We love our holidays and count ourselves very lucky to be fortunate enough to go away most summers. We haven’t booked a package deal for a long time though (I think the last was our honeymoon 9 years ago!) as it is usually much cheaper to do it all yourself.
If you’re planning a bit of an adventure rather than a beach holiday, building the holiday yourself is the only way. Don’t be scared by having to book internal flights, or find your own transport to another part of the country.
It’s a bit of extra work but if you know where to look you can save yourself quite a bit of money on most types of holiday.
Here are my tips on how to book your holiday without a travel agent…
I would always recommend booking your flights first. There’s no point booking anything else until you know for absolute certain what day and time you’ll arrive.
My go-to website for booking flights is Sky Scanner. Sky Scanner searches all of the airlines and shows you the cheapest flights on your chosen dates. It works best if you can be a bit flexible on your departure date, and if you search across a few different airports.
We’ve always found that the cheapest flights leave on Wednesdays.
First, have a think about what kind of accommodation you’d rather stay in. We prefer a villa or apartment as personally find a hotel with a child to be hard work. If you’re self-catering you can have your meals when you want, and you’ll usually have a sofa or a balcony to chill out on.
On the flip side though you do have to do a bit of shopping, and tidy up after yourselves!
Owners Direct is worth a look if you are looking at self-catering. You liaise directly with the owner of the villa/apartment so you’re not paying commission to a Travel Agent. You can do the usual search for available accommodation, or you can choose to send your details and chosen dates to owners and they will email you with links to their properties if they have availability.
We’ve managed to do a week in Spain with just hand luggage on several occasions – mainly to avoid the extortionate Ryanair charges for suitcases.
The trick is to buy your toiletries when you get there and just bin what you don’t use. We also bought the baby milk and nappies when we got there to save a lot of room in our cases.
On most airlines, you can take a pushchair or car seat for free so this is worth checking before you book any extra baggage in.
If you’re not on a package deal you will obviously need to be able to make your own way from the airport.
If you are hiring a car use one of the comparison websites such as Holiday Autos, rather than going directly to the websites of the more well-known hire companies as you will find a much better deal. It’s also worth looking into taking your own car seats for the kids as this usually works out a lot cheaper than hiring them, you can pay £5-10 per day for just the car seat rental. Oh and take your sat nav with you so you don’t have to hire one of those either!
You might want to consider a taxi if you aren’t planning on driving around once you reach your destination. Holiday Taxis lets you book before you go so you know you won’t be stranded when you get to the other end. You can then also book your return taxi to make sure you’re not late back to the airport.
When we went to both Barcelona and Dublin with Ryanair they offered coach services into the city for around 15 Euros each and stopped on all of the main roads. Worth looking into if you are flying with them or one of the other cheap airlines.
If you do it all yourself don’t forget these important bits…
- Spend some time doing your research. Have a look at area guides, what there is to do, average temperatures, etc.
- Use Tripadvisor to check out reviews of hotels and attractions.
- Print everything off – there won’t be a tour guide to help you out.
- Make a note of the addresses and phone numbers of your accommodation in case you get lost.
- If you’re going a bit further afield make sure you don’t need a VISA to enter the country. Or an ESTA if you’re going to the US.
- If you want to go on trips and excursions when you are there check out Viator, we used them in Thailand and Barcelona and they really are fab.
- Don’t forget your travel insurance in case anything does go wrong!
Happy holiday planning! 🙂