Hey Skint pals,
I’m writing a mini-series of three posts over the next couple of weeks, all aimed at getting you the very best deals on your holidays in 2014. After all, though you know I love January, when it’s dark and chilly outside, our thoughts naturally turn to summer and to escape. But we can’t all afford those all-inclusive resort deals that pop up on TV come Boxing Day – and nor would I want to, frankly.
For me, travel has always been about living like the locals do as far as possible, and doing so on the cheap (with a bit of glamour of course . . . )
That’s why I’m kicking off this series by writing about city breaks. Some folks see them as a waste of money, shelling out on air fare to spend only three days in a place, but for me, pre-kids, city breaks were the perfect way to refresh and recharge without taking masses of time off. They still are – when I get the very rare chance.
So, here’s how to do city breaks on a budget:
eBay!: Yup, you might be more used to using eBay to buy and sell things, but lots of people use it to sell holiday accommodation that they no longer need. Especially good for last minute deals to major destination, just type the name of your chosen city, followed by the word ‘accommodation’ to view last-minute offerings
Get the right insurance: If you’re doing a few breaks a year, it makes sense to take out an annual travel insurance policy rather than pay each time you go away. In fact if you have a family, it often makes sense to take out annual insurance even if you’re only taking one holiday a year. Debenhams one caught my eye this week because they’re giving away a free £5 Debenhams gift card with every single trip policy or a free £10 gift card with their annual multi trip policy. Don’t think about leaving home without the insurance – in my book it’s always worth taking it. Remember when Mr Skint’s luggage said goodbye? Travel insurance eased his pain.
Go self-catering. Even for a two or three night stay you can get apartments in most major cities. Cheaper than hotels and you’ll save a ton on food by being able to make your own. TripAdvisor has an excellent holiday rentals section where you can search for self-catering options by dates and destinations.
Travel mid-week: That’s when air fares are lowest, so if you can swing it with your job, be flexible about your travel dates.
Eat your main meal at midday: That’s when the fixed price three-course lunches come into their own. Fill up at lunch and then grab street food or café food in the evening.
And my top five places for a city break?
Glasgow of course, my home town. Hotter than ever right now (in a zeitgeist way, not a weather way), playing host to the Commonwealth Games this summer and chock full of amazing architecture and a vibrant arts scene.
Istanbul. Cheap eats, glorious street food and an city full of incredibly heritage, where East and West meet. It’s a city like no other – and good for budget travel too.
Barcelona, where I lived for a couple of years, way back. It’s got the mountains nearby, it’s on the sea and it has an independent spirit that sets it apart from the rest of Spain. Go and enjoy – just don’t expect to get much sleep!
Paris, bien sur. Avoid the centre for hotels though – too establishment, and too pricey. Montmartre is a better bet, with stunning views, cheaper prices and free entertainment all weekend in the form of people watching, artists markets and the jaw-dropping (and free) Sacre Coeur. I like L’Ermitage Hotel - top views and just the right side of shabby.
Marrakech. Pricier then it used to be but still way cheaper then Europe, and just as easy to get to. Meals are taken at the stalls in the main square for a couple of pounds, before spending the evening marvelling at the snake charmers, medicine men and card sharks, performers one and all.