Adventure Ideas 7: Go Further for Less
Budget Travel Tips: Make Holiday Money go Further
It’s nearly that time of year again; when the turkey becomes turkey curry and the sunshine ads are on the telly trying to sell you paradise. But as the UK teeters on the brink of a triple dip recession not so many of us can afford paradise these days. For this week’s adventure ideas, I’ve been thinking up ways to help make your adventure piggy bank take you further…
The Autumn Statement
When I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer was making his Autumn statement I imagined a poetic speech encouraging us to get out, get active and embrace this golden season and all it has to offer. So you can imagine my disappointment when all I got was talk of five more years of economic gloom. Is he as pessimistic as me? Even if we wanted to escape this long economic winter we can’t because he’s putting up Air Passenger Duty again, this time by 2.5 per cent. Figures released by the UK Office for National Statistics suggest British families are spending almost £1000 a year less as belt tightening continues, and some of that’s coming off the holiday budget. So what kinds of things can you do to make that smaller budget go further?
Use your net
The world of travel is changing as rapidly as the internet and these days you don’t have to trawl the high street to uncover a bargain; the net can do the legwork for you. There are travel price comparison sites that will search tirelessly for the best deals on flights, hotels, packages and insurance while you sup your coffee. Sites like Money Saving Expert are dedicated to saving you cash and have good sections on travel. Or check out one of the specialist Budget Travel bloggers that write in detail about issues like how to find the best deal, shave money off your bill, use vouchers, airmiles, loyalty and cash back schemes to stretch your budget to the max.
Why pay for it at all if someone else will? Holiday companies have realised that competitions are a good way of engaging people in their social media campaigns. There are loads of competitions around that invite you to send in photos of yourself in action, or record a video clip and post it on a facebook page. And the prizes can be substantial. On a rainy day it can be fun to record yourselves doing a family version of the ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ dressed as a Christmas pudding. Or is that just us? Then how do you feel about impersonating a monkey, a giraffe or one of the animals you might find on a South African safari? In return for some monkeying about on camera, you could win a trip to South Africa for two adults and two teenagers in this Monkey See, Monkey Do contest. You’ve got till the end of January to film Dad roaring like a lion when the kids overstep the mark.
Make nature the attraction
Expensive ‘attractions’ can make a BIG hole in your holiday money. They’re often over in a few short hours and can be quickly forgotten or worse still remembered for the queuing and credit card bill. Interestingly a recent survey by Late Deals found 52% of travellers ignore famous landmarks on holiday. Maybe they’re the savvy ones. Focus your holiday around nature and you can slash the budget. We keep costs down on cycling holidays where we have no transport costs and a very small entertainment bill. Or you could walk part of an established route where your costs are limited to overnight hostel stays, picnics and plasters for blisters! Or switch from downhill to cross country skiing or snow shoeing; no lift pass needed, but still an amazing snow-filled experience.
Go somewhere cheap
It seems like common sense but if you’re a bit broke avoid expensive European destinations like Paris, Dublin and London. You might get a better deal in Athens or Lisbon right now. You’re not only helping them pay their debts back but you might get more value for your money. We had some great skiing experiences in Romania and Bulgaria that were something of a cultural education too! Countries that don’t use European currency can be cheaper; our money went a very long way in Latvia; even in the capital Riga. Or you might do the sums and find that even with your flight costs added in, an African or Asian country is kinder to your holiday budget overall.
Go off season
If you have young children and no school terms to adhere to, then you can save a fortune travelling out of season. Venice is said to be at its most atmospheric just before carnival time in February. You’ll see the locals starting to costume up, but without the costs and crowds that populate Italy in August. We have always really enjoyed Spanish resorts like Puerto Banus in the winter months. It’s still warm, but quieter and more friendly. Or you might want to try getting a good deal in a ski resort in the summer. It always feels a bit weird without snow, but you can take your bike up in the lift and ride for miles, or go hiking. And some high level resorts with glaciers (are there any left?) offer summer skiing too.
Drop down a star or two
If you normally go five star (do any of you?) then downgrade a star or three. If you usually stay in a hotel try self catering. If you normally do a cottage try hostelling or camping. It doesn’t have to be a stressful switch and you might find it fun; try Eurocamp for a cheap family camping experience where you don’t even need to put up your own tent. Last summer to avoid expensive hotel bills in Iceland, we camped every night, and Cameron reckoned it was the best part of the holiday.
Downgrade your transport
Alternatively, if you can’t give up the five stars why not downgrade your transport. If you can’t be persuaded by the prospect of bike or boots then how about swapping flying for self drive, or even go by rail or coach? I got on a super Snow-coach at the ski show in Earls Court recently and could easily have fallen asleep in one of the reclining chairs and woken up in the Alps. (Sadly I didn’t). And in Iceland recently the kids were ecstatic to find the buses all had free wi-fi. (So no chance of them sleeping then.) All I’m saying is coach travel has changed.
Or look out for new budget airline routes from an airport near you. (But do check first that there’s public transport at the other end to take you from that far flung airport into the city.) We noticed recently that EasyJet is starting up a new route to Iceland from an airport very near us. And its sister airline Fastjet is now making flights much cheaper within Africa. Or look for special offers on trains. I found a two for one offer travelling across Switzerland recently. Book ahead for the best deal.
Spread the cost of your holiday
Some holiday companies are helping cash strapped families spread the load of the summer holiday throughout the year. Direct Line Holidays has low deposit offers where you can pay for your holiday in several installments. If the price drops on their site, they say they will also refund the difference. Packaged holidays offer some of the best value around.
Take the package (and ditch it)
Some indie travellers can be snobbish about package holidays but they can save you a lot of money, money you can use once you’re there to do your own thing. OK so the package might not go exactly where you want to go or have the kind of accommodation you prefer, but why not use it as the basis of your own indie adventure. Take the flights, overnight in the accommodation then rent a car, bike or canoe and disappear off for your own adventures. We found a two week package deal to Goa for less than the price of a flight to India, spent a week in Goa and a week touring Kerala indie style. But don’t forget to tell the Reps what you’re up to or you could start an international missing persons alert or something worse. If you’re a long haul junkie then flights will be a big part of your budget and package operators can be a great source of cheap long haul flights. If you can’t get a cheap deal then maybe think about going less often for longer and ticking off a few more things on your bucket list. You know, why not turn that ten day week trip to Tahoe into a three week West Coast USA road trip? Or that 10 day safari in Africa into a month long eco-tour including a volunteering experience at a wildlife reserve?
What are your top tips for making your travel budget go further?
Disclosure Note: This post is brought to you in part thanks to support from Direct Line Holidays.