Some hot tips for winter trips

By Martin Lewis, January 10, 2013
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If heading off on a winter getaway or planning next summer’s big break, there is a plane-load of ways to keep costs down.

1. Unbeatable rates
The cheapest way to spend in a foreign currency is with specialist overseas credit card. Most plastic expensively adds a 3 per cent load, so spend £100 of euros and it costs £103, plus sometimes extra fees on top.
However, four credit cards are load-free worldwide with no annual fees: Halifax Clarity, Post Office, Saga (for the over-50s) and, for Nationwide FlexAccount/FlexDirect holders only, its Select card. These smash bureaux de change with near-perfect rates. See www.moneysavingexpert.com/travelcards.
If you have a decent credit score, pocket one just to use abroad. Yet always set up a monthly direct debit to fully repay, to minimise the 11.9-16.9 per cent representative APRs.

2. Don’t fall for “no commission”
While the above cards are cheaper, if you don’t have time or want cash instead, it’s off to a bureau de change. Many try to flog their wares with a “no commission” banner. Frankly, that is nonsense. They make their money in two ways: commission and the rate they give. So while “no commission” sounds cheaper, often you get a worse rate. The worst place to get foreign currency is the airport. At the very least, book online for pick-up for improved rates. Use TravelMoneyMax.com tool to find the best rates for every country.

3. Wear your luggage
Taking luggage on a budget flight can cost £100-per case return. So pack smart. Up to 10kg or more can usually go in hand luggage. If you are a little over, why not take a large coat and stuff socks and undies in the pockets? To push it further, Rufus Roo suitcase jackets with enormous pockets, carry up to 10kg extra and cost £33.90 including postage.

4. Hiring a car? Act NOW
Book car hire as early as possible to get it for as little as £10/day. Start at comparison sites Kayak.co.uk and Carrentals.co.uk to find the cheapest hire.

5. Consider an annual car-hire excess policy
Once you have hired a car, you will often face firms’ frighteners that you have only basic insurance but “have a scratch and there’s £500 excess to pay” to flog extra cover. Yet special standalone policies to cover the excess for a year’s trips are available from £38. Try comparison site Moneymaxim.co.uk

6. Check your ehic card
The free European Health Insurance Card gives you access to EU (plus a few other) state-run hospitals or GPs like a local. In other words, if it is free for them, it is free for you. Yet over 4 million expired in 2012 alone — check all your family’s cards and renew or it is invalid. Don’t Google it though — you may find shyster sites charging £15. Go direct to the NHS website www.ehic.org.uk.

7. Hitting the slopes?
Unless your policy has got winter sports cover, you are not usually covered for medical costs from ski accidents, let alone gear and cancelled passes. If you already have an annual policy, check to see if it covers winter sports. If not, get a quote to extend it and see how that stacks up against the cheapest one-off winter sports policies for your trip via MoneySupermarket.com or Confused.com.
If you have no insurance and plan to go away again in the next 12 months, forget about single-trip policies — annual is cheaper. At the time of writing the cheapest for most with minimum basic winter sports cover is £27-£50 for singles or £48-£70 couples or families. See www.mse.me/travelinsurance.

8. Annual travel insurance from £16 a year.
Get insurance as soon as you book travel, or you are not covered in case of cancellation. The following are the cheapest (non-winter sports) picks with decent cover limits:
Europe: Individual Travel Guard from £16 (age related), family from £30.
World: Individual Travel Guard £27+ (age related), family Protect Your Bubble £48+. See www.moneysavingexpert.com/travelinsurance.

9. Always pre-book airport parking
Leaving cars at the airport is costly. If you must drive, cut costs by booking early and use comparison sites: Skyparksecure.com and Holidayextras.co.uk.

10. Villa rentals can be cheaper than hotels
Cottages, chalets and villas can massively undercut similar-quality hotels. The bonus with these is that, as a rule of thumb, the larger the group, the bigger the per-person saving.
Get big discounts via Homeaway.co.uk and Villarenters.com. But there is less protection if things go wrong, so be careful how you pay. See www.moneysavingexpert.com/villas.

    Last updated: 9:39am, January 10 2013