With Brexit looming, now is the time to extract every ounce of value from your holiday.
Imogen Lepere has discovered six clever ways to make your money travel further
VALUE YOUR CURRENCY
With Britain’s impending departure from the EU, it’s likely the pound will be weaker for the foreseeable future so there’s never been a more important time to be savvy with your money. Make your sterling stretch by visiting destinations where it’s strong against the local tender.
Ian Strafford-Taylor, chief executive of currency provider FairFX, says: ‘There’s been a lot of news about the rise and fall of the pound so the smartest holidaymakers need to look for long-term trends to find the best value. Currency swings make a huge difference to the cost of your holiday.’
THREE STERLING BREAKS
The peso has plummeted, meaning you can get 60 per cent more for your pounds than you could last year. For every £1,000 you will have £380 more to spend. Try: Hotel Pulitzer in the heart of Buenos Aires has rooms from £72 per night. 00 54 11 4316 0800, http://www.hotelpulitzer.com.ar
Now’s the time to make your lira last longer. The value of Turkey’s currency fell by 19 per cent against the pound in 2015, giving you £190 more for every £1,000 you spend. Try: Elite World Marmaris Hotel has rooms from £102 per night. 00 90 252 441 0606, http://www.eliteworldmarmaris.com.tr
Currency analysis by FairFX shows that 2016 is the cheapest time for an African safari in the past three years. Your pound will go furthest in Zambia. For every £1,000 you spend there you will get an extra £472 and £368 more in South Africa. Try: Tau Game Lodge in South Africa’s Madikwe Game Reserve has rooms from £146 per person per night, including game drives. 00 27 11 466 8715, http://www.taugamelodge.co.za
The phrase ‘It’s not the destination but the journey’ has become something of a cliché, particularly when you find yourself folded into an economy seat for hours. Though when it comes to getting more for your money, there’s a lot you can do to make the journey work for you. Clever travellers save a packet by doing careful research and being flexible about where and when they fly.
Bob Atkinson, travel expert at Travel Supermarket, says: ‘Our research shows that holidays to Thailand are actually working out cheaper than Ibiza or Menorca this summer, as these are proving so popular with families.’ If you can’t do without your European fix, Atkinson suggests going to the country you want to visit but choosing an alternative city. ‘You can save hundreds of pounds by swapping obvious tourist choices for slightly lesser- known destinations. Choosing Valencia over Barcelona, for example, saves you 21 per cent.’
THREE WAYS TO SAVE
While short-haul options such as the Mediterranean may seem like an obvious choice throughout August and September, long-haul destinations are proving to be better value. kayak.com Its ‘explore’ feature allows you to see the price of different flight routes on a world map for a month of your choice. This summer, we’ve found return tickets to Bangkok for £350(Air China, airchina.co.uk), Nagoya, a fascinating city on Japan’s Pacific Coast, for £388 (Vietnam Airlines, vietnamairlines.com) and Abu Dhabi for £279 (Turkish Airlines, http://www.turkishairlines.com).
If your time is less valuable than your money, consider flying an indirect route to your chosen destination. hhtp://www.skyscanner.com gives users the option of searching specifically for indirect flights with one or more stops. Fancy delving into the infamous Temple Street Market in Hong Kong? Emirates emirates.com has return flights for £457 with a stopover in Dubai (direct flights, £908). Live the American dream in San Francisco for £524 with WOW Air http://www.wowair.co.uk, stopping off in Iceland (other flights around the August Bank Holiday cost £1,181).
Why not go out on a whim? If you’re happy to discover somewhere new or you’re looking to be inspired, you will find value in taking the route less travelled. http://www.adioso.com Its ‘anywhere’ search tool allows you to pick a timeframe and a country and throws up the cheapest flights possible. If architecture and beautiful skylines are your thing, head to Basel in Switzerland for £43 return rather than Zurich (£73). For a classic French seaside experience, try Biarritz for £111 return, rather than touristy Nice (£161).
GIVE HIGH SEASON
THE COLD SHOULDER
Have a long chat with the sommelier, soak up gentle rays around an empty pool and take your pick from a replete breakfast buffet – there are plenty of reasons to visit hotels in the months when business is traditionally slow, and most of them offer special rates to encourage you to do just that.
Charlie Taylor, director of external communications at Jumeirah Hotels, says: ‘In shoulder season, rates can be between 30-40 per cent lower and guests might be offered additional value such as free half board or an upgrade. There is also a higher staff-to-guest ratio.’
Familiarise yourself with a particular region’s shoulder season and call the hotel direct to ask them what deals it can offer. No matter when you’re looking to travel, it will always be shoulder season somewhere. June to September is the best value time to visit the Maldives, while Mallorca and Bodrum come into their own in October. Enjoy the South African spring during August, where temperatures in places such as Durban are in the 20s or try southern Italy in late September, when there is a harvest festival in every village.
When it comes to taking British holidays, you’ll find you get a much better deal if you go early in the year. ‘January and February are the best times to do UK city breaks,’ says Cara Brooks, owner and director of Brooks Hotels. ‘Numerous hotels in Edinburgh offer similar packages of bed, breakfast and afternoon tea for two people for just £99.’
THREE SHOULDER SEASONS
Low rainfall and temperatures of up to 29C make September the perfect month to enjoy this island paradise. Room rates and airfares drop after Labour Day (5 September), the school holidays have passed and Christmas season hasn’t started. In December, a double room at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa, Lahaina costs £293 per night but in September it’s £224. 00 1 808 661 1234, http://www.maui.regency.hyatt.com
The families that descend on the Algarve have melted away and in the Douro Valley, the wine harvest is in full swing. Six Senses Douro Valley is ideally positioned to watch the action. In summer it’s £416 per night but in shoulder season you’ll pay £224 (saving £192). 00 351 254 660 600, http://www.sixsenses.com
SOUTHERN CARIBBEAN: September-November
Caribbean hotels are up to 30 per cent less expensive in this period because it’s hurricane season but in the southern islands (Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, Aruba) the rainfall is infrequent. Visit Boardwalk Hotel in Aruba in March and expect to shell out £231 per night but in October it’s £135. 00 297 586 6654, http://www.boardwalkaruba.com
BE THE FIRST TO TRY
Lounge on untouched sheets in a fresh-from-the-wrapper robe, be the first to slip into an infinity pool and sample menus that no one else has experienced. Not only is the decor at its sparkling best and the staff straining at the leash to show off their skills, new hotels offer big discounts during their soft-launch period.
Claire Griffin, who has launched numerous hotels, says: ‘Owners of new hotels tend to be generous with rates, often discounting by 20-25 per cent. This is the case in both short and long-haul destinations but, in my experience, it’s the bigger, five-star hotels that offer the best discounts.’
It’s an excellent opportunity to venture off the tourist trail and explore destinations you wouldn’t be prepared to gamble full price on. According to Griffin, you don’t even have to go in the off-season to make the most of the discounts.
‘Owners may aim to tie in the launch with low season but like any building project, they’re often subject to delays, so you’ll find plenty of offers during high season, too. Typically a soft-launch period will last between two and six months after opening.’
Being one of a hotel’s first guests means you’re in with a good chance of getting upgraded to the best rooms in the house as they’re unlikely to be sold out. Cara Brooks gives us the inside track: ‘The best thing to do is to call the hotel, rather than going through an agent or website. Ask whether there’s any chance of being upgraded when you make the booking. They may not be able to provide it on the day but if they haven’t sold the better room when you arrive, they’ll be pleased to offer a positive experience for free in the hope you might come back.’
FIVE GREAT-VALUE NEW PROPERTIES
TOTEM HOTEL, MADRID Large villas and well-heeled residents make Barrio de Salamanca Madrid’s answer to Chelsea. Totem’s beautifully designed bedrooms may scream expense but it’s offering opening rates of £115 per night (standard price £138). 00 34 914 260 035, totem-madrid.com W HOTEL, GOA If secluded beaches lapped by the Arabian Sea sound appealing, head off the tourist trail to North Goa. W Goa is opening in September and will be offering five nights for the price of three at the special rate of £594. This takes the cost down to £118 per night (standard price £210). 00 91 124 676 8000, http://www.starwoodhotels.com
AMILLA FUSHI, MALDIVES For something special, Amilla Fushi in the Maldives has new suites that are literally on the Indian Ocean. ITC Luxury Travel is offering 40 per cent off its price of £6,865, taking the cost down to £3,845 for a week, including flights and meals. 00 960 6606 444, http://www.amilla.mv
EAST, MIAMI Sandwiched between South Beach and the Design District, East is the new kid on the block. Its panoramic views and chic minimalism are exactly what you expect from an urban retreat but the opening rates are £147 (normally £227). 00 1 844 257 8474, http://www.east-miami.com
BROOKS COUNTRY HOUSE, HEREFORDSHIRE This grand Georgian manor opened in July and has just 22 bedrooms, five hectares of grounds to explore and a private vineyard. It makes the price of £99 per double with two free dinners at the restaurant a steal (standard price £100 excluding diner). 01989 730 211, http://www.brookscountryhouse.com
FIND A HOME FROM HOME
First came Airbnb, where homeowners rent out their spare rooms, now swapping is de rigueur. It’s nothing racy, we assure you. Although if you’re anything like us, the prospect of free accommodation is bound to set your pulse racing. Trading your home with someone else can provide a unique insight into life in a different country. All you have to pay for is flights.
There are also plenty of hidden costs that swapping exterminates. Ed Kushins, founder of Home Exchange, says: ‘You can have great experiences shopping in local markets, then come home to cook in your own kitchen rather than having to eat out. You can also often use your exchange partner’s car so don’t even have rental costs to think about.’
