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

Use your money wisely

To tip or not to tip

The British have a reputation for being terrible tippers. Travel money provider International Currency Exchange has found that more than one in three holidaymakers admit to tipping just 5% or less when they're abroad. At least a third of us find tipping awkward and squirm at the idea of when and how to tip, and 14% say they never tip at all.

It can be confusing when you're abroad. How much you tip varies from country to country. In Britain we tend to pay about 10%. Normal tipping rates in other countries:

  • USA: 20%
  • Canada: 15%
  • Spain: 5-10%.
  • Croatia: 10%
  • Czech Republic: 10%
  • France: up to 5% (but only if you want to)
  • Germany: 10% if you're satisfied with the service
  • Thailand: 10% in restaurants (but taxis expect you to round up)
  • Turkey: 5-10% in restaurant
  • Ireland: an optional service charge of 10% is usually added to the bill

Cash or card?

Is it better to use cash or pay by card when you're abroad? There are advantages and disadvantages to both, although 60% of travellers use cash rather than a card.

Cash can be a great way to budget when you're on holiday and, if you shop around, you can get a good deal before you go and save on card charges when spending abroad. However, it's also risky. If your cash is stolen when you're out or away from your hotel room you have no come-back.

Using a credit card abroad will incur charges, but it can be the best way to buy items that cost more than £100 as you are covered by the card company's insurance. It's also potentially a good way to spread the cost of things you buy because you will have a few weeks before you have to pay the bill.

On the other hand, if you use a credit or debit card, there's a chance that fraudsters can get more money from you by accessing your account if they steal or double-swipe your card. 

A safer option is to take a currency card away with you, such as the FairFXcard, which is not connected to your bank account and doesn't have a credit limit. Before you go away, you pre-load the card with the currency of your choice and you set the rate of exchange that one time so you will always know what price you're paying when you're abroad. 

If the card is stolen or compromised you can stop it immediatelyand the fraudsters won't have access to any more of your money. 

Protect yourself

Car hire checks

Times are tough for a lot of tourist destinations, particularly those in southern Europe, and there are a number of people being ripped off by car hire companies. If you're renting abroad, don't get taken for a ride.

Some companies add 'optional' extras to the hire agreement, often insisting you need collision waiver damage (which reduces your excess). You can avoid all this in Europe by taking out your own insurance online, which is often much cheaper than using the hire firm's own. Protectyourbubble.com, for example, offers all sorts of policies.

If there are any dents, scratches, or a damaged interior, make sure you note this down before you leave with the car. Take photos and videos of any damage you spot, even minor scratches. Do the same for the interior, check the tyres and spare wheel, fuel and mileage. 

If you can, hire a car before you leave the UK, making sure that there are no hidden extras in the package. Try sites such as carrentals.co.uk and holidayextras.co.uk to find the best deal.

Get gadget insurance

You've packed the suncream, beach towels and passports, but what about the smartphones, Kindles, Mp3 players, tablets and all your other can't-live-without gadgets?

Gadget insurance is a specialist form of cover designed to make sure your electronic items are protected should they be lost, damaged or stolen, but it's important to get the right level of cover.

According to the independent financial research firm Defaqto, there is a huge variation in the cover available. For example, 98% of the gadget insurance policies will cover theft and 67% of these policies will cover theft from vehicles. However, 21% won't provide cover if a gadget is stolen from a commercial car, such as a taxi or a convertible.

A good gadget insurance policy should offer to repair or replace without significant costs. If you have a few items that you take away with you regularly, it's probably worth taking out this extra cover. Your usual travel insurance will cover some of your items but make sure you check the single-items limit.