Like a lot of us, Quidco’s Vix Leyton loves a holiday. When it comes to bargain trips she’s discovered the hard way that the rules are… there are no rules – but she does have some cash-savvy pointers.
If you’re expecting tips on how to save pennies on flights by booking them in the middle of the night on Christmas Day, or some such, then move along.
I’m assuming you all know the oft-peddled basics about shopping around, getting the best travel insurance etc. What I’m offering are some lessons I’ve learned as a haphazard traveller with all the gear and no idea.
Ain’t no scene in the VIP for me? Well, actually…
We can’t all be Kanye (thank God, I mean, imagine?), but what we can all do is access airport lounges as if we were. Though airport lounges, to me anyway, seemed like a world and a velvet rope away from any lists my name will ever be on, I discovered you can actually buy in – and it’s not even that pricey.
Gatwick lounges start from as little as £18. With copious amounts of free food and drink, comfy chairs and room to chill out, the only thing you really need to worry about is remembering to get on the plane.
This is a local deal for local people
When you’re visiting a new place it’s hard to separate the tourist traps from the hidden gems, but, thanks to the internet, there are a few little things you can do to fake it ‘til you make it.
A neat sneaky trick is to sign up to local deals sites, such as Living Social and Groupon, weeks in advance to peruse the offers. This unlocks access to all kinds of amazing bargains, even if they are a little off the beaten track, that you won’t see advertised in the windows for tourists, from cocktails in New York, to Kiss Mini Golf in Las Vegas.
As holidaymakers you have the luxury of time so you can take advantage some brilliant off-peak deals that not only support businesses during quiet times, but are easy on holiday spendies. There are also some great bundles and deals to be had for buying things like theme park tickets in advance.
Admittedly sometimes things that look too good to be true are 100 per cent too good to be true. That said, don’t let your cynicism put you off if you really like the look of it – just watch out for hidden catches.
The first time I went to Budapest was on what seemed like an awesome deal at £99 for two nights, including flights. The hotel looked great, the location was brilliant; surely there must be something wrong with it?
Sure there was. The reason for the amazing value soon manifested itself – you only got the flight times on purchasing the voucher. We were due to arrive at nearly midnight on the first night only to leave at the crack of dawn after the second, rendering it a glorified daytrip. There was a way to change to more palatable flight – for an extra hundred quid for the two of us. The “deal” was effectively a sneaky marketing trick to get us to commit to something we didn’t even know we wanted.
“On peak travel days where you’re going through a major hub like New York, there’s the chance you might get bumped off your flight. Build extra days into your holiday – just in case – and it can be very lucrative.”
But now for the good news – it was one of our favourite cities! And we’ve been back several times, having worked out the price was just as good if we built the trip ourselves; it’s just that we never would have even considered it had it not been floated in front of us that first time.
On that note though: when is a deal not a deal?
Be aware of deals language on things that aren’t actually any better a price than you’d get elsewhere. I came within a breath of booking a week in Thailand last Christmas because, at around £700, and believing the hysterical ‘act now’ claims of the site, it seemed like a steal. But I checked the price against Expedia, and found that actually all trips to Thailand were around that price, due to it being off-season.
Deals sites are great for things like Budapest, for mini-breaks where they show you something you’d never get round to booking yourself, but if you’re going long-haul, then it’s worth the effort to do your research, fact check your ‘deals’ and build your holiday from scratch. That way you get everything you want, none of the things you don’t, and you won’t accidentally end up listening to a two-hour lecture on timeshares in exchange for a coach trip to the Caves of Drach in Magaluf*.
Airlines oversell flights, which sounds like a nightmare but might actually be the path to some unexpected freebies. When I arrived for a Virgin flight a few years ago, the frosty minx on the check-in desk told me my seat had been sold.
Having just travelled from Cardiff to Heathrow for a holiday I desperately needed after a particularly bad run of luck, I went nuclear. I’m not proud of it, it wasn’t pretty. But the result was that I got an upgrade to ‘Premium Economy’. The title damns the experience with faint praise but the difference was marked, from my pneumatic, adjustable seat to champagne on boarding.
Overselling flights is not unusual. This means on peak travel days where you’re going through a major hub like New York, there’s the chance you might get bumped off your flight. Build extra days into your holiday – just in case – and it can be very lucrative.
Airlines know that most passengers don’t want to bumped, which means you can game it. This isn’t like that weird urban legend about getting a room upgrade in Vegas, it’s a real thing: my Auntie Sue and Uncle Mike have had this happen for them on more than two occasions, and now make sure they have the holiday time pencilled in just in case, so they don’t have to turn it down.
The more desperate the airlines are, the more perks you get – from hotel stays to flight upgrades. You can even volunteer for ‘bumping’, although that might damage your perks negotiation.
Check out Vix’s payday tips here.
Quidco is a rewards site offering members cashback at more than 4,300 retailers, online and in store. It’s free to join, and you can get cashback on everything from everyday essentials to travel and utilities. The average member earns £280 a year. Visit www.quidco.com to start earning money fast. This link takes you to a special Standard Issue readers’ deal where new sign-ups get a free £10 cashback bonus.3720 Views
Vix is a financial PR and ginabler who lives and works in East London. As a result she long ago lost sight of whether riding a unicycle while wearing a monocle is par for the course on a normal day.