We understand your pain. It's cold, dark and wet, and with Christmas behind us, there's not much to look forward to now 2016 has said goodbye and 2017 is blankly staring us in the face. Apart from holidays, that is!
Summer holidays (or spring, autumn or winter holidays, for that matter) are the light at the end of the tunnel in dismal January, so if you're wanting to take your mind of the gloom by planning a brilliant holiday, read on to find out how to best find and budget for your next low-cost holiday!
Build an amazing getaway
Whether or not you have a destination in mind for your upcoming holiday, it always pays dividends to do your research. There's an endless list of places out there that are stone's throw away from the more expensive holiday hotspots, but that still offer a charming, enjoyable holiday, so don't just pick the most obvious place to stay. Search for country and city guides online and you'll be able to find budget locations in white-hot places.
There are a host of travel sites out there you can visit in order to get the lowdown on the world's top locations, and if you head to TripAdvisor or Lonely Planet, you'll get reviews of the places from the public and the experts, respectively.
To get hold of cheap accommodation, head to sites such as trivago, AirBnb, Expedia and lastminute.com in private browser mode or with deleted cookies (many sites will up their prices if you've visited their site already), and for flights, check out Skyscanner.net.
While it might not seem important in terms of saving money, it pays to make sure that you know the place you're going is up to your standards, the accommodation you're hiring is good quality and that there are lots of things you can see, do and experience while you're there that don't cost a bomb. You don't want to have to cancel or endure a trip because something went wrong or wasn't up to scratch. Read reviews, look for pics, and you'll spend the flight back beaming.
How much will it cost?
Whether you've picked a number of cheap weekend getaways or a three-week escape to somewhere exotic, chances are you're going to have to draw up a budget and start squirrelling money away.
Next, find a good insurance deal using a comparison site such as Money Supermarket and find out whether or not you'll need to purchase a visa for the country you're visiting using the Government's travel advice site, clicking on the 'Entry requirements' section of your chosen destination's web page.
Use a few different sites to get a broad idea of the cost of living, and then go about working out how much you need to save for the day-to-day costs you'll be paying during your trip (plus the flights, insurance, visa and accommodation costs you should already have an idea of), and be sure to add a little extra on for unforeseen costs or those off-the-cuff splurges that often occur abroad. Divide this amount by the number of months you have until the trip, and you'll have a monthly savings target.
Saving made easy
There are all sorts of ways you can make sure that you're able to save for your trip (or recoup the money, if you purchase the holiday in advance), but whatever you do, you should open a savings account or instant access ISA so you have a place to put the funds.
Use an app
There are a range of apps out there that allow you to see a blow-by-blow account of your accounts. Check out Mint if you use your smartphone more than your computer, or PearBudget if you're more of a laptop user. With these, you'll be able to get a bird's eye look at your money, allowing you to save easily.
Make it visible
Instead of simply writing your savings goal on a Post-it note that'll inevitably be mislaid, make a digital copy of your savings goal, then plaster it wherever you can see it most. This could take the form of a screensaver, phone wallpaper or a note taped to your monitor at the office – anything to keep you motivated.
Save on payday
It can be easy to spend big when payday rolls around, but after you've paid all your usual outgoings at the end of the month, be sure to put aside your monthly holiday money. It'll make sure you're not caught short at the end of the month, and if your savings account is instant-access, you can always withdraw some cash if you need it.
Cut down on costs
This tip sounds obvious, but it's one that can save you enormous amounts of money over the course of a few months. Ditching expensive nights out, cooking at home, not unnecessarily buying clothes and other bits and bobs and cutting down on your daily trips to the coffee shop are all options, although candidates for saving differ from person to person. Consult your budgeting app and you'll see the areas ripe for savings.
While instant-access savings accounts and ISAs can be a good option for savers that might need a little extra money when times get tough, accounts that lose their interest rates if funds are accessed within a certain period can offer better interest rates, and provide a strong incentive not to dip in to the money. Shop around for accounts using a site such as Money Saving Expert and find an account that works for you.
Planning and budgeting for a low-cost holiday doesn’t need to be difficult, and in most cases, planning early is the best way to get a good deal and to give yourself time to save. Research, plan, follow through and you'll be enjoying your holiday in no time!