nine easy ways to get a cheaper vacation

Cutting costs and going on vacation don’t go hand in hand. In fact, going away is often the first thing you need to do when cash is scarce – but why are we so reluctant to let it go? Is it because in busy lives we know how beneficial vacations can be? The good news is that trips don’t have to break the bank, and with a little inventive thinking – and these handy tips – you might be surprised at what you’re capable of.

Book your holiday from behind

Forget about your destination and start with your accommodation. Sites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and allow you to enter entire countries and even continents, so you’re free to use filters to find exactly what you’re looking for at the right price.

Pay nothing for accommodation

No, it’s not too good to be true – thanks to home swap holidays you can stay overnight for free in homes around the world. Whether you’re looking after a pet or just watering someone else’s plants, there are several websites out there to help you match owners who need someone to look after their home while they’re away. Check out TrustedHousesitters, Nomador and HouseCarers – after paying the annual fee, you can go on as many trips as you want.

Experience “van life” for a fiver

Thanks to the growing #vanlife trend, motorhome getaways have never been more popular, but when customers just want a one-way rental, companies need to bring the van back to base. This opens up a great opportunity for bargain hunters as rental companies are offering these round trips for just £5 for the entire trip. Check out India Campers, iMoova and Just go. If you’re just looking for a car, DriiveMe has a similar one-way rental deal from just £1.

Related: “Cheap Meals and Dangerously Affordable Cocktails”: Readers’ Holiday Budgeting Tips

Explore Britain’s railways with a secret railway pass

An unsung travel hero, the Rovers & Rangers ticket offers incredible value if you’re hoping to explore the UK by train. There are over 100 options depending on the networks you want to use and the number of days you want to go which can be found on National Rail – usually a good deal is the Explore South Wales pass which gives you four days of unlimited holiday – peak travel over eight days for just £69 for an adult, £45.55 with a train card and £34.50 for a child. However, they cannot be purchased online and must instead be purchased in person at a train station ticket office or from the conductor onboard your chosen network. Given the general lack of awareness of this kind of ticket, I’d go for the former and give myself a little extra time to sort it out.

Explore Europe using the night train network

Do you want to spend a cheap holiday in Europe, but you don’t feel like flying? Night trains are the answer. The bottom line is getting to the train hub, where these sleeper trains are ready and waiting to take you out of your sleep, starting at just €29.90 (to access these fares, be sure to book months in advance). Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam are all good options near the UK that will connect you to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Moreover, there will be new routes and brand new sleeper trains in 2023, so it promises to be a really exciting time for slow travel. To get started, take a look at Nightjet routes and check out Seat61 for more train inspiration, as well as in-depth guides on what to expect on your chosen trip.

Work to stay

Working a few hours a day in exchange for accommodation is not just reserved for gap year students, but can offer an amazing learning experience for those traveling with children. From learning about new cultures and understanding the importance of teamwork, to simply disconnecting from constant screen time, there are plenty of reasons why this type of vacation can be a fantastic escape for anyone. Try Workaway and Worldpackers for opportunities like farming, decorating and even web development.

Use your data to find the best value destinations

There are two things to keep in mind if you want to get the most out of your pound on holiday: how strong sterling is compared to your local currency and how much everything costs when you get there. While there has been a lot of buzz about the falling value of the pound in recent months, this is not the case everywhere; In Turkey, the amount of lira that can be exchanged for pounds sterling has doubled in the last few years. For daily costs, use Numbeo, which compiles prices for everything from milk to fast food for over 11,000 cities around the world.

Pack wisely

With budget airlines charging up to £36 each way for taking a large carry-on bag on board, it’s time to streamline your packing. Start by listing all the outfits you plan to wear with one or two character parts that can be worn multiple times. Then, invest in a few handheld vacuum bags to make the most of your space. If you are going to self-catering accommodation, use the mini stackable containers for salt, pepper and sugar, and don’t forget a bit of olive oil in the small bottle of shampoo. Finally, pack in a backpack, not a suitcase – even if you find one that’s small enough for your airline’s dimensions, you’re giving away much-needed space inside for wheels, a handle, and even the suitcase itself!

Get a free room upgrade

Free room upgrades are not just reserved for birthdays and important anniversaries. It’s worth just expressing how excited you are about staying at the hotel and asking if you might consider an upgrade if they become available. Of course, if it’s a special occasion, you should definitely throw that in there too, but the key is to be nice, complementary, and never expect anything for free. When it works, it’s the best feeling in the world.

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