Can you haggle your way to a holiday bargain?

anse lazio beach at praslin...

When you're planning a cheap holiday, the first port of call is usually the internet. It's easier to shop around, there are all sorts of budget providers that you wouldn't find anywhere else, and increasingly there are price comparison tools for everything from car hire to flights.

But while 21st century tools can secure a good deal, you may get an even better price with something decidedly more old school: haggling.

Yes, a spot of haggling can help you book a holiday for much less. Take our tips below and see if it works for you.

The first step should be to track down the holiday you want, and work out what the benchmark price seems to be online. Next, find the travel agents which specialise in this sort of holiday. You need a specialist because they will usually get a better deal from the tour operator, so they have more of a profit margin to play with: is a good place to find the details.

Then you need to make three calls. In the first, call the agent, tell them the benchmark price you have seen online and ask them if they can do a deal (don't lie, it because they will usually ask for all the details of the holiday, including the travel agent). Armed with that you can call another agent and ask them to better the new price, and finally call the third and ask them to improve on this.

You can save decent sum of cash through this approach. Moneysavingexpert's Martin Lewis says that some of his website's users have saved thousands on a more expensive break in this way. But, he adds, agents don't like this approach (of course they don't!), so the process of haggling may be uncomfortable at times.

If you're not keen on all-out haggling, you can still save through a more hands-off method. Do your research online and find a decent price, then take it to your local high street travel agent, show them the print outs and ask if they can do the same for less.

The more you are spending and the more complex the trip, the more likely you are to get a saving - as the agent can use their knowledge to find a cheaper option, or can choose to give away some of their commission.

If you're looking for a package deal you may be hard-pushed to get a discount from some agents. However, when consumer organisation Which? did a study into this at the end of last year, its researchers managed to get a lower price for summer holidays to Florida and Mallorca 38 times out of 46 - with an average saving of 6 per cent, so it is worth asking.

Even if you draw a blank, it's worth checking if they can throw in any extras for free - such as free child places, free car hire, or an extra night. Which? found that they could get at least an added extra in nine out of ten agencies. They also found they had a far better response from the high street agents in person than on the phone.

And don't forget to carry on haggling even when you are on your holiday. There are often deals to be done through haggling on most items, from hiring a boat or motorcycle for the day to buying souvenirs. Experts say you should start by deciding the maximum you will pay for something, then go in much lower. You should then use a firm tone to counter-offer whatever the salesperson suggests. Once you reach a figure you are happy with, you hold out your hand for a handshake - often the gesture is enough to bring negotiations to a close.

If you like the challenge of haggling, you could save hundreds of pounds while you're away, and enjoy the thrill of the hunt at the same time. But If the whole idea of haggling leaves you cold and clammy, you may be better off looking for a good deal and paying the advertised price.

If you're not cut out for haggling, there are alternative ways to secure a bargain, so it's worth checking out our tips for bagging a cheap holiday, and advice on how to cut the costs of a break during the school holidays.

How to cut the cost of your next holiday
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Can you haggle your way to a holiday bargain?

Silly though it sounds, the cost of a package is often cheaper than the cost of a flight. 'Tour operators have access to very cheap flights aren't available to the consumer,' says Emma O'Boyle from Tripadvisor. 'That's why you can book a seven-day holiday, including accommodation, in a destination like Bali for £600 even though a flight alone might cost £700.' You don't need to feel trapped by your package holiday if it's not what you're after - just use hotel as base and go exploring. 'Even if you add extra accommodation costs on top of the package holiday, it can still be cheaper than booking independently for many long-haul destinations. You'll also have the added benefit of being able to leave behind what you don't need on overnight excursions,' says Emma.

Unlike your credit card, a prepaid cash card in your chosen currency means that the exchange rate is fixed at the time of purchase, and there are no commission charges. Simply load the card with cash in the UK for free, then use it as a normal debit/credit card, or to withdraw cash. Overseas usage is free, whether you use it to withdraw cash, buy things in shops or restaurants. Mytravel currency cards are valid anywhere MasterCard is valid. Go to for more.

According to Emma O'Boyle from TripAdvisor,  planning ahead can leave you quids in. 'The idea of the "late deal" can be a myth. Often the earlier you book, the better the deal. It also leaves options open – waiting to book until two weeks before your holiday means you'll have extremely limited choices, but by booking early you'll likely find availability in any destination you want. If your schedule is flexible, fly during the middle of the week, as you can often find cheaper fares that way.'

'Shop around for airports before booking', advises Tripadvisor's Emma O'Boyle. It's often cheaper to fly in or out of an alternative airport. For example, Fort Lauderdale and Miami are less than 30 miles apart, but flying to Miami from London can often be over £100 cheaper than the fare to Ford Lauderdale.'

The joy of the all-inclusive package is that you know exactly what you're spending - but remember to read the small print: many 'all inclusives' have all sorts of hidden extras that aren't actually, er, included.
First Choice offers some jolly good deals (and it reckons a family of four can save up to £500 on a week's holiday by going all-in), and for five star luxury without the hidden extras, check out The Platinum Plan at the five-star Lily Beach in the Maldives (pictured). Your price includes buffet and a la carte fine dining, unlimited cocktails and all premium brand drinks (including those from your mini bar) as well as activities such as excursions to other islands, a sunset cruises and fishing expeditions, gym entrance, water sports.....

If you're going solo, book with a small-group tour company like Explore, which charges no single supplements on its small group tours. Explore has introduced a new range of Solo Traveller tours in response to the fact that more than half of its customers travel alone. Destinations include Morocco (pictured) and Thailand, with single rooms for everyone at no extra supplement.

According to HomeAway Holiday Rentals, renting an apartment can be up to four times cheaper per square foot than hotels, and, as they sleep more people, they allow you to spread the cost if there are more than two of you. You get space and flexibility too. And best of all, they allow you to get out of the usual tourist zones and shop where the locals shop, which is always cheaper than shopping in city centres. For example, this lovely apartment in Paris (pictured) works out from 43 Euros per night.

'Most airlines are now charging some type of baggage fee,' says Tripadvisor's Emma O'Boyle.  Some charge for additional bags, some charge by weight, and some even charge for your first checked bag. Do your homework and find out what your airline charges before you book. You could use a comparison service such as the new TripAdvisor Fees Estimator to avoid any nasty surprises when you get to the airport. Not only will it calculate additional charges for baggage but will even factor in additional sneaky meal and credit card charges.'

If you know you're going to want to go sightseeing, it's well worth pre-booking. For holidays to Florida, for example, you can buy exclusive combined tickets to theme parks before you depart which are not available on the gate. 'It's a bit like pre-booking a cheap train ticket in the UK, the earlier the better! Says Oliver Broad, Chairmman of AITO Specialist Travel Agents.

'Many travellers may balk at the idea of a holiday in Southeast Asia because of the flight cost, but it's worth considering exchange rates and the cost of living once you arrive,' says Tripadvisor's Emma O'Boyle. 'A flight to Italy may be cheap, but paying for meals, hotels and activities in Euros will quickly add up, while exchange rates in destinations like Thailand and Vietnam strongly favour the pound and meals are readily available for less than £1.'


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