Holidays & Travel

How to bag a bargain European holiday this summer

Here are the top tips to increase your chances to grab a affordable holiday deal.

(Alamy Stock Photo)

As summer approaches, many of us are eager for a sunny getaway, whether it is lounging on a beach or relaxing on a veranda. However, the current cost-of-living crisis has put a strain on finances.

Adding to the pressure, holiday prices soar during school holiday periods, driven by high demand. Families, constrained by school schedules, find themselves competing for travel options.

Moreover,  rising inflation, both domestically and internationally, has impacted the travel industry as well. Increased fuel and maintenance costs, as well as supply-chain issues, have helped push up flight prices.

The cost of living crisis has caused immense financial for families across the UK.
Sunbathing on the beach, San Antonio, Ibiza, Spain The cost of living crisis has caused immense financial for families across the UK. (Alamy Stock Photo)

Despite these challenges, there’s a glimmer of hope for those planning a European holiday this summer. By remaining flexible with both destination and travel dates, there are opportunities to save money and make the most of the travel experience.

Finding cheaper holidays 

Experts advise that flexibility in choosing your travel destination is key to finding affordable flights and holidays.

Raphael Giacardi, head of UK editorial at the travel deals platform HolidayPirates, says: “If you want to book a week in Greece, Spain or any mass-market destination, it’s going to be hard to find cheap flights.”

He suggests that travellers should consider destinations that are often overlooked by others.

“For example, flights to Mallorca, including bags, would set a family of three back by about £450. However, a family could fly to Nice, in France, with BA for £316 all in.

“The French Riviera is certainly a bit cooler than the Balearics at that time of year, but it’s a beautiful destination with lots to see and do for families.”

Experts advice you to be flexible when booking your holiday.
Coconut cocktail with straw and colorful umbrellas on a beach, summer holiday concept, selective focus, space for text. Experts advice you to be flexible when booking your holiday. (Alamy Stock Photo)

How to search for cheap flights

Flight prices are forever changing and governed by “complex algorithms” that cannot be fixed by using private browsing and cleaning cookies.

Giacardi says: “There’s an enduring myth that you should use private browsing or clear your cookies before looking for flights, and that search volume impacts prices. There’s no truth in that.”

He recommends that tempted travellers should decide their budget for specific destinations and then set up price alerts on platforms such as Kayak as early as possible, as flights are typically released nine to 12 months in advance.

“Weekend departures for a traditional seven-night holiday always command a premium because they enable people to have a week off using only five days of annual leave,” he adds.

“Any weekday departure will require a sixth day of leave (unless you can find late flights, but that will eat into your holiday time). So, if you’re happy to use an extra leave day, weekday departures should save you some money.”

How far in advance should you book?

Booking your flight early is advisable however if you are flexible with your flights experts do recommend booking your flight at a later time.

Giacardi says: “For people who have very specific requirements in terms of when and where they want to travel, booking early is advised. Prices will be fairly competitive if there’s still a lot of availability in the market.

“But, if you’re flexible, it might be worth leaving it late. As certain destinations underperform against the travel companies’ expectations, you can see considerable price drops.”

The top advice is to establish a budget, find a holiday that suits your preferences, and book it.

For those who prefer not to handle the research themselves, there are plenty of travel-deal companies that specialise in uncovering the best offers on your behalf.

London City Airport digital control tower (Victoria Jones/PA)

Should you book as part of a package?

“Sometimes, but not always,” Giacardi says. “Again, it depends on what type of traveller you are” – as certain travel companies have committed stock, which may include operating airlines or pre-purchasing hotel rooms.

In this case, every vacant seat or unsold room incurs a financial loss for them. Plus, last-minute discounts can be substantial as they strive to fill these vacancies and minimise losses.

“Generally speaking, peace of mind is the number-one benefit of booking a package. Packages in the UK provide full financial protection – if something goes wrong, you’ll get your money back through the ATOL scheme.

When booking elements separately, if anything goes wrong, you’re at the mercy of your travel insurance,” he says.

But when exploring destinations that are not so well served by the major tour operators, booking flights and accommodation separately often proves to be cheaper. Therefore, opting for this approach might be your best strategy for securing an affordable European deal.

Deals for the summer

Bargain flights to Tirana, AlbaniaOpens in new window ]

(Alamy Stock Photo)

Flights are available throughout spring to Tirana, Albania, starting from £23. Explore Tirana’s vibrant nightlife, bustling shops, numerous beauty salons, and relaxing spas. And do not miss the opportunity to take a cable car ride to Mount Dajti for great views.

Three-night Madrid summer break at NYX hotelOpens in new window ]

For £289, you can enjoy direct flights and a three-night stay at the stylish four-star NYX Hotel Madrid By Leonardo Hotels, complete with a rooftop pool and breakfast included.

This deal is perfect for beating the August heat. Interestingly, these dates offer significant savings compared to June or July, where a similar trip could cost around £350. For even more savings, consider flying from Bristol, where prices start from just £265.

14 nights in St Lucia for what you would expect to pay for a weekOpens in new window ]

TUI has a fantastic holiday deal to St Lucia
Manchester Airport stock TUI has a fantastic holiday deal to St Lucia (Peter Byrne/PA)

A holiday in Saint Lucia can be expensive, but there’s 14-night trip for what you would expect to pay for seven on TUI. Get flights, a fortnight’s stay, luggage and transfers from £1,230.

Not only is this holiday already 24% discounted, but TUI is offering their customers with TUI accounts an extra £200 off the total price when they spend over a certain amount on 14-night getaways. The account is free to make and takes less than two minutes to create. With the discount, two weeks is only £179 more than going away for seven nights.

Bay Gardens Hotel is a short walk away from plenty of restaurants and shops in Rodney Bay. Possibly the biggest perk to this deal, besides the price, is that you’ll have access to a waterpark at the Bay Gardens Beach Resort, which is just a five-minute shuttle bus ride away.