How to save money on your first international holiday post-covid without any fomo

By James Lynn, co-founder and co-CEO, Currensea

Is that finally a bright, sunny light at the end of the long COVID tunnel? Freedom day has passed, over half of the country is now double-vaxxed (over 72% of the adult population at the time of writing this article) and rates of the virus – and most importantly, death rates – are dropping. For Brits desperately in need of a sun-soaked break away from Blighty’s shores, things also seem to be looking more positive. The green list is growing, international cruise sailings have just got the go-ahead to restart from England’s shores and passengers travelling from the EU who have had both vaccines won’t need to quarantine or take a day 8 test on arrival. We’re still far from normality in the travel industry, but we’re getting there and looking forward to a holiday.

With all of this in mind and with large percentages of the British public planning holidays to warmer climes over the Summer and early Autumn periods, we wanted to provide you with some simple saving tips that won’t stop you from pushing the boat (or yacht?) out on your trip. In this article we’ll chat through the best ways to save some cash when abroad, as well as sharing some crucial info on how you can protect yourself against making a loss when things are still a bit up in the air.

How to save cash and have fun on holiday abroad

This may surprise you but one of the best ways you can save money when abroad is by being smart with the way you spend money. Not what you spend it on, but rather the medium of spending that you use. Firstly, it’s a big change from ten or even five years ago, but the days of using the bureau de change in the airport and being hit by 10-20% fees are over! In fact, I recommend taking as little foreign cash with you on holiday as possible.

While having a little bit of cash on you just in case is always useful, travelling cashless and using the likes of a direct debit travel card means you’ll get the benefit of lower fees and better exchange rates. If you can, try to pay with a card directly as much as possible (i.e. when at a restaurant or a shop), as this means you’ll also avoid the significant charges that come with using an ATM abroad. You’ll also have the benefit of spending with the consumer protection of your card. For example, Currensea links with your existing bank account meaning you don’t have to transfer any money when you travel and can feel safe that you have the same protection you have back home.

Then, when you get home you also don’t have to worry about re-exchanging leftover cash, which can hit you again if the exchange rate has changed while you were away (which happens a lot at the moment due to the volatility of the market).

On top of this, to get some additional benefits, have a look through all the cards you use that offer points, as well as the airline companies that you may have earned miles with in the past. You may be surprised at the huge number of cool things that you can exchange your points for. For example, we partner with Singapore Airlines so you can collect KrisFlyer miles, these can of course be used to save you money on your flight but can also be exchanged for spa and dining vouchers, free room nights and upgrades at any participating hotel or resort, immersive experiences with travel partners and much more!

Protecting yourself against sudden changes when travelling

There are five golden rules for booking a trip abroad at the moment. Make sure you keep these in mind when going away to prevent yourself from losing your precious holiday savings due to the precarious nature of international travel today.

  • Check the refund policy on flights or accommodation before you book

What you want to look out for is how the company will refund you. Ideally, this will be in cash rather than a voucher. If you receive a refund via a voucher and the company goes bankrupt, getting your money back will be very challenging.

  • Avoid putting down a deposit

If possible, stay away from paying a deposit. If you do pay a deposit, make sure it’s very low and only required close to the time of the trip in case there are any last minute changes to your travel plans.

  • Check the T&C’s when booking Package Holidays

Given the general uncertainty at the moment, we’d recommend taking extra caution when booking package holidays. Booking everything separately means you can review the T&Cs of each company to ensure they all offer good refund policies. It also makes it easier to move booking dates and you won’t have to deal with any middlemen who make communicating directly with the company particularly tricky. The pandemic has put a lot of pressure on travel providers to ensure they offer flexible cancellation and rebooking policies, just make sure you do your research first.

  • Don’t take out vast amounts of cash when you travel

Foreign exchange markets can be extremely volatile so taking out travel cash can be an extremely risky game, especially if another variant suddenly closes down travel again. In fact, a combination of FX fees and currencies jumping all over the place means if you then had to re-exchange your travel money back into GBP  you could risk losing 10-20% of your money’s value. To avoid this, minimise the amount of cash currency you take out before travelling and use a travel direct debit card instead. You won’t get hit by any hidden costs and will have the best rates on the market, even if you have to get a bit of cash out of a local ATM when buying small things abroad.

  • Finally, shop around for COVID tests

Anyone travelling abroad for a holiday at the moment must check the guidelines set by their destination, as well as what is expected of you when returning to the UK when it comes to taking COVID tests and quarantining. Check your airline’s website for info on what you need to do when you land in your vacation destination and review this page on the UK government website for what you need to do when you get home. Unfortunately, you can’t get COVID tests for travel for free from the NHS so you have to book them via a private provider. Many are charging a huge amount of money so make sure you shop around – the best deals we have seen (at half the price of other suppliers) have come from Randox.

In summary: be smart and have fun!

Even in the wake of COVID, your dreams of a beautiful Summer holiday can continue. Until travel is completely back to normal, the main difference between now and previous years is you have to be more careful and conscious when booking. Ensure you read the fine print in the terms and conditions so that there’s minimum disruption to your finances in the wake of further restrictions.

And, for when you get there, make sure you use a  direct debit travel card, meaning you can pay in the local currency (remember never select to pay in GBP, as this will result in additional fees charged by the merchant called DCC). You’ll get the best rates, save on any unwanted FX fees, and travel with peace of mind that you don’t have wads of cash on your person. Taking the necessary steps will ensure that your first holiday post-COVID will be everything you’ve been dreaming of and more. And you could even save some cash along the way!