Can I still go on holiday if I’m in debt?

The summer holiday. It’s the pinnacle of the great British summer when we down our tools and rejoice in the precious few days of warm weather we tend to get. We return rested and recharged, probably plumper and a little sunburnt.

When you’re trying to be savvy with your money, a holiday – even a short camping trip – can seem like an extravagance. No matter what your financial situation, fun, leisure and the forging of happy memories with loved ones are so important. With that in mind, we’ve got some ideas on how you can get away from it all for less than you think.

But first, a quick history lesson on the great British getaway…

seaside and seagull

A (mini) history on the summer holiday

Holidays have been an integral part of a happy human life for a long time:

  • The Roman Empire covered most of Europe. Many wealthy Romans took advantage of this by visiting all corners of the continent for fun and relaxation.
  • Workers in the middle and dark ages were allowed time off for religious holidays, just as most modern Brits have time off for Easter and Christmas.
  • 18th-century gentlemen embarked on ‘the grand tour’ of Europe to finish their education and gain ‘enlightenment’ (almost like a gap year).
  • The 20th century saw families taking extended holidays for pleasure with the majority heading for the seaside, as this was the most affordable.
  • By the 50’s, commercial airline flights became more affordable for the masses. Package holidays to Spain were all the range, as was returning beautifully bronzed which is why we’re all so obsessed with getting a healthy tan!

With so many ways to travel, the world’s literally our oyster, depending on our budget. We may even be around to see space travel take off.

Right, history lesson over! Now onto our top tips for holidaying on a budget…

save money on software

Join the club

There’s so much happening on the ol’ interwebs that it can be difficult to keep track of it all. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone out there was tracking the best airline deals, so you don’t have to? Well, it turns out there is!

If you’re looking for cheap flights, register with Jack’s Flight Club or Holiday Pirates, so you’ll get the first word on the all cheapest deals.

Be flexible

Sites like Skyscanner or Kayak show price variations across a whole month. What I’ve learned from signing up to them is that mid-week flights are usually cheaper. On a recent city break to Warsaw, I came across flights ranging from as little as £18 to a whopping £132.

If you’re capable of sleeping through pretty much anything (and according to my mother, I’m blessed with this gift), look at the more obscure flight times as they tend to be cheaper.

Tip: If you’re considering a cheap early morning or late night flight you might find that there’s no public transport available. With the money saved on the flight, make sure you’re still making savings if you have to get a cab or shuttle bus home.

Not bothered about being ‘stuck’ at an airport for longer than usual? If you’re going further afield, look at flights with a layover. I’ve had layovers ranging from 20 minutes to a leisurely 48 hours and both have brought down the cost significantly. With longer layovers, you have the advantage of being able to explore another city.

With layovers, be mindful of the time you have between connecting flights. Tight timings can often be stressful – think running through the airport at top speed, as they do in the movies to catch their loves. Except no one’s waiting at the gate for you and if you don’t make it, you miss your flight.


Think minimal and pack light

Paying for extras like baggage, seating or food can push prices up. So if you don’t need it, go without.

The majority of airlines give you around 10kg for your hand luggage as long as it meets their size restrictions and some will allow an additional handbag.

Tip: If you’re booking your flights separately make sure you check the terms and conditions of both airlines.

I pride myself on being able to travel with my everyday backpack which holds three to five days of:

  • clothes – which I can mix and match, dress up or dress down, don’t need ironing, and I can wash easily in the sink if needs be. There are actually special detergents you can buy for handwashing when on your jollies, and they often come in travel size pods.
  • shoes – I try to keep to one pair if possible, but at most I pack two. Usually one pair is casual and the other slightly dressy, depending on where I’m going.
  • toiletries – the key to these is smaller, smaller, smaller! Cosmetic shops now sell toiletries in tiny bottles. Buy ones that have multiple functions such as shampoo and conditioner or hair and body wash. Save those samples of shampoo or moisturiser you get in magazines or toothpaste you sometimes get from the dentist.
  • makeup – keep to a natural look if possible so you can keep facepaint to a minimum. A small jar of Vaseline works wonders as a moisturiser, lip balm, mascara substitute, and temporary split-end mender

An extra tip: Wear your heaviest items such as trainers, jumpers, jeans and coats.

girl in airport

Planes, trains and everything in between

If you’re taking public transport to the airport consider all your options – buses, trains, even flying.

Tip: Remember to apply these saving skills to your transfers at the other side.

I recently flew from Heathrow and found it was cheaper to get the train there and fly back.

Check sites like Groupon for discounts on airport parking if you prefer to drive. Or, Just Park and Park On My Drive allow you to park your car on someone’s drive, usually for a fraction of the cost.

A room with a view, a whole apartment or a dorm?

Although you can compare prices and get discounts for paying upfront, hotels are often more expensive. Airbnb is a great alternative whether you’re staying in a city studio or countryside cottage.

Tip: Make additional savings by cooking meals at home and taking a pack-up with you.

If you’re looking for somewhere to crash and store your bags, consider a hostel. Most have the option of dorms, private rooms and private bathrooms. They’re generally the cheapest option, and you can meet some great people.

I’ve stayed in some great hostels and some not so great. Silver lining – even the bad ones gave me some cracking stories.

Carry on camping

Camping is great fun, whether you’re going with friends or family. And, there are hundreds of great sites across the UK.

Save money by:

  • packing a cool box with food to BBQ (check you’re allowed to do this on site)
  • bringing your pets with you
  • borrowing equipment from friends or family

If you’re not convinced about sleeping in a tent under the stars, ease yourself into the idea by booking a caravan or cabin onsite for a little more home comfort.

Tip: Think outside the box. If you’ve got a car, why not take the ferry over to France. You won’t need to buy individual tickets or worry about weight restriction for your luggage. Just check your insurance covers you for driving in the EU.

ribblehead viaduct

Get up and go!

If you’re opting for a staycation this year or just a big day out, then you’re in for a treat. The UK is home to some of the most beautiful natural landscapes, wildernesses and heritage spots.

Not only is walking – or, going for a ‘ramble’ – free but you also get to see so much more while balancing out those extra holiday calories.  Or, keeping with the lean and green theme, you could hire a bike for the day.

Check out Meetup to see if there are any local rambling groups in your area. Alternatively, Walking Britain is where you can plot out your rambling route across any part of the UK.

If you’re heading further afield, check with local operators for travel passes covering bus, train or tram for a couple of days. It’s more cost effective than buying individual tickets.

Tip: If you’re staying in one place for several days, change your scenery by exploring nearby cities or countryside using your travel pass.

You’d be surprised how much you can do…for free

Do some research beforehand to see if there’s anything you can do for little or no cost. Our top suggestions are:

  • museums
  • art galleries
  • festivals
  • concerts
  • castles and ruins
  • ghost walks (if you’re brave enough), or
  • viewpoints

Have you recently been away and found ways to save? Where did you go? Tell us about it in the comments.

Posted by in Budgeting