Do these five things NOW and save money on your 2018 holidays

It’s cold, dark and the weather’s bad, so no surprise January is the biggest booking month by far for holidays. So if you’ve booked yours already, or are about to our Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis is here with the five key things you must do now, that’ll save you money when you go…

Here’s a brief rundown, but for full information see Martin’s ‘61 tricks for cutting overseas holiday costs’.

1. Check your passport & EHICs are valid

Most passports are valid for ten years but some countries require you to have at least six months left on yours, if not you can be refused entry. So don’t delay – check both yours and your children’s now to see whether it’ll still be valid when you travel and the rules for that country.

Plus over 5.3m EHIC cards are out of date, check point 9 on yours to see. To renew go to the EHIC website (don’t google it could be a site tricking you into paying a charge – if you have to pay you’re in the wrong place) or call 0300 330 1350.

2. Long haul flights are cheap now

When it comes to flights, booking earliest is usually cheapest (no guarantee though), and there are a number of big airline sales on at the moment for long haul Including BA and Virgin. So if you're planning to fly in 2018, now's likely a good time to book (though if going later in the year, check all carriers on your route have released tickets for then). For short haul flights, now is less key but early is generally good.

If you are looking in general the best way to compare is to use a couple of comparison sites, my top picks are Kayak (allows you to filter based on card/baggage fees), Skyscanner (particularly strong coverage of budget flights) and Momondo (helpful insights such as cheapest airport to fly from/to).

Or if you're going away for 7, 10 or 14 days to a popular destination, a package holiday often beats separate flights and hotel, so don’t forget tour operators. And for hotels, once you find what you want the likes of Trivago and Hotels Combinedwill check if that’s your cheapest hotel, and check Tripadvisor for reviews.

3. Get your travel insurance ASAB (As Soon As you've Booked)

I can’t stress this enough. Far too often people say things to me like "Just found I've a breast lump and need treatment, my airline won't refund my ticket, no insurance, what can I do?" I always ask if they’ve got travel insurance, but the answer is often “I was going to get it before I go”.

Half the point of travel insurance is to protect you if something happens before and you can’t go on holiday. So as soon as you’ve booked your holiday, book your travel insurance too. If not, you won't be covered should anything happen beforehand, such as an illness or cancellation.

There are many cheap, decent value policies available online and via comparison sites from as little as £9 for a year’s European cover for an individual. If you go away two or more times a year, annual policies are usually cheaper.

4. Book car hire as early as possible to slash the cost

Don’t leave it to the last minute. If you do you could pay massively over the odds – for example, walk in now, and if they’ve got spare cars, you could pay £40+/day. Yet book now for August and it can cost as little as £8/day for Tenerife and £13/day for Malaga.

To find your cheapest, use as many comparison sites as you’ve time for, including Kayak (good for options), Skyscanner and TravelSupermarket(both good for breadth) and Carrentals. Then once booked double check the details with the car firm.

I’ve heard huge successes of people getting great deals by booking in advance, like Dave, who emailed: "Booked four months ahead, got 10 days for £296 for a decent-sized car. Just before I went, checked and price had gone to £900."

5. Get car-hire excess insurance BEFORE you go and save up to 80%

Often when you’re at the kiosk picking up your car they’ll try and scare you into getting excess car hire insurance saying “Hey señor, you need excess insurance too - if not and there's a problem, you pay €1,000." I can't tell you how often I've hired a car and wanted to intervene when I hear this happening next to me.

Yet this insurance can cost as much as €20 a day, so to avoid it get standalone cheap excess insurance before you go for as little as £2/day. Like Glyn who tweeted me “Thanks @MartinSLewis, I followed your guide & got a week's car hire excess insurance for £13. Rental company wanted £12 per day."

The MoneyMaxim comparison site can find you a cheap policy. Though be aware that if you do book this way, hire firms may still say “you still need to pay us”, and this is true. You’ll need to pay a deposit of €600 - €1,350 on a credit (not debit) card, from which they'll take the cost of any incidents. Yet you can then reclaim the cost on your standalone insurance policy.