You may think luxury travel agents will offer the best deals on lavish getaways but don't rule out speaking to a cheap holiday agent. "Online travel agents specialising in cheap holidays will often list some of the same luxury hotels, but charge a much lower price," say Travelzoo's deal experts. "They will also give you a chance to book your flights with low-cost carriers, rather than flag-carriers, meaning extra savings (if you’re willing to fly low-cost)"
While many tourists will avoid a far-flung destination's 'wet season', this means you can take advantage of the lowest prices, plus some luxury hotspots don't get as wet as you'd think! "There are certain places that are great to consider for low-season travel when the prices are much lower but there are bags of advantages in travelling off season and you can get yourself a real deal," says David Pointer at Western & Oriental. "Cambodia, for example, is cheap during 'wet season' (May - October) and the storms are generally short and sharp with the temperature hardly dropping. You could also argue that the temples of Angkor Wat are more photogenic glistening in the wet and there are fewer travellers so it’s a good time if you want less crowds trawling the temples."
Become a member of travel sites that offer discounts on luxury holidays, such as Secret Escapes, which offers huge savings on luxe hotels, holidays and last-minute weekends away. Voyage Privé offers you up to 70 per cent off long- and short-haul destinations, and Jetsetter runs flash sales on a selection of hotels and tours with up to 50 per cent off the original price. We also love Travelzoo's Top 20 newsletter, which features 20 of the best deals on UK hotel breaks, cruises and luxury long-haul getaways.
By booking your flight and hotel together you could save hundreds of pounds. An Expedia.co.uk spokesperson told us that last year its customers saved £200 on average, just by booking their flight and hotel as a package. It makes a difference and you'll appreciate the extra £200 in holiday money. What’s more, booking two significant parts of your trip together offers protection and means that you're covered by EU package regulations, so in cases such as airline bankruptcy, the travel agent has an obligation to offer added support and protection.
Air Passenger Duty (APD), the tax on flying from a UK airport, has risen, so flights have become more expensive for British holidaymakers. This means that a family of four flying in economy class to Florida will pay £268 in APD, up from £260. The rate of APD depends on your final destination, so if you're flying to Italy or anywhere under 2,000 miles from the UK, you'll pay £13 per passenger, but if you've opted for Thailand or somewhere else over 6,000 miles, you will pay £94 (up from £92) per passenger in APD. So it may be cheaper to get a bargain flight to Europe, then catch another plane to your final destination. Steve Hoy Chief, commercial officer at bmi regional, says: "Some of our passengers have realised that when flying long-haul via continental hubs rather than direct from (or transiting through) UK airports, they won't pay the increased APD if they book on two separate flights. Although this option increases travel time, it may worth be doing for the cash saving."
Don’t book the cheapest room. "A hotel will want to take extra care of its VIPs and booking the cheapest room is not the best start," say Travelzoo’s deal experts. "By booking the next room type (e.g. a Superior Room) you might spend a little bit extra, but you have a better chance of being upgraded to the next room type (e.g. a Luxury Room) which is normally worth much more and sometimes comes with its own perks."
Follow luxury travel providers on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites. "Companies often release special deals or little sweeteners via social media," revealed Oonagh Shiel at Cheapflights.co.uk. Your budget may not stretch to a super-luxe hotel but by following the hotel group on Twitter, you'll be one of the first to know when they have a special offer or a competition where you could win a holiday. Plus it won't cost you a penny to click 'Like' or 'Follow'.
Do your sums before booking and choose a destination where your money will stretch further. Andrew Brown, Head of Travel Money at Post Office, says: "Check the exchange rate - sterling has weakened quite dramatically but there are several luxury long-haul destinations where the holiday pound will stretch further." It's important to factor in the cost of meals and drinks as these can add significantly to the cost of your holiday if they're not included in the package. "Pick a destination where prices are cheap, such as Sri Lanka, Bali and Egypt," advises Andrew.
"Avoid the crush and try flying on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday rather than at weekends," advises Oonagh Shiel, travel expert at Cheapflightsco.uk. By flying mid-week you'll often find cheaper tickets as well as less-crowded planes. The same goes for hotels if you're booking a UK break. Tamara Heber Percy at Mr & Mrs Smith says: "If you book countryside hotel stays midweek rather than over the weekend, they are always cheaper. For city breaks, you can try to bag a bargain when you book a weekend: the lucrative midweek business travellers have left and hotels want to fill up empty rooms. Phone rather than book online, so you have a chance to ask a human being and request a late deal."
"Whether you’re travelling premium economy, business or first class, the APD is the same: double the economy rate," say Travelzoo's deal experts. "Tax is levied on flights out of the UK, so treating yourself to a bigger seat could be up to £94 cheaper when flying back to the UK." The chances of being upgraded are also generally higher if you book premium economy as these are often the smallest cabins and are the first to get overbooked. Booking a nicer seat for the flight home will make leaving your lush holiday destination a little easier too!
Don't just book an all-inclusive holiday because it was on offer. If you know you won't spend much time in the hotel and would like to have your meals at local restaurants, it could be a waste of money going all-inclusive. "Compare the cost of a self-catering holiday to that of an all-inclusive in the same resort," says Calum Macdonald, specialist at Latedeals.co.uk. "Work out the difference in price and decide whether you would spend that much a day on eating and drinking. Larger families will benefit from all-inclusive, and they are, of course, more relaxing as you don’t have to think about where to go for dinner but if you’re heading to a non-euro country, eating out can be good value – so you can spend more on activities."
As with airlines, the first to get an upgrade at a hotel are the people who are members of a loyalty programme - so sign up. Travelzoo's deal experts say: "If a hotel sees lifetime value in a customer, they will treat him or her more as a VIP and make sure he or she is extra happy. You have to give a little to get something back." Most hotel loyalty programmes are free so all it will cost is a few minutes of your time and you can start reaping the benefits, whether it's special offers or free nights. We like Starwood's Preferred Guest programme, which allows you to earn points on stays at W Hotels, Le Meridien, Aloft and St Regis, and redeem them for suite upgrades, spa treatments and unique money-can't-buy experiences. The Fairmont President's Club is another favourite of ours, offering complimentary in-room internet access, special invitations to member-only events and complimentary use of the golf clubs at select hotels.
Follow the bad news. "By keeping an eye on current affairs and when a destination is back on the 'safe' list (that's the FCO safe list) you can dive in and snap up the cheaper holidays and little sweeteners that hotels and resorts offer to welcome visitors back," says Oonagh Shiel, travel expert at Cheapflights.co.uk. "We saw this with Tunisia and Egypt in past years - great discounts, upgrades and free treatments to encourage Brits to visit again."
You may be tempted by last-minute hotel deals, but your holiday could turn into a complete waste of money and time if it's not your usual style of hotel. Co-founder of Mr & Mrs Smith, Tamara Heber Percy, says: "Instead, go somewhere that’s top of your list, but shave off a few of the non-essential luxuries: consider going for 10 days instead of two weeks; go for a walk along the beach instead of zorbing down a hillside; drink fewer of those cripplingly expensive 'style-bar' cocktails and a few more glasses of local wine instead."