The secrets for finding the best deal on your holiday money - Sarah Coles
When they are toddlers, you are just taking the tantrums and endless hard work to a slightly different location for a fortnight.
Even when they are older, you end up with teenagers skulking about the heat and demanding to know why you did not pack the Playstation.
And to enjoy these delights, you need to spend every spare second for weeks planning for it.
In the marathon of prep, it is easy to overlook things but one of the priciest mistakes you can make is leaving it too late to sort your holiday money and picking it up at the airport at the last minute.
The longer you have until your break, the better rate you can get. But even if it is the day before you are planning to travel, there is still time to bring the cost down.
Two weeks in advance
If you have a fortnight until you travel, you can take advantage of the two cheapest ways to take money away with you – a credit card or debit card designed for exactly that purpose. The big advantage of cards is that they offer some of the most competitive exchange rates around.
However, the wrong card can actually be one of the worst ways to spend on a break, because you also need to keep your eye on charges and fees.
Some will add around three per cent to every transaction, which makes them a desperately unattractive way to spend while away. And debit cards will usually charge an additional fee on top, making them even more expensive.
There are several credit cards designed for use on holiday. You are ideally looking for one that does not charge fees or interest on spending or cash withdrawals overseas. There are a handful offering this, including Halifax Clarity.
However, if you are planning to use a credit card to take money out of an ATM on holiday, you need to be aware that some lenders will charge interest on the day of the withdrawal and all the providers will note it on your credit record.
This does not go down brilliantly with banks, because it can be a sign that you are short of cash. You may be better off taking the card and exchanging a small amount of cash too, so you have both options if you need them.
If you are planning to get a credit card, it can take a fortnight for it to reach you so it is worth doing as soon as possible.
Alternatively, you can consider opening a current account with a debit card that offers the same kinds of benefits but with none of the problems associated with ATM withdrawals. You do not necessarily have to switch accounts – you can just open another one alongside your existing account and transfer your holiday money into it.
Starling Bank and Chase Bank, for example, do not charge fees on spending or cash withdrawal on holiday. You can open an account online but you will need to wait for any checks they have to carry out and for a card to be delivered so do not leave it to the last minute.
It is also worth trying a transfer from your account and spending something on the card in the UK to check you will not hit any glitches while away.
The other important thing to bear in mind with cards is that if you are offered the chance to pay in the local currency or in pounds, you should always opt to pay in the local currency.
Otherwise you will be at the mercy of whatever exchange rate the retailer sets – rather than the far better one set by the bank.
A week in advance
There is nothing stopping you applying for cards or opening an account and there may be time for everything to be approved and to reach you – although you run the risk they will hit the doormat while you are away. If that feels too stressful, you can consider ordering cash in advance.
The easiest way to shop around for the best rate is a travel money comparison site like TravelMoneyMax from Moneysavingexpert.com. You can choose whether to get the cash delivered or collect it in person. In many cases, if you are exchanging more than around £500, you will get free delivery.
It is far easier than schlepping around the bureaux de changes while trying to get everything else ready for your break.
A few days in advance
You should be able to use a travel money comparison site to track down the best rate. In many cases they will deliver in a day or two.
Many of the providers also offer it available for collection the next day, so you may be able to pick it up in plenty of time.
A day in advance
Even if you have left it this late, you do not need to be at the mercy of the airport exchange rate. You can order from all sorts of locations which are reasonably handy – including Tesco and the Post Office. You need to order it online in advance and then pick it up before you travel to get the best possible rate.
If you do not have time for a detour, you can order online from the airport bureau de change. It is not going to be the best rate around but at least it is better than just popping in while at the airport.
Of course, even if you get the best deal, if you are travelling with your family there are no guarantees it will be worth it.
There are only so many times you can learn that a toddler meltdown is no nicer in Malaga than Morrisons before you start to see the appeal of a staycation.