As the warmer weather rolls around, many of us have already started dreaming of summer holidays. Indeed, after 12 months of lockdowns and social isolation, sun-soaked relaxation feels like the order of the day.
But with uncertainty over foreign travel and many of us dealing with tightly-squeezed budgets due to the pandemic, it would be easy to think that holidays are off the table this year.
But that doesn’t have to the case! There are hundreds of fantastic destinations around the UK, from quaint fishing villages to historic cities and camping to family-friendly resorts: there really is something for everyone. What’s more, it doesn’t have to break the bank.
In this guide, we dole out destination inspiration and tips on how to snag the best bargains, so you can enjoy the staycation you deserve while making your money go further.
In This Guide:
- Inspiration for budget getaways
- Where to find the best deals
- Tips to save money on holiday
From budget city breaks to camping at the beach, check out some of these UK destinations and budget-friendly accommodation to inspire your travel plans!
Travel on a Budget in the UK: York
York is a city break that will keep inquisitive kids (and their adults) busy. What’s more, if you tire of the city’s medieval charm, it’s just a short ride on public transport to the Yorkshire Dales National Park for stunning hikes and breathtaking scenery.
Enclosed by 13th-century fortress walls, York is a city brimming with heritage. From its towering medieval cathedral- the largest surviving in the world (£10/adult, kids go free)- to the ancient Viking settlements buried deep beneath the city streets and preserved beautifully at the Jorvik Viking Centre (£35 for a family of four), York is a dream destination for history buffs.
Amble past a Roman garrison in the museum city gardens (free entry for all), or jump on a train to Harrogate and find your way up on the breathtaking Yorkshire Dales in a matter of hours.
Stay at the Astor York Hotel, minutes from the city centre, from just £54 per night for a family of four (based on two double rooms).
Travel on a Budget in the UK: The Gower Peninsula
The Gower lies across the channel from north Cornwall and has all of the rugged beauty (and great surf!) of its better-known cousin, without the crowds and hefty price tags of Poldark country- making it the perfect destination for a seaside staycation.
Pristine beaches are the jewel in the Gower’s crown. From Rhossili Bay (voted the UK’s best beach in 2010), to the craggy inlet at Brandy Cove once used by smugglers, the Gower’s coastline is simply beautiful.
Inland find beautiful walking trails through the Gower ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, while in nearby Swansea, you’ll find free art galleries, a Saturday farmer’s market, the National Waterfront Museum, and Wales’ largest water park, the LC (£6/adult, £3.50/U3’s), plus a Saturday farmer’s market to peruse.
Travel on a Budget in the UK: The Peak District
Nature lovers and ramblers can’t do better than the Peaks, more than 1000km2 of striking moorland, ancient stone villages and sleepy market towns.
When you’re not out hiking one of the park’s thousands of footpaths drinking in the enchanting scenery, revel in the old-world charm of Chatsworth country fair (£20/person), embark on a treetop adventure with GoApe (from £28) or, if you really a break from all that peace and tranquillity, get your heart pumping at Alton Towers theme park (£34/person).
Stay in the northwest of the peaks for prime hiking at Peakdale Lodge, for just £75/night for a family of four with breakfast.
At the opposite end of the park, families with kids can enjoy a fun-filled getaway at Matlock Bath’s Gulliver’s Retreat; a pirate-themed resort offering family apartments for just £66/night, plus loads of activities on-site for kids.
The peaks is a campers’ paradise, and plenty of top-notch sites offer pitches from as little as £20 per night in high season.
Travel on a Budget in the UK: Isle of Skye
While the Hebrides’ northernmost major island is hardly a top destination for fun in the sun, it can still punch above its weight as a brilliant budget holiday destination.
The picturesque island has had problems with overcrowding in the peak of the summer and is now calling on visitors to make the journey out-of-season (between October-May), so if travelling to tourist traps during the school holidays is your idea of hell, this could be one for you. Hop on the Skye ferry from Glenelg for a leisurely journey across the water (£15/car with four passengers) which takes in some of the best views of the island’s coastline upon approach.
Dramatic basalt outcrops jut out against the landscape, making for a gorgeous, melancholic backdrop for spring and autumn hikes. Take a boat trip to catch a glimpse of sea eagles and whales (£25/person), visit the Talisker distillery (£15/person), or, if you’re feeling brave, take a plunge in the blue-green fairy pools.
Stay in Kinkell Holiday Apartment, 20 minutes from Portree, from £80 per night for a family of four during off-peak times.
Travel on a Budget in the UK: Butlins
The original family staycation resort is raring to get going again as lockdown eases. There are three locations in the UK: Minehead, Bognor Regis and Skegness. All promise all-in family fun and entertainment for a competitive price tag.
With endless activities to keep kids busy, there is also plenty of entertainment geared towards parents and teens. All three resorts are within spitting distance of attractive seafronts and day trips, should you feel the pull to get out of the park.
Stays start from £110 per apartment for a family of four sharing, including use of the facilities. There are also a range of nifty dining packages that you can add on, potentially saving money if you’re feeding a crowd.
Finding the Best Deals
Now you’re (hopefully) feeling inspired; how should you go about finding the best deals? From checking great comparison sites to vetting promotional ads, there are a few things you can do to dig out great offers.
