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Give your wallet a holiday

CONSUMER RIGHTS Trim the cost of your trip by picking the best websites or house swapping — or wear some of your luggage, writes Eithne Dunne

The summer holiday looms and while it is always tempting to throw caution to the wind, a little forethought can help shave the cost of the annual family trip.

A good first step to nabbing a money-saving deal is to sign up to your favourite travel, airline and hotel websites. Sarah Slattery of The Travel Expert recommends the Irish Travel Agents Association website (itaa.ie), on which more than 100 travel agents post their best deals, with “best travel deals” posted each Tuesday. Elsewhere, clickandgo.com has an offers section where you can select “sun destination” or “city destination” for a given month.

PACKAGE OR DIY?
Though popular, DIY online booking comes with hazards. Aine Carroll, director of communications and market insights at the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), says that if you book parts of your holiday yourself, you won’t get the same protections as a contract with a travel agent or tour company. If anything goes wrong, you could be more out of pocket than if you had a package.

“These protections include the ability to transfer the holiday to someone else, provided you give reasonable notice,” says Carroll. “You also have to be given alternatives if the holiday is cancelled or if there is a substantial change to the holiday booked.”

People booking online should also watch for extra costs. A screening of 352 price comparison and travel booking websites across the EU in October found that prices were unreliable on two thirds of the sites. In some cases items were added to the price at a late stage, without clearly informing the consumer.

FLYING
For DIYers, skyscanner.ie is a good port of call, especially if you are not fussy about a destination. Enter “everywhere” and see what comes up. You can also register for price alerts and compare flight prices across a whole month. Slattery also recommends kayak.ie. It covers flights, hotels, car hire and package deals. “They will tell you whether they expect prices to reduce and send alerts if they do,” she says.

Avoiding peak times such as Christmas, Easter and school holidays will save money straight away. November is the cheapest month to take to the skies from Ireland. If you must escape during school holidays, travel as late as possible.

Consider indirect flights: they can be less expensive. Also it is not always cheaper to book both legs of your journey with the same airline. Look at flying out with Ryanair and back with Aer Lingus or vice versa, says Slattery.

The best time to book varies by destination. According to Skyscanner, people flying from Ireland to Paris can save up to 45% on the average price by booking seven weeks ahead; for Ireland to Manchester they can save 41%, but only if they book 17 weeks ahead.

Finally, if you find low air fares online only to see the “bargain” increase in price when you go to book some days later, try deleting cookies from your web browser. A cookie is a piece of data sent by a website and stored on your computer as you browse. “Some airlines have been known to increase the cost of flights when you return to their website,” says Slattery. “They store your cookies and can tell when you search for the same flights a second or third time.” Find instructions on how to delete cookies from your browser by searching online.

ACCOMMODATION
If the idea of a stranger living in your home does not put you off, then house swapping is a money saver.

Isabelle Kilroy and her family, who live in a three-bedroom terraced house in Dundrum, Dublin, have swapped houses for five summers. She and husband Ian travel with their boys, aged six and eight, and have been to France, Denmark, the Canaries, Portugal and the US. This summer they have a house in Milan.

The Kilroys tried home exchange because they could not afford to go abroad, apart from a week or two for French-born Isabelle to visit her parents. “This way, we can get a holiday for just the price of the flights,” she says.

They spent six weeks in Connecticut in a detached house with a huge garden, nabbed a designer home in Copenhagen over St Patrick’s weekend, and had a house with a pool outside Lisbon. Similar accommodation on Airbnb would attract a three-figure nightly charge for even the cheapest options. The families usually swap cars, too, which saves on car hire.

Home exchange services charge an annual fee, for which you should allow between €180 and €240.

CAR RENTAL
When booking car hire, be sure you know the cost of extras such as hiring a child seat and adding an extra driver. Look for a rental company that allows you to fill up the tank before you return the car; this will be cheaper than paying for a full tank of fuel up front (as some hire companies require).

Be wary of overpriced excess insurance policies at the car hire desk. Find out what excess your company charges and shop around for excess insurance on sites such as carhireexcess.com.

CASH AND PHONES
Within the eurozone, using a debit card in a cash machine or at a restaurant carries the same charges as at home. Outside the eurozone, individual transactions can cost as much as €3, according to the CPCC. If you use a credit card to get foreign currency from a cash machine, you will attract a currency conversion fee and a cash advance fee. Boosting your cash balance before travelling will at least eliminate the advance fee.

The new EU data roaming rules begin on June 15 and Irish mobile customers should be able to phone, text and surf within the European Union for the same price as at home. However, customers who enjoy “unlimited data” offers may find they don’t have the same privileges abroad. Irish holidaymakers will be able to call and text to their heart’s content from mid-June, but they may need to adopt a “buyer beware” stance when it comes to data usage.

LOGISTICS
If you are determined to avoid baggage charges, pack light and avoid checking in anything. For the extreme budget traveller, you can buy luggage jackets and “wear” some of your luggage.

“You will be surprised how many airlines’ hand luggage allowance is only 7kg,” says Slattery.

DESTINATIONS
In terms of destinations, Slattery says Turkey and Morocco are great value, and Greece is an excellent option. “Accommodation and the general cost of living is low in Greece,” she says.

