Top budget tips to keep holidays costs down

Travel during off-peak times.
Travel during off-peak times. Photo: Getty Images

Holidays can be expensive, but there are some secrets to keeping your costs down. One of Australia's biggest comparison websites, finder.com.au, has revealed some of its top tips. Among them, it says travel insurance should be bought online, where providers save on overheads and often pass on savings of hundreds of dollars to customers. The site says the same applies for holiday transport and accommodation. It also recommends that travellers convert foreign currency on arrival; stay for free by signing up for a home swap; and travel during off-peak times. If you need to cancel a hotel booking, finder.com.au suggests that you first call and move your booking to the following week. A few hours later call back and cancel your "new" reservation. This could save a cancellation fee.

Well trolleyed

Style and function are in happy harmony here with this Cobb & Co trolley case ($209), perfect as carry-on luggage. Built with a retractable frame and a carry handle that extends 26 centimetres, it has two wheels, pockets and zip compartments, and a padded laptop section. Go with polka dots, zebra pattern or black. See stylecapital.com.au or contact Gabee for stockists, (03) 9543 2622, gabee.com.au.

Tempting shortcuts

Pure "hotel porn". That's how boutique hotel outfit Mr & Mrs Smith describes its new app launched for iPhone, iPad and iPod. The free app provides an on-the-go shortcut to finding and booking accommodation and is also loaded with image galleries that Mr & Mrs Smith says are eye candy for browsing - or just daydreaming - about the most stylish hotels in the world. The app has three sections: Tempt Me, a scroll-through list of the most popular hotels around the world; Destinations, where users can search hotels by city, country or popularity; and Collections, which allows users to browse categories including budget, beach and gourmet. There are more than 900 boutique hotels listed, including the Tides South Beach Miami (pictured) and a currency converter based on daily rates.

Fly an 830

If you've ever wanted to fly an A380, the chance is available in Dubai, where Emirates has unveiled a flight simulator at its new merchandise store at The Dubai Mall, where Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of the airline, took to the cockpit for the official opening (pictured). Wannabe pilots will be able to take off and land from 12 of the world's busiest airports, including Hong Kong, Paris and Amsterdam, in different weather conditions. They will be scored on how well they fly. This is the airline's second such project, having launched the Emirates Aviation Experience in London last year. Emirates is the largest operator of the A380, with 47 in its fleet.

Southern migration

Cruising is looking up, not just with 700,000 trips taken by Australians in the 2012-13 season but with recent announcements that some of the world's biggest ships are coming to our shores next summer. Two mega-liners to be based in Oz will be Royal Caribbean International's Explorer of the Seas and Princess Cruises' Golden Princess. The Explorer of the Seas carries 3800 passengers and will be based in Sydney. The Golden Princess carries 2600 passengers and will be based in Melbourne. Her sister ship, the Diamond Princess with a capacity of 2700 passengers, has already operated out of Sydney, during the previous Australian cruise season (October to March). The mega-ships feature multiple swimming pools, restaurants, bars, nightclubs and even ice-skating rinks and shopping malls. It's predicted 1 million Australians will be cruising annually by 2016-17 - no wonder, with so many cabins in our waters.

Retreat to calm body and mind

A two-night yoga wellness retreat is coming up at the gorgeous Bells at Killcare, a coastal boutique hotel, spa and restaurant on the Bouddi Peninsula on NSW's central coast. The retreat, from August 6-8, is aimed at over-45s and will focus on Iyengar yoga with Suzanne and Harley Fraser from the East Coast Yoga School. Suzanne attended the 95th birthday celebrations of BKS Iyengar in India last year and spent a month at the Iyengar Institute. "Mr Iyengar sets such an inspired example of a life well lived; his body and mind strong and supple as a result of his regular yoga practice," she says. The midlife retreat includes yoga classes, breakfasts, dinners, lunches, a tour of Bells' kitchen garden, relaxation time, and a guided beach or bush walk. The retreat is from $990 in a king spa suite, twin share. See bellsatkillcare.com.au.

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