I’m not one for expensive ‘things’. But where I save on keeping my phone from 2015 or wearing my shoes until they have more than one hole in them, I like to spend money on travel. I love a good bargain holiday deal and have always thought I was pretty good at travelling cheaply, until I HAD to travel cheaply.
Taking this trip to Carles de la Rapita in Spain on a VERY tight budget has taught me that a) really cheap travel is definitely achievable and b) I have NEVER travelled cheaply before! And there are a lot of capitals in those last few sentences because what I’m saying is VERY IMPORTANT. Here is what I found from trying harder than ever before to have a cheap getaway.
Cheap Getaway Flights
If you don’t have to be in a certain destination at the certain time then the world is your oyster. Skyscanner is my best friend when booking flights. You can put in your destination and search for the whole month, or put ‘everywhere’ and it will show you the cheapest destinations for your dates. I absolutely love this. Sometimes I just look for fun (which may just be a reflection on what a sad life I lead).
We searched return flights to begin with. These came out at around £100. So next we searched for separate flights to and from (if you need to return to the same airport be careful here!) We were able to find flights for £11 there and £11 back. Don’t do what I did and forget to book the return flights! We ended up paying double for the flights home because by the time I realised it was too late.
HOWEVER-If I had been brave enough and waited the same flights went down to £2 a few days later (thanks so much for pointing this out to me when it was too late Adam). It is possible that waiting can pay off! I’ve cheated a bit and used the original flight prices, because I’m sure that no one else is as mindless as me.
Another way to save money on flights is to do a little research. Reus was the closest airport for us to fly in to, but Barcelona was only an extra hour away. Before we booked flights we looked into transport options from both places. As it worked out, flights to Barcelona were more expensive but often bigger airports are cheaper. It could easily have worked out cheaper to fly to Barcelona and spend a little extra on transport the other side.
Ryanair have recently changed their baggage allowance rules and we saw lots of people being charged extra for oversized baggage so be careful. I know lots of people who will happily travel for a month with only hand luggage. The longest I’ve managed for is a week so three days with a small rucksack was fine, smelly socks and all. If we had wanted to bring luggage it would have cost an extra £30, so obviously this wasn’t an option!
Cheap Getaway Transport
Sadly public transport often works out more expensive than hiring a car. We booked car hire for £7.93 (again, compare the market quickly using skyscanner) and didn’t opt for their £90 extremely overpriced, expensive insurance. Instead we used Insurance 4 car hire and paid £11.96! If you hire a car a lot Martin Lewis has some brilliant money saving tips here.
We used the car as little as possible and found free parking a short walk from the hotel. It end up costing £12.33 in fuel.
Cheap Getaway Insurance
I haven’t actually included travel insurance in the price as we get annual travel insurance to cover any trips away. It nearly always works out cheaper if you plan on leaving the country more than once. If you travel a lot with the same person then couples travel insurance is often cheaper too. For a cheap trip to Europe like this I would risk not getting travel insurance and taking my European Health Insurance Card for any medical emergencies. Because I’m wild like that.
Cheap Getaway Accommodation
We spent a while working out where. City centres are more expensive, but then you’ll possibly pay more for transport. We knew we would want to spend every day in one small town, and the only available self catering rooms were over half an hour away.
We opted for a budget hotel (£71 for three nights) because although it was £10 more expensive than the alternative it meant we would save on over 3 hours worth of petrol. We found the cheapest hotel on booking.com and then called them directly. They quoted more than online so we told them so, and they offered us the lower price but for an ensuite room rather than a shared bathroom, if we booked through them and paid cash. Yes please!
The facilities available were a big consideration. Places with cooking facilities mean you can pay less for food while you’re away. Rooms with shared bathrooms are cheaper. Shared rooms in hostels are cheaper still. And once I even stayed in a tent in a communal space in a hostel (but that’s a different story altogether). So if you’re not too fussy you can probably find cheaper! We decided to try cooking with a kettle to save the problem of not having a kitchen but more about that in a bit!
Cheap Getaway Food
If you’ve read about our adventures trying to save money then you’ll know what bargain food hunters we have become. Saving money on food abroad was harder, here’s what we learnt……
1.Take an empty water bottle. Obvious I know! But what I didn’t know was that if you ask them to fill it in a restaurant rather than just filling it at the fountain, they might offer you ice and lemon! We enjoyed our refreshing drinks in a posh airport restaurant while waiting in style for our delayed flight.
2.Head to the supermarket. Rather than going straight to the nearest restaurant we enjoyed a trip to the supermarket/market. We sussed out the cheapest food and enjoyed brie baguettes with big juicy tomatoes for lunch every day. We were disappointed to find there was no kettle in our room, which ruined our plan to cook pasta and boiled eggs. But not ones to be defeated we raided the unlocked cleaners cupboard, found a taped together iron and ironed supermarket bought pizzas and ready made omelettes for dinner. Delicious. For more hotel room cooking ideas take a look at this source of infinite wisdom.
3.Shop around. With no kettle and a caffeine addicted boyfriend I thought I was in serious trouble. