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Holiday myths: debunked

By Cathy Winston 29/04/2016

Can you really save money by booking your holiday in advance? We have the lowdown on whether holiday savings are myth or magic.

Do you save loads by booking in advance, or will doing it last-minute get you a better deal?

The lure of a late deal is always tempting, but in general it's the early bird who gets the discounts. While seat-of-your-pants holiday roulette could pay off if you're flexible about when and where to go, if you're planning a trip during peak dates you'll find few bargains. From six weeks before departure, flight costs keep rising, so to bag the best deals sign up to airline alerts to see the new schedules as soon as they're announced — often up to 11 months in advance.

What about those tempting flash sales on 'secret' holiday sites?

The 'deals' on these sites are usually based on hotels' full-price 'rack' rates (which you'd rarely pay), so the markdown isn't as impressive as it first seems. And while there are still discounts to be had, they may come at a cost, with more restrictions, non-refundable prices and a ticking clock pressuring you to book before you're ready, so always read the small print.

Are there any ways to save if you're booking flights only?

Yes — this is where comparison sites come into their own. Visit skyscanner.net to find out the cheapest days to fly over a certain month. It also has a price alert option so you can snag a seat as soon as it drops into your price range. Also, kayak.co.uk has a trend calculator to track if fares are likely to rise. And Sunday and Tuesday are usually the best days to book.

Are the days of bargain summer breaks over?

Nope. Remember, it's not just the price of your holiday that you need to take into account, but the cost once you get there. That's why cheaper eurozone countries such as Portugal and Greece are good bets thanks to local competition.

Is there an optimum time to change travel money?

The simple answer is: just don't wait too long. Get it sorted in advance rather than waiting until the airport to change your cash.

Duty free — the home of bargains?

Not anymore. These days there are often better deals in supermarkets or online, and those tempting discounts rarely apply if you're flying within the EU anyway.

What's the best way to get an upgrade on the flight?

Don't rely on honeymoons or birthdays; your best chance of turning left for free is to be on the airline's loyalty scheme. Otherwise it's a lottery — you could get lucky if you're early, or late, or bumped, or nice to the cabin crew, or dressed up, or if there's a problem with your seat. The only guarantee? Pay for it yourself. Compare premium economy, business and first fares at cheapflights.co.uk – it could save you hundreds on the same flight and dates.

Low-cost airlines are cheaper than scheduled flights, right?

Budget airlines aren't always the best deal once you factor in baggage fees and other niggling costs. It pays to be flexible — mixing and matching airlines and taking indirect routes can shave money off.

This Money Matters post aims to be informative and engaging. Though it may include tips and information, it does not constitute advice and should not be used as a basis for any financial decisions. Sainsbury's Bank accepts no responsibility for the opinions and views of external contributors and the content of external websites included within this post. Some links may take you to another Sainsbury's Bank page. All information in this post was correct at date of publication.

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