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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 23 March, 2019
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January sucks: here's 8 tips on finding cheap holidays to escape the blues

Ugh, January. Stop fantasising about being somewhere warm – here’s how to actually do it (cheaply).

UGH, JANUARY.

Scientists have discovered that the worst thing about January is… everything. All of it. It’s freezing cold, everyone is broke, and the crankiness factor seems to edge up towards eleven. Basically everyone is here:

… when really, we all want to be here:

Or even here:

So we’ve thoroughly investigated (i.e. briefly funnelled our SAD into something vaguely productive) and come up with these tips and suggestions for how to find cheap holidays so you’ve something to look forward to in the coming months.

1. First up, figure out where it’s warm

Get organised: you don’t want to go somewhere that’s going to be just as cold as Ireland (unless you’re a masochist, in which case we recommend Germany). A site like this World Reviewer weather map is useful because it shows the average temperature around the world throughout the year – so you can click on April, for example, and see what parts of the world are likely to have warm weather. Invaluable.

2. Next up: figure out where will be cheap

There’s no point patting yourself on getting a bargain flight to America if you get there and find that the exchange rate is so bad that you’re spending more money than you would spend on basics (such as food) at home. Bear in mind the cost of living wherever you choose to go too: Greece may be a cheaper alternative than Italy right now, for example. Want a crude guideline? The Economist’s Big Mac Index looks at the purchasing power of different currencies by using the Big Mac, that universal sign of capitalism, as an indicator.

3. Don’t book all your flights with one airline

Sounds obvious, but people often book outgoing and return flight with the same airline when there’s absolutely no need – it can end up being a lot cheaper mixing and matching your airlines. And if you’re flexible with your dates, it’s worth checking out comparison sites such as Skyscanner and Hipmunk for all the alternative flights available.

4. Be paranoid about your cookies when booking flights

There is a well-worn trope that if you repeatedly check the price of flights on some airline websites, the prices can shoot up as the website tracks your interest in the flight through the cookies on your computer. Is it true? There’s plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest so: one Twitter user recounted a story of how a fare of £123 shot up to £237 when he checked it again the following day – but dropped down again when he cleared his cookies. One survey by a flight company however found no evidence that it happens.

5. Think about your timing

People have tried to figure out exactly when the best (i.e. cheapest) time to book flights is since the dawn of airline websites – to little avail. Generally your best bet is to book as soon as you know your dates. Flights may drop slightly in the meantime but they’re far more likely  to rise, especially as it gets closer to the date. If you really have left it with just days to go, be wise: use sites which specialise in late minute deals, or ring up hotels directly and see if they’ll cut you a deal.

6. Do you really have to stay in a hotel?

If you’re looking for a package deal in a Mediterranean country or a spa weekend away then you’re probably not going to settle for less than a hotel. But for everyone else, consider alternatives like Air BnB which lets you stay with people who already live in the place you’re going to and may have a spare room, an empty apartment or, more optimistically, somewhere really unique that they’ll let you stay (for a charge).

7. Want to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of your cheap flight?

Before you book your flights, input the name of the airline into SeatGuru, select the type of flight you’re going on, and it will show you the best (and worst) places to sit on your plane, including which seats have extra leg room, which may be near to a tv and which ones would be near a bathroom. Gross. Some airlines will charge for the best seats, but it’s always worth checking to see if you can get the front rows or the emergency row seats for free.

8. Don’t forget about travel agents

Remember them? Yes, travel agents have been decimated by airlines setting up their own websites, but the ones that are still around are here for a reason: they offer really good deals and packages to popular places and they can offer advice about where’s good.

So that’s some of our advice – now it’s over to you. What tips do you have for booking cheap holidays? Let us know in the comments…

(Tired man photo via Shutterstock/Woman in swimming pool photo via Shutterstock/Man on slide photo via Shutterstock)

Read: How to survive a long-haul flight >

Read: Going on holliers? Here’s how to get through an airport as quickly as possible >

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