Get more for your money by taking control of holiday finances

Getting a good price for a family holiday booking is something we all tend to pay attention to, as we cannily shop around to check prices and get the best deal.  However, when it comes to holiday spending money, many of us don’t give it a second thought – we simply change pounds sterling as we dash through the airport or withdraw cash with a debit or credit card once we arrive at our destination.
All in all, it means we often get very poor value for our holiday pounds, but, with a bit of forward planning, it’s possible to get much more for our money. 
Order cash in advance
While it’s probably not wise to get all of your holiday money in cash – especially for longer stays – most of us want to have some cash readily to hand on arrival to cover things such as taxi fares and food and drink on the first day.  However, according to the Post Office 1.63 million tourists waste over £21 million a year buying currency at UK airports.
Andrew Brown of Post Office Travel Money said: “We compared rates for 10 currencies at 11 UK airports with those available in Post Office branches and found that tourists buying at the airport would get less foreign cash for their pound.  In fact, families changing the average value transaction of £268 into Euros at the airport face losing almost £13 – enough to buy a snack lunch for four in the Costa del Sol.”
So, instead of just accepting the deals offered by airports, it pays to check rates before setting off so that money can be changed for the best possible rate. Compare organisations such as the Post Office and Travelex as well as high street banks and look out for commission free currency exchange deals in addition to checking the actual exchange rates.
Take control of card costs
Because card payments are such a normal part of our financial lives, it is second nature to pay by card and make ATM withdrawals when we are overseas too.  But, long after the tan has started to fade, the holiday credit card bill or debit card statement can land with something of a shock – not necessarily because of the cost of items purchased, but because of the associated transaction fees charged by the card provider.
Some debit and credit card providers charge 2.5% or more for an ATM withdrawal and often apply a minimum fee per transaction, so this can really add up if you make lots of small withdrawals. On top of this, the exchange rate from sterling to the local currency may not be favourable.
One way to rein in these expenses is to get a pre-paid currency card before you leave the UK.  A number of organisations provide them, from banks to specialist payment provider companies such as Ukash and Travelex.  The cards work just like a debit card for electronic payments and ATM withdrawals but with lower or even no fees for using them.  There are different types of card to suit different travel styles – some cards can be loaded in advance with a specific currency such as euros or dollars, while others can be loaded with sterling so that payments can then be made in any local currency.  People who travel regularly in the Eurozone will probably find it most cost effective to get a card that can be loaded in advance with euros, which eliminates the foreign exchange rate charges and often means that ATM withdrawals are fee free.
Pay in the local currency
If you really must use your standard credit or debit card while overseas, the advice from experts is to ensure that the currency is conducted in the local currency rather than sterling.  Many vendors will ask if you wish to pay in sterling when taking your payment, but although the familiarity of paying in a home currency may sound like a good idea, the exchange rates are generally less favourable than those used by the credit or debit card company when you pay in local currency and let them handle the conversion.
Book parking in advance
Finally, don’t forget that FHR Airport Services Ltd offer a best price guarantee for your airport parking and hotels.
When it comes to holiday spending, every little helps.

Alison Thompson is a travel writer for FHR, a leading provider of Airport Hotels, Parking and Lounges

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