Making The Most Of The Weak PoundPosted on: 23 January 2009 by Gareth Hargreaves
With sterling on the decline, there are still reasons to be upbeat about holidays in 2009. We show you where to grab a bargain break away.
It's easy to come up with a doom-and-gloom list about travel prospects for 2009. With the pound hitting record lows against the Euro, many of our most popular holiday destinations - including Spain, Italy and Greece - have become significantly more expensive.
The weakening pound also means costs have risen by nearly 30% in a year for British travellers heading to America and other countries where the dollar holds sway.
Meanwhile, many airlines are cutting back on the routes they fly and the big tour operators are offering fewer package holidays next year, and claiming prices will be higher.
But it's not all bad news. To entice us to go away and part with our money, some bargains are already being offered. Moreover, there are alternatives to Eurozone countries and the US where exchange rates are more favourable.
Here are several reasons - some but not all financial - to be upbeat about holidays next year.
Hotels & Lowering Rates
Fewer of us are travelling so hotels have empty beds that need occupying. According to the Hotel Price Index, the average price of a room fell by 3% over the summer - the first drop in four years.
Rates will almost certainly decline further and faster this year.
More Late Room Deals
Specialist discounted hotel deals website www.laterooms.com reckons bargains can be found in four-star London hotels, where it says late booking rates are typically 30% lower than a year ago.
In Rome, Prague and Madrid prices have dropped too - though the worse exchange rate may reduce or even eliminate savings.
Good Deals On Ski Holidays
If you avoid peak times, such as February half-term, you will find some great deals.
Iglu Ski says it has discounts of 25 to 50% on many breaks. Typical travel deals include a week in Courcheval for £322per person with flights, breakfast, dinner and wine included – a saving of £316.
Tip - Book ski packages with meals to reduce the impact of the poor exchange rate.
To bag a cut-price deal to the Caribbean, you normally need to travel in summer or autumn months. But many hotels are crying out for business right now and lowering peak-season winter rates, which in turn means discounted packages.
On www.caribbeanconnection.com there is a £2,100 reduction for a couple on a week's stay between February and March at the very swanky Carlisle Bay on Antigua.
Remember to shop around for the best deals - package prices can vary enormously - and haggle: in the present climate, companies may well be ready to negotiate on price.
Cruise lines need to fill cabins on their ever-growing fleets. Eight new ships have been launched this year alone, hence a flood of unprecedented discounts.
On www.cruisecritic.co.uk, a two-week Caribbean cruise with Ocean Village in February - at peak time – was advertised for £798 per person - including flights; that's just £57 a day.
Cunard is offering six-day transatlantic crossings next year on the Queen Mary 2, including a flight in the opposite direction, for as little as £699 per person – 30% the normal lowest fare.
A few weeks ago, MSC Cruises were selling trips for just £1 for someone accompanying a full-fare paying passenger.
In a separate move, with the cost of oil having fallen considerably in recent months, many cruise companies are dropping fuel surcharges.
Good Value For Iceland & South Africa
While the pound has plunged against the Euro and US dollar, for a few currencies the exchange rate has actually improved for UK travellers.
So head off to Iceland, where the collapse of the Krona has cut the previously astronomical cost of hotels, meals and drinks for British visitors by a third.
If Iceland sounds a bit dark and chilly, how about South Africa? The falling value of the Rand against the pound means day-to-day costs are 10% cheaper than a year ago.
Also consider a trip Down Under, as the Australian and New Zealand dollars haven't moved much against sterling.
Turkey & France
Turkey looks as if it will be very popular in 2009. Day-to-day costs are markedly lower than in Eurozone destinations such as Spain and the British Pound has dropped by only about 5% against the Turkish Lira.
I've picked out France because it can be very cheap to get there. You can take the car and family, and all your clobber, across the Dover Straits for about £50 return out of season, or £100 even in the summer months - a fraction of the likely cost of flying your family anywhere.
Duty-Free Limits Have More Than Doubled
For the first time in 15 years, the allowance for purchases such as gifts and souvenirs that you can bring back from outside the EU without duty being payable has increased.
On the 1st December the stingy old £145 limit was raised to £300, and on the 1st January it rose to £340, to reflect the pound's weakening against the Euro.
It means you're less likely to fall foul of Customs on transatlantic sprees. See www.customs.hmrc.gov.uk for allowances on tobacco and spirits.
Review Websites To Empower Travellers
Websites providing warts-and-all reviews written by paying punters have done more to help travellers make informed decisions than anything since the advent of the guidebook.
For holiday reviews see www.tripadvisor.co.uk, for cruise reviews try www.cruise critic.co.uk and for reviews of apartments, cottages and villas see www.holiday-rentals.co.uk. You can even check out campsites at www.ukcampsite.co.uk.
Far fewer Britons are flying abroad for their holidays as the economic downturn and the sinking pound is keeping them at home. What are your plans this year? Will you be home, or away?
Let us know by leaving a comment in the box below or share your thoughts with other 50connect readers in the forums.
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