Cost of living: Top tips to save money on a UK staycation
Holidays in the UK have always been eye-wateringly expensive. If you want to stay in a nice place by the sea and enjoy plenty of entertainment, then you can easily spend far more in the UK than you’d have to for the same things overseas — even once the cost of the flights is factored in.
This year it’s even worse — during the pandemic, when so many more people ended up holidaying at home, prices were sky high, and over the past year they’ve climbed again.
The inflation figures for May laid bare some of the more shocking rises. A UK break in a camp site or holiday centre costs 24% more this year than last. Getting there is far more expensive too, because the price of the petrol you’ll need for the journey has shot up by 30%.
If you decide to navigate the rail network instead, expenses have risen alarmingly here too. By far the cheapest way to travel longer distances by train is by booking well in advance, and getting an Advance ticket. However, according to the Office of Road and Rail, fares were up 8.8% in the year to March — well ahead of inflation at the time.
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If you opt for a hotel instead, then you’ll pay 9% more than this time next year, and of course it’ll be much more expensive than a campsite. Then you need to factor in food and drink and any days out, and the expense of going to a café or restaurant is up 7%.
It means you have to work harder to get a UK break without breaking the bank. There are still a few options that can bring the costs down.
1. Go somewhere off the tourist trail
Devon and Cornwall will always be incredibly popular, and as a result they’ll be more expensive — as will a stay in other tourist hotspots such as the Cotswolds, the Lake District or Snowdonia. So it’s worth considering less well-known beauty spots for a break slightly off the beaten track.
2. Book everything as far in advance as possible
This goes particularly for accommodation. Hotels will hike prices as rooms get snapped up, and while holiday homes don’t always work the same way, the most affordable and those with the best value will be the first to get booked — often a year in advance.
The same rule also applies to attractions, which may well offer a cheaper online price for people who book ahead.
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It also means you’re guaranteed entry, which may not be the case if you show up unannounced at a popular attraction on one of the busiest days of the year.
3. Camp or home swap
Accommodation makes up the lion’s share of the cost of any break, so consider your options.
Some people will stay with friends, and plan a road trip to take in as many stops as possible.
Others will arrange home swaps with another family, so they can explore another part of the country. There are some websites that arrange holiday swaps with strangers, but you need to be prepared to accept someone you don’t know living in your house for a week.
Camp sites have become more expensive, but they’re still cheaper than any alternative. If you can get your hands on a second-hand tent, or borrow one, it can be an affordable way to see the country.
It’s worth considering signing up to the Camping and Caravanning Club, which will set you back £45, but gives you up to 30% off the cost of a stay at Club Sites.
4. Use supermarket reward points
These can be exchanged for vouchers to spend on hotels, holiday accommodation or any number of attractions.
One useful option is Hotels.com, available through Tesco Clubcard (TSCO.L) rewards, where you can swap £5 of Clubcard points for £15 in hotel vouchers, and can be spent on all sorts of accommodation.
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Meanwhile, if you have a family that likes theme parks, you can also swap points for three times the value in park tickets, which can take the pain out of the cost of a daytrip.
5. Arrange a supermarket delivery for when you arrive
If you’re self-catering, start with a supermarket shop — or ideally have one delivered within a few hours of arriving. That way you can plan your meals in advance, take packed lunches wherever you go, and slash the cost of food compared to eating out on a UK break.
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Sarah Coles is a personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown and co-presents Switch Your Money On podcast.