For many UK households, finances might be tighter this year. £1 currently buys you little more than 1.15€ compared to 1.30€ this time last year – it can make quite a difference on ‘big ticket’ items such as holidays. Not only has it affected holiday rental prices, it will impact on the spending money in your pocket, too.
At Alternative Aquitaine we’re doing what we can to help. We have great relationships with our owners, many of whom are passionate Anglophiles who love renting their homes to our charming British guests. So, when it comes to negotiating better prices and deals, we always have some great summer offers available.
So what advice and tips can we pass on from our many years of experience in the international holiday rental market? Money-saving articles can sometimes be a touch patronising - for example, you already know that buying your Euros at Gatwick airport one hour before boarding your flight is not a good idea.
To give you truly helpful advice and insight we’ve consulted the feedback of past clients and also recruited the help of people who live in France and who know exactly how to make their Euro stretch further.
There are two ways to look at this. Firstly, you can spend smart by planning ahead and by living like a local when you’re there. Secondly, you can book smart by following a few simple but ‘golden’ rules when booking your villa holiday in France.
Follow these tips to execute this year’s summer savings project and impress your friends with your know-how…
Tip #1 – Take Out A Pre-Paid Currency Card
You can achieve a pretty good rate on buying Euros if you’re buying a significant amount in one transaction. But who wants to go on holiday with a wad of notes? It’s much more convenient to carry your holiday money on a card. Your regular credit/debit card will be an expensive option, with additional charges for international spending including non-sterling transaction fees and exchange rate loading fees. Take out a pre-paid Euro currency card instead and pre-load it in the weeks and months building up to your holiday. That way you can decide when to load it by keeping a close eye on the markets. Have fun playing the market - this could be your only chance to be a currency trader.
Tip #2 – Eat From The “Menu du Jour” At Lunchtime
Sub in a few lunches instead of dinners out and you will save a lot of money. One of the great joys of French holidays is to find a wonderful little bistro, arrive at midi and depart in a haze at some point after 15h. And you will leave having spent approximately 15 Euro per head for a 3-course meal. In fact, some will include wine too. Keep an eye on the tradesmen! A gathering of white vans parked up between 12h – 15h is a sure-fire way to locate a great little restaurant where the locals will be eating inexpensively. Invariably it will be in a quiet village inland, away from the busier and more touristy spots.
Tip #3 – Buy Your Surf Gear At Hossegor’s Outlet Centre
Admittedly, this tip is only meaningful if a) you love surfing and b) you’re staying in/near Hossegor. But, actually, that does account for a good proportion of our clients! Hossegor town centre is packed with boutiques from all the major surf brands but the smart money is spent at Zone Pedebert, 3 km out of town at Seignosse Bourg. The zone is the focal point for the surf industry in Europe. You’ll find each brand's outlet shop and you can also buy your new board direct from the shaper. Hungry and thirsty after a hard shopping session? Well, the zone caters for this too with a good mix of quality international restaurants at reasonable prices.
Tip #4 – Head To The Market
Dining out is unquestionably one of the top delights of summer holidays in Europe. But, you probably won’t be doing so every night? We know that many of you love to turn your hand to preparing a meal on holiday using fresh, local products. For those of you renting a villa with another family or with friends, you’ll probably be taking it in turns to provide a meal or two each week. The markets have stands with oysters (which they can open for you, although you must eat them within the hour once open!), tapas, local cheeses, breads and charcuterie. These make great picnics or simple 3-course dinners back at your villa.
Check out this great blog by Alex: Best Food Markets On The South West Coast Of France
Tip #5 – Hire A Chef At Your Villa
On a similar note, a 3-course meal cooked for you in the comfort of your own villa could set you back at little as 20 EUR pp plus wine, easily half of what you would spend dining out in a quality restaurant. Several of our villas feature a chef for hire and it’s a service that’s growing in popularity. You can also experience the event of creating a meal by joining the chef in the kitchen and accompanying him/her to the local markets to buy the ingredients fresh.
