10 of the greatest travel hacks you should know about

Our expert travel hacks are designed to save travellers both time and money
Our expert travel tips are designed to save travellers both time and money - Hywell Waters

The internet is awash with travel “hacks” – some less useful than others. Over the years, we’ve seen some truly curious tips. Flyers have been urged to wear all their clothes to beat bag charges; hotel guests have been advised to cook noodles inside their in-room kettle to save cash; beachgoers afraid of theft have been encouraged to wrap their valuables inside a nappy.

The following suggestions are not quirky, but they do actually work – and could save you hundreds, or even thousands of pounds, on your next holiday.

Fly home on Monday, not Sunday

The timing of your long weekend away – Thursday to Sunday or Friday to Monday – makes a surprisingly big difference when it comes to both costs and experiences.

Usually it is the latter option that is cheaper. Why? Because Sunday is a slow night in city hotels, with demand falling off dramatically compared to all other days of the week. Therefore there is a much better chance of getting a competitive rate (or, at busy times, availability).

Furthermore, Sunday is often an excellent day for a visit to the opera or ballet, and though many shops will be closed, it is also the main day for Europe’s big flea markets.

Travel at the end of August, not the beginning

When it comes to cutting the cost of your peak-season break, good things come to those who wait. Book for the end of August rather than the beginning and you will most likely save several hundred pounds. The reason is simple: most families want to head for the airport as soon as possible after schools break up and higher demand means higher prices. When Telegraph Travel examined the phenomenon earlier this year, we found savings of up to £1,072 on hotel packages, up to £1,466 on villas, up to £115 on flights and up to £150 on car hire.

Don’t reduce your car hire excess, get insured

One of the annoying quirks of car hire agreements is the way the insurance works. All cars come with some cover, but if you have an accident, even a minor prang, you will get charged a huge excess – most are now £1,000 or more. To boost their profits, car hire companies will try to sell you a policy – sometimes by applying sales pressure – which either reduces the excess paid, or waives the fee entirely.

Travellers, understandably reluctant to have this £1,000 sword of Damocles hanging over their holiday, will often simply cough up the extra cash. But policies can be bought through independent insurers for considerably less. Indeed, a Which? analysis earlier this month revealed that holidaymakers are being charged up to £199 for inferior excess waivers at the car hire desk when superior policies are available online for as little as £16. Which? recommends Cover4rentals and ReduceMyExcess.

Skip the queues at airport security

At peak times – say early morning on a Saturday in summer – security queues can be depressingly long. But there’s a simple solution. If you are prepared to pay to skip them, most airports now offer a fast-track pass (typically around £7 per person), which you will have to book through the airport site in advance.

Plump for fast track to avoid queues at airport security
Plump for fast track to avoid queues at airport security - Story Picture Agency

Get travel insurance for the whole year

For anyone who takes more than two or three holidays a year, a multi-trip policy will usually provide the best value for money. These cover all the travelling you do in a calendar year, with limits on the length of each individual trip. A minimum of three or four trips will usually mean overall savings.

The other huge advantage of a multi-trip policy is that you are covered continuously and don’t have to shop for a new policy each time you book. You can normally choose, in order of cost, between worldwide cover, worldwide without North America, or Europe only. Some paid-for bank accounts also come with good-quality travel insurance that covers all your travel during the year.

Always choose the local currency

It is becoming more and more common for shops, restaurants and overseas cash points to offer the choice between making a payment which has already been converted into sterling, as an alternative to the amount displayed in the local currency. Selecting the pre-converted rate will almost certainly cost you more. I have checked the comparison several times over the years and that option has always been more expensive. Always choose the local currency.

Play your cards right

But not all bank cards are alike. Many charge you simply for the privilege of using them abroad – typically 2.99 per cent extra on everything you buy and three per cent or more if you use it to withdraw cash from an ATM. What’s more, they may also offer you an inferior exchange rate. So you are hit by a double whammy each time.

Pick the right card, however, and you will avoid all that and potentially make a real difference to your holiday costs. A select few offer exchange rates which haven’t been skewed against you and don’t add transaction charges when you use them overseas. Which? currently highlights three credit cards which do not make such charges: the Halifax Clarity Credit Card, the Bip Credit Card (both MasterCard) and the Barclaycard Rewards Visa. For debit cards, Monzo, Starling Bank and the First Direct 1st Account offer good deals.

Begin your long-haul flight in Europe

If you are prepared to start your long-haul journey outside the UK, you can save a small fortune, especially on business-class tickets. Research carried out by Telegraph Travel last month uncovered savings of up to £3,392 for those willing to fly via the likes of Oslo, Dusseldorf and Warsaw to far-flung corners of the world, with the Gulf carriers – Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Emirates – usually offering the best options.

Starting your business class flight from outside the UK can result in savings of thousands
Starting your business class flight from outside the UK can result in savings of thousands - Emirates

Fly ‘open jaw’

Similarly, so-called “open-jaw” tickets, involving a flight to one city but a journey home from somewhere different, can bring savings. A bit of planning is required. You’ll need to find a route that makes logistical sense, of course – flying into Paris, for example, and home from Lyon (after a 90-minute train journey), or arriving in Barcelona and departing from Zaragoza (also a 90-minute journey by rail). In addition to small savings, the tactic might also encourage you to discover two cities in a single trip, rather than just one.

Buy an eSim

While many younger travellers are likely to be familiar with eSims, those of an older vintage perhaps aren’t. Post-Brexit, most major phone operators (O2 is an exception) have reintroduced data roaming charges for trips to EU countries, which means that UK travellers could be stung with large bills if they use their mobile.

Buying a physical Sim from the airport upon landing has long been a way to mitigate this. Some UK providers also offer data bundles in advance. Even simpler, however, is the eSim. You simply buy and activate a plan with a cheaper provider upon landing, via an app, and can use your phone immediately, often at a fraction of the roaming cost charged by your existing UK network.