17 awesome August holiday savers – if you're going away or you've decided to stay
It's a summer like no other (OK, so last year's was strange too). Many who'd normally go abroad are staying at home and others have left booking anything till the last minute due to the uncertainty. But whatever your plans, we've got you covered – from the top travel card to £29 Travelodge rooms, free airline seat choice, 2for1 UK days out, £40 PCR tests and even how to beam a T-Rex into your front room.
Whether you're holidaying in the UK or overseas, or just want ideas to have fun while you've time off without venturing far, here are our 17 MoneySavers to help...
This article was originally written for our weekly email on Wednesday 4 August. We've updated it with all the latest info – including the latest on the traffic light system for travel – on Tuesday 17 August.
1. Keep an eye on the traffic lights... in case you need to hit the brakes on that overseas trip.
The traffic light system dictates whether you need to quarantine when you get back and what tests you need on your return. There was a big shake-up to the system earlier this month with France returning to the standard 'amber' list and the United Arab Emirates (among others) moving from red to amber – meaning that UK, US and most European residents who are fully vaccinated or under the age of 18 no longer need to self-isolate or undergo mandatory quarantine on arrival to the UK from these destinations.
We've a summary of the rules for UK arrivals below. For more help, see our constantly updated Covid Travel Rights guide. Just remember also to check restrictions in the country you're going to – see the Foreign Office's country-by-country advice.
36, incl Australia, Austria, Barbados (1), Bulgaria, Croatia (1), Germany, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel (1), Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Taiwan (1)
• Must take pre-departure test before returning
• Must also take PCR test within two days of returning to the UK
• DON'T need to quarantine on return, unless you get a positive result
|140+, incl much of Europe (eg, France, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain incl Balearics), India, UAE and the USA
See full Eng list / Scot list / Wal list (no separate NI list)
Those fully vaccinated in the UK, US or most of Europe (or under-18s who normally reside there) can follow the green rules above. Otherwise:
• Must also take PCR test on day two AND day eight after arriving back in the UK
|• Must take pre-departure test before returning
• Must also take PCR test on day two AND day eight after arriving back in the UK
• Must undergo 10 days of managed quarantine in hotel, which could be pricey (currently single adult travellers are charged £1,750)
2. Bag £20 when you get a top credit card for spending overseas.
Most debit and credit cards add a 3%-ish 'exchange fee', so £100 of euros costs £103. Yet some credit cards, such as the Halifax Clarity (best to check eligibility chances first, or apply*), don't charge this fee and give near-perfect exchange rates on spending, often making them the best way to spend abroad.
Clarity is now our top pick overseas credit card, as it also gives accepted newbies £20 cashback when they spend on it within 90 days – though apply now if going away soon as the card can take a week or so to arrive.
Also remember to repay it IN FULL every month to avoid 19.9% rep APR interest on spending. If you use it to withdraw cash, you pay a small amount of interest till it's paid off (5p-ish per £100 per day), so try to minimise withdrawals. See Travel Credit Cards for more help and deals.
3. £29 Travelodge rooms & more cheap last-minute holiday-booking tricks.
If you want to get away but you've not yet booked, Travelodge recently launched £29 a night UK rooms, with some flexibility, in most of its hotels. They're for stays from now till June 2022, though finding them may require trial and error – see full Travelodge sale info.
Obviously, there is a host of other holiday options, so see how to book cheap flights, cheap hotels and cheap package holidays. Given the current uncertainty, try to book something where you've flexibility to make changes.
4. Days out discounts for UK holidaymakers & day-trippers, eg, 2for1 theme parks and cheap cinema & theatre tickets.
Our Cheap Days Out listings have you covered, including:
- 2for1 on theme parks – eg, Alton Towers, Legoland.
- Tesco Clubcard 3x value at Eden Project, Longleat Safari etc.
- £2.50 cinema tickets for kids and grown-ups for selected family films.
- Free tennis coaching sessions for ages 12+.
- Half-price London theatre tickets, eg, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Billionaire Boy, when kids and grown-ups go together.
5. Beat airlines' seat reservation charges & sit together for FREE on British Airways, Easyjet, Virgin etc.
A family of four could pay up to £240 on return flights if they want to be certain they'll be seated together, so here's how to beat seat reservation charges for many airlines.
6. Relieve boredom with 1,000s of FREE kids' audiobooks – perfect for long car journeys or to entertain them at home.
Most libraries let members download digital audiobooks via apps for free. Plus we've 14 more tricks to get free or cheap kids' books to entertain your little bookworms.
8. If staying put, try these 22 free (or very cheap) ways to create summer magic for kids, eg, fruit picking & beaming a T-Rex into your place.
We've a raft of fun activities to wow little 'uns this month, whether the sun's shining or it's pouring with rain. Get inspired with Kids' summer magic tips.
9. Don't buy new sun cream before turning old bottles around.
Opened sun cream can still be effective for up to two years. So whether you need some for home or abroad find out how to check how long yours lasts, and how to find £2-ish bottles, in sun cream tips.
10. Slash PCR test costs to £40.
We've scoured the market to help you avoid £100+ tests, yet this only applies in England and Northern Ireland, as in Scotland and Wales, tests must be bought via official providers which can mean they're costlier. Full info in Cheap Covid tests.
11. If you're popping out for a bite or need holiday eats, we've restaurant deals galore – 2for1 meals for a year for £1, kids eat 'free' & more.
We've rounded up top dining out deals, including:
- A year's 2for1 meals at 1,000s of restaurants for £1 via our simples Meerkat Meals trick.
- Kids eat free with a paying grown-up at Asda, Morrisons & Tesco cafés.
- Pizza Hut £9 unlimited lunch buffet on weekdays till 3pm (£6 for kids).
- 20% off food for NHS staff at Frankie & Benny's, Nando's etc.
12. Book ahead to save £100s on airport parking or car hire – even the day before.
We usually suggest you book as far ahead as possible for the biggest savings – and that's still best if you can cancel for free. This year, though, many have left it late in case they need to U-turn. If that's you, don't fret as big savings are still possible even a day ahead – just NEVER simply turn up on the day...
- Airport parking: Save £300+ booking the day before. Turn up at Manchester Airport's long-stay car park on Wednesday 18 August and it will cost £385 for the week. Book a day ahead (on Tuesday 17 August) and parking is £69 for the week in the same car park after one of our blagged discounts. To find them, go to SkyParkSecure* (5-35% off), Looking4Parking* (5-35% off), Holiday Extras* (10-26% off) or FHR* (5-20% off). Full info in Cheap Airport Parking.
- Car hire: Use our top-pick comparison sites to find the cheapest rentals. Booking as early as possible also nets savings, though such massive discounts are less likely. See Cheap Holiday Car Hire.
15. Get travel insurance from £9/week in Europe or £6/week in the UK.
If you're going abroad, buy insurance as soon as you book so you're covered for cancellation, as well as while you're away. Our Cheap Travel Insurance guide tells you what's covered, including for Covid, and has our top-pick policies. If you're holidaying in the UK, cover can still be valuable, but the need for it isn't as clear-cut. Our UK Travel Insurance guide helps you decide and includes the top picks.
16. Check you've a valid GHIC or EHIC for trips in Europe – more than 6m expire this year.
These cards give you access to state-run hospitals or GPs in EU countries for the same price as a local – if they don't pay, you don't pay. If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), check it's still valid. If not, most now need to apply for its post-Brexit replacement, the FREE Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Go quick, though, as cards can take two weeks to arrive.
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