Read this article: Hire a Private Chef in Your Villa in France this Summer
Tip #6 – Mifi Good, Data Roaming Bad
Even with the benefit of data roaming capped charges in Europe (for how much longer?!), it’s still sensible to head abroad with your data-hungry children, already knowing how much you will spend accessing the internet. These days a quick internet trawl will reveal plenty of options for buying and hiring pocket wifi (mifi) devices.
Tip #7 – Go to Spain!
Maybe an unexpected piece of advice from a French holiday specialist, but the Spanish border is tantalisingly close if you’re staying in the Pays Basque, Sud Landes or Pyrénées regions. And it is true that most items are cheaper in Spain so why not make the most of it with a day trip? San Sebastian is well-known for its culinary credentials but head to one of the smaller towns such as Hondaribbia, Zarautz or Getaria where you’ll be blown away by the delicious and inexpensive pintxos (Basque tapas).
Also, at the border with Spain where the mountain passes connect the two countries, you will find the ventas, a collection of small shops selling alcohol, clothes, etc at lower prices. The Col d’Ibardin is one of the best-known.
Don’t forget to ‘fuel up’ if you are in Spain: petrol there is c. 1,20€ per litre (vs. 1,35€ in France) and diesel c.1,09€ per litre (vs. 1,21€). (Prices as of 15.05.17).
Tip #8 – Go Late August
French accommodation suppliers are renowned for not thinking too hard about international markets. They tend to set their tariff with both eyes firmly fixed on the domestic French market. This has its advantages for travellers from the UK. Since the vast majority of French families take their grandes vacances during the first 2-3 weeks of August, the prices for the rest of the summer weeks are significantly better-priced. The last week of August is a comparative steal and you’ll still be back home well in time for the new school year. A good example is the Clairiere aux Chevreuils villas with pools at Moliets Plage – a 3 bedroom villa at the beginning of August is £3,600/week versus £2,200/week at the end of the month.
Similarly, if you can get away during the first 3 weeks of July then you can often end up paying 65-75% of what you would pay in early August.
(Whilst I’m on the subject let me just add that we at Alternative Aquitaine are totally in favour of staggered school holidays in the UK to help ease the peak summer price ‘spike’).
Tip #9 – Start Your Search With Special Offers
At any given time on our website, there’s a good spread of properties with compelling special offers. Why not head straight there and then start refining your search?
Tip #10 – Start Your Search With Our Best Value Villas
Similarly, take a look at the ‘Best Value’ property collection as this immediately highlights the rentals which we feel make your Euro go furthest.
Tip #11 – Bite The Bullet And Share With Family Or Friends
For some, the idea of sharing your precious holiday time and space with extended family or friends is less appealing. But once you’ve divided the rental price by two, it’s a compromise that suddenly merits further consideration. And it can often make the unaffordable affordable. Lots of houses are large enough to accommodate two families but not all of them are thoughtfully designed for two families. We’ve put together a selection of our recommended ‘sharing’ properties that feature extra touches, for example lots of bathrooms, a separate TV room or a completely separate wing so that you really can avoid each other if it all gets too much…
Tip #12 – Book A Villa With Flexible Changeover And Avoid Costly Flights
After much lobbying, many owners in France are increasingly alert to the notion that not all people want to arrive on a Saturday, depart on a Saturday and stay for 7 or 14 nights. It’s not been easy. Why fly on a Saturday if it’s twice as busy and twice as expensive? Whilst the peak summer season remains sacrosanct in some destinations and for some owners, there’s an increasing choice of rentals where you can arrive and depart freely. In fact, this is the norm with the majority of our Portugal villas.
Tip #13 – Trade Down This Year To A Venue With Shared Pool
If a villa with a private pool is just looking a touch too expensive this year, don’t worry because we’ve thought about that too. We know that families really want access to a swimming pool of some kind and sharing a pool can often mean significant cost savings. We represent a small number of ‘low-key’ parks and complexes which we feel have something special to offer, be it a unique location or exceptional accommodation. They are always ‘small & friendly’ in style, authentic and usually independent too.
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