Ok, so there are endless ways to save money on most things these days - the credit crunch has meant that retailers are crying out for us to spend our cash. Sales in the High Street used to be an occasion, and escape from the Christmas claustrophobia, or a time in late spring when remaindered summer clothes would make way for the Autumn collections. Now it seems, every day is a sales day - and looking at the range of specialist TV travel channels and the myriad offers in Travel Agents' windows, this is also true in the world of travel and holidays. Every day seems a good time to grab a bargain.
And yet we still seem to find that the dates we really want, the hotels we really need, and the departure airport which is a must for convenience and minimum hassle - all these are hard to find in the right combination to create the headline "bargain". So, sometimes, a little creative thinking is needed - and this creative thinking might start with the golden rule - be flexible, and you will save a heap of money. Here are a few tips towards creative thinking, a great holiday, and cash remaining firmly in the bank:
1) Book Early: How obvious! And yet it is absolutely true in the world of low cost holidays as with any other business affected by the basic economics of supply and demand. The best time to book, according to most reputable travel agents and flight brokers, is 11 months before you are due to travel. Seats on the key scheduled airlines are released for sale through agency outlets - including web suppliers - and there's usually a mass of cheaper seats available.
2) Book Late: Now there's a thing - equally obvious. But lest we forget, the laws of supply and demand favour the most flexible of holidaymakers, and a few clicks of a mouse or a short trawl through the TV text listings will always yield some superb bargains.
3) Buy a Package: Now, this is getting less than creative, I hear you say! Yes, the web has been revolutionary for people who wish to cut out the travel agent and arrange their own trips. But it is most definitely still the case if you are booking a flight and a car, or flight and accommodation, an agent can often offer a much better deal than if you were to book separately, even online. This is especially true of a multi-sector long haul trip.
But, if this is not creative enough, we can look at some other options. How about:
4) Visit countries which cost less: Sounds obvious as well, but make sure you get the knowledge. Many people, for example, see Greece as a low cost option, but recent inflation following the change of currency to the Euro it has become relatively expensive. This is less true of Turkey, which remains outside of the European community. Some online research might also lead you to Italy, or the Dominican Republic, or even Kerala. But perhaps, for UK travellers, not America, where the dollar is finding it feet again against to pound.
5) Stay at home: Why not just swap rooms with the kids for a couple of weeks, and spend time out and about visiting those local landmark - churches, parks, bowling alleys ... kids at a young age they enjoy simple pleasures like farms and pet shops, and just the extra attention they get when parents are not out working. A change is good as a rest. It's free and can be great fun.
6) Share the cost: If you are the sociable type, enjoy being in a group and can manage to share with friends or family you can save a lot of money. A holiday home that sleeps ten people is never five times more expensive than one that sleeps two.
Or, just by ensuring that the "extras" involved in any holiday - airport parking, insurance, travelling to the airport, currency exchange and so on - are given close attention, you can make sure that all the good work researching the best holiday price is not undone by paying more than necessary for those. Thus
7) Watch the "Commission Free" Currency: Commission-free doesn't mean profit-free. Make sure you study the actual exchange rate before exchanging currency. No two providers are alike, and some can be less than generous.
8) Book your airport parking in advance: Turn up on the day with your car and you'll very likely be staggered at the price to park your car for a week or two at any holiday airport. So do your research, go-online and check the possibilities of booking ahead - even on the day of travel - and save up to 60% on such costs. Or, you can check your insurance or car-breakdown membership for special tie-in offers, or you can check hotels that offer one-night, pre-flight stays that include long-term parking, or you can look for off-site parking offers. Whatever you do, do not simply turn up with you car - it is likely to cost almost as much, if not more, than you paid for the flight!