Since foreign holidays are off the cards at the moment, many families are booking holidays in the UK instead. A UK holiday doesn’t come without financial concerns – often a return flight ticket to a European destination is cheaper than a single National Rail ticket, and since 2020, the cost of UK holiday resorts have skyrocketed. Budgeting for holidays is a real skill, something that I have been working on for the past few years while travelling around the UK.
Drive to your destination
It may not be as environmentally friendly as taking public transport, but driving to your destination is certainly financially friendly. Should you already own a car, your only excess outgoing is the cost of petrol. If you don’t own your own car, over 25-year-olds can hire a car for as little as £160 a week in the UK, a fraction of the cost of a family train ticket.
Another benefit of driving to your destination is you have the freedom to visit attractions in your own time. Public transport in the countryside can be unreliable, so with a car, a two hour bus journey can be cut down to half an hour.
Plan your meals
When we book family foreign holidays, we often opt for at least half-board catering. Generally, UK hotels or B&Bs offer a free breakfast, but charge for dinner services, even if it is a buffet. However, I prefer to book a self-catering holiday.
A mistake I made when I first booked a self-catering trip was choosing to eat out for every meal of the day. Consider the cost of a four-person breakfast, then a four-person lunch, then dinner. You could find yourself shelling out over £100 a day on food. Surely it doesn’t make sense to self-cater? It does if you budget for your holiday and stop off at your favourite supermarket on the way! Of course we want to treat ourselves to a meal cooked by someone else on a holiday, but sourcing your own meals – breakfasts, picnic lunches, fresh salad dinners, BBQs – can considerably slash your spending.
I’m always an advocate of a fancy final meal, so by literally self-catering, you’ll have more to spend on three courses, and perhaps a glass of bubbly too (but don’t get me started on alcohol mark ups).
Visit free attractions
There’s nothing wrong with planning a day trip to a theme park, or zoo, which can come with expensive entry fees, but if your itinerary is packed with costly activities, your wallet is going to take a hit.
Instead, budget for your holiday in advance and coordinate trips to local beaches, or country parks. Many are dog friendly, and if you are with children, they’ll love frolicking in the sea, building sandcastles, or rolling down hills. Many country parks have invested in children’s play areas too, so you might be able to spend hours enjoying a break, while the children play.
Likewise, there are hundreds of walking locations or cycling routes suitable for the whole family. The UK countryside is also generally well signposted, and free from dangerous critters, so if you did choose to take a forest walk, or climb a mountain, you’re unlikely to find yourself in trouble. Of course, I always recommend researching and planning hikes well in advance. Though you might have to pay a small fee for parking, free attractions are in abundance across the UK. You might even be able to enjoy your entire holiday without spending a single penny on entry fees.
Sometimes, businesses offer discounts for booking entry to attractions in advance. If you are well organised, creating a loose itinerary and booking attractions in advance can save you quite a lot of money.
It also might be worth considering purchasing collective or yearly passes. If there are a number of attractions in a similar area which are all run by the same business, they might offer collective passes, like the Jorvik triple ticket in York or the Merlin Pass. I’m a huge fan of seeing historic locations, so the National Trust, or English Heritage memberships are great options as there are locations all over the country. Although the passes seem expensive as a singular cost, when you factor in how much you would spend on individual entry prices, you’ll quickly earn your money back in visits. Some of these passes even offer discounts on gift shop and catering purchases too.
People often complain about the high cost of UK family travel. However, comparing a week-long August holiday in Spain and Devon, the former could cost thousands. Think flights and accommodation packages, drinks, attractions, excursions, and shopping. The latter, with a cottage in the £mid-100s, petrol, a week’s shopping, and attractions, could cost a little over one thousand – if you budget effectively.
Indeed, budgeting for holidays is truly a skill that takes practise. If you do it properly, your UK holiday doesn’t have to cost more than a foreign one.
Happy budgeting, and happy holidaying!
This guest post was written by Georgia, who runs the UK lifestyle blog BritVoyage. She writes about dog-friendly, family friendly lifestyle in the UK, including holiday destinations, attractions, interiors, and books.