Spring has sprung, and that taste of sunshine means it’s time to think about getting away on holiday.
You now have a lot more options than just what the travel agent shows you. And it could work out far cheaper too. We’ll show you the apps, websites, tips and tricks you need to know to save yourself time and money, and get the most value out of your well-earned break.
1. Be inspired
There’s nothing wrong with travel agents and holiday brochures, but there’s a whole world of vacation inspiration on the web waiting to be discovered. The advantage? These options can be a lot more niche, specialising in a certain region, age group, type of holiday, or specialist need while travelling (if you have limited mobility, for example).
Those with a sweet tooth should check out The Sweet Wanderlust. This blog is run by a Texan named Brittany who shares her love of sweet treats and adventurous trips including bungee jumping and scuba diving. Even if you’re not into adventure sports, visit it just for the freakshakes.
Planning a family trip? Family Traveller is worth a look, as it specialises in family-friendly resorts and destination. And if you’re looking for more cultural excursions, head to Travel Past 50, a retirement blog focussed on history, museums, world heritage sites, national parks and the like.
These are just a sample of what’s available – search for your type of holiday (don’t forget to look on Facebook and Instagram too!) and you’re sure to find something you like.
2. Book your holiday
Everyone loves saving money, but remember: cheapest doesn’t always mean best. You should be looking for a good value deal rather than the lowest possible price. Most of us don’t get many holidays a year, so it’d be a shame to ruin it with a rundown resort or unreliable operator in order to save a few pounds here and there.
That being said, there are plenty of ways to save money without compromising on quality. Skyscanner is a great resource to find cheap flights, and if you’re flexible on where to go, head to Kayak and try the ‘anywhere’ search – ours threw up options as varied as Venice (£72), Moscow (£130) and Mumbai (£378).
There are also all sorts of deals websites – like Jack’s Flight Club, Momondo and Scott’s Cheap Flights – to find cheap flights. In most cases you have to sign up with your email address, and they’ll send you all kinds of cheap options.
Airbnb is a great choice if you don’t want a hotel. It lets you rent someone’s residence – either completely or just a room in it – giving you a better flavour of what it’s like to live where you’re going. It can also work out much cheaper, especially for big groups.
Finally, TripAdvisor is always worth a look, not just for reviews, but for ideas for day trips, attractions, and places off the beaten track. Its breadth of knowledge is almost unrivalled – if it’s not on there, it’s not worth visiting.
3. Manage your trip from your pocket
It’s not just websites that are an invaluable resource when planning your holiday. Apps can be a great help too. They’re simpler to use, and don’t require you to find a certain webpage in order to access the information you need.
Google Trips stores all your info like flight and hotel details in one place, and it lets you access it without an internet connection. Handy if you don’t have reception or wi-fi, or you don’t want to rack up a big roaming bill while abroad.
Need help packing? PackPoint suggests activities at your destination and will tell you what to pack, as well as reminding you about holiday essentials. You can share lists with friends and family, and it even uses the weather forecast to help you decide what to take. Brolly it is then.
And if you take the view that the holiday starts as soon as you get to the airport – which it should – there’s FLIO. This lets you take care of the airport essentials like booking parking, but it includes the fun stuff too, like lounges and experiences, and gives you discounts on food and drink too.
4. Get your holiday finances in order
It’s not the most exciting part of the run-up, but sorting out your holiday finances and taking care of the practicalities will leave you free to enjoy your break and not worry about things going wrong.
Your first port of call should be travel insurance. This covers things like your airline going bust or you getting ill while away. Check price comparison sites like Go Compare and Money Supermarket for the best deal, and make sure you check the small print so it covers your type of trip. You can buy it for one trip, but if you’re going away more than once a year, annual cover will work out much cheaper.
If you’re taking cash, changing it before you get to the airport will be much cheaper. Check the rates online to see who’s cheapest – Money Saving Expert’s comparison tool is very handy – and take a credit card that doesn’t charge you for use abroad, like Starling Bank’s. It doesn’t charge you for withdrawing cash abroad either, or any transaction or purchase fees, which could soon add up.
While you might like the idea of a digital detox while on holiday, you’re likely to use your phone abroad, either to check your emails, read the news or send a cheeky beach photo to people at home. So look into whether your mobile network charges for using it abroad. With BT’s Roam Like Home, you can use your phone in 47 global destinations without paying any extra.
5. Help it run smoothly with these apps
If you’re downloading apps to use abroad, it’s worth trying them before you travel and, if you're a fan of podcasts or streaming services, loading your device up with content for the journey. Check that you can still use apps abroad too - you can’t stream or download BBC iPlayer shows while out of the UK, for example, so you’ll want to download them beforehand.
Google Translate is by far the best way of understanding the locals and deciphering menus. It can even translate conversations – just press the microphone button and it’ll tell you what’s being said in real time.
Finally, careful you don’t go over your luggage allowance. The Kayak app lets you scan your bag to measure whether it’ll fit in your airline’s overhead compartment. Each airline’s allowance is different, so this will help avoid headaches at the airport.
Now you’re all set. Enjoy your travels!