Expert reveals travel hacks to save money on hotels and flights

As the cost of UK living spirals we’re all looking to cut back, and holidays are beginning to look like an unaffordable luxury.

But don’t worry, you can still afford a getaway – and a pretty nice one at that.

There are ways to precious travel cash on flights, hotel rooms and restaurants – all without stinting on comfort.

We spoke to travel experts with easy online hacks for grabbing a holiday bargain, from the apps to download to the best time to book flights.

Want hotel rooms for less?

Jen Avery, one half of the excellent Thrifty Nomads team, suggests investigating mystery hotel deals – variously called Hot Rate, Express Deals and Secret Deals.

‘These booking websites negotiate discounted rates on vacant rooms,’ she says. ‘Users, however, don’t learn their accommodation’s identity before purchase as hotels don’t want to publicly display such discounted rates.

‘As this is especially true of higher-end retreats wanting to save face, mystery deals often yield significant savings on five-star stays. When searching, you can select a price range and filters by star rating or location. Websites like BidGoggles also help to establish hotels’ (likely) identities.’

Otherwise, bargain hunters’ best tack is to utilise price- comparison sites. Avery rates HotelsCombined.com.

‘It aggregates results from Booking.com, Trip.com and so on, each of which can have unique deals or rates,’ she says.

Most comparison sites also offer reward programmes.

‘Booking.com’s free-to-join Genius Loyalty provides the best value,’ says Avery. ‘It’s tiered, so the more bookings made, the higher your ranking – and the greater your discounts.’

The top tier provides exclusive 10-20% savings, plus free upgrades and breakfast. ‘Those are also usable across many global hotels,’ adds Avery, ‘not just a narrow selection.’

Upgrade your stay: three more hotel tips

Sunday service

On city breaks, pick a business district. Unlike in tourist hotspots, occupancy is at its lowest on weekends, which is when you’ll find the cheapest rates.

Be special

If you’re coming to celebrate a birthday or anniversary, don’t be shy about telling your hotel, even subtly. Complimentary fizz or upgrades often result…

Pet perks

Dog-friendly rooms often rank among a hotel’s biggest or most secluded. So do travel with pooch if you can: you might not save money but you should see benefits.

Flights for the frugal

It’s a myth that booking air travel at the 11th hour brings bargains.

‘Last-minute flights tend not to be cheaper,’ says Nicky Kelvin, head of UK travel website The Points Guy. ‘Lower-price fares are actually reserved for purchases made at least 21 days ahead.

‘There’s no single best day of the week or month to book. Instead, being flexible with the days you travel is the way to find a great deal.’

Routes with plenty of options – eg, Vueling, British Airways and easyJet, which all fly daily from London to Barcelona during summer – often witness competitive fares, as do less obvious times.

Take Barcelona again: many people visiting are city-breakers travelling on Fridays and returning two days later. Do the opposite – depart on Sunday, fly back on Friday – and it’ll be less expensive as airlines struggle to fill those seats.

Kelvin debunks another common misconception.

‘It’s not true that prices rise when you search for flights multiple times,’ he says. ‘In fact, they just increase (or decrease) when cheaper fares sell out or discounted tickets become available, and price comparison sites like Skyscanner pull the latest available data.’

Essential apps

Claiming 95% accuracy, travel app Hopper predicts the times when your chosen flight will be cheapest – and thus the prime time to book. Colour-coded calendars reinforce this information.

Before dining abroad, make sure you’ve downloaded TheFork’s app. Exclusive deals or special menus offering discounts are available at restaurants in Europe, Australia and Latin America. A loyalty programme also soon generates price reductions on future meals.

Currensea is effectively a direct debit travel card for your existing current account. Use it, and overseas transactions won’t be subject to the usual 3% fee. No top-ups or pre-pays are required.

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