5 tips for finding cheaper holidays abroad this summer
While bookings for domestic holidays are going through the roof this Summer, that doesn't mean you need to acquire bars of Nazi gold to travel abroad. As always, some of these tips are common sense, others you may not have considered. If you've have any more, please leave them in the comments.
Get the deals first
Obviously, you've more chance of getting the best prices for the dates you want, when availability is high. Even a few minutes can make all the difference, so how do you find out about them before anyone else? Well, an obvious starting place is the travel section of HotUKDeals - creating email alerts for specific search terms will mean you'll hear about new deals the moment they are added to the site.
It's also a good idea subscribe to newsletters for travel sites and airlines; if you don't want them bloating your inbox, create a label for them all in the likes of GMail and check the folder regularly. Finally, if you haven't already, drag yourself into 2009 and subscribe to Twitter. Plenty of travel companies and airlines use Twitter for customer services and pushing new deals - following these companies mean they'll pop up in your Twitter feed live as they're announced. Those following Air New Zealand on Twitter were the first to find out about their Bags-It promotion - a 12 hour deal that saw a lucky few buy return flights from London to Hong Kong for just £150.
Deal directly with accommodation owners
There are plenty of second properties overseas that are available to rent. If you have a destination in mind, Owners Direct is a brilliant website for finding apartments and villas. You might have to invest some time to find property still available for the school holidays, but we've found a private villa on the Costa Brava that sleeps four, available in August for £560 per week. Even if you're booked up for the Summer, plenty of properties offer big discounts for winter, so you can spend Christmas somewhere warmer than Blighty.
In most cases, a minimum stay is required, and you'll pay a returnable deposit for your keys. Some properties also charge a cleaning fee, but this depends on length of stay.
Consider a US convention city
The recession means businesses are thinking twice about sending employees away to paper-shuffling conventions at the other end of the country. That means there are plenty of hotels that'd normally be stuffed to the gills, crying out for your business. Atlanta, Las Vegas, New York and San Francisco are four of the big convention cities in the US where the odds of picking up cheap accommodation are better than ever.
Las Vegas is the city to hit right now; developers couldn't throw up hotels fast enough before the recession struck, so there are thousands of unoccipied rooms. Friday and Saturday nights are always more costly than Sunday through Thursday, but you'll get some phenomonal prices; a double room in the Sahara costs just £200 for a week in June, and even seven nights at the new five star Trump Hotel barely costs £500.
Don't take the travel website's word for it...
Internet culture is all about saving time, so most of us use aggregators to determine what accommodation we can choose from, and at what price. But just as Owners Direct will feature thousands of private properties that don't appear on the likes of hotels.co.uk, such sites don't always offer the best pricing either. Always check hotel websites before making any bookings - there are often significant price differences and special offers that won't appear elsewhere.
...at least, not all the time
That said, if you've got the time than hunt through the package deals on offer, pull them apart and see if you can get them any cheaper. Quite often there are massive discounts available on hotels, often those with four or five stars. Lastminute.com is currently offering return flights plus five nights in a four star hotel in New York, departing mid-week in June at £1,148 for two people - at £574 per person, that's a cracking price. Using third party aggregators and booking the flights direct, we can't find this deal much cheaper than £1,400. Booking rooms direct through the hotel on this occasion, is even more expensive. You could also consider using the name your own price feature on Priceline.co.uk, or even the top secret hotels on lastminute.com.
That said, these offers are usually inflexible on dates, availability and hotel rating - there are far cheaper ways to see a city, but if it's a touch of luxury you're after, there's a good bet you'll find a deal to suit.