How did it get to be June so fast? And how come I don’t have any holiday plans sorted? Every year I’m the same; full of great intentions to get my hols organised in January – and every year I’m scrabbling a fortnight before I want to go. Of course I’ve already promised myself that 2012 is going to be different – honest it is – but for this year I’m having to dig deep into my bag of tricks to try and pull off a last-minute break on a budget. Fortunately, the web has opened up so many new ways to save on accommodation – here of two of the best:
House Swapping – As the recession bites, house swapping is really taking off and there are now plenty of websites where you can link up with people who are happy to hand over their home to a total stranger – in return for you doing the same. That reciprocity is the key – because you want people to treat your home with respect you tend to treat theirs with the same. With house swapping you can go pretty much anywhere in the world for a fraction of the cost you’d normally pay, staying in the kind of places that you could never normally afford. From villas in Florida with an outdoor Jacuzzi and pool, to city pads in Berlin, all it costs is a small fee to the house swap agency, then your plane fares and some nice thank-you gifts for your hosts.
Many holidaymakers car swap too, meaning no car hire costs. House swapping also looks like a great option if you have a young family – you can search for properties with cots, high chairs etc, and leave yours at home for your guests. Wouldn’t it be great to travel light and pitch up at your holiday property, knowing that everything from sterilisers to stair gates was already in place?
As house swapping becomes an increasingly popular option with the savvy traveller the number of agencies matching swappees is fast increasing. One of the first and most reputable is Homelink – several of my friends have used it and been happy – I’m thinking of making this year my first. The idea of handing my home over to strangers doesn’t actually worry me too much. The house swap sites have a code of conduct that everyone signs up too and I think that most people would respect thier holiday property. Certainly none of my pals who’ve given it a shot have ever had a bad experience. The major drawback for me? Having to thoroughly clean the house before going on holiday! Membership of Homelink costs £115 a year – not a bad price for potentially two, three or four free holidays a year.
Of course, you needn’t make house swapping as formal as signing up with an agency. I’ve stayed in friends’ houses in different cities while they’ve been away and returned the favour too.
Take a Lucky Dip: If you’re just after a night or two away rather than a fortnight it’s worth checking out some secret location websites, which offer you lucky-dip hotel accommodation. You specify the city and area where you want to stay and – hey presto!- the website matches you with a hotel, guaranteed to be four or five star, for a budget hotel price. You only find out exactly which hotel it is after you have booked, but with the guaranteed star rating it’s not going to be a dump. I’ve used this service to bag great rooms in London and Barcelona for less than half the advertised rack rate, and have never been disappointed. Topsecret, run by lastminute.com is the best-known of these sites, and – because nothing really stays secret on the big old gossipy interweb for long, another site has already set up revealing the identity of the top secret hotels so you can check them out before you go! Ah, the wondrous web – what did we do without it?
You got any great holiday tips to share with fellow Skint readers? We’d love to hear from you – just post a comment. And I’ll be posting more cheap holiday tips tomorrow.