Five tips to save money over the Summer and still have a great time
Keeping the family amused during the Summer holidays can end up being expensive. Now is the time to see if you can find some low-cost breaks, days out and activities to keep them occupied.
With a bit of forward planning and some savvy money-saving it is possible to dodge high prices and still have a good time. We have rounded-up five ideas to help you save money on home shores over the holidays.
1. How to find cheaper places to stay
Opting for a self-catered cottage rather than a b&b or hotel can instantly cut your costs. Click Stay or Owners Direct are a great place to start the search, putting you in touch with the owners themselves once you have found a place to stay. This means you might find that you can negotiate better – particularly if you want to bring along a pet, or extend your stay. Other websites worth a look are Cottages.com, Holiday Lettings and Rural Retreats.
Airbnb. This website is a great low-hassle way to rent a room or house around the world and it can cost much less than booking through a traditional agency or budget b&b. Airbnb lets you rent single rooms as well as holiday homes for both short and long stays. Prices can be as low as £20 a night for a room and places can be found in most major cities as well as in rural areas of sea-side towns.
One of the cheapest ways to go on holiday is to simply trade your home for a week with another family wishing to do the same. There are a few websites which you can sign up with in order to be paired with suitable people to swap with, but Love Home Swap and Knok are a good place to start.
Most sites will usually charge a fee though, Love Home swap costs between £12 and £40 per month depending on your membership level, and Knok costs a much lower £29 per year, or you can join for free and pay £99 when you find your first home swap. Both Knok and Love Home Swap offer insurance covering accidental damage to your property during the swap. However, you should check with your home insurance provider to make sure that coverage for major events such as burglary or a burst pipe remains in place. Remember: Some home insurers will not allow exchangers, so members need to move their policy to a more accommodating company.
If your idea of a perfect holiday is pitching your tent under the stars then a good place to start is the Pitchup or UK Camp Sites websites which have lists of all of the camping sites across the UK. There are also user reviews which can be very helpful when sorting the wheat from the chaff, and an added bonus with Pitch Up – it also provides discounts.
Holiday sales and hotel comparison sites
Hotels don’t want empty beds, which mean they are often willing to sell rooms off cheaply in flash sales either at the last minute or in advance for low peak times of year. There are often some great discount deals, particularly on boutique UK hotels to be found on websites such as Secret Escapes and Voyage Prive. You usually have to sign up to a daily or weekly newsletter which does clog up your inbox but it means you can keep on top of the latest deals. Travelzoo is another. It offers packages and deals on hotel stays, meals and days out and even spa trips often with discounts of as much as 40-50 per cent. Comparison sites such as Last Minute and Trivago will compare the prices offered across all of the major booking sites. So, even if you have found a good deal it is always worth searching to see if another company offers the same deal, but cheaper.
2. How to eat out for less
First things first – avoid the tourist traps. Popular areas of London or Manchester and picturesque seaside restaurants are going to cost twice as much – and the food probably won’t be half as good. Probably the best way to find a hidden gem is to speak to someone in the know – talk to locals or download the Spottedbylocals app, which provides city guides with insider knowledge. Even then, going out for a meal can add up quickly, especially if there’s a few of you – and if you’re drinking alcohol. A tried and tested winner to save money on restaurant bills is by using vouchers. Zizzi, Loch Fyne and Strada all usually offer some kind of money-off deal. Some restaurants, like Pizza Express, have a dedicated voucher section on their website. These vouchers tend to only work for the usual suspects – chains like the examples above. So if you want to be a bit more creative get a Tastecard, which will help you to get up to 50 per cent off your bill. You can currently pick up a three month membership for just £1 online, otherwise it will cost you £79.99 for a year but even then you will probably make back your money pretty quickly. Otherwise you can currently get a free one month trial.
Open Table and Bookatable are another alternative. Sign up and make online bookings, read restaurant reviews from diners and earn points towards free meals. You can also save by thinking sensibly. Earlybird dinner specials are normally a good shout – as are pre-theatre menus. Lastminute.com, for example, has some good offers on top restaurants in the West End of London. Alternatively, you could sign up to be a mystery shopper and get your meal refunded in exchange for a review. Mystery Dining or Market Force are two examples.
3. How to get cheaper days out
Don’t just pay up for expensive days out – see if you can get a discount first. There are lots of different websites that constantly update their list of vouchers. VoucherCloud is a good one, as is Vouchercodes. MagicfreebiesUK also offers special deals. Wowcher and Groupon can also help you save money. Sometimes deals can be hit or miss, but it’s worth signing up and keeping your eyes peeled, just in case.