So how much can you save per trip? Debbie Wosskow, chief executive of Love Home Swap, has worked out the average family of four saves £2,750 per week. ‘The financial benefits of house swapping are clear. A year’s membership to Love Home Swap costs £168, the same price as one night in a hotel.’
We grilled the founder of GuestToGuest and regular house-swapper Emmanuel Arnaud on the practicalities. ‘People worry about the logistics but it’s very simple,’ he says. ‘I normally just leave keys with a neighbour or post them, and put fresh sheets on the beds. If I have enough clean towels, I’ll leave them out but if not, I just ask guests to bring their own with them. If people are staying for a week, I’ll clear out a shelf in the wardrobe but if it’s just a few days then I don’t bother. You pay a deposit based on the size of the house and the facilities it offers (on average £380) but 99.7 per cent of deposits are returned in full.’
FOUR TOP HOUSE SWAPS
HOME EXCHANGE has fabulous properties in 150 countries. Pick papayas in your own orchard on Koh Samui, stride around a 400ha estate before taking tea in the rose garden at a half-timbered manor in Worcester or try a futuristic pad overlooking Manly Beach in Sydney. Membership: Annual fee of £100 gives unlimited exchanges, second year is free if you do not exchange in your first; Properties: 65,000. http://www.homeexchange.com
LOVE HOME SWAP is good for a first-timer because it offers a protection package (£49 per trip) which covers damage up to £5,000 and trip cancellation assistance up to £2,500. A luxury pad in Guatemala with private golf course and views of the Pacific Ocean caught our eye.Membership: £168; Properties: 90,000. http://www.lovehomeswap.com
GUESTTOGUEST allows users to swap their houses non-reciprocally using ‘guest points’, giving you far more flexibility. You get 750 points when you sign up and homes are evaluated based on the number of people they sleep, their location and the facilities they offer. You don’t need any points for a standard exchange and there are properties in more than 180 countries, including Canada, France, Italy, Morocco, the US and Australia.Membership: free; Properties: 236, 000. http://www.guesttoguest.com
HOME BASE HOLIDAYS has been around for more than 30 years and has a small number of well-curated properties on its books. Its urban offering is particularly strong. Choose from a stylish townhouse in Oslo, a bohemian maisonette on Brighton’s waterfront or a loft apartment in Manhattan. Membership: £49; Properties: 4,500. http://www.homebase-hols.com
In the past 20 years there’s been a huge surge in the number of people looking to be challenged and stimulated by their break. Political turmoil may have put the hordes off swathes of the Middle East and Northern Africa but if you keep an open mind and travel with care and respect for your destination,
there are serious bargains to be had.
Prices in countries such as Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey have
plummeted as fewer tourists visit. Turkey has seen tourist numbers fall for 12 months in a row. In April, the number of foreign visitors fell by 28 per cent – the biggest drop in 17 years.
Michael Pullman, marketing manager of travel company Wild Frontiers, says: ‘In terms of visiting stunning locations and having rewarding experiences, it is hard to beat challenging destinations. You can enjoy incredible sights in isolation. Now would be a great time to visit the Nile, or there are fascinating ancient sites that you can explore in Sudan. You will also enjoy unique interactions with locals.’
There’s no doubt there are some areas that are a no-go. However, if you follow government advice, you will find safe zones. For example, the Western Sahara of Morocco is off limits but the glorious orange beaches along the entire coast and intriguing Moorish cities such as Larache are currently deemed to be trouble-free. http://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
THREE COUNTRIES WORTH VISITING
EGYPT: Visit the Nile valley, Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada. With vast deserts, coral reefs and countless historical legends, it’s easy to see why Egypt has captured travellers’ imaginations. Visitors to Luxor have fallen by 70 per cent in eight years. Jewel of the Nile tour: £989pp for ten days’ accommodation and most meals. Excludes flights. http://www.onthegotours.com
JORDAN: Avoid 3km of the Syrian border. Its deserts are fascinating moonscapes populated by Bedouin tribes, its cities ancient metropolises and the Red Sea so salty you feel like you’re suspended in air. Visitors to Petra, a World Heritage Site, have halved since 2010. Highlights of Jordan tour: £659pp, including nine nights’ accommodation, half board and activities. Excludes flights. http://www.exodus.co.uk
TURKEY: Avoid 10km of the Syrian and Iraqi border and Diyarbakir
Head south for some of the best sand in the Med. Cirali Beach in the Antalya region stretches from the ruins of the ancient port of Olympus to where the foothills of Mount Chimera. Off the Beaten Track tour: £699pp for seven nights’ accommodation, including flights, half board and a boat trip around local islets. http://www.discovery-collection.com
This article was published on 10th August 2016 so certain details may not be up to date.