Sunday, 3 April 2016

Travel: Frequent Flyer - A How To

One of the most frequently asked questions I get in both the real and online worlds that I am happy to give a sensible answer to is: "how are you always on holiday?!" I don't travel for work (I once went to Berlin for the day but that was the beginning and end of my illustrious jet-setting career) and get the standard 25 day holiday allowance but I manage to escape the grey skies of London as often as I can. Here's how to earn your membership to the "frequent flyer" club without breaking the budget too much.

Pack your bags... Ok, this is too much for a short break but packing is a post for another day...
1. Never stop searching - I'm always browsing Skyscanner, EasyJet and RyanAir for cheap deals.  When it comes to Europe, there's not really anywhere on my "must visit" list these days so it's a good way to discover places you wouldn't usually consider - I'd never thought of visiting Denmark until I spotted a £16 flight to Billund - that's cheaper than getting the train to Brighton for the day!

2. Avoid the school holidays - pretty easy (and somewhat desirable) if you don't have children but the prices shoot up around the Easter weekend and in August. Avoid these times if you can - I always used to think that teachers had a sweet deal until I realised how crazily expensive it is to travel in the school holidays.

3. Save your holiday allowance by booking the earliest flight on a Saturday morning and the latest back on a Sunday evening. I've occasionally done a Friday evening flight but it often just means you pay for another night's accommodation only to arrive there at 11pm and go straight to sleep. I prefer to get an early Friday night in London and set the alarm for 4am on Saturday instead. For longer breaks, tack on a few days to a Bank Holiday weekend - make use of the summer bank holidays we have coming up and a few days of annual leave can give you a decent length of time away. In need of destination ideas for particular length breaks - sorted.

4. Accommodation - scour Airbnb and booking.com for the best deals. If its just one night I make sure its central to avoid precious travel time and accessible for the airport, too. Look for loyalty programs - in Spain I stay in H10 hotels which have a loyalty club giving free cocktails and free nights accommodation. If its only one night and you're not fussed consider hostels or private rooms in Airbnbs which can be super cheap.

5. The Second (or Third or Fourth) City - for a short break I avoid the capitals, Rome can't be visited in two days and I like to leave somewhere feeling like I don't need to go back, only that I'd want to. Smaller cities are also cheaper, less touristy and mean you can get all the main sights done and still have some downtime for (my favourite) sitting in pavement cafes watching the world go by. Again, keep an open mind and try somewhere new - there are countless German cities on my list and they always pop up on RyanAir's cheap flights lists.

5. Book attractions in advance - when time is tight no one wants to queue. For Amsterdam, I booked Anne Frank's house and the Van Gogh museum online in advance and it was so satisfying to walk straight past the huge entrance queues!

6. Loyalty - if you fly BA for longer trips then make sure you're collecting Avios points which can be used for free European flights. Often the points values are applied unevenly across different destinations so let yourself be guided by a bargain and you'll end up seeing somewhere new and getting a free flight is pretty satisfying.

7. Travelling to the airport - I'm lucky that Heathrow, London City and Stansted airports are easy for me to get to but travelling to the airport can be pricey (ironically more than your £16 flight). The Heathrow Express and Stansted Express offer advance fares which are definitely worth booking as it's so frustrating to forget and have to pay full price the day before. The tube is also an option for Heathrow but remember that from central London it takes a while!

8. Budget - set a budget and make it a fun challenge to stick to it. For my up-coming trip to Denmark I'm making sure that I stick to £200. I've had more than enough weekends in London where I've frittered away more than £200 on drinks, dinner and random Topshop purchases so £200 on a weekend away feels more than worth it for a break from London and a cultural experience (/drinking gin in another city).

What are you top tips for budget travel?


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3 comments

  1. Oh this is so handy!! I love the idea of just taking off and going somewhere that might not be that touristy, but lovely nonetheless. Great tips!

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  2. Great tips Lily, I'm terrible at wasting my weekends so really should put some of these to practice and organise a few short breaks x


    Peonies and lilies

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