How to plan a good overseas holiday cheaply

With crafty planning you can have a good overseas holiday cheaply.  These techniques may enable you to enjoy a much better holiday than you would otherwise have been able to afford.  We share some tricks that have been found to work.

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If you are determined to go to a specific place on a specific date, pick your preferred airline and stay in a predetermined hotel you are likely to pay the most of all.  This is one reason that business travel is so expensive.  If you are prepared to show a little flexibility you can reduce the costs significantly whilst enjoying a higher standard of travel.


Check whether your proposed dates are high-season, shoulder-season or out of season.  Out of season is cheapest.  But the proviso is that some places can be quite nasty when out of season – their main attractions may even be closed, or the weather could be extreme.  It may be that by moving your date by as little as a week you can realise a nice saving.


If you want to see the Sistine Chapel in person you have no choice as to destination – it is at the heart of the Vatican, which is embedded in Rome, Italy.  To state the obvious: it is a building and never goes on tour to other places.  And if they are selecting a new pope at the time, you are not going to get in unless you hold the rank of Cardinal in the Catholic hierarchy.

If, however, you decided to see “Italian Renaissance Art” instead then your possibilities broaden considerably – practically any region in Italy will have rich treasures to please you.

Find the nearest transport hub

Some of our best adventures have come from having a variety of modes of transport, even on the same day.  (There are exceptions: One of our team loves flying so much that any journey that can be done by air, however impractical that may be, is going to be done that way.)

For instance, though it is possible to fly to Galway from Dublin, you are going to get a magnificent experience of the Irish countryside if you take the train instead.

Work back from the furthest part of your journey and add the links as you go.  If you are lucky, your chosen destination is a major city that is a transport hub.  But more often than not, you are looking at something prettier and smaller and it may be a problem to find the right hub.

For instance, there a number of wonderful Adriatic cruises that start and end in Dubrovnik, Croatia.  However, getting to Dubrovnik, which is only a minor regional hub, can be expensive.  After doing some further research you will find that it is as much as €200 more per person  than going to Venice.  Then you find out that there are Adriatic cruises that leave from Venice!  (And a number of those cruises stop in Dubrovnik anyway, so you still get to see the city.)

Break the journey at connections

DIY Travel Expert recommends that you break your journey at connection points and make them secondary destinations.  This is particularly true of long-haul flights with multiple connections.  If you stop over on the way there you reduce the journey to a series of shorter hops.

A number of carriers route their flights via their main hub.  If you are flying between Europe, Asia and Africa on Emirates, for instance, you are going to spend some time on the ground in Dubai.  Etihad go via Abu Dhabi.  Qatar will put you in Doha.  You may visit Istanbul courtesy of Turkish.  Who cares if those places are not destinations that you would have picked for your holiday?  You have your main destination picked out already.

A stopover at one of these places incurs zero additional transport cost!  It is almost a free destination.  (Okay, you may have to pay for visas, and there will be excursion costs, but the transport is free.)  In fact, it gets better than that… it is often cheaper to travel via the carrier’s primary hub (even though the distance is further) than it would be to fly direct city-to-city.

You probably do not want to stop over on both the forward leg and the return, so you get to pick.  Sometimes, if the place you are going through is particularly nice, you might want to plan to spend a few days in one direction and just one day, without a sleepover in the opposite direction.

If you follow this advice, instead of minimising your connection time, you may find yourself expanding it so that there is time for an excursion at the carrier’s hub city instead.  It is exactly why they brought you there in the first place, but you can turn it to your advantage.

2 comments for “How to plan a good overseas holiday cheaply

  1. Sree
    27 January 2012 at 10:24

    I really had a bad experience for my europe trip. Although it was not our fault partly however it was a disaster trip. i had 3 transit and the flights were booked with 1 hr differences..and while i was flying in my second transit flight, half way flying the captain announced that one of the engine was faulty..and we need to fly back to the airport that we departed,,the effect of this we missed our third flight and they refuse to compensate. Thought of claiming from insurance, we failed. Overall a holiday trip can be a disaster if we didnt plan well… Plan for any extreme

    • DIY Travel Expert
      27 January 2012 at 14:43

      Thanks for your comment.

      I am guessing that the flights were with different airlines? If the segments were with the same airline as a “through-ticket” and they accepted the booking without warning you then you could probably still persuade them to give you a refund. It is perhaps too late for you, but we offer an explanation of what claims are likely to succeed here: DIY flight bookings – Minimum connecting time

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