When you’re not looking, there always seems to be fliers and vouchers clogging up your inbox or letterbox. Check before you throw away what would usually be rubbish – and look out for special offers in newspapers, or on drinks and food packaging. Some companies leave money-off vouchers lying around tourist offices, so its always worth popping in to see if you can bag yourself a special offer. Don’t forget to check cashback sites Quidco and Topcashback, which both offer constantly updated discounts.
4. How to find cheaper travel
The though of shelling out hundreds of pounds on travel or petrol is enough to put most people off the thought of setting off on a summer adventure. But there are lots of ways of cutting costs.
Travel by bus
It may not be fast and it may not be fun, but it is certainly cheap. And, when you compare journey times there isn’t really that much difference for the cost. Mega bus to Bristol takes 2 hours 30 mins and can cost as little as £16.50 even booking on the same day. Whereas a cheap single train ticket – which you have to buy in advance – takes 1 hour 30 mins and costs around £15.50. If you do decide to go by train, book your ticket as far in advance as you can for the cheapest rates. If you’re traveling with family or friends, make sure you get group discount tickets.
Cost-free bus travel
Don’t forget, if you are over 60 (or ‘eligible disabled’), you’re entitled to free off-peak travel between 9.30am and 11pm weekdays and any time at weekends on local buses throughout England, Wales and Scotland; ask your local authority for a national bus pass and plan a trip: Gov.UK and Transport for Scotland.
Petrol costs quickly add up, companies like Zipcar are a much cheaper alternative to hiring a car for a week if you’re not planning to drive every day – or you only need the car for a few hours. Make sure you check out costs before you go, though. If you drive more than 40 miles in one day you will be charged 0.25 pence for every mile – which quickly adds up on long trips.
If you do find that renting for a full week is cheaper, make sure you do your homework. Car hire costs can vary between providers by hundreds of pounds. Try using a travel comparison site such as Travel Supermarket or Skyscanner to search for the cheapest deals. One good firm is Yellohire – which hooks you up with the big name car hire firms at a reduced rate. This is Money cut costs of a two day car hire from £150 to £70 by using this service.
Find others traveling the same way as you and share a lift via a car share service like CarShare.com or BlaBlaCar to save money, cut your carbon footprint. Or, if you have empty seats in your car, why not share them with someone else on your route?
Take a bike.
Don’t forget, if you take a bike with you can get around for free when you get there. Cycle Routes UK has a comprehensive lists of rides across the country here. This free app by View Ranger means you can download bike routes – which you can even check offline.
5. Do some free stuff
If you’re on a budget, the prospect of paying out for summer activities can seem daunting. But it’s easy to forget there are lots of things out there that are completely free. Go walking, go to the beach or a lake, go to a park or hunt out free activities locally. One of the great things about the UK is its rich cultural history – so take advantage of the vast range of free activities held to celebrate it.
Guided city walking tours.
These are provided gratis by some cities: Bath, for example, offers free two-hour general tours each day, and a Jane Austen audio tour that you can freely download on to an MP3 player; see www.visitbath.co.uk.
BTCV runs one-day tasks all over Britain – planting trees and hedges, repairing dry-stone walls, creating footpaths etc. Anyone over 16 can help out – no experience required.
Museums and galleries
In 2001 free entry was reintroduced at national museums in England, Wales and Scotland which had previously charged admission. This means that there is now no excuse to get yourself down to museums to learn more about local and world history. The British Museum is London’s most visited free attraction. The National Gallery, Tate Modern, and Science Museum in London and Liverpool’s International Slavery Museum or Newcastle upon Tyne’s Discovery Museum are also all good examples.
The Royal Academy of Music in London offers free concerts, recitals and master-classes most days. Or take in jazz, folk and world music in the foyer of the National Theatre on the South Bank. Pubs and bars are always holding free music or comedy nights. Check out sites like Timeout or onthecasemusic.co.uk for up-to-date schedules.
Other free stuff to do
Castle-wise, Maiden Castle in Dorset is the largest in Britain. Plus it’s one of the many unmanned and free sites managed by English Heritage. Download an audio tour of the site from www.english-heritage.org.uk. Sheffield hosts The Winter Garden, one of England’s most visited free attractions – an enormous glasshouse containing more than 2,500 plants from around the world and Sherwood Forest Country Park the tree in which Robin Hood hid while fleeing the Sheriff of Nottingham. The Visit Britain website often has good ideas for free things to do – as does the National Trust’s. Check out MagicfreebiesUK for other ideas for days out across the country.
(Article source: This is Money)