Many of us could do with a break at the moment, but with living costs increasing every day, finding ways to save money on holidays is more important than ever.

Here are some tips and tricks for planning a low-cost holiday, and some things to bear in mind so you don’t get stung by any unexpected costs.

1. Don’t assume the UK is the cheapest option

With petrol prices at an all-time high, driving to somewhere in the UK could end up costing you more than going by boat or plane to another country. For example, at the moment a round trip from London to Polperro, Cornwall, could cost you £140, or more depending on your car, whereas a short flight to Dublin or Venice could cost as little as £22 (prices correct at time of writing 23/05/2022).

Of course, if a family of six were to travel to and from Cornwall for £140, but it costs £45 per person for flights to Tenerife, flying would end up costing £130 more than driving, so the cost-effectiveness of this will vary depending on your situation. There’s also the environmental impact of flying to consider, so this won’t be an option for anyone keen to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel said: “Despite demand and fuel costs rising, prices for flights to many places in Europe remain low, so don’t assume that a holiday in the sun is out of reach this year. Comparing prices including new airlines that have recently launched, booking at the right time or going direct to a hotel could end up slashing hundreds of pounds off the cost of a trip abroad. 

“If you’re planning on staying in the UK, there’s no need to pay over the odds for your holiday. Which? surveys have revealed there are fantastic bucket and spade resorts on the UK coastline where a hotel room can cost less than £100 a night.”

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2. Choose somewhere off the beaten track

Tourist hotspots will usually be more expensive for both food choices and accommodation, so staying somewhere a bit further away from the centre of things can help save you some money. 

Of course, you’ll need to bear in mind what sort of activities you’ll want to do while you’re away, as you may need to consider the transport costs of getting around if you choose to stay somewhere away from the action. For example, if you’ve decided on a city break to London, staying outside of the centre could be cheaper, but if you’re travelling into the city each day, travel costs could set you back anywhere from £1.65 for a single bus journey, all the way up to £20.30 for a zone 1-6 anytime one-day travel card.

3. Give camping a go

While it’s not for everyone, camping can be a great way to spend more time outdoors, visit beautiful places and save some money. You can find campsites virtually anywhere you might want to go, whether that’s in the UK or further afield, for a variety of prices ranging from £15 a night and up for a tent pitch. 

If you’re a first-time camper, you don’t have to rush out and buy all of the gear as costs can quickly add up, instead ask friends and family to see if they have a tent, sleeping bag or a camping stove that you could borrow. You can then supplement this with things you have at home, for example, if you haven’t been able to borrow a sleeping bag, take your duvet and a few extra blankets, you might even feel more at home with it all!

Another good idea is to prepare food ahead of time at home (as long as you have a cool box) and take it with you to save on eating out or cooking a full meal with limited kitchen facilities.

4. Think about a staycation

The two biggest costs for a holiday are transport and accommodation, so staying closer to home could help you cut down on one, if not both of these costs. Browse areas near you for places to stay and things to do, chances are there will be an area or place within an hour of your home that you’ve never been to or stayed in. If you want a bit of time away from home, there are bound to be hotels, B&Bs or other holiday accommodation near to you, but you won’t need to pay through the nose to get there.

If you are feeling stumped for things to do, the UK also has plenty of great attractions that you can visit for free, whether it’s the Natural History Museum in London or The Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.

If you’re going to an attraction that charges entry fees, its worth checking to see if you can get any discounts or cheap rates if you book in advance. One option is to see if you have any loyalty points that could contribute towards the cost, for example, Tesco Clubcard points can be towards tickets to Alton Towers, Legoland, Thorpe Park Resort, Colchester Zoo and hundreds more days out and activities.

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5. Find the cheapest flights

The internet is awash with ways to save money on flights, ranging from best deal trackers that alert you when the cheapest prices are available, to websites that scour the internet for ‘mistake’ airfares, where the airline has issued tickets at rock-bottom prices. If you have the time and the patience for this, it could save you a large chunk of money, but if you don’t, there are still some quick and easy ways you can track down the best deals.

One of the best ways to find the cheapest available flights is to use a comparison site, such as Google Flights, Kayak, Skyscanner or Momondo, all of which can help you find the cheapest dates and times to travel to your chosen destination, offering you a range of options to find the best deal for you. Alternatively, if you aren’t set on a specific destination or date, you can use any of these platforms to look at flights from your chosen airport to destinations across the world to see where is cheapest and when.

