top tips for booking a cheap holiday

So, I think you all know how much I like booking cheap holidays by now and after completing 10 trips away in 2017, what would I say were my top tips for getting away for a good price?

Use search engines to find the cheapest dates to fly

Forget hitting search and hoping for the best prices on the dates you’ve searched for, websites like Skyscanner, Kayak and Google Flights allow you to see when it’s cheapest to fly to your desired destination.

I particularly like Skyscanner’s ‘cheapest month’ option.Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 17.30.47.png

Be flexible with your location

If you’re not too sure where to go, Skyscanner and Kayak also allow you to see what locations are the cheapest for your timeframe.

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 17.31.20

You can do this by typing in ‘Everywhere’ for the destination on Skyscanner, or by clicking the ‘explore’ function on Kayak.

Always check comparison sites before booking your hotel

Trivago is a great option for checking you’ve got the best price for your hotel. My extra tip here is to always click on ‘More Deals’ and don’t just settle for the collection of prices they offer you. Whilst you’ll find prices from a variety of lesser known hotels, I recently saved an extra £20 by booking through them!

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 17.36.27Ask for an upgrade!

You know what they say – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. I ALWAYS email the hotel once when booking and again a few days before arriving to tell them how excited I am to stay and to let them know it’s a special occasion. Don’t feel comfortable with lying? You’re not. A holiday IS a special occasion and don’t you ever forget that! In the last year this trick has worked 3 times, the best being upgraded on a work trip from the smallest room in the hotel to a suite!

Don’t stay in a hotel

Airbnb has been around long enough that most of us know the huge savings that can be made from staying in someone’s home when abroad, however there are plenty of other option to check out as well. My favourites are windmu, ownersdirect, holidaylettings and homestay.

Sign up for cashback

I always say to not book just because of a good cashback deal (sometimes they don’t come through and you’re left feeling cheated) but you should definitely buy through cashback sites to earn a little bonus on all of your holiday booking. And don’t just stop at hotels and flights – you can save on travel insurance, car hire and a whole host of different areas as well. I use TopCashback and in the last year, I’ve earned more than £100 by doing absolutely nothing extra. Winner.

Check for codes before booking

Always check to see if there are any voucher codes floating around the internet. For example, if you were booking through hotels.com I’d search ‘hotels.com voucher codes’ and ‘hotels.com promo code’ on both Google and Twitter. It doesn’t always pay off but when it does, it sure feels sweet! Also, if you’ve never used Airbnb before you can usually get around £30 off your first stay if a friend refers you.

Get yourself free accommodation

What better way than to keep costs down than by getting your accommodation for free! Yes, free. Home and pet sitting means that owners have someone looking after their house and animals whilst they’re away and you get totally free accommodation (albeit with a sprinkle of responsibility thrown in there). I used a site called nomador to stay in a beautiful house in Paris for 14 days this summer, looking after a sweet cat called Biscotte. I loved it!

Hit the road

What happens when holidaymakers do a road trip from one place to another? A lonely campervan is left miles away from its home with no way of getting back. And that’s where you come in! Wickedcampersand Spaceship Rentals are amongst the companies that offer relocation deals where you could bag a vehicle from just £1 a day as long as you return it back to where it belongs. Heading to the US or Australia? Try imoova or jucy.

Sign up for error flight updates

An error flight is when some wally who works for head office/computer cocks up and posts a flight for a whole lot cheaper than it’s supposed to be. Airlines can refuse the flight and refund you your money but now and again they will honour them. Now, just happening on one of these bad boys is a bit like finding a needble in a haystack so instead websites such as Secret Flying, Jack’s Flight Club and Holiday Pirates are all on it – I’d recommend signing up to their facebook pages for updates and other holiday bargains in your social feeds.

Plan to be spontaneous

I know it sounds a tad hypocritical but if you see a great deal, you often don’t have much time to leap on it. Therefore, it definitely won’t hurt you to know who you’d like to go away with, know when they’re able to get time off, have their passport details to hand and know how you’re going to pay so that you can jump on a deal when it comes your way.

So there’s my top tips – I hope they bring you as much holiday booking luck as they have for me!

pretend you’re rich at the four seasons miami for £29

I don’t know about you but holidays aren’t for slumming it – oh no – they’re for creating a brand new identity for yourself and pretending you’re a BALLER!

