It’s a great way to spend a vacation at a lower cost. The easiest option is to have friends or relatives stay in the house while they go – you get cheap accommodation and they know their house is safe. Or, if you can find a weekend that works for both of you, arrange a swap.
Staying at a property you already know, or hosting people you know in your home, is likely to be more relaxing than talking to a stranger, but there are websites dedicated to connecting owners with friends. house-sitters they may never meet. These are often also houses abroad. They charge a fee – usually around £100 per year. The Guardian has a partnership with a site that lists many UK homes (guardianhomeexchange.co.uk).
Gemma Clough, who blogs at Help Save Money, recommends pet sitting. She suggests using a site such as TrustedHousesitters.
She says: “Owner members include their personal information when signing up, while guardian members go through mandatory identity verification, and all listings go through an approval process before going live on the site.”
She has traveled the world caring for cats and small animals and frequently stays in London, saving hundreds of pounds each time. She recently stayed in the affluent town of Pimlico for two weeks free of charge.
Sleep under the canvas
Camping has become more expensive as sites add facilities, but it’s still one of the cheapest ways to see the UK.
Choose campsites that have access to lakes and rivers for swimming. Picking one where you’re allowed to make fires for cooking or barbecues will keep the kids entertained and cut costs.
Online platforms advertise places where you can stay, but you can get a better deal by booking directly. (Same for vacation rentals, car rental, etc.)
See if your friends and family have any materials you can borrow. Or consider Tentshare, a UK website that allows people to rent their tents and camping kit. It could also help the environment (the site says around 250,000 tents go to landfill each year).
A family tent can cost up to £400, but renting one from Tentshare costs around £60 for a weekend. You pay a deposit in advance, which will be refunded to you as long as the equipment is returned in good condition.
It is free to list your items for rent on Tentshare and you choose how much to charge. The site takes a 15% discount on all booking fees you make.
Many companies are open to haggling, and it’s definitely worth trying when booking a vacation. Who? says you may be able to save some money by haggling with your travel agent or calling a hotel directly.
Work for your vacation
William Pointing of the Great Deals Made Easy website suggests volunteering as a way to get free housing and a change of scenery. He says, “You could hone your gardening, writing, or even cooking skills while often getting free food in addition to accommodation.” However, many places will require you to sign up for a few weeks.
The Worldpackers website lists volunteering opportunities in the UK and beyond. Conservation Working Holidays provides masses of information on courses, events and volunteer roles in the conservation, campaign, wildlife and ecology sectors.
WWOOF is an international organization that operates in the UK. It helps volunteers who want to learn more about organic farming and self-sufficient lifestyles. In exchange for your help in a farm and a family home, you receive free housing and food.
Check the city council website for the area you plan to stay in. These usually list free events and activities.
Use social media to do the same – community pages will advertise fairs and other events that may be taking place during your visit. Search the internet for forums, reviews and recommendations for lesser known places to visit. On the English Heritage website, you can see its free sites.
If you want to treat yourself to paid attractions, buy cheaper tickets in advance, if available.
Check out comparison and cashback websites, which can be useful for getting money back on all kinds of purchases, including vacations. Among the most important are TopCashback and Quidco.
My VIP Rewards offers discount offers for a range of businesses of all sizes, including holiday businesses. It costs £3.99 per month to subscribe, but there are decent savings. At the time of writing, Lancashire Holiday Lets and Ribble Valley Holiday Homes were offering 10% off. The code LOVESAVING1 gives you one month of free use of the site and the application.
The JamDoughnut app offers prepaid gift cards to use online, in-store or over the phone, and earn rewards points. Once you have received £10 in points you can withdraw the money.
At the moment, you can get 2.5% cashback on Lastminute.com, 8% on Airbnb and 15% on National Express coaches.
Also check your credit cards. Many will have offers for travel and vacation-related purchases, while others offer cash back.
Grocery shopping rewards points and credit cards can also be used for big savings on travel, accommodation, and even restaurant meals.
Nectar points can be spent on stays at select hotels, while Tesco Clubcard has a huge range of partners who accept vouchers, including holiday companies and attractions. You can use Clubcard vouchers to buy a train card.
Plan a trip
One of the biggest costs that can be overlooked when planning a stay in the UK is the cost of getting to your destination. With gas prices at record highs, this will be a big chunk of your spending if you plan to travel by car.
Remember to fill up near you as gas stations on the motorways tend to be (much) more expensive. Use PetrolPrices.com to plan where to refuel.
For rail travel, check if your journey is eligible for GroupSave before jumping into a Railcard – if you don’t already have one. You may find that you can save money with no upfront cost.