Do Your Own Research
The destinations listed above are by no means exhaustive, and there are literally thousands of places to visit in the UK, which are budget-friendly. By doing a bit of your own research, you can find your perfect destination. Whether it’s sandy beaches, peaceful hikes or wild nightlife you’re after, there are destinations which will cater to your need. Aunty Google can help you narrow down a list of 3-4 potential destinations, which you can then start looking at in more detail.
Remember to check accommodation costs, transport around the local area and the cost of optional extras, such as days out.
Top tip: Nature-based activities, such as days at the beach and rambling through the countryside, are hard to beat for budget-friendliness, and your wallet will thank you if your destination has plenty of these to offer.
Don’t Forget About Transport
Don’t forget to think about how you’ll be getting to your destination and how you’ll be getting around once you’re there. If you drive, things are fairly straight forwards, but you’ll still need to check there’s parking on-site at your accommodation.
If you are relying on taxis or public transport, look into your options. Don’t shy away from paying more to stay closer to the top attractions– often, this works out as better value than paying for buses and taxis to’ and from’ each day.
Search by Price
Accommodation counts for one third of a typical holiday budget, so if you can make savings here you’re all set to cut the total cost of your trip. Almost all websites comparing accommodation options, such as Trivago, Booking.com, Airbnb and Travel Supermarket (to name a few), allow you to filter results by price. Save yourself time, money and hotel envy by only searching for stays you can afford.
Look for Packages & Offers Online
If you don’t mind where you go, take advantage of any deals on offer to make your money go further. Check out these websites for a range of great offers:
Holiday Pirates: The crew at Holiday Pirates offers a selection of hand-picked deals in the UK and abroad. Search by destination, budget and dates.
Groupon: Groupon’s ‘Getaways’ section is packed with offers on boutique and quirky locations across the UK. This should be your first stop for country estate and spa deals, as well as offers on glamping.
Srprs.me: If you really don’t mind where you go, check out Srprs.me for a unique experience. Download the app and fill in your specifications (budget, available dates, preferences and whether you want to stay local v. overseas). The app will build a secret itinerary based on your input, revealing your destination only when it’s time to go!
Secret Escapes: If luxury travel is your thing, sign up to Secret Escapes. The site is packed with heavily discounted high-end holiday packages in the UK and abroad.
Top Money-Saving Tips
You’ve picked your budget-friendly destination. You’ve set your budget. You’ve got your dates. But how do you avoid overspending when you get there? Follow our top money-saving tips for ways to eke out your holiday cash without compromising on R&R:
- Self-cater: While we’re not suggesting you need to cook every night (it’s a holiday, after all), having self-catering facilities can save you big bucks overall. Being able to keep breakfasts, snacks, soft drinks and booze at your accommodation could potentially knock £100s off the cost of a holiday over the course of a week.
- Consider staying close to the main attractions: Yes, you’ll pay more for a city-centre flat; so this might seem counter-intuitive. But you stand to save on public transport costs, time, and late-night taxis home. If you can stay closer to the main attractions without facing tourist-trap prices on everything else (overpriced restaurants, coffees, ice-creams etc.), it might well be worth paying the extra.
- Make the most of the great outdoors: Besides beautiful scenery and bonus health benefits, the next best thing about outdoor activities is that many of them are (very nearly) free! Prepare for all eventualities by investing in some waterproof clothing and a rucksack, and you’re all set, whatever the weather.
- Consider camping: If you’re willing to forgo a few luxuries, camping can be a great value way to get away, with pitches in some of the country’s most beautiful locations a mere fraction of the price of a hotel. Suppose you don’t already own camping gear. In that case, it’s possible to pick up the basics for relatively low prices online (check out Go Outdoors, Millets, or Army & Navy surplus), especially if you’re lucky enough to find a sale.
- Check for discount passes: Many local and city authorities offer discount ticket schemes for local transport networks and tourist attractions. Check with public bus providers and Tourist Information before you travel to see what’s available.
- Look up local festivities: Another way to make the most of free entertainment is to plan your travels around local festivals. Across the UK, there are hundreds of local festivals and fetes, which can be a great source of free entertainment for all the family. The selection of festivals is dazzlingly varied, too. Some major local celebrations include Sherwood Forest’s Robin Hood festival; Edinburgh’s Hogmanay, the Notting Hill Carnival; Leicester’s Diwali celebrations; Brighton Pride Padstow’s Obby Oss.
- Get Takeaway: While we’re sure there are people out there who relish the thought of cooking delicious meals while they’re away, they’re probably a minority. Not having to cook is one of the things which many people enjoy most on holiday, but it doesn’t come cheap. Takeaways are a happy medium, often costing far less than a sit-down meal.
- Pack a picnic: A supermarket splurge can provide a luxury portable lunch for the family for far less than a restaurant or takeaway meal.
With foreign travel’s future looking pretty uncertain for the rest of 2021, staycations are the way to go. And it’s a common misconception that the UK is a pricey destination. For starters, you won’t have to worry about flights, passports, jabs, or pricey resort transfers. And as a local, you’re already ahead in the money-saving game: you know the lingo, where to shop for the best deals, and will have no trouble finding your way around your destination, wherever you decide to explore.
* All hotel prices quoted based on 1x family of four in the first week of June 2021.