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News & Advice

Kate Simon: Make sure your sums add up when you plan a cheap break

So where are you going this summer? The British lead the world in putting together holidays on the internet, and, according to British Airways, we have become so bargain hungry that more of us than ever are now booking trips within a week of departure. Yet the tradition of buying a summer holiday at the turn of the New Year remains.

Emma Waddell of Tui Travel, Europe's biggest tour operator, confirms just how important this time of the year is to travel firms. "Thomson and First Choice still count January as a key booking period for summer holidays," she says. "For many, the grey winter months are motivation enough to search for a bit of sunshine, and memories of the weather in the UK over the past couple of summers [has] encouraged holiday bookings."

There are already signs that we're intent on making the most of our cash in 2010. "Value for money is key this year," says Ms Waddell, pointing to "continued growth of all-inclusive and full-board product, a migration towards the non-euro zone areas, such as Turkey and Egypt, and also long-haul destinations".

Turkey is a case in point. It saw a 12 per cent rise in British visitors last year, and is banking on similar growth this year. This boost was due in part to the competitiveness of the Turkish lira. But is a good exchange rate the ultimate way to measure value for money when you're deciding where to go on holiday?

Not according to the Post Office's Annual Travel Services Holiday Money Report, which has just been released. While Turkey's weak currency may look good from the perspective of British tourists – and it has slid a further 7 per cent in value in the past year against a strengthening pound – there's still the question of the costs you'll face on the ground.

To assess these, the Post Office uses its Worldwide Holiday Costs Barometer – which measures the price of eight items, such as a cup of coffee and a bottle of sun cream in 30 key destinations. In the case of Turkey, this year's indications show that while British tourists do well on currency exchange, they face a 44 per cent price increase on the typical things that they will buy while there.

The report says: "... while Turkey proved 2009's big winner ... the country has dropped 14 places, to 22nd position, in the barometer table ... it is unlikely to be the cheap destination that it was a couple of years ago."

Meanwhile, the euro remains a holiday currency that is in high demand, even though it has recently offered poor value for Britons. Contrary to belief, there have been good deals in the euro zone because of a fall in local prices. Apparently, Spain is the place to make the most of your pound – there prices have dropped by 30 per cent.

Further afield, Jamaica, Egypt and Dubai come up trumps. Visitors from Britain to Jamaica will receive more than 21 per cent more local dollars than last year. In Egypt, you'll get 14 per cent more Egyptian pounds, and 12.6 per cent more dirhams in the UAE.

But Hungary takes the top slot for the cheapest destination for British tourists for the second year running. The Post Office reckons a city break here is great value – the forint has depreciated by more than 9 per cent on a year ago. Be advised: make sure you do your sums carefully before you book.

Is there a travel issue you want to raise? Email: sundaytravel@ independent.co.uk