Hidden holiday cost con

As the winter blues officially set-in, Brits are looking to warmer climes, with 40 per cent of us booking summer getaways in January. Whilst nearly one third of people think they’ve bagged themselves a holiday bargain, the reality is Brits are getting stung by millions of pounds in hidden holiday costs, according to a new study by Three.

Unforeseen charges such as credit card fees, mobile phone roaming charges and travel and transfer expenses typically add 10 per cent to our holiday budgets.

Brits blow holiday budgets

Three’s new report has been created alongside financial expert Mrs Moneypenny, as the network reveals that it has saved its customers £2.6bn in unfair roaming charges since it gave them the freedom to use their phones abroad at no extra cost in 2013.

According to the research people budget £1,666 for a week long holiday in Europe, but will overspend on average by £100, and one in 10 by as much as £400. With 34.5 million British holidaymakers estimated to travel abroad this year, this loss is set to be huge.

One in six travellers (16 per cent) have had to pay for expensive currency exchange and card payments abroad, 10 per cent have been stung by data roaming charges, 5 per cent by travel and transfers, 5 per cent by medical expenses and 5 per cent by city and hotel taxes.

With the average family starting to save five and a half months ahead of their holiday, it’s a shock that a quarter (23%) say that when on holiday they have had to withdraw extra cash from an ATM machine as they’ve run out.

The roaming rip-off

Because of the fear of being stung by excessive roaming charges, one in five Brits switch data roaming off whilst on holiday, so as to avoid them, but one in five wish they had the freedom to use their phones just as they do at home.

Holidaymakers that can’t bear to be without their mobiles (20%) will regularly check their emails, social media and messages when they are able to log on to free Wi-Fi.

Three tackled one of the major hidden holiday costs by abolishing roaming charges in 18 destinations two years ago. Customers have saved an average of £360 per year* in roaming charges, allowing people to make the most of their holidays.

Danny Dixon, Director of Customer Strategy at Three, commented: “It’s clear that roaming charges are something that holiday makers are still being caught out by. Whilst networks have recognised this and created cheaper bundles and add-ons for people travelling in Europe, Three remains the only network that offers roaming at no extra cost in 18 destinations across the globe, including the US and Australia. We want people to make the most of their holiday without worrying about bill shock on their return.”

Mrs Moneypenny’s top tips on avoiding dreaded hidden holiday charges:


  • Book your currency in advance for collection at the airport or even home delivery – you can save as much as 10%
  • Book your airport car parking in advance, you’re looking at saving as much as 50% if you do
  • Pre-book your luggage if travelling on a budget airline
  • Use Air BnB even in the most unlikely places. You can bag great quality accommodation in brilliant locations for a fraction of the cost
  • Use your air miles and credit card points – I just booked three days to Madrid, which only came to £70 in total including the hotel
  • Look out for a phone network where you avoid paying unfair roaming charges. Three is the only UK network to offer roaming at no extra cost in 18 destinations worldwide
  • Check whether your credit card or bank account offer travel insurance – many people pay twice unnecessarily
  • Most cards add a non-sterling transaction fee onto the exchange rate, every time you use it, typically around 3%, so spending £100 of foreign currency costs £103. They do the same when you withdraw cash, and even charge interest even when you pay off in full (unlike spending on a card at home). There can even be additional charges every time you spend. The best way to avoid these charges is to get a credit card specifically for your trips abroad; there are several you can choose form. Or operate in cash and order the money in advance!
  • Staycation in the UK! You can stay in some amazing places (e.g. the Landmark Trust) and if you join the whole family to the National Trust then trips out can be really inexpensive


Mrs Moneypenny commented: ‘It’s pretty astonishing to see how much money people are losing out on due to these hidden holiday costs, especially as there are some really simple ways that they can be avoided. Planning ahead is crucial which is why I’ve worked with Three to develop these handy tips on managing your holiday budget to keep costs down and avoid any nasty surprises that could turn your trip sour.”

Roam at no extra cost


Three took a stand against roaming charges not just in Europe, but also in key destinations outside of Europe, by launching Feel at Home in 2013.  Currently Three customers can use their phones and tablets abroad at no extra cost in 18 destinations.

Feel at Home is available in 18 destinations worldwide: Spain, France, Switzerland, Israel, Finland, Norway, USA, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Macau, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Austria, Hong Kong, Sweden, Denmark and Republic of Ireland.

It couldn’t be simpler to use your phone abroad at no extra cost with Three. As soon as you arrive, your phone automatically activates with Feel at Home, allowing your phone to pick up a local network so you can chat to family and text your friends back home, post status updates and share holiday spam to your heart’s content. If you go out of bundle, you will still benefit from reduced roaming rates – a no brainer for the modern traveller. 


– ENDS –

Notes to Editors

Three data:

* Savings statistic is based on the amount of data, voice and texts used in Feel At Home countries since its launch in August 2013 and how much the use of these services would have cost in total, adjusted for roaming rates. More than 3 million customers have used Feel at Home since it launched. 

Additional statistics: 

Using phones abroad:

  • When on holiday, 17% of people stay in touch with people at home and work through text message
  • One in 10 (11%) manage to switch their phone off for the duration of the holiday, yet the same amount stay in touch with people at home and work through text message (10%) and the same say they upload pictures to social media via their phone (10%)
  • More than a fifth (22%) check their emails, social media and messages on mobile apps only when they can log on to free Wi-Fi
  • When asked how family / friends / partner react to them being on their phone:

    • 47% said they don’t mind as they do it themselves
    • 1 in 10 (9%) say their partner is concerned with the cost


    More on hidden holiday costs:


  • One in 10 say that when on holiday they haven’t taken enough cash with them and have ended up spending more than they had budgeted for
  • When asked what one piece of advice we wish we had been given to avoid unexpected holiday costs:

    • 19% said if on an all-inclusive holiday, be aware of exactly what that covers         
    • 17% said to weigh luggage in advance to avoid paying for excess weight
    • 15% said to buy travel money in advance / be aware of airport exchange rates  
    • One in 10 said to fly on a Tuesday versus a Friday/weekend        

 For further information please contact: 


020 7234 9150 

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