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Bag the best deals on holiday transport

How to save money on getting to your holiday destination


A plane flying over a beach (© Getty Images)

The best holiday destinations often aren't cheap. So how to afford them? Easy - save money on the travel getting there. Whether it's by car, coach, train or plane, here's how to find the cheapest holiday transport.

Airplane

Book early for the best prices. For most routes, the lowest fares are available about six months ahead, although budget airlines will offer last-minute discounts in quieter periods. And use a price-comparison site to find your destination's cheapest flights: Skyscanner is the most comprehensive around.

Think about your desired route, and when the masses will be going . For example, New York's a prominent business travel hub, so weekday departures there are often more expensive. For a more holiday-focused destination, such as Jamaica, weekday flights will be less in-demand, and so probably a few pounds less.

Otherwise, aim for destinations' shoulder seasons, and sign up to airlines' newsletters so you learn about deals as soon as they appear. Some carriers, like Jet Blue, offer Twitter-only specials too, so ensure you follow them. If you're flexible per destination, Kayak has a very useful map of all current cheapo routes.

Sample deal: Found through Kayak's map and Opodo.co.uk, Ryanair has return flights to Madrid for 12-16 September from just £55.99 per person.

Car

If you're looking to drive to your destination and want to rent a car in the UK, try TravelSupermarket or Carrentals.co.uk for the cheapest and best deals. There's no best time to book in terms of rates, although the best cars will always be snapped up quickest.

Make sure to check the terms thoroughly - excessive charges for child seats, second drivers and so forth are a common ruse. Money Saving Expert has tips on how to drive fuel-efficiently, and bear in mind that diesel is cheaper than petrol in almost every European country.

Sample deal: Found via Carrentals.co.uk, Budget has an excellent deal for a week's hire of an 'Intermediate' car between 2-9 August from London City Airport for £160.76.

Coach

Thanks to Megabus's new route to Paris, where one-way fares start from £1, coach travel's in vogue. There's lots to be said for it: city-centre arrivals, often more room than planes, wi-fi in many cases. The issue, of course, is time - this sure isn't a quick mode of travel, and that's without impromptu traffic jams.

Megabus is a new player on the European coach travel scene, with additional routes to Amsterdam and Brussels, but the big boy is Eurolines, which has numerous amazing prices for destinations from Berlin to Bratislava. Prices work in accordance with general city-break rates in Europe: April-May and September-October are the dearest times, with winter offering the lowest costs. Off-peak, overnight routes are the cheapest.

Sample deal: Nothing beats Megabus's Paris fares - for instance, travel out at 9am from London on 16 August and return a week later on an overnight journey and it'll cost just £30.50 including the reservation fee.

Train

For European rail travel, the cheapest prices are typically found via local operators - such as Germany's Deutsche Bahn, or Renfe in Spain. There's no one website offering all European rail tickets, but Seat 61 has fantastic, thorough advice per-country on who to book with. As with domestic UK rail travel, booking in advance lowers prices, but note that tickets are only made available 60-90 days ahead of travel. Eurostar has a longer window - 120 days - and at off-season times, its fares to France and Belgium are truly fantastique.

Weekday and off-peak travel is generally cheaper, and a good tactic is to book sleeper trains to save on hotel bills as well. Rail Europe and TGV Europe have a wider and cheaper range of overnight routes than Eurostar.

Sample deal: Eurostar currently has £69 return fares available from mid-August, and these aren't all at entirely ungodly hours. For instance, leaving London at 15:01 on Wednesday 22 August and returning from Paris at 16.13 a week later - a bargain during summer.

Cruise

The most cost-effective way to get to the continent is via the shortest crossing, Dover-Dunkirk, although Dover-Calais fares aren't much more expensive - both start in the £60 region for a car and passengers with DFDS Seaways. As on overall rule, voyages at anti-social hours are the cheapest, especially overnight midweek ones (if you can live without a cabin).

Various websites compare ferry costs, but Ferrysavers.com is the best. Aim to purchase six-12 months in advance for peak seasons (spring and summer), and look out for deals in January ('wave season'), April and October. Unsurprisingly, midweek sails cost less than weekend cruises, especially in the school holidays.

Sample deal: A seven-night return on DFDS between Dover and Dunkirk, departing on Wednesday 29 August, with crossings at 10pm each time, costs £54 per person via Ferrysavers.com.

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