How to book a five star holiday at four star prices

WITH the weather getting warmer and much of the world opening up, now is the time to book your summer holiday.

Despite finances being squeezed more than ever before, you can still book a trip away on a budget.

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Holiday luxury without paying over the top pricesCredit: Getty

This week Rachel Wait explains how to cut back on spending but still treat yourself to some luxury while you’re on holiday.

Go VIP for less

GETTING to the airport early to avoid delays is essential this summer.

Airport lounges are great for avoiding the hustle and bustle of busy terminals.

And you don’t have to fly first or business class to get access to a swanky lounge for free or on the cheap.

Cody Candee, CEO and founder of luggage storage firm Bounce, said: “One of the best ways to get cheap airport lounge access is through one-time access payments which can cost from as little as £15.”

Usually airline lounges are better than airport ones, but do your research before you pay using sites such as Tripadvisor or LoungeBuddy.

Virgin Atlantic’s Flying Club members can get a discounted rate on No1 Lounges.

If you have a premium credit card or bank account such as Amex Gold or NatWest Reward Black you may get free access.

Aspire from Swissport also has a loyalty scheme where you can get discounted or free access to lounges.

Low cost luxury accommodation

FOR luxury accommodation on the cheap, consider using house swapping sites like HomeExchange and Love Home Swap to switch your home for another.

You do have to pay a fee of £49 to £144 a year but it gives you access to thousands of homes across the world. Love Home Swap currently offers a two-week free trial.

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Retired garden designer Karen Yates, 66, and her husband Tony, 69, use HomeExchange to swap their home in Barnes, south-west London, so that they can spend three months a year in Australia, visiting Karen’s sister, Lynda.

Members save an average of £1,065 on a seven-night stay by swapping homes rather than staying in a hotel or a holiday rental property, according to Love Home Swap.

She said: “We have just returned from Australia, during which we managed four exchanges.

“One was in Sydney. It was in an immaculate flat, which had swimming pools and a gym etc but was very close to the centre.

“Another was an apartment in Melbourne, and a third was a four-bedroomed house in a quiet beachside development in Queensland.

“We reckon it saves us at least £50 a night, so it’s fabulous for long trips.”

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Karen and Tony swap homes when they travel to save on accommodationCredit: Supplied

Bag a free flight upgrade

SCORING a free flight upgrade isn’t easy and while they are rare, it is possible.

You have a better chance of securing one if you have a loyalty card, as airlines are more likely to upgrade loyal customers.

Be polite to staff and try mentioning a special occasion like a honeymoon or milestone birthday when asking.

You’ll have more of a chance if you’re not in a rush to travel and volunteer to give up your seats on an overbooked flight as they may offer you an upgrade for the inconvenience.

Staff can only upgrade you if there’s space, so if you book a busy flight your chances will be slim.

You might also be able to secure a last-minute bargain if you’ve got extra cash.

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Landing a flight upgrade makes the world of differenceCredit: Alamy

Sarah Holt from mobile money app Monese said: “Some airlines offer last-minute upgrades as they will try and earn extra revenue before take-off.

“They’ll offer affordable upgrades or even an opportunity to bid on a better seat, so watch out for these as you near the departure date.”

Qantas’s Bid Now Upgrades scheme is available on selected domestic and international flights by invitation only for passengers with economy tickets.

Or check out MHupgrade for Malaysia Airlines, PlusGrade for Etihad Airways and Upgrade Bid for Cathay Pacific to make your cash bid on selected flights.

You may also have loyalty points or vouchers which can be used to pay for upgrades as a treat.

Time it right

DON’T leave your travel plans until the last minute – plan ahead if you can and use online tools to find the cheapest prices.

“Start looking for flights nine months in advance and use price trackers like Google Flights”, says Tristan Sire, from Jack’s Flight Club.

He adds: “Don’t rush to book – flights don’t tend to stop fluctuating in price until the departure date is less than three months away.”

When you’re ready to book, find out whether it’s cheaper to include a stopover as part of your journey or whether booking flights and accommodation together will save you cash.

Search for discounts before you book. For example, single parents can get up to £100 off Easyjet family holidays with the code ONEADULT, while Jet2 offers £60.

Sites to visit include Savoo, Vouchers.co.uk and myvouchercodes.co.uk.

Get apps

JACK’S FLIGHT CLUB: Sign up to the free deal alerts newsletter listing the best deals on flights, including hidden offers and “error” fares – mistakes in advertised prices which airlines will often honour.

HOLIDAYPIRATES: Check out the best holiday deals and discounts each day. The free newsletter will also update you with the best travel hacks.

HOPPER: An app that predicts future air fares and hotel prices, telling you the best time to book your holiday.

HOST UNUSUAL: Compare quirkier accommodation types worldwide, including lighthouses, yurts, buses and a retired Boeing 747.

Hire a smarter car

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Try to find a good car rental deal by shopping aroundCredit: Alamy

AIRPORT parking costs can really add up, so it’s worth seeing if it’s cheaper to take public transport or a taxi.

Use any savings you make to secure an upgrade on your vehicle and travel more comfortably.

Patrick Dever at discount code website Coupon Ninja said: “Be sure to never leave your car in a short-stay car park, or you’ll be hit with a hefty fee.”

Comparison sites such as SkyParkSecure, Looking4Parking or Holiday Extras can offer decent discounts too, with up to 35 per cent off compared to booking direct.

Before you book, check what transfer options are available from the airport to your accommodation.

If you’re booking a car rental, the key is to do it well in advance. Kate Brassington, co-founder of website The Family Vacation Guide, said: “Don’t go with the first rental company you come across.

“Instead, compare prices from different aggregator websites like Expedia, Orbitz and Kayak.

“If you find a good deal on a rental, check the company’s website before you book for the possibility of a better rate via a direct booking.

“Discount brands like Fox and Budget often have cheaper rates than the more prominent companies.”

Claim cashback

CASHBACK is a great way to save money when booking flights. You can even use the cash to upgrade your room or fund trips away.

Teacher Liz Elder, from Bristol, got £102 back when booking her family holiday to Turkey in August 2019 with First Choice by using TopCashback.

The 48-year-old booked a two-week holiday for £2,050. You may have to wait up to 30 days for the cash to be paid.

She said: “We claimed back up to 5 per cent of the total cost by using cashback. We had to wait for it, but for very little pain we had actually gained.”

Always find the best deal before booking and then check to see which cashback offers are available.

At TopCashback you can currently earn up to 11 per cent at Hotels.com, up to 8.5 per cent at Lastminute.com and even save on hire car costs, with 8 per cent back on Avis.

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Liz Elder used cashback to claim a triple-figure discountCredit: Supplied

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Pay a small price for comfort and space in the VIP loungeCredit: Handout