With a little forward planning booking your holiday to budget is achievable; here is our guide to getting the best deal.
1 Set a budget
Setting a budget gives you something to aim for when searching for that perfect getaway and can help prevent you overspending or being pressured into paying more than you planned.
When deciding how much you can spend you will obviously need to be realistic and factor in how much money you'll need while you're away as well.
That said, while you'll need to be realistic about what you might be able to get for your budget there is nothing to stop you aiming for the best deal for you money - and if you're willing to search around you may be surprised at what you can get!
2. Decide how you want to manage your holiday
When it comes to booking your holiday you will have several options, ranging from all-inclusive packages to DIY breaks where you book your flight, accommodation and everything else yourself. While it's tempting to simply go for the cheapest option, you'll need to put a little more thought into how you book.
DIY holidays can be more flexible than package holidays issued by travel agents as you book the different components - like flights and accommodation - yourself. As a result it often means that you can get a cheaper price.
However, with a DIY holiday you are acting as your own travel agent. This means you will need to manage your flight and hotel bookings separately and arrange for transport between from the airport to your hotel.
It also means that you need to ensure that any flights you book are adequately protected - so you don't lose out if the company you book with goes bust - as you will not get the same level of protection as you do with package holiday.
Package deals aim to take the hassle out of booking a holiday and include components like flights, hotel accommodation as well as meals and other activities all for one price. This means that you are unlikely to have to arrange a transfer from the airport to the hotel for example.
There is also usually a representative of the holiday company based on location as well, to help overcome any problems you encounter.
Perhaps more importantly, package holidays booked through registered travel companies and/or travel agents are usually covered by a bonding scheme like ABTA or ATOL (although you should always check this is the case). This means that if the company you book with goes bust you would be able to claim a full refund or a replacement holiday.
The downside of package holidays is that you can often pay a little more than if you booked separately and while they include all the essentials you need they are also less flexible than DIY style holidays.
3. Decide when you want to go
If you can be flexible with dates it's worth opting for off-season travel as it's likely to work out cheaper. This means avoiding the school holidays or Christmas as you'll usually end up paying a substantial premium on the cost of your holiday.
If you have a particular destination in mind you should check past weather reports - some countries have a wet or monsoon season that may be in the middle of our summer break. While this could mean that some exotic locations may cost less than you think because of the local weather and climate, it's no good if you'll be stuck in your hotel room the whole time.
Term time holidays
If you have children, in September 2013, new rules were put in place to restrict their absences from school to "exceptional circumstances", such as illness in the family, funerals, and so on.
For families who decide to go on holiday during term-time anyway, fines of £60 per pupil (which rise to £120 per pupil if not paid during 28 days) are imposed.
Nonetheless, a term-time holiday could still be "worth it" if the total cost of the holiday, including the fines, was less than it would cost to go on holiday during peak season.
4. Decide where you want to go
Think about what is most important to you in a holiday. Are you looking for sun, sea and sand? A city break, or somewhere to explore? There may be somewhere specific that you'd like to go or are you open to suggestions?
If you're stuck for ideas then looking through some holiday brochures or browsing some travel websites can give you a flavour of the different types of holidays on offer.
When you have some ideas of where you'd like to visit and where you want to stay then you can also check how other people have found their stay on websites such as Trip Advisor or Holiday Watchdog. If you feel that the hotel isn't going to be worth the cost then you might be able to find somewhere better to stay nearby for less!
5. Get quotes
Now that you've set a budget and decided where you want to go, you are ready to start getting some quotes for your holiday.
In order to get the best price it's worthwhile getting a range of quotes; online, over the phone and at your local travel agent as prices can vary depending on how you book.
Some travel companies offer online discounts or sales as there are fewer staff involved in booking your holiday. This means that you could pay less online than if you visited your local travel agent in the high street.
Equally it is worthwhile getting quotes from a variety of different types of companies. Holiday providers will be able to quote you their own holidays directly while travel agents can look at a range of options.
Also consider looking at flights and accommodation separately so you can put together your own quotes for how much it would cost to book everything yourself DIY.
6. Work out which gives you more for less
Once you've got some quotes for your ideal holiday, then it is worth looking at exactly what is included with each. A flights and basic accommodation combination is likely to be the cheapest but what else would you have to pay for on top?
The biggest difference in cost will likely be relating to the level of catering provided. Weighing up the value of half board or all inclusive deals, based on how much you would budget for meals and drinks while away can help calculate the true cost of each holiday. You should also research the cost of eating out while your away - if eating out is going to cost a bomb then a catered hotel may be a better option.
