Fly the world on a budget

There are plenty of online tools designed to help you find ultra-cheap flights – make the most of them, says Ruth Jackson.

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Air travel not what it was, but at least it's cheaper

There are plenty of online tools designed to help you find ultra-cheap flights make the most of them.

The 1950s are often seen as the golden era of flying, where you had "glorified armchairs, vast expanses of floor space and champagne for all", says Annabel Fenwick Elliott in The Daily Telegraph. But you paid a lot for it. Flying from Perth to London and back with Qantas in 1955 would have set you back the equivalent of £18,144 in economy.

Today, that same flight would cost you under £700. But that doesn't mean we're all happy to sit back and pay the first price we see for a flight. Shop around and, thanks to the internet, you can quickly shave a huge chunk off the price.

The first step is to use a good comparison site to compare your flight costs. "My top comparison site picks are Skyscanner.net, Kayak.co.uk and Momondo.co.uk," says Martin Lewis in the Daily Express. If you're flexible about when you fly, most comparison sites give you the option to see the prices for flights either side of your suggested dates, which can save a lot of money. To get the best price, book your flight on a Sunday, at least 21 days in advance, says holiday booking platform Expedia. Also, try to fly on a Tuesday; this is widely seen as the cheapest day for airfares, as it isn't popular with business travellers or tourists.

Next, don't worry about cookies when you are searching for a flight deal (these are small amounts of data that are generated by a website and saved by your browser to remember your preferences next time you visit the website). The idea that airlines store the fact you are searching for a certain flight and put the price up the next time you look has been disproved.

"We checked the price of three different flights with five budget airlines throughout the day to see if the price changes," says Hollie Borland in The Sun. "Every time we checked, the prices seemed to stay the same After we cached our cookies the prices didn't drop either. It wasn't the dramatic money-saving hack we'd hoped for."

Finally, if you fly regularly sign up to newsletters with your preferred airlines so that you are the first to hear about flash sales and offers. Also, consider signing up to Jack's Flight Club. This is a newsletter that sends you cheap deals on flights using a computer program that "scours every fare on every route by every airline waiting for the cost of a seat to fall", says Hugh Morris in The Daily Telegraph. Just note that this service is more suited to speculative holiday planning than booking to go to a specific destination.

Don't get tripped up by insurance

Always make sure you read the small print of your travel insurance policy to clarify what is excluded and what must be declared.

First, be sure to declare all medical conditions. The Guardian recently featured the story of a reader who was landed with a £30,500 bill after being diagnosed with a kidney tumour while on holiday in Cape Verde and airlifted to Tenerife for treatment. Her insurer only covered a third of the costs because she hadn't declared a single prescription for sleeping tablets when she took out her insurance.

Next, check that any activities you plan are covered. For example, a study of 1,001 multi-trip travel policies by comparison site GoCompare for The Daily Telegraph found that almost half of the policies didn't cover quad biking and 162 did not cover jet skiing. It's a good idea to consult the small print even if you think the activity is tame 60 of the policies didn't cover horse riding, and 26 wouldn't even insure you if you got on a bicycle.

Finally, if you are taking children with you, make sure they are covered. Hundreds of the policies GoCompare looked at didn't cover children if they didn't live with the policyholder.

Pocket money the best savings rate since 2016

"Hard-pressed savers" have been offered some relief by Atom Bank, says Adam Williams in The Sunday Telegraph. The app-based bank has "leapt to the top" of the savings best-buy tables with a one-year fixed-rate account paying 2.05%.

It's the highest rate offered on a one-year account since February 2016, but it's worth being aware that the account might not suit everyone. Atom Bank's customers must open and operate their account via an app, as the bank has no branches or telephone service.

Car finance deals are stopping people from getting a mortgage, warns Annabelle Williams in The Times. The vast majority of us now buy our cars using credit deals (around 90% of cars registered in 2017 were bought with credit). However, the repayments on your car loan could affect the affordability calculations on your next mortgage.

A growing number of "middle-class clients [are] being refused a mortgage because lenders think that their monthly car finance commitments are too large", mortgage broker Aaron Strutt of Trinity Financial told The Times. He gives the example of a family with a sole earner on £60,000, with two children and £1,000 of credit-card debt. They could expect to be offered a mortgage or around £300,000.

But factor in a £420-a-month car loan and the amount they could borrow would fall by almost £40,000. Moreover, the single payment that you can pay at the end of a contract's term to buy the car outright the balloon payment shows up on your credit file, and may count against you when you try to take out a mortgage.

Families are "facing a childcare crisis following a 75% slump in the number of young Europeans willing to work as au pairs," says Rupert Jones in The Guardian. The months of May, June and early July are when most au pair placements are arranged, ahead of the new school year, but "some agencies are unable to find a single young European for British families to even interview". The slump in au pairs is "largely being blamed on a perception that Britain is now anti-foreigner', as well as general uncertainty about people's right to stay in the UK", says Jones.

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