Looking forward to that well-deserved family holiday in summer? Here are 23 smart tips to save money while on holiday in the UK without feeling like you’re penny-pinching constantly.
Family holidays are priceless but they can easily rack up a large bill afterward if you are not careful. Especially for those of you with school children having no choice but to take family holidays during peak seasons.
According to FairFX, “Holiday (for a family of 2 adults, 2 children) in August can cost almost up to £3,000 more than they do in June”. [Source]
With COVID restrictions on traveling abroad, it leaves many of us spending this summer in the UK.
Whether you are planning 2 weeks on the coast of Cornwall, camping in the Lake district, or taking a road trip up to Scotland, here are 23 smart tips that you can implement to save money while on holiday without feeling like you’re penny-pinching all the time.
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Plan your transportation
Planning will be a common theme in this post and it starts with transportation. Whether it’s planes, trains or cars, you can take advantage of planning.
Buy your tickets 12 weeks before travel to get the best prices. Check 2 singles rather than a return. Look into family railcards as the savings for one trip can almost cover the cost of buying a pass. Rail tickets can also get you 2 for 1 ticket for major attractions in the UK – like Legoland, Alton Towers, etc
It’s unlikely you will fly for holidays in the UK, but if you do – pack light and be efficient with your bags. Skip paying extra to choose seats. Certainly for families they have to seat you with your kids – and UK internal flights only last around 45 mins anyway.
Take your own snacks – even on a short flight everyone wants a snack.
Automobiles (ok I will drop the movie line now – cars) – check for motorway, tunnel, or bridge tolls along the route. Avoid where possible, sometimes the slightly longer route can make a great picnic spot for a break.
Public transport is often affordable and if your kids are like mine, fun on the top deck at the front.
Uber and Bolt etc – sometimes a cost effective option for shorter routes depending on the number of people. If you have to buy a tube ticket for 4 people for a few stops, these guys could be cheaper.
Walk when you can
Once you are there, enjoy the time you have. If you plan, you shouldn’t be in a rush – giving you time to walk, relax, take in the scenery and make a healthy choice.
Plan for free parks, playground, and beaches
Kids don’t actually need much entertainment when you are on holiday.
Ours love a trip to the park to ride bikes or scooters, visiting a playground or exploring the rocks pools at the beach. We always have to do a treasure hunt on the beach to see what interesting things we can find – all at zero cost!
Do your research before you go and build these visits as an afternoon activity. A picnic can make this a really great relaxing day. Playgrounds can also make a great stopping point on the longer journeys, especially ones with a cafe and facilities nearby, way more fun than the services.
Check out free events and attractions
You’ll find that many museums, events, and other places have free admission. You can add these to your plan as you put together your list.
Make a packing list
Things can be more expensive to buy on the road, so making a list of items to bring on holiday can not only save money but reduce stress.
So start early, make a list and use it to check off the items as you go.
Packing for a family of 4 can be challenging. I found it helpful when we have a list for each member. As the children get older, I encourage them to write down items they want to bring for each category – toys, snacks, clothes, shoes etc. then check them off as they finish packing.
But don’t forget to check yourself once they are done packing. One year we found my daughter packed 2 bags of toys, and only 2 pieces of clothes 🙈 She has got better since.
Turning things off at home
Probably not the fridge, and depending on the time of year, here are a list of things to consider turning off in your house, if you are going away for a week or two:
- Underfloor heating
- TV and Satellite/Cable boxes – properly off not stand-by, unless you must record TV, but there is catch-up these days.
- Games consoles
- Hot water (certainly if you have smart controls and can turn it back on, on the way home
- Wifi (unless you need it to turn on the hot water)
- Unplug the chargers (they should probably be coming with you anyway!)
…you get the gist.
Save money on your pets
For those of you who can’t take your pets with you on a family holiday, asking friends and family for pet sitting is a great (and affordable) option if they are willing and able.
Then you have the kennel options for your K9s. But I have a new thing for you to consider – Borrow a Dog. Obviously, you are not borrowing a dog, you are the lender. The company connects dog owners with trusted local people who love to look after dogs.
Check the car before you leave
If you are taking your car for the trip, check your car before the journey.
Are you coming up for an MOT, new tyres or brake pads etc? Get this done before you go, as paying for roadside assistance, or a tow truck can be expensive if you don’t have a policy.
Having the right tyre pressure for the number of people and luggage will optimise your fuel consumption and also provide the best road handling including braking distances – safety.
Fill up the screen wash. Empty the trash and give it a quick tidy inside – it makes for a more pleasant journey. Make sure your sunglasses and phone cables are in.
