How to beat the holiday price lottery

Holiday price lottery. Secrets of a cheaper holiday

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.

SEE ALSO: Only one in three tourists stick to holiday budget, research finds

See also: Couple thought 'all-inclusive' holiday covered whole of Rhodes

See also: How to haggle: the eight phrases that pay

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, for example, offers 4.5% cashback on 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.

Cheap holiday destinations in Eastern Europe
See Gallery
Cheap holiday destinations in Eastern Europe

Most tourists tend to stay near the coast in Lithuania. But if you make the journey to Vilnius, you will be rewarded with a spectacular and unspoiled old town. In terms of prices, the Post Office recently named it the cheapest European city break destination. The average stay costs less than half the price of a weekend in Paris - at £100.04. At the time of writing, a week in September with flights from London and a holiday apartment cost £144 per person, according to Kayak.

This is well on the tourist trail, for obvious reasons, so anyone in search of a bargain needs to stay clear of touristy areas along the river. If you manage that, there are some decent bargains to be had: and the Post Office study put it in second place - with a weekend stay priced at £119.77. At the time of writing, a week in September with flights from London and a hotel room cost £115 per person, according to Kayak.

Prices are incredibly low here and there is plenty for tourists to do in a varied city with over 2,000 years of history. In the past it was always a bit of a struggle to find a cheap flight, but you can fly and stay for a week in September for just £134 in an easyHotel.

This city is much like Prague was before huge numbers of tourists descended. The beauty of the old town offers huge attractions for tourists, and yet prices remain at rock bottom. Every year the European Backpacker Index calculates the cheapest cities to visit in Europe (based on the cost of a night in a hostel, two rides on public transport, three budget meals, one cultural attraction and three alcoholic beverages); this year Krakow came fourth - and stood out in the top five as the most charming of the destinations. At the time of writing, a week in September with flights from London and a hotel room cost £131 per person, according to Kayak.

This is Poland’s cultural hub, so there’s always plenty to do in Warsaw. The size of the city also means there’s a huge array of architectural styles, including the old town centre, which was destroyed during WWII, and was rebuilt in replica. The Backpacker Index listed this as the sixth cheapest place to travel, and at the time of writing, a week in September with flights from London and a loft apartment cost £130 per person, according to Kayak.

This city is more tourist-friendly than Moscow, so the paperwork is less arduous, and there is more freedom of movement. The ultimate sight to see is the incredible (albeit pricey) Winter Palace. There are some expensive tourist areas, but there are still bargains for the dedicated, and the Backpacker Index put it in tenth place. At the time of writing, a week in September with flights from London and a hotel room cost £229 per person, according to Kayak.

This tends to be used primarily as a gateway to the Croatian islands, but for those who choose to stay here, there’s an older old town than the one in Dubrovnik, and far lower prices.At the time of writing, a week in September with flights from London and a hotel room cost £236 per person, according to Kayak.

The city is dwarfed in tourist terms by Prague, but still has plenty of beauty and culture to offer in the old town. The advantage of being rarely visited is the fact that the city is relatively unspoiled and inexpensive - and for that reason it deserves a place on the list. The downside is that it’s hard to get there  -  you’ll have to change flights, and the cost of the flight alone dwarfs the price of a week-long stay in some of these other destinations. It is, therefore, a great place to visit if you are travelling around the region, rather than flying over for a week.


Read Full Story