Holidays in the UK: the best ways to save, from discount codes to house-sitters |  Money

Holidays in the UK: the best ways to save, from discount codes to house-sitters | Money

Holidays in the UK: the best ways to save, from discount codes to house-sitters |  Money

house-sit

This is a great way to have a cheap vacation. The easiest option is to babysit for friends or relatives while they go away – you get cheap accommodation and they know their home is safe. Or, if you can find a mutually suitable weekend, arrange an exchange.

Staying at a property you already know, or hosting people you know at yours, is probably more relaxing than bartering with a stranger, but there are websites dedicated to matching homeowners with house sitters they may never meet. Often these are also homes abroad. They charge a fee – usually around £100 a year. The Guardian has a partnership with a site that lists many homes in the UK (guardianhomeexchange.co.uk).

Gemma Clough, who blogs at Help Save Money, recommends babysitting. She suggests using a site like TrustedHousesitters.

She says, “Owner members provide their personal information when registering, while nanny members go through a mandatory ID check and all listings go through an approval process before going live on the site.”

She has traveled the world caring for cats and small animals, and regularly stays in London, saving hundreds of pounds each time. She recently spent two weeks free in affluent Pimlico.

A woman with a cat on a couch
House sitting and pet sitting are ways to have cheap breaks. Photo: Westend61/Getty Images

sleep under canvas

Camping has become more expensive as sites add facilities, but it is still one of the cheapest ways to see the UK.

Choose campgrounds that have access to lakes and rivers so you can swim. Choosing one where you can build fires for cooking or have barbecues will keep kids entertained and save costs.

Online platforms advertise places for you to stay, but you can book a better deal instantly. (Same with vacation rentals, car rentals, and so on.)

See if friends and family have equipment you can borrow. Or think of Tentshare, a British website where people can rent out their tents and camping equipment. This could also help the environment (the site says an estimated 250,000 tents end up in landfills every year).

A family tent can cost over £400, but renting a tent from Tentshare costs around £60 for a weekend. You pay a deposit in advance, which you will get back as long as the equipment is returned undamaged.

It is free to put your stuff for rent on Tentshare and you choose how much you charge. The site takes a 15% discount on all booking fees you incur.

People camping in the Lake District in Cumbria
Camping can be an inexpensive way to see the UK. Photo: eye35/Alamy

haggle

Many companies are open to haggling, and it’s well worth trying when booking a vacation. Which? says you may be able to save money by haggling with your travel agent or calling a hotel directly.

Work for your vacation

William Pointing of the Great Deals Made Easy website suggests volunteering as a way to get free accommodation and change your environment. He says, “You could perfect your gardening, writing, or even cooking skills while often getting free food on top of the accommodation.” However, many places will ask you to sign up for a few weeks.

The Worldpackers website provides an overview of volunteering opportunities in the UK and beyond. Conservation Working Holidays offers a wealth of information on courses, events and volunteer opportunities in the conservation, rural, wildlife and ecology sectors.

WWOOF is an international organization operating in the UK. It helps volunteers who want to learn about organic farming and a self-sufficient lifestyle. In exchange for helping out on a farm and a family home, you get free lodging and food.

Research activities

Check the website of the municipality for the area where you want to stay. These usually include free events and activities.

Use social media to do the same – community pages will advertise trade shows and other events that may take place during your visit. Search the web for forums, reviews, and recommendations for lesser-known places to visit. You can view the free sites to visit on the English Heritage website.

People gather during a party in the village square.
People gather during a party in the village square. Photo: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

If you want to treat yourself to paid attractions, buy cheaper advance tickets if available.

Get discounts

Check out comparison and cashback websites, which can be good for getting cash back on all kinds of purchases, including holidays. Among the biggest are TopCashback and Quidco.

My VIP Rewards offers discount deals for a range of businesses of all sizes, including holiday businesses. It costs £3.99 per month to subscribe, but there are some decent savings. At the time of writing Lancashire Holiday Lets and Ribble Valley Holiday Homes were offering a 10% discount. The code LOVESAVING1 gives you free use of the site and app for a month.

The JamDoughnut app offers prepaid gift cards to use online, in-store, or on the phone and earn reward points. Once you have received £10 in points, you can withdraw the money.

Right now you can get 2.5% cashback from Lastminute.com, 8% on Airbnb and 15% from National Express coaches.

Also check your credit cards. Many will have offers on travel and vacation related purchases, while some will do cashback.

Spend points

Loyalty points for grocery shopping and credit cards can also be used to make big savings on travel, lodging, and even dining out.

Nectar points can be spent on a stay in some hotels, while Tesco Clubcard has a huge number of partners accepting vouchers, including holiday companies and attractions. Clubcard vouchers allow you to buy a train ticket.

Travel planning

Tourist campers and motorhomes in car park at Lochinver in the Scottish Highlands, UK
Gasoline prices are at record highs. Photo: Iain Masterton/Alamy

One of the big costs that can be overlooked when planning a holiday in the UK is the cost of getting to your destination. With gasoline prices at record highs, this will be a serious chunk of your expenses if you plan on traveling by car.

Don’t forget to fill up near your home, because gas stations along highways are often (much) more expensive. Use PetrolPrices.com to plan where to refuel.

For rail travel, check your travel eligibility for GroupSave before depositing for a Railcard – if you don’t already have one. You may find a savings with no upfront costs.