6. Don’t pay for your seats

Once you’ve found your flight, make sure you aren’t accidentally choosing extras that are going to push the price up. For example, some airlines will make you pay to select your seats, which if you’re travelling in a group is often quite tempting. 

However, consumer association Which? found that a group of four people could expect to pay up to £192 to reserve standard seats together on certain flights. It’s worth knowing that of those surveyed, 95% of short-haul passengers who didn’t pay extra said they were given seats together anyway. So unless you’re planning a long-haul flight, not paying to choose your seats is usually worth the gamble. There are certain airlines that are notorious for splitting groups up if they don’t pay to choose their seats, so do your research before you book if this is important to you.

7. Watch out for luggage allowance changes

A number of budget airlines have changed their carry on allowances for their standard seats, which means while you previously could have taken a small suitcase (average 55cm x 45cm x 25cm) for free as a carry-on, many airlines will now only allow you to bring a small bag or rucksack measuring 41cm x 30cm x 20cm.

If you think you can manage with a smaller bag for your trip, then you shouldn’t be affected too much by this, but if you need to pay for either a larger cabin bag or hold luggage this could add anywhere between £5 and £50 or more to the cost of your ticket, so make sure you consider this before booking and check the small print of the airline you’re flying with so you know the exact dimensions and weight of the luggage you’re allowed.

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8. Always be prepared - book in advance

While it takes a little forethought, booking in advance could save you money. For things like car hire, hotel bookings and certain tourist attractions, you could save money by booking before you get there. 

Ernesto Suarez, founder and chief executive of car excess insurance website iCarhireinsurance.com, said: “Holidaymakers need to squeeze the best value they can from their holidays this year. If you’re planning to hire a car, make sure you shop around for the best deal and that you know how much any extras you need will be, or risk facing a large bill at the rental desk.”

Remember also that buying car excess insurance from a specialist insurance company in advance can work out cheaper than taking the insurance offered by your hire car company. Suarez continues: “These policies can often be purchased at a fraction of the cost and offer better protection than the rental company’s excess waiver policies. 

“Our summer research found that the average cost of excess waiver policies, charged by five international rental companies, for a week totalled over £160. This is five times more expensive than a policy from a specialist excess insurance provider.”

Another key area to book or arrange in advance is travel insurance, ideally as soon as you book your break. Again, shop around for cover rather than getting it from your holiday provider. The closer you get to your holiday, the more the price of your insurance tends to creep up, so it pays to sort this sooner rather than later. You’ll also have peace of mind that you won’t lose money if your plans fall through or you have to cancel your trip.

9. Choose accommodation to match your budget

Whatever price you want to pay, it’s likely that there’s a type of accommodation out there at your price point, even if you’re on a very limited budget. Here are a few options to consider:

House swapping or house sitting

If you’re looking for a low-cost accommodation option, then house swapping or house sitting could be of interest. Of course, both come with their own strings attached, but they can be a great way to live like a local in the places you want to stay.

If you’ve ever seen the film The Holiday, then you might have an idea of what house swapping is. As the name suggests, with a house swap, you offer your home on a house swapping platform as somewhere for people to stay, connect with someone else who is offering their property and you switch homes for a period of time. There are a number of platforms offering house swapping, with the two biggest being HomeExchange and Lovehomeswap.

Of course, letting a stranger stay in your home is likely to worry people, and you’ll want to check whether your current insurer will cover you for the swap. If they won’t cover you then it’s suggested that you take out specialist insurance for the swap. Homelink and pikl both provide this type of insurance so could be a good place to start. Whatever you do, never commit to anything that you don’t feel completely confident in and make sure you’ve done your research before you start swapping.

House-sitting on the other hand is slightly different. While you won’t need to let anyone stay in your home, you may have to carry out certain tasks. Most house-sitting arrangements are set up because the owner needs some help while they are away, whether that’s looking after their pets, watering the garden or just having someone look after the property while they are away for work. There are homeowners all over the world who list their properties for house sitting, so you might be able to find something wherever you want to go. One of the biggest house sitting platforms is TrustedHousesitters which has an Excellent Trustpilot rating from over 14k users.

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Hostels

Often seen as a place for backpackers and hikers, there are hostels all over the world that offer incredible value for money, and some really interesting places to stay. If you don’t fancy sharing a room with eight other people, most hostels will have private rooms, but you will usually pay more for them.

Prices for hostels will vary hugely from place to place but could be as little as £10 a night. Don’t be surprised however if hostels in city centres cost a lot more, many of these will have bars and provide a higher level of service than your traditional hostels, making them more of an attraction.

