Boxing Day is when travel agents start trying to entice you to holiday in far-flung places. But with signs of Christmas excess still littering the house and Santa's main gift being a recession, how can you save money on your summer holiday next year? Try house swapping. "Using your home for house swapping is a great way to enjoy cheaper holidays," says Which? Money. You get free accommodation in someone else's house/apartment/villa in return for letting them use your home. Agencies will help you arrange the swap in return for an annual charge of between £30-£115. That fee is all you pay for your accommodation, making a big difference to your holiday budget. Visit HomeLink International (www.homelink.org.uk), Home Base Holidays (www.homebase-hols.com) or Intervac (www.intervac.com) to see who you could swap with.
Get multi-trip insurance
If you travel three or more times a year it is usually cheaper to take out annual multi-trip travel insurance rather than single-trip policies, says Which? Money. Check Travelsupermarket.com for a list of the most competitive providers.
Search for cheap flights
Rather than hunting around all the different airline websites looking for the best deal, try Skyscanner.net. Tap in your dates and this website will do the hunting for you. If your dates are flexible, then choose the option 'search whole month' and the site will bring up a bar chart showing you the cheapest flights available for every day of the month so you can plan your holidays around the cheapest ones. It is always worth doing a bit of hunting around yourself too, as travel search engines don't always cover every airline. Visit the website of the airport you want to fly to or from to get a list of all the destinations they serve and who flies there, providing you with a handy list of all the airlines you need to be checking for fares.
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Last year saw several big-name airlines go bust. Protect yourself from losing money if your airline collapses by paying by credit card, says Martin Lewis on MoneySavingExpert. Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act means the credit-card company is equally liable if something goes wrong. So if the airline goes under, you can get your money back from the credit-card firm.
Anyone over 60 making a New Year's resolution to get fit will be pleased to hear that from April 2009 most local authorities will be offering free swimming to over-60s. A change that could save you around £300 a year if you swim twice a week, says Which? Money.
Join an online DVD rental service
For regular renters, this works out much cheaper than a DVD rental shop. The cheapest Which? could find are Lovefilm, Tesco and The Sun Movie Club, who offer packages for just under £4 a month. If you are only planning a quiet winter, sign up for a free trial and you can get free DVDs for anywhere between 14 and 30 days.
Ruth Jackson-Kirby is a freelance personal finance journalist with 17 years’ experience, writing about everything from savings and credit cards to pensions, property and pet insurance.
Ruth started her career at MoneyWeek after graduating with an MA from the University of St Andrews, and she continues to contribute regular articles to our personal finance section. After leaving MoneyWeek she went on to become deputy editor of Moneywise before becoming a freelance journalist.
Ruth writes regularly for national publications including The Sunday Times, The Times, The Mail on Sunday and Good Housekeeping among many other titles both online and offline.
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