Bargain travel

Budgets and Bargains

…travelling when money is an issue.

Many parents these days are on a tight budget, which can often be even tighter when you’re a single parent having to cover all those essential bills. Paying rent or taxing the car may be the priority but as a huge believer in the benefits of holidays for all the family I do think that if it’s possible saving up for an adventure is worth it.

First of all you have to work out your budget. Saving is all relative, some people will be able to save £5 a month and some £500 but anything you can put aside is a step closer to taking that trip.

Start off by setting up a special bank account for your holidays or days out to make sure that money is kept separate. This could be a regular saver if you know you can afford to save a set amount every month or a separate bank account (I personally use Monzo as they don’t charge fees for using your card abroad). If you’re a low earner in the UK make sure you check out the governments Help to Save scheme, where for every pound you save they will match it by 50p, so over the four years you can have the account if you put in the maximum £50 a month you will save £2,400 and the government will give you £1,200, an amazing rate.

Then it’s time to find ways to save! If your budget won’t allow putting aside a set amount monthly, or in addition to doing that, then try other options. Change your phone or TV contracts to cheaper ones and divert the difference into your holiday account. Or give up your monthly take away or daily coffee habit and put what you’re saving away. Just make sure if you can afford to do so, divert those savings straight away or if you’re like me it will just get muddled up in to your general day to day spending and you also won’t get the happy feeling of seeing your holiday balance grow!

If you have already squeezed your budget as much as possible or need any new savings you find to cover your day to day life then try to make money. My first recommendation is to sign up to Topcashback. By simply clicking on their links when you buy online you receive money back. Sometimes it’s 20p but that adds up and there is big money to be made on things like getting a phone contract or changing your utility provider. Last year just for renewing my mobile phone contract, which I was doing anyway, by going to the website via Topcashback I got £80!

Get your old clothes or the kids toys on Marketplace and put any money you make into a savings pot. Or look at switching your bank account as many current accounts offer financial rewards for doing so. Also check out any swap shops or local free sites on things like Facebook, if you can get things you need for yourself or the kids for free you may have some extra cash to put away.

Check out my top tips and how I save HERE. And my lockdown saving special HERE.

If you’re saving for a particular trip then carefully work out how much you will need to cover that. Don’t forget about any extras too as they quickly add up and can end up really screwing up your budget and landing you in trouble.

For example in 2017 I booked a weeks all inclusive in Fuerteventura for £750. Easy to think happy days that’s a bargain and it’s all paid for. But I then needed:

  • Petrol for the return trip to the airport – £80
  • Airport parking – £70
  • A night in a hotel prior to flying due to an early flight – £65
  • Food in the airport/on the plane – £25
  • Spending money for days out/souvenirs – £250
  • New clothes/toiletries as it was our first beach holiday – £150

An extra £640 in total, almost as much as the holiday itself. I don’t say that to put people off and obviously there are places I could have saved money if I needed to but it’s just super important to consider everything before you book when you’re on a tight budget.

Sometimes it works out the other way to and you get a lovely surprise. I never would have thought I would have been able to take Luka and me to New Zealand via the USA and Australia for almost three weeks for £3,000 but I did.

Once you have that total cost you can start to work backwards of how much you would need to save monthly and how much you can afford to put away and work out when you will be able to take your dream trip.

If you just want to take a holiday anywhere work out how much you will have saved by a certain point, say for example next summer (ignoring the fact we’re probably still going to be under some form of lockdown by then!) and go from there.

My first tip for getting a bargain holiday is be flexible! If you don’t mind where you go then you are able to select the best deal for your dates. I never have a set destination in mind for our summer holidays, I just look at providers like TUI for when I can go and select the best choice within my budget. The same for our weekend European city breaks. I just go to Skyscanner and find the cheapest flights I can. Though do always take into account the cost when you get there. For example a flight to Poland could cost £10 more than a flight to Oslo but the cost of hotels, food and activities will be so much less that you’ll save way more.

Check out my top tips for getting cheap flights HERE.

If you can be flexible in your dates even better. If you have pre school age children take advantage of lower prices outside of school holidays. If you have older children and you’re able to, look at the whole holiday period and find when it’s cheapest to go before booking your time off work.

Then do your research. I look at multiple different websites for every holiday I book, searching out the best and cheapest deals. Check out your local travel agents too and compare. Just make sure anything you book is from a reputable company with all the right coverage like ABTA. A week in a caravan you’ve found on Facebook may be a bargain but if it turns out to be a scam it leaves your finances and dreams in tatters.

If you’re on a tight budget then I would definitely recommend looking at all inclusive options. Compare and contrast the difference in price between a self catering option. Many times it’s cheaper to pay the extra than it would be to feed the family 3 times a day for a week and it’s also so much more relaxing than worrying all week every time they want a drink or snack. Also consider what your hotel provides as part of the price. If there’s a kids club, activities and water park then you’re likely to be so busy every day that you won’t feel the need to head out so often to find other activities you need to pay for.

Activities can also be a central part of deciding whether to go home or abroad when it comes holidays. I LOVE a staycation (which is rather lucky at the minute) and I think we are so blessed to live where we do and have the choice to have beautiful beach breaks, action packed adventure breaks or cultured city breaks but unfortunately the cost of holidaying in the U.K. can add up. A week in Spain in the summer could mean your spending is low despite possibly higher travel costs (I say possibly because I’ve paid 5 times more to get the train from South Wales to London than a flight from London to Italy) because you’re on a beach for free all day instead of trying to find activities when the great British weather takes a turn for the worse. Again that’s not to say it always will so work out the costs of both options including all the extras before you decide.

On activities, just remember they don’t have to cost the world. When you’re somewhere different, go out and explore it for free. When we were in Belgium earlier this year apart from on food we didn’t spend a penny because we spent our time looking at the sights, finding the Mannekin Pis and checking out free activities and museums in the city.

Whether you end up home or abroad on your holidays, if money is tight, make a daily budget and stick to it. It takes the worry out of running out of cash half way through the week and means you won’t end up dipping into your general bank account and then finding out you can’t afford to pay your rent at the end of the month.

If it’s not a big holiday you’re looking at and you just want to get away more throughout the year on weekends away then check out some of my tips for a bargain day out/weekend away HERE.

I could go on even more about how to save both for and on a holiday but as this is the longest blog post ever I will pause it there! I hope this has been some help and if there’s anything else you want to know then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me via social media to ask!

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