How to beat the holiday price lottery
Package holidays fluctuate so much in price, that by buying on the wrong day you could end up overpaying by £3,000. The figures come from a study that examined the price of a number of family holidays for early August this year. They investigated the price over a number of days in mid- April, and discovered wild fluctuations.
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The biggest difference in the FairFX study was for a Virgin Holidays Disney trip for four, which cost £5,683 when booked on 12 April, but £9,053 when booked a day later - a difference of £3,370. It's worth highlighting that Virgin has stated that it has been unable to verify the higher price.
There was also a difference of more than £1,500 for 1 week holidays to Greece with Thomson and First Choice, depending on when they were booked.
Ian Strafford-Taylor, CEO of FairFX, said: "Time and time again families are hit hard financially when it comes to taking a holiday together. We tracked a basket of holidays across 14 days and found you really do pay over the odds if you book on the wrong day."
The fact that holiday companies will vary the price depending on how much space they have left to fill - and how long it is before your holiday - is well-known. However, the dramatic shifts in price revealed in this survey demonstrate how essential it is to learn the seven tricks to beat the system.
Beat the holiday costs lottery
1. Research with as many companies as possible
Prices do fluctuate, but if you search a number of sites, plenty of time in advance, and go back a few days later, you will get a benchmark of roughly how much your chosen holiday should cost. Make a note of the maximum and minimum cost for the same kind of break, and let this be your benchmark.
2. Decide how flexible you can be
If you're travelling outside a peak time and can be really flexible about where you go and where you stay, by far your best bet is to leave it to the last minute, when prices will be slashed for some destinations to fill planes and hotels.
3. Book on a Tuesday
If you are aiming for a last-minute deal, then do your searching on Tuesdays. This is the normal day of the week for travel companies to drop prices as your departure date nears.
4. Book early
If you can't be flexible, then it usually pays to start your search as early as possible, because aside from the fluctuations, prices will rise gradually as the date of your holiday approaches. If you can get in very early, you should be able to take advantage of early bird discounts and special offers. Unfortunately, this means that you should have booked this year's summer holiday before Christmas last year.
5. Give yourself a window of a week or two
You have your benchmark prices, so the aim is to buy as close as possible to the bottom of your benchmark range. Give yourself a week or two of regular searches in order to find the day when the prices drop.
6. Search in the small hours
Travel agents will often reserve packages for a fixed price with a holiday company, and hold them for a specific period of time. It means that while the price fluctuates in the open market, they can offer a fixed price to customers.
If they haven't sold the holiday by the time their fixed period expires, the holidays will be released back onto the market. It temporarily increases the available supply, so the price will drop. Of course, at this point, travel agents will start placing them on hold again. However, if you can get in during the early hours, between the midnight expiry and the early morning travel agent activity, you can get a break at a lower price.
7. Get yourself some cashback
Topcashback.co.uk, for example, offers 4.5% cashback on Lastminute.com holidays. Assuming you were planning to spend £6,000 on a summer holiday, this works out as £270. It also has time-limited offers, giving up to 13% cashback on holidays, which would put £780 back into your account.