Everyone needs a good holiday. A short time to refresh the mind, invigorate the soul, or just kick back and enjoy the feeling of hot sand beneath your feet (or cold snow, if that's your preference). Sadly the act of actually booking these idyllic sojourns can cause a fair amount of stress and confusion, especially when you see the total cost of the trip. To aid you in your search for an affordable paradise we’ve gathered together some tips and tricks that could hopefully mean the difference between a coach to Brighton and a flight to Bali. Plus, here's how to get cheap flights online
How to get a cheap holiday online: Be flexible about your destination
When shopping for holidays online it’s good to be realistic about the kind of deal you’re going to get. If you want to go to the most popular places at peak season then the chances of a discount are obviously a lot less as there is little incentive for travel agents to sell them cheaply. That doesn’t mean you can’t get a bargain break though, all you need to do is be more flexible about where you’re headed.
Looking around for more unusual locations can present some interesting alternatives, with Croatia becoming a popular destination in recent years thanks to its beautiful scenery and relative proximity to the UK. One great way to search for a holiday without having to decide on a location beforehand is by using sites such as Icelolly, which enables you to leave the destination field blank. You’ll still see plenty of popular countries appearing on the list, but there’s also the bonus of stumbling onto something a little further off the beaten path.
If you're unsure about how best to book a holiday online in the first place, start here.
How to get a cheap holiday online: Be flexible about when you travel
Holiday prices are seasonal. Hot countries are generally more expensive to travel to when the sun is shining, and skiing destinations dip in price when the same conditions occur. Taking these factors into consideration, plus a little investigative work on sites like Weather2travel to see the history of temperatures in the area, you could choose a less popular time and still find that it’s a good deal nicer than home for a few weeks.
The day of the week you leave can also impact the overall cost, with midweek flights often proving cheaper. To this end be sure to enter multiple dates when looking for holidays, spread across a few weeks.
The biggest impact on the price of certain destinations is that of the school holidays. It’s an almost criminal sight for parents when they see the cost of taking their family away for a couple of weeks increase significantly once the schools break up.
If you don’t have kids then avoid traveling during these times, and instead take advantage of the price drops that happen the moment the children return to their studies. In truth there’s not a lot that can be done about this for families, but following the next two tips could lessen the blow.
How to get a cheap holiday online: Book early or book late
Travel agents want to ensure that all of their holidays are sold, which gives two windows of opportunity for customers. When holidays first become available, and are plentiful, you can often find decent discounts if you’re willing to book a long time in advance - pretty much a year or so.
The same is true when the date of departure is fast approaching and travel agents begin to panic over having empty rooms in hotels where paying customers should be. Sites such as Lastminute.com is famous for offering this precise service, but if you’re willing to go wherever the bargain winds will carry you then scouring holiday sites such as travelocity.com, expedia.com, travelsupermarket.com and the larger holiday companies could prove a rich hunting ground.
How to get a cheap holiday online: Haggle with the travel agents
Ok, this isn’t easy to do online and generally involves multiple phone calls. Plus it’s incredibly un-British, but if you are one of a bolder persuasion then you can play companies off each other to get the best deal for you. The idea is simple, find the same holiday on offer from different vendors, then call them to ask if they’ll beat the cheapest price. Rinse and repeat until you’ve got as low as they’ll go.
The important thing to remember here is that they don’t have to give you a discount, so be as polite and charming as you can. It matters.
How to get a cheap holiday: Build it yourself
Package holidays are an easy way to travel, as everything is taken care of by the package operator, but assembling one yourself is now a lot easier thanks to the internet. If you’re willing to spend some time shopping around for cheap flights and hotel rooms then your efforts could save quite a bit of money. This route also allows you break away from the traditional seven or fourteen day options, as you’re far more in control of the itinerary. Try sites such as cheapflights.co.uk, skyscanner.net, and fly.com most of which also offer hotel prices as well.
Remember if you’re going to build your own holiday you’ll need to buy travel insurance that protects against any of the hotels or airlines go out of business while you’re abroad. It’s unlikely, but you could lose all your money if it does happen, which would be a shame after working hard to save it in the first place.
Best of luck - you might want to download the most useful holiday apps while you're at it.