My alias in Miami was ‘Margaux’ who was heiress to her mother’s vineyard fortune who was passing through Florida to try out a particularly sweet bouquet in Schnebly Redland’s Winery…

SOUNDS LEGIT RIGHT?!

Also legit is the fact we paid just £29 to swan about the Four Seasons all day.

Epic.

the cheapest christmas markets in europe

With £20 flights and £35 accommodation (for a 4 star hotel, no less), that brings me to £472.82 for the final  holiday.

WOAH THT’S LOADZ UV BIN DOIN SUM SCRIMPIN GURLLL

Yes, I have. However. I may have slightly overdone it with the last one…

how did we get this beautiful house in paris for free? | holiday seven

Felt more than a bit lucky with this one – but it’s a pretty simple trick for getting free accommodation in not just Paris, but many cities across the globe!!

how to get your airbnb for half the price

patrick-perkins-340019

Airbnb is bloody great but when you’re trying to get a bargain, you don’t have winter sales and promo codes to help you get the price down – or do you?

What many people don’t realise is that whilst Tara has stated that her flat in Knightsbridge is £290 a night, she – as an Airbnb host – has an option to send potential stayees (yes that’s a real word) a ‘special offer’.

I.E. IT’S TIME TO GET YOUR HAGGLE HAT AND YOUR BARTERING BROGUES ON LADS

You could give this a go in any situation, but here are the two scenarios where bartering can be particularly successful:

  • You’re staying a decent amount of time – there’s a lot of work that comes with checking people in and out so if you’re looking for a place for a week or more, owners will be much more open to having you stay rather than 7 different people across 7 different nights
  • They haven’t filled their room/home and time is running out – this is riskier as it could mean you’re left without, yet you could always book a back up hotel room with a great cancellation policy so that you’ve got something to fall back on

I decided to go with the latter whilst plotting a UK break for holiday number six after realising just how bloody pricey staying in the homeland can be.

Here’s what I did:

STEP ONE – Compile

One week before, I searched for available rooms and homes in a whole host of places within a 2 hour train ride of London – notably Oxford, Brighton and Margate.

I created a new ‘wish list’ and popped them all in – this is a great tool as it automatically updates what’s available.

I found 40 places in total.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 20.55.51

STEP TWO – Wait

Whilst checking and then seeing the place you were secretly lusting for get booked up is THE PITS, it’s worth checking in a couple of times over the next 4 or 5 days to see how things are shaping up.

STEP THREE – Pounce

Two days before you intend to go away should be a good point to put some feelers out there.

When I clicked back on, I saw that just 10 places were still available – I said it was risky, didn’t I?! – and the next step was to schmooooooze.

Done in the form of a ‘oh me? I’m just super casual this is helping you more/oh god please house me’ message:

Hi XXX,

Your place looks absolutely beautiful!

My boyfriend and I both work in radio in London and after a rather hectic week at work (and we’re only three days in!), we’ve decided to try and get out of the city, get some of that sea air and hit ‘refresh’.

Our plan would be to explore the area and sample whatever delights the local restaurants and bars have to offer!

Our budget for staying 2 nights is £XX including Airbnb’s service fee which I understand is under what you’re currently looking for, but if you’re wanting to fill your place with respectful guests who you wouldn’t see much of – then look no further!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Chelsea

STEP FOUR – Wait again…

mikayla-mallek-219946.jpg

All my messages got a reply (thank you, kind Airbnb brethren).

8 said they were actually booked but they hadn’t updated their calendar (bahhh)

1 said ‘can you check back in tomorrow?’

and 1 said ‘yeah sure!’

GREAT SUCCESS.

So how much did we save?

My bartering meant that we were able to get a super cute room (with its own bathroom and living room) in Margate down from £105 to £80. Not too bad?

It’s worth saying that the ‘can you check back in tomorrow?’ place would have been an entire house in Brighton for £90 down from £180! So there’s definitely some massive deals to be had.

Extra saving

As it’s always me doing the booking around here, this was James’ FIRST EVER BOOKING on Airbnb meaning he had a £30 welcome offer from a friend, bringing our final cost to a mere £25 each.

If you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can also get some moola off by being referred to a friend. The new rules at Airbnb say I can’t just offer this out willy-nilly (and still holding out to be the face of short rentals) but if you’re a ‘mate’, you’ll know that my DMs are open on Twitter should you need a link.

Fancy seeing how we got on?