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Financial expert Jasmine birtles reveals some handy ways for families to make big savings on travel costs.

Lost in transition

Have you ever wondered where your suitcase that was lost in transit and never came back to you, ended up? Well, it’s likely that it was sent to an auction house somewhere in the UK. Incredibly, there are auctions every week around the country where buyers can bid on bags and suitcases, sight unseen, and then sell the cases and contents on eBay for a profit.

Anyone can go to these auctions; you just need to know where they are. London’s lost luggage hotspot is Greasbys in Tooting. It’s here that British Airways sells its lost luggage. Auctions take place every other Tuesday at 10.30am. Viewing is held on the Monday between 2.30pm and 6.30pm, giving you the chance to suss out which bags you want to buy.

There’s no national directory of airport auctioneers, but if there were, Wellers Auctioneers – which takes the lost and lonely bags from Gatwick – would certainly appear. Bristol Commercial Valuers & Auctioneers (bcva.dnfa.com) would also feature, as would Hertfordshire Auctions (hertsauctions.com) which contends with Luton’s unwanted baggage. Check out auction houses near your local airport to find out when they hold theirs.

Most luggage auctions offer the bags sight unseen, so it’s a bit of a lucky dip. You could bid on a posh-looking piece of Louis Vuitton only to find it contains a few books and a pair of flip-flops. Also, the really valuable stuff is taken out beforehand and auctioned separately. Still, this means these auctions can be good places to get cheap skis, cameras and iPads. And there’s always the possibility of picking up a suitcase full of designer clothes.

Save on travel during the school holidays

Everyone knows it’s cheaper to travel at off-peak times of the year, but for families restricted by their children’s schooling, that’s often impossible. Research by Santander has found some family breaks to European resorts during the summer holidays were almost double the cost of the equivalent holiday taken during term time. However, there are a few things families can do to ‘time the market’ and get a cheaper deal.

Travel search site Momondo found flights on a Tuesday were the cheapest, followed by those on a Wednesday and Monday. Momondo also looked into the best time to book a flight. It analysed the 13 most popular flight routes out of London, and found that the cheapest prices in?all cases could be found, on average, 59 days before the date of departure.

The time of the flight can make a difference, too. Thomas Cook says that nighttime flights are cheaper than those during the day. And anyone who has ever booked a no-frills flight will know that the ones that leave very early in the morning cost less than those that depart at more convenient times later in the day. Flexibility is also key to finding a cheap holiday. Those not bound by specific dates or destinations will get the best deals.

Pre-book your holiday extras

You can save serious cash at the airport by booking ahead. Here are just a few tips:

Airport parking works in a similar way to low-cost airlines: the earlier you book, the cheaper it is. If you visit Essentialtravel. co.uk or Holidayextras.co.uk as soon as you book your flights, you can compare multiple car parks and their rates, then choose the best deal. If you’re departing from London Stansted, for example, you could save as much as £157.50 for a fortnight’s parking, simply by pre-booking.

Use a comparison site such as Mytravelmoney.co.uk or Compareholidaymoney.com to find the cheapest deal on foreign currency and order it online. It’s often cheaper and most convenient to order from one of the companies that are represented at the airport and just collect when you’re there. You can order up to four hours before you fly.

Pre-paying for your baggage online will save a substantial amount. A family of four travelling with three standard- sized cases with Flybe will pay just £14.99 when registering them online. If they turn up to the airport with the same cargo, they’ll be faced with a bill of £140.

A last-minute visit to a high-street travel agent for a two-week European travel insurance policy for a family of four cost me £69 recently. You could get pretty much the same deal online for £47.91. Shop around on the Internet for travel insurance and you will definitely save on high-street prices.

Avoid extortionate data roaming bills when abroad

One of the first things any savvy traveller does when abroad is to switch off the data roaming on their mobile due to the cost.

Now, though, you can pick up emails or surf the Internet abroad from just 2p per MB thanks to Globalgig.com’s Wi-Fi hotspot creator. The device can be connected to up to five devices at once – and you can take advantage of low rates in any of the 40 countries the company operates in (including all EU countries, the US, Hong Kong and Australia). It can cost up to £50 (though it does come free with certain packages) and monthly plans range from £21–£91.

There’s also a cheaper, SIM-only version available.

More bang for your buck

If you travel to the US regularly or transfer dollars frequently, it is useful – and cheaper – to have a dollar currency account. Several offer good deals, but the Citibank US Dollar Account is particularly good as it’s free to run (so long as you maintain a balance of more than £2,000 or its equivalent), and gives you free cash withdrawals when you’re in the States and a free US dollar chequebook.

The HSBC International Personal Current Account is also worth considering as there are many HSBC branches in the US. It does have a monthly fee of £5 (or currency equivalent) but there’s no minimum balance