The cost of meals is not the only factor that is worth considering, airport transfers, the airline you'll fly with, in-flight meals, your luggage allowance and the use of hotel facilities, are sometimes included in the price of a package holiday, but how much would it cost you to pay for these separately?
Equally if you plan on enjoying other activities such as water sports while your away you may want to factor in the cost of booking them separately against the all inclusive packages provided by the hotels.
Or perhaps you don't need the added extras anyway - it's only worth paying for them if you plan on using them! A larger luggage allowance may be useful for example, but access to water sports or a 'luxury' in flight meal on a 1 hour flight may be extras you feel you don't really need.
Once you have added all of these extra costs onto basic booking options you will have more accurate quotes to compare and consider.
7. Check whether you are protected
ATOL is a financial protection scheme supported by the Civil Aviation Authority - the regulator of the aviation industry in the UK, meanwhile ABTA is an association formed by travel companies in 1950 with the aim of maintaining high industry standards.
Ensuring that a holiday is 'ATOL protected' safeguards you against the failure of your airline or travel company. It's there to prevent you losing any money when a company goes bust and will make sure that if you are already on your holiday that you can get home at no extra cost. It also means that if something happened to the company and you couldn't go on the holiday then you would be offered an alternative or given a full refund.
The majority of package holidays issued by UK travel companies have ATOL protection. However if you are unsure then the travel company should be able to confirm if you are covered.
If you book separately then it's likely that some or all of your holiday may not be covered by ATOL or ABTA protection. This means that you could be at risk of losing any money you pay for the holiday or have to pay out twice for hotel rooms or flights home if you are on holiday if the company ceased trading. This is especially important to check if you decide to book your flights directly with the airline rather than through a travel agent or company.
Some independent travel companies also offer protection through membership to the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO). The AITO offers a financial guarantee to customers that if an AITO member goes under that they will either ensure you can go on the holiday or offer a full refund.
Checking if the quotes you have been given are covered by ATOL, ABTA or AITO gives you some peace of mind that if something happens to the company or travel operator that you won't end up out of pocket.
8. Use the cheapest quote to your advantage
If you feel that the cheapest option does not provide you with everything you need or is not adequately protected then you can still use the quote to your own advantage when contacting the next cheapest option.
While they may be unable to match the price - although haggling is well worth it - there is a chance that they may be able to give you some little extras or lower the price by removing extras that you don't really need (in flight meals or a larger luggage allowances perhaps) to make it more affordable.
If you are happy with a quote from a provider but it does not include something that other more expensive packages offer there is nothing to stop you from contacting them and asking if they could include it as well.
Often travel companies will ask you what the maximum you want to spend is. When answering this go a little below the budget you've already set to give the seller some le-way and flexibility to push a sale.
9. If you're happy book
Once you are happy with everything then you should book. Quotes from travel companies and agents are usually only valid for a set time, as flights and hotel rooms fluctuate in price the closer you get to the date of travel. That means that if you are happy with the package you've been offered then booking promptly will ensure you get the price you've agreed.
After confirming your booking you will need to pay a deposit. As long as the holiday amounts to more than £100 then it is worth paying the deposit at least by credit card.
Paying just the deposit on an item with your credit card covers you for the full amount under what is commonly known as 'section 75 protection' if there is a problem further down the line. This could be particularly important if you have decided to book a holiday that does not have ATOL protection.
However, there is also a service charge for payments made on a credit card, usually around 3-5% or a minimum of £5-£10, but remember you can pay the deposit on your card and the rest by cash so even if you pay a little more it may be worth considering.
10. Sort out your Travel Insurance
When you make a booking for your holiday the next step is to arrange a decent travel insurance policy.
This is something that can easily be left until the last minute but getting something in place soon after you've booked will ensure you're covered for any flight cancellations or strikes that are announced weeks or even months before you fly.
It's likely that when you complete a booking with a travel agent or travel company that they will ask if you would like to include travel insurance as part of the booking. It is usually a good idea to leave this option as chances are you can get a better cover for less elsewhere.
When it comes to looking for travel insurance itself then it is worth remembering that the cheaper the quote the less protection it is likely to offer. Some areas that are worth checking include your cancelation rights, protection against the company going bust (especially important if your booking independently) and that you are fully covered for everything you plan to do while your away be that jet skiing or wind surfing.
If you are travelling to Europe then you should also get a European Heath Insurance Card (EHIC). While the EHIC is essential for European travellers is does not act as a replacement for full travel insurance, for more information on exactly what it covers check out our EHIC guide.