Holidaying on a budget: the secret guide to thrifty travel

Summer is on its way, and many of us are beginning to think about getting away from it all with a break abroad. A holiday overseas can seem daunting when money is tight, but there are plenty of ways to travel without breaking the bank. Whether it’s a long weekend in the city, a sightseeing adventure or simply a few days spent soaking up rays by the pool, here are some top tips for getting out there on a shoestring.

The best low-cost destinations in 2017

City break? Explore beautiful Budapest

For a low-cost urban escape, it’s hard to beat the Hungarian capital. Equally popular with backpackers and families, Budapest is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, with stunning architecture, river cruises and delicious food around every corner. A three-course meal comes in at about 4,000 Forint (£10) a head, though there are plenty of well-known fast food options too if you’re in a hurry, and a pint of beer will cost you 450Ft (about £1.20).

Sun and sea? Try Albania’s coasts

With millions of British tourists flocking to European sunspots every summer, prices have been rising in recent years. But the key to a low-cost beach holiday in 2017 can be to think outside the box.

Eastern European countries such as Bulgaria, Albania and Romania offer sun, sea and sand with jump-for-joy affordability. Albania in particular is a popular choice, bordering Greece and sharing its climate, but without the premiums. The nation’s rugged coastline with sheltered bays, golden sands and clear blue water is nicknamed the Albanian Riviera. You’ll find flights from £200 per adult.

Beyond the continent? Escape to South America

With its hidden wine bars, delicious food and bustling cities, South and Central America are often overlooked by UK holidaymakers wanting to go further afield. Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Guatemala can all provide spectacular weather, delicious food and rich culture at very lost cost. Enjoy the busy cities with their popular markets and festivals, or stay in the more remote areas to see natural beauty. Guatemala is home to spectacular lakes and traditional villages, while Peru features some of the world’s most iconic landscapes, from the Amazon rainforest to the high Andes and Machu Picchu.

Transatlantic flights are of course expensive, but if you choose your timing carefully and pick up a deal you could be there for £400 or less. Plus, with hotels from £30 a night and a coffee for about £1.80, you’ll still end up spending less in total than you would on many European getaways.

Tips for keep living costs down on holiday

Pick up a travel card

Using a credit card abroad is an expensive business. Almost all card providers charge a ‘non-sterling fee’ for using the card in a foreign currency, and this is often between 2 and 3% on top of your standard fees. Usually holiday makers get around this by taking plenty of cash, but technology now makes it easier to go fee-free abroad.

Prepaid cards such as the Post Office’s travel money card allow you to top up before you go and then withdraw cash as and when you need it. Or, if you have a smartphone, clever apps like Revolut will send you a card in the post which you can use like an ordinary credit or debit card, and top up directly from the mobile app, even when abroad. The card providers take their commission from the banks, so you don’t pay a penny over what you actually spend. Just be sure to look into the options with plenty of time in hand, as your card may take up to ten working days to arrive.

Prep your mobile data

Using your phone abroad? Make sure you get in touch with your mobile network before leaving, and find out what deals they have. It may be that you can set up a fixed rate for the time you are away, paying little more than you would in the UK. Many networks charge £5 a day or more for unarranged use abroad, and that only gets you minimal allowances compared to what’s on your domestic contract. The same goes for calls and texts.

Buy before you fly

Think carefully about accessories that you will need ‒ power adapters, sunscreen, books – because you know who else has thought carefully about things you will need? Airport retailers. And they know that once you’re through that security gate, you’re theirs. They have a monopoly. In fact, according to retailer Hudson Group, the top five ‒ yes, five ‒ most-bought products in airports are all bottled water varieties. Three varieties of Coke and peanut M&Ms also made the top ten. However, many airports have free chilled water fountains in their departure lounges, so don’t discard your water bottles once you get to security – making use of free refills will help save you some cash.

Finally… don’t underestimate the ‘staycation’

We don’t hesitate in looking abroad when planning a break, but the UK is a diverse place with a lot to offer for a short getaway or a long weekend. When the famous British weather is behaving itself, there’s loads to see and do around the country.

Head to Cornwall or the south coast for time at the seaside. Or for a more adventurous escape, Scotland is one of the best places in the world to immerse yourself in nature and in history, whether it’s hiking and cycling in the highland mountain ranges, an inexpensive road trip up the beautiful west coast, or discovering the nation’s rich traditions in Edinburgh or Glasgow. North Wales makes a tranquil retreat from busy daily life, and the north of England is home to the beautiful Lake District and Peak District National Parks. Ireland is worth considering too. Every year, thousands of British holidaymakers head to the neighbouring isle for epic scenery, lively cities and a friendly welcome.

It’s easy to forget about the holiday opportunities found right here on our doorstep, but a UK getaway can be one of the best solutions to holidaying on a budget.

Please note, costs and exchange rates were accurate at time of writing. Aspire Money is not responsible for any errors to changes to the information.

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