The summer holidays are here, so are some tips on how to make your money go further when travelling abroad.
Flights on budget airlines are cheapest a few months before departure, but assuming you want to travel in the next few weeks, you can still lower your costs.
When booking with Ryanair and easyJet, minimise fees for checked-in luggage. Remember you can carry on board things in pockets, and in hand baggage. EasyJet allows each passenger to carry on board one bag measuring 66cm x 45cm x 25cm. Ryanair allows one 55cm x 40cm x 20cm bag with a weight limit of 10kg. This applies to children, too, so four lots of 10kg works out the same as two 20kg bags stowed in the hold.
But don't head straight to the websites of budget airlines. Some "posher" scheduled airlines can be cheaper than "no-frills" operators, so do a search on travelsupermarket.com. Changing the departure airport, say from Heathrow to Luton, may save money, as can being flexible about when you fly. Flying out on a week-day is generally cheaper.
The airport is the worst place to buy this: head to the high street instead. Most of the time with sun cream, you get what you pay for. In tests of factor 15 cream last year, the consumer group Which? found Nivea and Hawaiian Tropic had more protection than stated, and Malibu, Tesco, Wilko and Marks & Spencer less. For two years running it has rated Asda's Sun System creams a "best buy" at £2.97 – or, currently, two for £5.
Malaria tablets, mosquito repellent, first-aid kits – there are always a few things you need for a holiday, especially for an exotic location.
Last spring, The Independent found that for a range of common products such as hayfever tablets and paracetamol, Superdrug was the cheapest chemist on the high street, and was a few pounds cheaper than the best online store, Chemist Direct.
But if you are spending more than £40 and avoiding the delivery charge, chemistdirect.co.uk is cheapest of all.
Some annual global travel policies cost as little as £25. But, like sun cream, you get what you pay for and it is worth taking out a decent annual policy that covers cancellations and offers £2m medical cover.
Which? recommends the Silver policy from Topnotchcover.com, which costs £35, although it is only for people under 55 and bad for pre-existing medical conditions. Which? recommends ETA's £70 a year policy for older people.
Again, the airport is the worst place to do this. Change up at the Post Office, No1 Currency, or Marks & Spencer, in that order. Last week, the Post Office was offering the best deal for changing £500 into euros. You could have ordered online and €580 would have been delivered free to your home. At No1 Currency, the same amount would have bought €576 and, at M&S €566. If you turned up at Heathrow without ordering in advance, Travelex would give you €542. Given that the average Briton changes £529 for a summer holiday, the difference between the best and worst exchange deals is about £30 – enough for lunch for two in Greece.
If you do have to leave it until you are at the airport, withdraw sterling from a cash machine and change that up, otherwise you'll be stung for using plastic, making it even more costly.
Travel credit cards
It is always handy to have at least some local currency when you arrive at a foreign destination, to pay for taxis and trains and tips, etc. But the best way of spending abroad, if you can be bothered, is to get a specialist travel credit card.
The Clarity card from Halifax has no foreign exchange or cash withdrawal fee, though you will be charged 12.9 per cent APR on cash withdrawals, even if you repay the sum in full as soon as you get home, which works out at about £1 per £100 borrowed per month. This no-fee policy, though, makes it a fantastic card, and the APR is well below the market average of 18.4 per cent.
Credit and debit cards
If you don't have enough time or energy to get a Halifax card, be aware that ordinary credit and current account debit cards can be surprisingly expensive abroad, because there is a charge for every transaction.
Typically, that fee is £1.50, meaning that if you buy something that cost £5 in euros, you pay £6.50. This can add up over the duration of a trip, especially if you make lots of small purchases. You will generally be better off using a debit card than withdrawing cash, unless you have one of these cards – Halifax, Lloyds, NatWest, RBS, Santander or IF – which are most expensive for foreign transactions, according to Moneysavingexpert.com.
Be aware that cash withdrawals attract big fees. If you take out £100 abroad, you will typically pay almost £6 in fees: a 3 per cent withdrawal fee and a foreign loading fee of between 2.75 per cent and 2.99 per cent. Ouch.