Travelling on a budget doesn’t have to mean you have to compromise on the fun stuff. These seven easy travel hacks will save you money, without scrimping on what really counts: time off in the sunshine, with your feet in the sand.
1. Venture off the beaten track
Booking a trip to a less “fashionable” destination can cut your summer-holiday costs without compromising on the sun, sea or sand. Look out for alternative beach holidays in destinations such as the palm-fringed sands of Macau or, closer to home, the sandy and serene hideaway of Juist, one of Germany’s East Frisian islands off its northwest coast in the Wadden Sea. It’s a car-free haven on its way to becoming the world’s first carbon-neutral destination.
Or seek out a European beach that the locals try to keep a secret such as Cala de sa Forcanera, just an hour from Barcelona in Spain, or the white beaches of Liepaja in Latvia. Liepaja’s 7km Blue Flag beach is utterly pristine and sits alongside the landscaped Seaside Park, filled with exotic trees and shrubs. Next to the park, the high-ceilinged Boutique Hotel Roze is a former seaside villa with doubles in mid-July for around £65 a night.
2. Do your own cooking
If you’re travelling as a family, the cost of eating out when staying in a hotel can quickly mount up. Self-catering apartments can be a great budget alternative, giving you the freedom to shop in the supermarket for breakfasts and picnics, pick up cheaper food from colourful markets or street-food vendors – or sample the best local restaurants when you need an evening off from the kitchen. It also allows you to cater for picky eaters. Just be sure to book an apartment with a dishwasher to lighten the workload.
For a family of four with two people sharing each room, self-catering apartments in Estepona, Spain, start from £87 per room per night mid-July, whereas all-inclusive hotels in the same resort town start at £152.
3. Don’t get carried away with your luggage
Packing conservatively and weighing and measuring your bags in advance can mean you avoid being charged additional fees. Some airlines charge £65 for each bag that exceeds their weight allowance at the airport.
If you think you’re going to be close to your airline’s baggage limits, invest in some luggage scales and weigh before you leave the house. The AmazonBasics Digital Luggage Scale is a snip at £6.49 and is small enough to travel with you. It came second only to a £39.60 Beurer model when tested by the Good Housekeeping Institute.
And don’t forget – hand luggage often has size and weight restrictions, too.
4. Watch your washbag
They may save weight and valuable space in your luggage, but branded mini travel products are an excruciatingly expensive option, especially if purchased at the airport. Instead, pack unused hotel freebies, buy some refillable travel bottles for £1 from Primark and decant the products from your larger bottles at home, or simply get some cheap-and-cheerful toiletries at your destination.
Sunscreen is, however, one product that’s worth buying in the UK, so you know you can get your hands on it as soon as you land. Bear in mind that the big brands don’t necessarily offer more protection. The latest sun-cream research by consumers’ association Which?, released in May 2018, found that budget buys performed just as well in both the SPF and UVA tests as branded products costing twice as much.
5. Pack a travel-friendly bank card
Many of us avoid punitive currency-exchange rates at the airport by using our debit and credit cards on a summer trip. Then, when we get our statements at the end of the month, we realize it wasn’t such a smart move. We’re often charged 2.5%-5% on foreign transactions, and a £1.50-£3 fee every time we withdraw cash from an ATM.
However, a handful of companies offer travel-friendly plastic. For example, the app-based Starling Bank charges no fees for the use of its debit card when you’re abroad – whether you’re making purchases or withdrawing cash. The app also has a handy card-locking function, so you can shut it down if you think it’s lost or stolen (and then unlock it if you find it again). The Halifax’s Clarity Mastercard also does not charge for overseas transactions and cash withdrawals. See moneysavingexpert.com for more options.
6. Put a pay-as-you-go SIM card in your phone
We all know that mobile phone roaming charges are now banned in the EU: but hefty charges can still be levied outside its borders. An increasing number of pay-monthly plans shield you from those charges – either at no extra cost, or for a daily fee (Vodafone offers a total of 152 destinations in its Global Roaming programme). But if yours doesn’t, or you don’t like the look of the fees, pay-as-you-go SIM cards are a handy solution (provided your phone is unlocked of course). Buy them abroad once you’ve arrived, or check out Three’s “Feel at Home Around the World” SIMs, available in the UK. These start from £10 for 3,000 texts and minutes, and can be used in 71 destinations around the world, including America, Australia, Brazil and Singapore.
7. Don’t waste money on bottled water
When you don’t trust the tap water at your destination, stocking up on the bottled variety for an entire holiday can cost a small fortune – not to mention the environmental impact of all that single-use plastic. Fortunately, technology is on your side, as you can now invest in reusable water bottles complete with their own filtration systems. The 50cl GO! Water Bottle by Water-to-Go (£12.99) has an in-built filter, which means you can have access to safe drinking water almost anywhere in the world. It removes chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride from tap water, plus 99.9% of contamination from untreated water sources. Its replaceable filter lasts for 130 litres or two months: more than enough for your whole trip.
Published June 2018. Any prices are lowest estimated prices only on 5 June, 2018 and are subject to change and/or availability.