How to avoid holiday rip-offs

Caroline Cassidy

You might have found the cheapest flight, best hotel deal and booked your time off, but between baggage allowances, roaming charges and exorbitant exchange rates, it's all to easy to offset the savings you made on your holiday.

Avoid holiday rip-offs
Avoid holiday rip-offs

Pic: Getty

Check out these top tips for avoiding holiday-related rip-offs and save money when you do get away.

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Airport parking is notoriously expensive, and for some, it's a necessary evil. Yet you can save a sizeable sum if you pre-book on the airport's website. For instance, turn up unannounced at Gatwick's long-stay car park and you can expect to fork out £195 - book on the website in advance and that price comes down to £152.66.

Alternatively opt for a 'meet and greet' parking service, where a chauffeur meets you at the terminal building, collects your car and takes it to the firm's nearby secure parking, then returns it to you at the end of your holiday. These services operate from around the £95 mark - just be sure to check the company's credentials before you book (if it has a Park Mark, the car parking facilities have undergone an annual police assessment), check the chauffeur's ID badge, and get a full receipt.

You can save yourself a bundle by changing up your holiday cash well before you leave. If you wait until you reach the airport, you could lose up to 10 per cent of your hard-earned thanks to exorbitant exchange rates. Instead, check out the Travelmoneymax website, which gives you up-to-date info on where to find the best rates. Pre-order at the Travelex website and you can even pick up your holiday cash at the airport.

Credit cards
The fact that we can withdraw cash from ATMs around the world is undoubtedly a bonus when it comes to holiday spending, but all too often you'll get hammered by fees and poor exchange rates. If you're likely to use your credit card abroad, don't just rely on your usual - cards such as the Halifax Clarity card allow you to get the best exchange rate available, plus there are no charges for withdrawing at an ATM or for purchases made while you're away. You will pay an interest rate of 12.9 per cent APR for a cash withdrawal, but that could still work out cheaper as long as you pay your full bill on your return.

Mobile charges
Roaming charges are notoriously high and horror stories about British holidaymakers coming home to gigantic bills regularly hit the media. However, a little advanced planning means you can slash the cost of using your phone abroad. First of all, if you don't plan on using the Internet, make sure you turn off data roaming in the phone's settings.

If you are likely to use the phone for calls, check out your service provider's foreign travel options. For instance, Vodafone offers discounted call costs from 40 countries provided you opt in to its Passport service, while O2 Travel gives you 15MB of data a day for £1.99, provided you're within the EU. It also charges 50p for incoming or outbound calls between European countries, but that's for up to 60 minutes of talk time.

Alternatively, consider buying a local SIM when you reach your destination, or invest in a one-off, like WorldSIM. These are prepaid and offer massively reduced call rates while you're away. You might pay around £29.99 for just £10 credit, but you can reduce the cost of calls by up to 85 per cent.

Holiday shop smart
Step into any high street pharmacy or supermarket at this time of year and you're liable to find a whole section devoted to holiday-sized toiletries. But those cute, diddy little bottles will cost you a relative fortune. It's a much better idea to buy your standard size and decant them into smaller containers where possible.

Much the same goes for any travel accessories you might need, such as adaptor plugs or travel cushions. Pound shops and supermarkets often stock these items at this time of year, and you'll pay a fraction of those bumped-up airport prices.
Travel light
Okay, so it's easier said than done with a family in tow, but overweight luggage can cost you an absolute fortune, particularly if you're travelling with the budget airlines. Check out the airline's luggage allowance before you leave, and if at all possible, stick to the hand luggage allowance (typically 10kg) for each person. If you simply can't avoid taking a suitcase, pre-book it in - on Ryanair that'll cost you up to £30 for a 15kg bag, but up to £140 if you just turn up at the airport with your suitcase in hand.

What are the holiday rip-offs that really get your goat, and how do you avoid them? Leave your comments below...