Saturday, 19 July 2008

Cheap & Cheerful Holidays

A lot of you will probably already have booked your summer holiday but I know a lot of us frugal folks tend to wait until the last minute because let’s face it, it’s generally cheaper that way.

Unless you insist on 5 star luxury in far flung places, you’ll hopefully find a few ideas here that will appeal to you. Some I’ve tried, others I haven’t, but they all have one thing in common: they give us a chance to have a good time on a shoe string.

Share The Cost – Take a holiday with another family or couple and split the cost. That way you can either save yourself half of what you’d normally spend on accommodation or you can upgrade for the same price. I’ve personally tried both versions and they’ve generally worked out well. It is important that you know the other family well enough to be sure you’d enjoy a whole week of each others’ company.

Visit Friends or Family – If there’s somebody you haven’t seen for a while and you know they have room, why not visit them for a few days? My daughter often nips over to Norway and stays with one of my close friends for a week or two. She enjoys the company of her two teenage sons and my friend likes having her there. All it costs is the price of a flight, some pocket money and a bit towards her food. Be warned though, staying for any longer than a week can often mean you’re outstaying your welcome.

Go Camping – Once you have the equipment you need (an remember that word need – equipment suppliers will try to convince you to buy all sorts of unnecessary bits and pieces), camping is without doubt the cheapest way of getting a holiday. In the UK you’ll generally have to pitch your tent at dedicated sites although this isn’t always the case in Europe so if you’re going abroad, check local regulations. For more information about camping, you might want to take a look at this post.

Beg, Steal or Borrow – Well, maybe not steal but if you know somebody who has a caravan or holiday home or even an apartment they rarely use, why not ask if you could hire it for a reasonable figure? An apartment in the city may not be the ideal holiday for those with young children but for a couple with teenagers or no kids at all, it could be an interesting alternative. After all, holidays aren’t just about lazing on the beach. One of the best holidays I’ve had was with one of my teenage daughters, exploring London as tourists for a week.

Book Last Minute Accommodation – I received an email yesterday from a guy I once hired a caravan from. His usual rate for this time of year is £700 a week but as he had a few empty weeks he wanted filling, he was offering it for £450. A saving of £250 could mean the difference between “yes, we can afford a holiday” and “no, forget it”. When Richard and I visited Marracech (Morocco) we booked a last minute flight and hotel deal. We ended up spending 4 nights in a 5 star hotel (very cushty, I must say) for less money than 4 nights in the same hotel without flights would normally have cost.

Barter - I’ve heard that it’s perfectly ok to barter with B&B owners that still have rooms available because many would rather earn less than have the room stand empty. I haven’t had the nerve to try this one, though.

Travel Off Peak – Not always possible if you have school age children but for those who can, travelling out of season can shave tens or even hundreds of pounds off the price.

Volunteer – While there are few volunteering opportunities for families with young children, finding something we can do to help others and get away from home at the same time shouldn’t be too difficult for the rest of us. Take a look at this list for some ideas.

And finally, Steer Clear of Money Suckers! By that I mean don’t head to the kind of places that are likely to seduce you into spending more than you'd budgeted for. Huge holiday complexes like Butlins, resorts such as Blackpool and cities like London are all going to cost you a lot of money if you’re to make the most of them. And who wants to hear the kids saying “can I have one of those... these... that...” for a whole week. If the temptations aren’t there, you’re less likely to overspend. And I haven’t even mentioned the ‘joys’ of endless queuing.

If you’re going away this year, I hope you enjoy every minute of it. I’ll be off to Norway for 4 nights in September. I’m staying with my daughter so it won’t cost too much.

Sharon J


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Frugal Trenches said...

Sharon those are some wonderful tips! I was reading this week that all the expensive holiday lets in the South West that are ususally gone by Jan, are now offering lower prices!
I won't personally pay for someone to have a second home in an area where they are pricing out locals. Makes me really mad, but there are some deals for people who would like to rent there!

Sharon J said...

I agree with you on the second home thing. It's dreadful that locals can't afford to stay in their villages because they're being pushed out by city folk. And what's more, I hate the fact that so many villages are dying because there are hardly any permanent residents left to sustain local shops, pubs etc.

In Norway they aren't allowed to use property that's marked for residential use as a holiday home. You have to live in it for at least 6 months of the year otherwise you can be forced to sell. I think we should have some kind of similar rule here.