There’s nothing better than a city break to combat the daily grind of Winter. The sights and smells of Christmas events. The crisp, frosty morning walks and the excitement of exploring a new place. But let’s face it, it can be pricey. So, if you want to get away with the family this year, here are a few tips to keep costs down.
1. Choose your destination wisely
The most famous landmarks are not necessarily the most beautiful. If the romance of browsing Parisian boutiques for Christmas gifts appeals to you, consider heading to Nantes instead. It’s just two hours South of Paris and is smaller, less stressful and cheaper. Take a direct flight and stay in perfectly adequate accommodation for under £40 per night.
Whichever iconic European city you like the sound of, there will always be a smaller counterpart that is overlooked by tourists. Do your research to make sure it has what you’re looking for, then pack your bags and head off to find a hidden gem.
2. Book last minute
Let’s face it, you’re cutting it fine now. Unless you want to book for next Winter, you’ve left it quite late anyway. So, be flexible on your travel dates and destinations if you can- and book at the last minute. Remember that airlines have already chartered the planes, so any unsold flights represent unrealised revenue. Sometimes it’s easier to decide on your destination based on which flights are on offer.
3. Look for hidden discounts on flights
The more flexible you can be with dates and times of travel, the bigger discount you’ll find on flights. Consider flying on Thursday night instead of Friday morning for example. Or going for a midweek break instead of weekend if you can. And don’t forget to shop around – booking direct isn’t always cheapest. You can find a voucher code for easyJet holidays, for a cheap deal on the whole package. Gone are the days when easyJet only sold flights.
4. Be open to different types of accommodation
Being on a city break doesn’t mean you’re obliged to stay in a fancy hotel. Check out local hostels, joining the YHA gives you access to 4,000 of them worldwide. There are plenty of independent hostels too. And did you know that many offer double and family rooms?
Another option is Airbnb. Peruse diverse accommodation from private homes to tree houses to off-grid yurts. You can set your own price when you search on the website and get the added bonus of a well-stocked kitchen to allow further cost-cutting through self-catering.
5. Compare, compare, compare
Comparison sites are the cash strapped traveller’s perfect companion. If you’ve scraped together the last of your savings to get away, don’t part with more of it than you have to. Use a Kayak voucher code to search hundreds of travel sites for the best deals on flights and accommodation. Find the cheapest deals, then go and check them against the company’s own website as well. A quick phone call might result in an even better deal if you book direct.
6. Leave it to the experts
If trawling around comparison sites sounds like a bit too much work, let someone else do it for you. Travelzoo are experts in finding the best deals around and bringing them all together. You can sign up to their newsletter to find out which destinations they recommend each week – both local to you and around the world. Get the best deal by using a voucher code for Travelzoo and remembering not to rush into anything. Every week brings a new set of deals, so sit tight and repeat step 2.
7. Avoid hidden charges
City breaks are traditionally short, so you won’t need the kitchen sink. Make sure you can fit everything into hand luggage so you don’t have to pay for extra space. If you’re on a Christmas shopping trip, check the price to post your purchases home. This may work out significantly cheaper than paying for hold luggage.
8. Use reward points
Before paying for anything, check any reward schemes you’re part of. Years ago, my husband and I went to Rome for free by converting Tesco clubcard points we’d forgotten about. Things like that do mount up and can be worth a lot more than you anticipate when spent with partner organisations.
9. Eat as you would at home
If an extravagant foodie weekend doesn’t fit into your budget, consider self-catering instead. Breakfast and dinner can be eaten in your accommodation and take picnic lunches with you on days out. Do bear in mind the temperature though. If it’s a cold day, look for somewhere warm to eat your picnic before you make it. The temptation of slipping into an inviting looking café to eat lunch and thaw out will be more costly if it means throwing away food you’ve made yourself.
10. Follow that local!
Whether you’re eating out or shopping for gifts, avoid the tourist hub. Instead, look to the outskirts of town. The little backstreets selling handmade items. The vibrant cafés devoid of tourists but full of locals. That’s where you’ll find the best value for money and experience authentic city life.