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Money-Saving Travel Hacks

Kara Gammell
Written by  Kara Gammell
Alicia Hempsted
Reviewed by  Alicia Hempsted
5 min read
Updated: 06 Jun 2024

Read personal finance expert Kara Gammell's top 12 travel hacks to help holiday-goers of all kinds save money on their next trip.

Planning your next holiday but don’t want to pay over the odds? 

Here are 12 hacks to help you save money and mean you get to see the world for less. 

1: Sit in first class for free

Finding a seat on the train can be a difficult task – and it’s especially tricky if you have suitcases and children to transport to the airport or a staycation. 

But there’s good news for train travellers: the rear first class carriage on many trains is always declassified, so anyone can sit there at any time of day. 

It maintains the first-class branding because which end is the rear switches depending which way along the track the train is going, which means you will often find a seat and it won’t cost you a penny extra. 

Check your train provider for details. 

2: Don’t fork out for children’s seats on flights

If you’re taking a flight with young children, you’re probably going to want to sit next to them. 

But making sure your family sits together on a plane can be costly as many airlines charge fees for pre-selecting seats. 

Airlines rely on the fear factor to convince you to cough up for allocated seating, and passengers worry if they don't pay up, they'll be split up. 

Yet while this does apply to Ryanair – where it stipulates that at least one parent should pay a booking fee – you shouldn’t need to fork out for the fees thanks to Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) guidelines that say airlines should aim to seat children under the age of 14 close to an adult in their party for free. 

If this isn't possible, they should not be separated by more than one aisle or more than one seat row. 

It also says parents should not have to pay to avoid a situation where their child is seated in a different part of the aircraft. 

Err on the side of caution and check in early for peace of mind. 

Most airlines say that they will always try to seat groups on the same booking together. So, check in as soon as you're able to and you should get to sit together, as long as there are seats available next to each other that haven't been snapped up by folk who paid to reserve.  

3: Let AI do your holiday planning

AI can make holiday planning easier and more affordable by helping you find the cheapest destinations from your local airport. 

Airlines and hotels often use dynamic pricing, where prices change based on demand, time of booking, and other factors. 

AI algorithms can analyse historical price data to predict future prices, giving you a heads up on the best deals. 

What’s more, it can suggest cheaper travel destinations that you might not have considered by considering your local airport, preferences – such as climate, activities, and culture – and, most importantly, your budget. 

Here is an example of a prompt to type into Chat GPT or whichever AI you prefer. You can tailor the details to meet your preferences:  

“You are my travel agent. Give me five ideas for a July holiday destination. I would like these locations to have temperatures of between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius during August. I will be traveling in a group with two children and two adults.  We enjoy things like swimming, beaches and theme parks. All in, we would like to spend less than  X amount for X days. Ask me five questions that would help you do a better job of helping me pick a place.” 

4: Make money when you book

Further add to your holiday savings and sign up for a cashback website such as before you book flights or airport parking. 

Here, product providers and retailers pay commission when shoppers click on their links. In turn, the cashback website rebates some of this commission to the consumer. With thousands of retailers available, it’s easy to make money when booking your annual getaway when you book flights, accommodation or even airport parking. 

5: Get free days out when you buy your travel insurance 

Buy your annual travel insurance* through MoneySuperMarket and automatically become a member of our SuperSaveClub

Not only will you get the best deal on your travel insurance, but all our members instantly get a Free Days Out Annual Pass worth £180**, granting you unlimited access to thousands of fun activities across the UK such as London Zoo, Go Ape and Gravity Trampolining. 

*Available only for standard annual travel insurance policies (not available specialised policies for pre-existing medical conditions and single trip policies) 

**Based on one visit per month - average ticket value £15.07 (March 2024)T&Cs and restrictions apply 

6: Keep the kids quiet 

When you’re flying with kids, do they struggle to watch the in-flight entertainment due to the heights of the screens or the lack thereof?    

Make viewing easier for your little one with this simple hack using your mobile phone and the flight sickness bag.  

Just remove your phone case, then place the bottom of the bag inside the case. Snap your device back into the case, so that the paper bag is sandwiched inside it.  

Then pull down the tray table attached to the seat in front of you and fold the other end of the bag over the top of the tray before popping it back in place.    

This will hold up your phone at perfect viewing height.    

Just make sure you download lots of programmes before you take off.    

7: Make lunch your main meal 

When you go on vacation, worries about your wallet can tend to go out the window. 

But you needn’t pay over the odds for your nosh on vacation. One way to cut costs is to eat your main meal at lunch as many restaurants have lunch menus that are significantly cheaper per person than dinner fare. 

8: Always pay in local currency

Once at your holiday destination, decline any offers to take payment in sterling because the rate will be shocking.  

This is known as Dynamic Currency Conversion and, while the transaction may be more convenient, it will be at an alarming price. 

9: A resealable bag can save your gadgets

Whether you're painting or hitting the beach, keep your phone clean and dry by sealing it inside a zip-top plastic bag. 

You can still work the buttons through the bag and your handset will be safe and sound. 

10: Plump up your packing with a pillow

If you've ever booked what you believed to be bargain flights, only to discover your luggage will cost more than the flight itself, you're not alone. 

One way to get more luggage onto your flight without paying over the odds for extra baggage is to pack an empty, zipped pillowcase to fill with extra clothing. 

Many airlines will allow you to bring a pillow aboard, and as long as the case is closed “like a bag” and doesn’t contain banned items, it wouldn’t be a security concern. 

However, some airlines may count it as a personal item, so check what pillow size is appropriate for your airline to avoid additional fees. 

11: Embrace parental perks   

Did you know that some airlines will let you check in car seats and collapsible pushchairs for free?  

Even some of the cheaper airlines with a reputation for frugality have surprisingly generous baggage policies for parents.  

Hiring seats and buggies while you’re away can be a costly affair, so this hack could save you hundreds.   

Whether you’re checking in a car seat or a pram, it’s a good idea to wrap it in plastic wrap and lots of tape.  

You might also be able to sneak a couple of towels in there to save space in your suitcase.   

12: Power up your gadgets 

If you’re finally heading off on holiday, save on suitcase space – and the pennies – and pack an extension lead. 

This way, you won’t need to invest in a bunch of travel adapters, which are often about £6 a pop, and your savings can soon add up.