“Alternatively, go off the beaten track in Portugal; Porto is a great-value city break. Canada is celebrating 150 years of confederation this year, and entrance to all national parks is free.”

A good first step to nabbing a money-saving deal is to sign up to your favourite travel, airline and hotel websites. Sarah Slattery of The Travel Expert recommends the Irish Travel Agents Association website (itaa.ie), on which more than 100 travel agents post their best deals, with “best travel deals” posted each Tuesday. Elsewhere, clickandgo.com has an offers section where you can select “sun destination” or “city destination” for a given month.

PACKAGE OR DIY?
Though popular, DIY online booking comes with hazards. Aine Carroll, director of communications and market insights at the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), says that if you book parts of your holiday yourself, you won’t get the same protections as a contract with a travel agent or tour company. If anything goes wrong, you could be more out of pocket than if you had a package.

“These protections include the ability to transfer the holiday to someone else, provided you give reasonable notice,” says Carroll. “You also have to be given alternatives if the holiday is cancelled or if there is a substantial change to the holiday booked.”

People booking online should also watch for extra costs. A screening of 352 price comparison and travel booking websites across the EU in October found that prices were unreliable on two thirds of the sites. In some cases items were added to the price at a late stage, without clearly informing the consumer.

FLYING
For DIYers, skyscanner.ie is a good port of call, especially if you are not fussy about a destination. Enter “everywhere” and see what comes up. You can also register for price alerts and compare flight prices across a whole month. Slattery also recommends kayak.ie. It covers flights, hotels, car hire and package deals. “They will tell you whether they expect prices to reduce and send alerts if they do,” she says.

Avoiding peak times such as Christmas, Easter and school holidays will save money straight away. November is the cheapest month to take to the skies from Ireland. If you must escape during school holidays, travel as late as possible.

Consider indirect flights: they can be less expensive. Also it is not always cheaper to book both legs of your journey with the same airline. Look at flying out with Ryanair and back with Aer Lingus or vice versa, says Slattery.

The best time to book varies by destination. According to Skyscanner, people flying from Ireland to Paris can save up to 45% on the average price by booking seven weeks ahead; for Ireland to Manchester they can save 41%, but only if they book 17 weeks ahead.

Finally, if you find low air fares online only to see the “bargain” increase in price when you go to book some days later, try deleting cookies from your web browser. A cookie is a piece of data sent by a website and stored on your computer as you browse. “Some airlines have been known to increase the cost of flights when you return to their website,” says Slattery. “They store your cookies and can tell when you search for the same flights a second or third time.” Find instructions on how to delete cookies from your browser by searching online.

ACCOMMODATION
If the idea of a stranger living in your home does not put you off, then house swapping is a money saver.

Isabelle Kilroy and her family, who live in a three-bedroom terraced house in Dundrum, Dublin, have swapped houses for five summers. She and husband Ian travel with their boys, aged six and eight, and have been to France, Denmark, the Canaries, Portugal and the US. This summer they have a house in Milan.

The Kilroys tried home exchange because they could not afford to go abroad, apart from a week or two for French-born Isabelle to visit her parents. “This way, we can get a holiday for just the price of the flights,” she says.

They spent six weeks in Connecticut in a detached house with a huge garden, nabbed a designer home in Copenhagen over St Patrick’s weekend, and had a house with a pool outside Lisbon. Similar accommodation on Airbnb would attract a three-figure nightly charge for even the cheapest options. The families usually swap cars, too, which saves on car hire.

Home exchange services charge an annual fee, for which you should allow between €180 and €240.

CAR RENTAL
When booking car hire, be sure you know the cost of extras such as hiring a child seat and adding an extra driver. Look for a rental company that allows you to fill up the tank before you return the car; this will be cheaper than paying for a full tank of fuel up front (as some hire companies require).

Be wary of overpriced excess insurance policies at the car hire desk. Find out what excess your company charges and shop around for excess insurance on sites such as carhireexcess.com.

CASH AND PHONES
Within the eurozone, using a debit card in a cash machine or at a restaurant carries the same charges as at home. Outside the eurozone, individual transactions can cost as much as €3, according to the CPCC. If you use a credit card to get foreign currency from a cash machine, you will attract a currency conversion fee and a cash advance fee. Boosting your cash balance before travelling will at least eliminate the advance fee.

The new EU data roaming rules begin on June 15 and Irish mobile customers should be able to phone, text and surf within the European Union for the same price as at home. However, customers who enjoy “unlimited data” offers may find they don’t have the same privileges abroad. Irish holidaymakers will be able to call and text to their heart’s content from mid-June, but they may need to adopt a “buyer beware” stance when it comes to data usage.

LOGISTICS
If you are determined to avoid baggage charges, pack light and avoid checking in anything. For the extreme budget traveller, you can buy luggage jackets and “wear” some of your luggage.

“You will be surprised how many airlines’ hand luggage allowance is only 7kg,” says Slattery.

DESTINATIONS
In terms of destinations, Slattery says Turkey and Morocco are great value, and Greece is an excellent option. “Accommodation and the general cost of living is low in Greece,” she says.

“Alternatively, go off the beaten track in Portugal; Porto is a great-value city break. Canada is celebrating 150 years of confederation this year, and entrance to all national parks is free.”

Edward Thompson
Edward Thompson

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