17:36 06 December 2012
If you're lucky enough to be heading off abroad on a winter break this Christmas, chances are you'll be keeping a close eye on your budget so that you don't come home with a nasty debt hangover.
There are several ways to keep holiday costs to a minimum, such as avoiding leaving your travel extras such as travel insurance, car hire and airport parking until the very last minute.
With a bit of forward planning, you could in fact slash as much as £500 off your overall holiday bill. Here, we explain how... .
Pre-order your currency and pocket £116.97
Many holidaymakers leave buying their travel money until they reach the airport, even though they could make substantial savings by ordering it in advance.
For example, on the day we checked currency rates, if you wanted to buy €1,500 and were travelling from London Heathrow, the Travelex bureau de change there would charge you £1,349.
If, however, you shopped around online, you could buy the same amount of currency from FairFX for as little as £1,232.02 - with free Royal Mail Special Delivery on all orders of more than £750. That's a huge saving of £116.97 compared to buying it at the airport.
If you have left it too late to order your currency for home delivery, you can still save money by pre-ordering your holiday money for collection at the airport.
For example, if you were to pre-order €1,500 from Travelex online and pick it up as you were passing through the airport, the same amount of money would cost just £1,242.75 - that's a saving of £106.25 for a few minutes on the internet.
Need a hire car? Shop around to save £77.43
Whether you and the family are jetting off for Christmas in the sun or if you need to hire a car to visit friends or family over the festive holiday, book your hire car as soon as possible to secure the vehicle you want at the lowest possible price.
We looked at how much it would cost to hire a family-sized vehicle over the Christmas period and found that if you wanted to hire a Vauxhall Astra (Opel Astra) from Tenerife Reina Sofia Airport from December 22 to December 29, Hertz's pay on arrival price would be £211.43.
However, if you compared prices online for a Vauxhall Astra from the same airport on the same dates using TravelSupermarket, you could book one in advance for as little as £133.57, a saving of £77.86 compared to the Hertz price.
You could save even more money too, and avoid the hassle of having any extras sold to you when you turn up to your hire desk, by sorting your car hire excess insurance out online before you travel. This can shave 65% off the price you'd pay at the rental desk.
Get covered but don't pay over the odds - save £82.11
Travel insurance is an essential for any trip and while it can be tempting to leave buying it until the night before you go away, the ideal time to get covered is as soon as you book your holiday - that way, you won't lose everything should you have to cancel your break due to circumstances out of your control.
Policy prices vary widely, so you should always compare costs before buying.
For example, we looked at policies for a family of four (with two children under the age of 12) travelling to Egypt over the Christmas break (from December 22-29).
While a week-long Classic policy with the Post Office would set you back £90.88, we found policies for as little as £8.77 by comparing prices on TravelSupermarket.
And, if you and the kids are regular travellers, investing in annual cover could be much more cost-effective than several single trip policies. We found family worldwide annual policies (excluding the USA and Canada) for as little as £32.56 on TravelSupermarket. That's still £58.32 cheaper than the Post Office's single-trip price.
However, don't just be tempted to buy the cheapest policy you find without checking you are covered for everything you need. Find out why it is so important to read the small print of your policy here and, if you are going on a ski holiday, don't forget to make sure you have winter sports cover.
Pre-book your airport parking and save £85.20
Driving to the airport and leaving your car there often seems like a cheaper and easier option than a taxi but it can cost a small fortune.
For example, if you just arrive at Heathrow without pre-booking, you could pay as much as £158.40 for a week's parking during the peak holiday period. However, a quick search on TravelSupermarket uncovered spaces for the same period for as little as £73.20, saving you a massive £85.20.
Know your baggage limits and book any extra bags on in advance - save up to £150
At Christmas, packing lightly can seem like an impossible challenge so, if you are going to need more than just hand luggage and it's not included in your allowance, make sure you've added it onto your booking online before you travel. If not, charges for extra bags at the airport can be extortionate.
Ryanair, for example, charge up to £150 for your second 20kg bag if you leave it until you reach the airport to book your bag onto the flight.
And, even if you do manage to squeeze everything into your hand luggage bag, make sure you know your baggage allowance before you pack as each airline's allowance is different. You can see a table of allowances in Bob Atkinson's article 'Hand luggage tips'
Want to make even more savings?
• If you want to save even more cash on your holiday, other money-saving tactics include:
• Applying for a credit card that is designed for overseas usage to reduce charges.
• Taking your own food on board rather than paying inflated on-flight prices.
• Decanting any toiletries that you want to carry in your hand luggage into your own small containers at home rather than paying as much as 750% more for travel-sized versions.
Taking your own car seat if you are travelling with children to avoid steep daily rental prices.
Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct
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