Leave some parking money in the car – last summer I was amazed at how many car parks in the South West only take cash!
Check the fuel prices and plan where to fill up
Check the fuel prices locally and at your destination, where does it make most sense to fill up.
Save money by avoiding fueling up at the motorway services. Fuel can be 22p a litre more at the services, so for a 70 litre fill up that’s £15.40 extra!
Pick up coupons and vouchers as you go
These money-saving items can reduce the cost of your holiday.
Coupons and discounts may be available from hotels, restaurants, and other places. Museums and shops may also offer them along your route. Stock up on additional savings.
It’s also worth finding out if your destination offers sightseeing passes. These can include free or discounted admission to popular tourist spots and may even include free access to public transport.
Save money by planning your holiday meals
Eating out every meal for a family for 1-2 weeks can be pretty pricey. As you have guessed we are planners when it comes to holidays, but having a meal plan has advantages to save money while on holiday and having some variety.
Plan ahead on what meals to eat out vs dining in and make the reservations.
Certainly during the pandemic you need to make those reservations ahead to avoid disappointment as there are very few walk in tables at the restaurants.
Research the restaurants available and check out the menu, does it suit the family needs – playground, dog friendly, kids menu, healthy options, veggie options etc.
Lunch is cheaper than dinner
You can also save money on holiday by eating out for lunch rather than dinner. Lunch menus are often cheaper than the dinner menu for the same dish!
Consider alternating when you eat out, i.e. eat out for lunch and make dinner one day, then the next day make lunch and eat out for dinner. This will save you money, and often a little healthier. Eating out everyday for every meal for 1 or 2 weeks can get a little overwhelming.
Skip drinks while eating out
Do you know bars and restaurants make the most profit on drinks? Well, you are paying for it.
So if you want to save some money, pack teas, coffees and alcoholic drinks of your choice for the holiday.
While you are eating out, stick with tap water and limit the beverages while eating out.
My husband and I often stick with 1 alcoholic drink each while we are eating out on holiday, and have a bit more when we get back to our accommodation.
Read more money saving tips while eating out
Take advantage of the “free breakfast”
If you’re staying somewhere that includes breakfast, consider a big breakfast to stretch you longer. And even take the odd snack for later in the day, say an apple or banana. I am not quite comfortable making sandwiches and smuggling them out, but if that’s you, go for it.
We often eat a later breakfast if our accommodation includes a free breakfast, which stretches out until we have an early dinner, with snacks in between.
Location, location, location
Avoid the tourist hot spots when you do want to eat or drink – prime position will always come at an expense, and you can usually find better value and quality just one street back.
Alternatives to eating out for dinner
Picnics and BBQ’s are great alternatives to restaurants when on holiday. Make sure you check the local requirements for outdoor BBQ’s, you don’t want a fine from the local park ranger, or worse to start a fire.
Also, don’t limit picnics to outside, we love a family picnic on a blanket while watching a movie if the weather isn’t so great.
Save money on sunscreen
Buy sunscreen before you go. Resorts or worst still beach shops etc will charge a premium for this essential. We have started using the hard stick type, similar to a hard deodorant. They are so easy to apply, mess-free, no white cast, and last for ages.
Again buy before you go and use it regardless of if you think there may or may not be bugs – there will, and after they have bitten you it’s too late!
Take advantage of credit cards
If you have a credit card that provides cash back or some kind of reward, make sure to use it for the holiday, as you will be spending more than normal, so you may as well get a little something back for it.
Bring your own water bottle
Bring water bottles with you everyday. Not only will it easily save you in excess of £5 a day, it’s also better for the environment.
Take storage containers and ziplock bags
This may sound excessive, but again it gives you the option to take food and snacks with you, saving you £’s everyday.
A simple first aid kit saves the day
Take a simple first aid kit with you on holiday – Calpol, Plasters, Antihistamine (cream or solution), paracetamol, ibuprofen etc.
My husband always has a couple of plasters in his wallet or one in the phone case. It makes me love him just a bit more when one of us gets a painful blister while we are out.
Holiday money allowance for your children
Holidays are the perfect time to teach your kids about money. Giving them a holiday allowance lets them decide what gifts they want to buy for themselves, rather than having them constantly begging to buy things (Works for children above age 4-5)
Final thought on 23 Smart Tips to Save Money While on Holiday in the UK
I hope you find these 23 smart tips helpful when it comes to saving money while on holiday in the UK, things that you can easily save money without feeling like you’re constantly penny pinching.
Remember, planning ahead is the key to save money while having an enjoyable family holiday and avoiding disappointment.