Holidays are one of our biggest annual spends. Flights, accommodation and travel can be the most significant cost but it doesn’t end there. Inevitably, holiday budgets are undermined by that sense of joy you get from two weeks in the sun. The spending recklessness that comes with it can play havoc with your finances. Most of us know we overspend on our annual break but where do we waste the most cash?
At the airport
Whether you’re buying entertainment for the kids or accidentally purchasing your window shopping, airports can be costly. Books and magazines, perfumes and aftershaves, food and celebratory drinks all add up. If you want to save money from the start then take food with you instead of buying expensive airport meals. Pre-plan how to keep the kids happy and make sure you don’t pack toys, colouring books etc into checked-in bags so you have to buy more. Allow yourself one item of tax free shopping and have a specific budget for it. That way you won’t take off with half your budget in the tills on the ground.
Everything you left at home
There’s no point trying to pack the kitchen sink and paying hefty extra luggage costs. However, throwing the minimum into a case an hour before you leave can be costly too. Create a packing list for all the basics – sunscreen, toiletries, towels, swimsuits – and plan for the weather. Remember that if you’re taking hand luggage only you’re going to be subject to liquids restrictions of 100ml. Local shops in tourist spots will charge you around four times the price for the basics than you’ll pay at home so it’s worth taking these with you.
The ‘on site shop’
Depending on your holiday destination you may have a shop in your hotel complex or camp site. This is one of the biggest budget defeaters on a holiday – especially if you have kids – it’s always open and always overpriced. Most of the products on offer are expensive souvenirs or ice creams that cost more than your room. Give the on site shop a miss and find a cheap local supermarket instead. Toys, water, fruit, sweets – all are cheaper when you head out of the hotel where there is no captive market.
The blow up swan or the inflatable boat can scupper many a carefully planned holiday budget. The trouble is that, while these are nice to have by the sea or pool, you won’t take them home with you. This makes inflatables the biggest waste of cash during your trip. While most of us can’t be bothered to fly one out in luggage, it is possible to hire inflatables at some resorts. Others simply provide them for free in the pool. Either way, don’t hand over your cash to buy one if you want to keep your spending low.
Locations that are set up for tourists tend to hike up the prices of the basics, and taxis are one of the worst offenders. Yes, we’re all fine walking to the beach – after all, it’s always impossible to find somewhere to park. However, at the end of the day when you’re tired and everyone is grumpy, the walk back doesn’t seem so attractive. That’s when the taxis get summoned and you end up paying through the nose to get home. The best solution to this is book a resort where everything is genuinely walkable. Or alternatively, find a hire car or a bike – this can work out a lot less expensive than an endless stream of taxis.
It’s much cheaper than it used to be to access your bank account while abroad – or use a credit card. Gone are the days when travellers cheques or wads of cash were the only option. However, watch out for banks that still charge for cash withdrawals when you’re overseas. It’s also worth bearing in mind the cost of a non-sterling transaction – the average is 2.9% of whatever you’re paying for. If you’re planning to make big purchases on a card while you’re away this can really add up.
Organised holiday trips
Whether you’re signing up for a trip to a water park with the kids or clubbing in Ibiza, organised trips always cost more. The price you’re charged for entry and transport will usually leave a significant profit for the organiser on top – at your expense. Find out how easy it is to drive yourself or take local transport instead. And be sure to check the actual cost of entry to theme parks, zoos etc.; the real price might surprise you.
Alex Hartley is a keen advocate of improving personal finance skills. She's worked at Solution Loans since 2014 and written hundreds of articles about how people can manage their money better. Her interest in personal finance goes way back to...Read more about Alex Hartley