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How to find cheap UK holiday ideas and destinations

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With millions of Brits choosing to go on holiday without leaving the country, discover our top tips on how to find cheap holidays in the UK.
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The picturesque harbour in Mousehole, an old fishing village in Cornwall
The picturesque harbour in Mousehole, a Cornish fishing village

If you’re planning a holiday in the UK this year, you’re not alone. With many still worried about international travel, millions will be planning trips to other parts of the country, rather than heading overseas.

Sadly, that means that costs aren’t quite as low as they might otherwise be as competition for accommodation rises. The good news is there are a number of steps you can take to keep costs to a minimum. 

Read on to discover the best places for a staycation in the UK and our top tips for saving money.

The rise of the staycation

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic hit in 2020 and international travel restrictions were put in place, millions of Brits have taken to holidaying in the UK. 

Often known as a ‘staycation’, demand for self-catering cottages, camping and glamping have all soared over the past couple of years.

But even as restrictions have eased and international travel is back on the agenda, many people still feel nervous about booking trips abroad and staycations remain popular. 

Research from Hoseasons shows that 82% of people who holidayed in the UK in 2021 plan to book a UK break again in 2022, with almost a third (30%) saying staycations were less stressful than going abroad. 

Top UK holiday destinations

Some of the most popular UK holiday destinations include the following:

  • Cornwall

  • Devon

  • Lake District

  • Peak District

  • Isle of Wight

  • Cotswolds

  • Yorkshire

  • Wales

  • Norfolk

  • Dorset

How does UK travel insurance work in the UK?

Travel insurance is most commonly associated with holidays abroad. But it can be just as important if you’re planning a staycation as it can provide you with essential financial protection if something goes wrong. 

Although access to the NHS means you won’t need insurance to cover medical costs, travel insurance can still cover the cost of transferring you to a hospital nearer to home if needed. It will also ensure you’re not left out of pocket if your luggage is lost or stolen. 

What’s more, if you buy cover as soon as your holiday is booked, you’ll also be protected in the event you were forced to cancel your trip due to reasons such as illness, bereavement or redundancy.

Where to look for free or cheap UK activities 

Getting out and about can be expensive, but fortunately, there are plenty of activities across the UK that won’t break the bank:

Enjoy your surroundings

It’s obvious, but if you’re staying near a national park or the coast, there are plenty of beautiful walks to enjoy free of charge. Many local gardens will also offer free entry so check what’s near you.

Check out local museums and art galleries

If you’re staying near a town or city, many museums and art galleries offer free entry. Below are a few examples:

  • The Natural History Museum (London)

  • Science Museum (London)

  • British Museum (London)

  • National Railway Museum (York)

  • House of Marbles (Bovey Tracey, Devon)

  • St Fagans National History Museum (Cardiff)

  • Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford)

Make the most of deals 

Keep your eyes peeled for discounted entry to a number of attractions across the UK. 

Half price or 2-for-1 promotions for theme parks like Alton Towers can often be found on products such as cereal boxes, kids’ snacks, handwash and crisp packets. 

And if you register with Days Out Guide, you can get 2-for-1 entry at a number of top UK attractions when you travel by National Rail. These include Warwick Castle, Legoland and Sea Life Aquarium. 

Make sure you get the best possible cover when you go away by comparing travel insurance deals. You can find the cover you need at the right price whatever your travel plans.

Use your loyalty points

If you collect Sainsbury’s Nectar or Tesco Clubcard points, you might have enough to pay for a day out somewhere. 

Clubcard points can be worth up to three times their value, and can be exchanged for free entry into zoos and safari parks, theme parks, aquariums and much more. 

Consider membership

If you don’t mind paying an upfront fee, you could also consider joining places such as the National Trust or English Heritage (or ask someone to buy you a membership for your birthday). 

An annual joint adult membership for National Trust costs £127.20 a year (£10.60 a month) but will give you free entry to more than 500 places across the UK. English Heritage costs £111 a year (or £9.25 a month) and lets you visit more than 400 sites.

How to find cheap accommodation in the UK

The key to finding cheap accommodation is to shop around and compare options carefully. 

Also check whether there will be any big events taking place in the area when you plan to visit as this can boost prices considerably.

 If you can be flexible with dates, it’s worth shifting your booking to the week earlier or later.

Camping

If you’re on a tight budget, one of the cheapest choices is to camp. You can use sites like PitchUp to compare prices across various UK campsites and holiday parks. 

If you prefer a few creature comforts, there are plenty of ‘glamping’ options too, including bell tents and lodges. 

Hostels

An alternative budget option is to look for hostels. Staying in a dorm will be cheapest, but you can also book private or family rooms. 

Take a look at the Youth Hostel Association or HostelWorld to find the best deals.

Self-catering

If you’re travelling as a group, hiring a self-catering cottage or Airbnb can work out to be more cost-effective as you’ll be able to split the cost between several of you. 

Check out sites such as Holiday Cottages or Cottages.com, as well as Airbnb.

Hotels 

Sites such as Travelzoo and Booking.com can help you find the best prices on hotel rooms, but also keep an eye out for special deals and discounts. 

Budget options like Travelodge and Premier Inn can work out to be great value, but remember that breakfast won’t usually be included.

Bed and breakfast

To guarantee that breakfast will be included, another option is to book a B&B. Again, you can use sites such as Booking.com or bedandbreakfasts.co.uk to find the best deals.  

When’s the best time to book a staycation?

Generally, the earlier you book the better. With increasing numbers of people booking UK holidays, accommodation at the top destinations tends to get snapped up fast. 

Booking early will give you more options and likely save you money.

That said, if you can be flexible about when you travel, you don’t need to travel during the school holidays, and you don’t mind where you go, you might be able to bag a last-minute bargain.

How to save on transport and parking

As part of your holiday budget, you’ll also need to factor in transport costs. With the cost of fuel at a record high, you might want to consider using public transport instead. 

Travelling by bus or coach (eg Megabus or National Express) is one of the cheapest options, but it’s also likely to involve a longer journey, so make sure you’re prepared. Use sites such as Comparabus to find the best deals. 

Alternatively, you could look at going by train. Tickets are usually released around 12 weeks in advance, and booking as early as possible will give you the biggest savings. Travelling off-peak will also cut costs.

If you’d still prefer to drive, the Petrol Prices app will help you find the best fuel prices wherever you are. 

And when it comes to parking, using comparison site Parkopedia will help you to locate the cheapest car parks in the area. 

What are my holiday cancellation rights?

Should you need to cancel your holiday, the chances of getting a full refund will depend on who you booked your holiday with and how much notice you provide. 

Before making your booking, always read the terms and conditions carefully so that you don’t get caught out. 

Some accommodation types might give you the option of a flexible booking, so that you can cancel or amend your booking without penalty. 

Others might allow you to cancel fee-free if you give two to three months’ notice, but as you get closer to the booking date you may only get a percentage of the total cost back. 

Any deposit you have paid will usually be non-refundable.

If you’re unable to get all of your money back and you have had to cancel due to illness, bereavement or redundancy, you should be able to claim on your travel insurance

But keep in mind you will have to pay an excess.

About Rachel Wait

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