually, well, excessive (£500+), it’s something you should take out.

But the rates you’ll be quoted are often around £10 per day or more. Instead, arrange an excess policy before you leave via a site like, and you’ll save a pretty penny.

Travel insurance matters

Make sure you have insurance in place before you book your trip, or you won’t be covered in the event of cancellation. Travel insurance needn’t cost a lot, but it sure will if you don’t have it.

If you plan on travelling overseas more than once in the next 12 months, an annual travel policy is often cheaper than single-trip plans. Either way, use an online comparison tool to get the best rates.  I would start with or

Weigh and measure your luggage

Whether you are travelling with hand baggage only or checking bags into the hold, be absolutely sure that they are below the size and weight restrictions imposed by the airline before you leave for the airport. Excess charges are swingeing.  Excess baggage fees can be brutal.


The biggest mistake travellers make is thinking the more you spend, the better the experience. By veering off the more expensive tourist path, you can adhere to budget while gaining a deeper perspective of place.

Limit attraction tickets and tours to a top-three list. 

Take a sceptical approach to “tourist cards” bundling multiple attractions. Examine each component for value to decide if it’s a deal. Will you really visit all seven museums included? If not, it may be smarter to buy individual tickets.

Free events at the resort

Close to departure, search “destination name” and “free events,” and you will find gold. From walking tours to art gallery openings, most cities are overflowing with free to low-cost entertainment.

Food & Drinks on holiday

Try a new restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but these costs literally eat into your budget. Instead, stock up on snacks for your room and try to limit your dining out to once per day. Lunch will often be less costly than dinner, giving you the chance to try local cuisine without the mark up of dinner prices.   Check out local markets where vendors are cooking up fresh, regional specialties for cheap. Plan a picnic in a park sourced from local goods. Big savings come when you eat and drink from the region where you are traveling.  Order a margarita in Italy, for example. Expect to pay a premium. Instead, try a glass of house wine, usually selected by an expert at balancing taste and affordability. Pro tip: In wine regions, ask locals where they buy to connect directly with the producer.  Search “destination name” and “happy hour” and watch deals materialize.

Getting around

Skip expensive car rentals and taxis. Instead join locals on the bus or train for a real sense of daily life in the city. Also, for getting around, consider sharing a ride through BlaBla Car, which is usually less expensive than a bus or train ticket on the same route.

Try out less obvious forms of accommodation

Lodging Sure, part of the joy of traveling for you may be staying in a luxury hotel. Consider a balanced approach: splurging on a posh room for a few nights then sharing space with a local or renting a short-term apartment through Couchsurfing, Airbnb, or VRBO. Usually you get more space for less cost, plus gain valuable insight on your destination from a built-in local expert: your host.

Research travel passes and plan routes

Where possible, walk everywhere and anywhere you can! But when you need public transport, be sure to do some research before you buy. Transport passes can help you save a significant amount on tickets and by planning your route in advance you may be able to get away with a restricted pass for less money.  It’s also worth finding out if your destination offers sightseeing passes. These can include free or discounted admission to popular tourists’ spots and may even include free access to public transport.

Apply for an EHIC card It’s essential!

It’s not too late to apply for the European Health Insurance Card will enable you to access state-provided healthcare in European Economic Area countries for free or at a discounted rate.  It also entitles you to the same treatment as locals so if it’s free for them, it will be free for you. This is extremely useful in medical emergencies so make sure you keep it on you at all times.  It’s well worth applying for, and while it shouldn’t be used as an alternative to travel insurance, it can help cover your treatment until you return to the UK.  Apply now for your free EHIC card at the official website. The card is free so beware companies charging for this.

More Quick Wins

  • Take freebies from the hotel room
  • Take something from the breakfast bar for lunch
  • Take your own refreshments onto the flight (no alcohol of course)
  • Drink in the room before you go out for the night
  • Weigh down hand luggage rather than the suitcase
  • Wear extra clothes on the flight and avoid baggage costs
  • Sleep on the plane to avoid paying for that extra night’s accommodation

Oh, and don’t forget the bigger picture when you’re on the beach….

With a little more head space when we go away, it can be a great time to see the bigger picture. Think about any changes you can make when you get back home to get more financially organised. Pick up a copy of The Money Plan for your beach reading and make your next trip even more special!

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