But there are ways to slash the cost and leave yourself with more cash to spend on having fun while you’re away. Here’s how:
1. Book as far in advance as possible
When it comes to train travel, the earlier you book the better. You can get the best deals 12 weeks before you want to travel.
The routes you’re offered will be limited, so if you have a specific journey in mind you might not get it. But with savings of as much as 80% it certainly pays to be flexible.
The number of tickets available at these low prices is always limited, so you’ll have to move quickly.
If you’re travelling by coach you can usually get a similar deal – but you can book up to a year before you travel. Now that’s forward planning!
With flights it’s not as cut and dried. You might bag a bargain if you book really early, or you might get a better deal if you leave it to the last minute. It’s a bit of a gamble, so the best advice is, if you see a good price on a flight and are happy to pay, grab it.
2. Be flexible with your dates
Travelling on certain days of the week and at certain times of the year will see costs sky rocket. But if you can be flexible you can bag a good deal.
Generally, travel costs more at weekends and you’ll similarly pay through the nose if you have to arrive somewhere in time for the start of the working week.
If you are prepared to eat into the ‘traditional’ Monday to Sunday week and say, travel out on a Monday and back on a Thursday you are likely to see prices halve.
3. Travel at unsociable hours
The bane of package holidaymakers lives is the flight that gets you into the resort in the early hours of the morning, and sees you heading home at a similarly ungodly hour. But that’s how the tour operators keep their (and your) costs down.
By copying their pattern and booking anti-social hours to arrive and depart you can save a small fortune. It will of course mean that you might arrive in an unfamiliar destination in the dark when nothing’s really operating properly, but if you can cope with that, then you can save money.
4. Check single fares
We tend to think that a return fare will be the cheapest option – or at worst the same price as two singles. But by buying one-way tickets you can often save far more.
When flying with a budget airline this is sort of what you’re doing anyway, so this trick won’t work with them. But with scheduled airlines checking out the price of two single journeys may be an eye-opener.
In the airline industry these are known as ‘construction tickets’ and are regularly used by those in the know. A friend who’s a travel agent for a major airline says he regularly sells them to clients.
The tickets are referred to as either SITI (situated in, ticketed in – i.e. you’re buying the ticket in the country you’re departing from) or SOTO (situated out, ticketed out – you’re buying the ticket from your destination).
Not all airlines let you use them. In particular the SOTO version, because you’re effectively buying a ticket in a different country to the one your credit card’s registered in. But that’s something you can check before you try it.
Buying single as opposed to return fares also works very well with rail tickets, so always check the cost of two single tickets against a return to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
5. Try ‘split-ticketing’
If you’re up for an even more extreme version of the return/single fare trick, it’s possible to save even more money. As much as 60% of the standard cost.
On certain journeys, using ‘split-ticketing’, you can end up paying up to 60% less for your fare. It isn’t possible on all journeys though; you so need a route operated by a number of companies, so you can choose who to travel with.
What you do is, travel half the route with one operator, break your journey and change to another operator. You can do this for flights and train journeys.
It involves some legwork, because you need to work out which operator’s cheapest and where you need to travel to in part one of your journey, to make the greatest saving.
You won’t find this trick advertised anywhere, but it’s perfectly legal. The only condition is that you must actually stop at the mid-way location and change there. You can’t just stay in your seat and pass through. So it’s not one for people who like to set off from A and not move until they get to B.
You also have to be prepared for hiccups. If part one of your journey is delayed, you could miss your departure on the next leg of your journey. But if you want to make the greatest saving, this could be the way to do it.