Homestays

Websites like Airbnb and Vrbo have grown in popularity over recent years and offer the opportunity to live like a local in destinations all over the world. They usually have accommodation at a variety of price points, but whatever you choose, make sure to read the reviews and look the property up on Google Streetview before booking. Photos can hide a multitude of sins, so checking what the property looks like and the area it’s in beforehand could save you time and money.

Hotels

Hotels cover a huge range of prices, from cheap budget ones to five-star luxury ones, but there are a number of ways to save money on your booking. The first thing to do is shop around and compare prices across a range of prices as different websites and travel agents will have different rates. There are a number of platforms that offer a comparison service, including Trivago, Kayak and TravelSupermarket

Before you book anything, another great tip is to look at the hotel’s own website to see if they offer any package deals or any extra perks if you book with them directly. You might also be able to sign up to a free membership that gets you some extras that you wouldn’t otherwise get, like a free glass of champagne or free upgrades.

10. Hunt out discounted holidays

While a quick Google search for discounted holidays is likely to provide you with thousands of options, few of the top options are actually real discounts. We’re proud to offer some exclusive travel deals to Rest Less members through our Discounts page, which currently has some fantastic discounts, including:

  • Savings of up to £100 on solo holidays with Just You when you book a trip that departs before 31st July 2022

     

  • Savings of up to £400 per person with Wendy Wu Tours through their Partner Flies Free offer on any departures in 2022 & 2023, when you confirm a booking between Tuesday 10 May and Monday 6 June 2022.

[Browse our latest travel discounts]

11. Be money smart

The way you spend your money could cost you more than you think if you’re in a foreign country, so there are a few things to remember while you’re away:
  • Check your bank’s fees and charges – Some banks will charge you if you use your card abroad, so it’s a good idea to check your bank’s policy before you leave to see if you’ll be charged.
  • Get a travel money cardThe Post Office has a travel money card that you can top up and use to pay for things while you’re away for free, or the likes of Monzo and Starling Bank offering banking with fee-free overseas services and cash withdrawals.
  • Opt to pay in the local currency – when you use your card to pay for things abroad, the card reader might ask you if you want to pay in GBP or in the local currency. It’s generally much cheaper to choose to pay in the local currency, so always select that if you are given the option.
  • Exchange your money before you leave the UK– If you wait until you are at the airport or in a foreign country to exchange your money, you could face some poor exchange rates and get much less for your money, so it’s usually better to do it before you travel.

12. Beware mobile roaming charges

Many of us will have got used to our mobile phone providers offering free roaming charges in most European countries, but since the UK left the European Union, more and more providers have been re-introducing these charges. The charges vary between providers, with some charging £2 a day for roaming, while others have chosen to not charge at all, so it’s worth checking what your provider charges before you leave.

For more information on this, have a look at our article How to save on mobile costs when you go on holiday.

13. Be holiday savvy

With the large numbers of people looking to get away on a long-overdue holiday this year, one of the most important things is to make sure that any holidays you book are legitimate. 

Unfortunately, new research shows that nearly half (41%) of all Brits have experienced holiday fraud, or know someone who has, losing an average of £1,168 each. So, if you’re trying to save money on your holiday, the last thing you want or need is to pay for something that doesn’t actually exist. To protect yourself from holiday fraud, consider the following:

  • Always check the site link carefully before you click to make sure it’s taking you to a legitimate site. Use authorised apps or sites where you can to make sure it’s the real deal.
  • Never click any links in emails or texts that you weren’t expecting, particularly if they have an urgent tone to them – this is a trick used by fraudsters to create a sense of urgency and make people click on links that either capture your personal information or infect your device with malicious software.
  • If you find a deal that’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you’ve been comparing deals for a hotel or flight and suddenly find one that’s a third of the price, it could be a scam. Always use the legitimate sites for any holiday payments.
  • If using a platform like Airbnb, make sure you keep all communications, bookings and payments on the platform. This will make sure you’re protected by their processes, as once you leave the site, you won’t have their safeguards, processes and refunds available.
  • Take your time and do your research – Don’t be fooled by glossy images promising the world. Make sure that, whatever you are booking, you take your time to read reviews and verify that what you’re booking or paying for is legitimate. Scammers will often try to pressurise you into booking quickly so remember it’s fine to take your time.
  • Maintain good security practices – use different passwords for different platforms and don’t share these with anyone.

You can read more about this in our article Holiday scams and how to avoid them.

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