Vacations can be expensive business. Even the budget packages these days are looking less budget by the year and whilst a £100 vacation was starting to look pretty standard 10 years ago, nowadays you feel lucky finding anything close to luxurious below £300, especially when you’re coming up to high season!
Having said that though, it is still possible to find and enjoy a good deal or two for more luxurious vacation destinations. You just have to know where to look, what to look out for and how to set your priorities right.
In order to help you along with that, I’ve decided to list the top 5 tips I’ve found to be most useful in getting me into the right kind of vacation (the 4+ star poolside kind), on the right kind of budget (as cheap as I can get it kind… in the last case £350 per person (2 travelling) including hotel, flights abroad, transfers, food and excursions!)
This list is only a start and as with anything the art of bargain travel hunting is one that needs time to be learned. However, once you do learn what to look out for searching for the next destination can turn into a very enjoyable hobby, save you money and give you a great skill to boot. As I always like to say: If you’ve got the time and you know how, why pay more if you don’t really have to? 😉
My Top 5 Tips
1. Have a budget and stick to it
Yes, yes, I know budgets aren’t necessarily the sexiest thing, but if you’re looking to take a cheap vacation it’s great to know how much you can spend so that you can plan your trip accordingly.
I took a trip to Portugal last week and set a spending money budget (for two) at £200. This £200 was to last 7 nights and 8 days.
I arrived home a few days ago having spent just under £210. Yes, I went over but because I knew my budget it was easier to control my spending and stick to it in a roundabout way… and I still had a great time!
2. Find and book a timeshare
If you’re looking for a cheap vacation then the RCI Resort Directory may become your new best friend. It’s a timeshare website listing over 5000 resorts worldwide that offer timeshare accommodation.
Now I know what you’re thinking. “I don’t own a timeshare, so why would this interest me?”
Well let me tell you that you don’t necessarily have to own a timeshare in order to take a vacation in one and especially the gold crown RCI resorts are, more often than not, little pieces of heaven on earth (I should know, I’ve been to 5 so far!).
The RCI Resort Directory is a great place to start when looking for luxury accommodation at rock bottom prices as resorts that haven’t rented out their accommodation to owners or timeshare swappers will often make rooms available to normal tour operators.
Once you’ve got a hotel name, finding a bargain often becomes a whole lot easier too as you can use your mad Google skills to look for specific offers on the place of choice and thereby narrow down your search criteria.
With the help of the RCI Resort Directory, I recently booked a girly vacation with my mother to the 4 Star gold crown Balaia Golf Village resort in Albufeira. Through the power of Google and some savvy internet skills I managed to find an offer for the resort at a very reasonable £263 per person including flights and transfers to and from Faro airport.
In my case, I found this gem at a brilliant new site I stumbled across on one of my searches. It’s called lowcostholidays.com and had some really great deals. Take a look, you might find something there too!
3. Upgrade your cooking skills
One great (or not so great?) thing about timeshares is that they usually offer you self contained apartments. You’ll usually get a fully kitted kitchen with all the utensils you need from cutlery, to potato peelers, to powdered sugar sieves, which means you’ll have no good reason NOT to cook!
One of the most expensive parts of a vacation is very often the food. If you’re in a place like Cambodia where a restaurant meal might set you back $4, you might think it’s not so bad, but $4 and $4 and $4 adds up to $12 in a day, which is almost $100 a week…
Now times that by 4 for a family and you’ve already spent almost $400 without having even thought about attractions!
However, if you can cook for yourself on most nights of your vacation and save going out as a treat for a couple of nights while you’re there you can usually save a lot of money.
During my trip to Portugal, I spent a grand total of 43 Euros on grocery shopping for the week and boy did mom and I eat like queens. Home-made fajitas, paella, tomato risotto, Spanish omelette, spaghetti…mmm it was delicious and I successfully designed a new recipe to boot. It’s amazing how creative you can get when you have time on your hands!
4. Prioritise your excursions
You are on vacation and a big part about going on vacation is to enjoy yourself. However, it’s amazing how quickly excursions add up.
That boat trip for 35€ per person, that bus transfer for 8€, that Park entry for 20€ or that chance to swim with dolphins for 170€… whatever you wish to do the more you do the more expensive it gets, which is why prioritising is the key to keeping any budget.
Choose a couple of key excursions that are affordable within your budget and unmissable and then try to find free entertainment for the days you’re not busy. Enjoy the poolside, walk along the beach, find evening entertainment by getting a drink at a local restaurant or walk around the city enjoying the sights and sounds. Some places have free festivals and entertainment for tourists too, there’s bound to be something going on for you to enjoy!
5. Shop until you drop (another time)
Half of the things we bring away from a vacation will likely never be used again or very rarely to say the least. Stores in tourist locations are intriguing for their diversity and the little trinkets and items they hold within, but how much of that stuff do you really truly need?
Keeping a budget is about watching what you spend and even though a vacation is meant to be a break, if you need to watch the pennies you’ll need to watch how many of them you’re giving away and for what.
Take a look at the trinkets by all means, but think about what’s on offer. Suncream might be an absolute necessity, especially given the 100ml carry on limit on air crafts these days, but I’m not so sure you could say the same for that giant inflatable happy boat tempting you from the corner… (although it sure looks like a lot of fun!)
So these are my 5 tips, but what are yours?
Have you had any good experiences finding luxury holidays on the cheap? Where do you find them? What would you recommend? Feel free to leave your comments below!