Holidays bankrupt some people. Literally. Their overspending leads down a slippery financial slope.

But with a bit of pre-planning and, dare I say it, a loose budget for how much to spend each day, holidays don't need to break the bank.

Herald travel editor Winston Aldworth had a good point when I asked him for his tips about saving money on holiday.

"Sorry, mate - I'm a shocker. I change currency at the airport [the worst place] and always buy a dumb T-shirt. My advice: 'You're on holiday. Don't stress about spending. That's what the other 48 weeks of the year are for'."


Plenty of readers will agree. Others won't want the ghost of holidays past hanging around on their credit cards indefinitely and might benefit from these tips:

Book early

Or late. I procrastinate - so do as I say, not as I do. When you book early you can often get good deals. Sign up for email newsletters and Facebook groups such as Frequent Flyers Australia and keep an eye on prices.

Whenever I'm travelling I follow the local equivalents of GrabOne a few months in advance and nab bargains to local attractions.

Eat cheaply

I travel for experiences, which admittedly sometimes include eating out.

If the food is just fuel, however, street food, bakeries and supermarkets can fill a hole, leaving money for a memorable meal or two.

In Mexico my teenage children chose to eat in the market rather than flash restaurants that could have been anywhere in the world. If you're booked into a resort, check out the meal plans, which can be good value for money. Always carry a water bottle.

Downgrade your accommodation

If it's your honeymoon or anniversary, skip this. Otherwise, unless you really want to spend your holiday inside, consider taking a step down the star ladder.

A well-chosen Airbnb apartment is usually far better value than a hotel room and they often come with a kitchenette, which saves on paying for coffee, breakfast and the occasional dinner when I'm worn out from the day's activities.

Catch public transport

In most locations it's easy to get your hands on the equivalent of an AT Hop card and there's always an app to tell you what bus or train to catch. Shop around if you need a hire car.

You could even consider walking or cycling if you have access to a bicycle, which I did in my last Airbnb stay.

Be flexible about your destination

Unless you're off to a wedding or have dreamed for years of one destination, then be a bit flexible.

I'm in the process of booking a holiday for which I have a budget and holiday dates, but no set destination. The websites and have searches that show all the spots in the world I can go to on my budget.

House of Travel commercial director Brent Thomas points out the company has real live travel consultants who can help you juggle your options.

Part of the matrix is also the cost of living once you get to your destination. Your expenses in Bali or in Vietnam, for example, are going to be a whole lot cheaper than the Gold Coast.

Juggle your dates

"Travelling during the shoulder seasons, outside of school breaks and avoiding public holidays can not only help reduce the cost but popular destinations will be a lot quieter, too," says Thomas.

That might not work if you have always dreamed of going to the Carnival in Rio de Janiero or Oktoberfest in Munich, but unless specific dates are a must, travelling offpeak has real advantages.

Check out the free stuff

Wherever you go in the world there are free attractions, which can be as memorable as the expensive activities. Always look up local What's On guides before you set off.

Plan, plan, plan

Google is your friend. Work out as many details as you can before you leave. Check reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor. Use Street View and look around the neighbourhood. Study how to get to and from the airport and figure out how to get from A to B within the country. Check comparison sites such as Canstar for your travel insurance.

Live like a local

I sometimes change my behaviour according to where I'm visiting. A classic example was that wine was cheap in Argentina, but not in Brazil. So when I crossed the border, I changed my tipple.

Ask advice from other travellers

I'm guilty of always being too busy to get around to this. But it can help you direct your spending to get the most out of the holiday. A local, for example, could identify a SIM for you to use while away.

Finally, listen to Aldworth and don't stress about every cent of your spending. You may miss out on something special if you do.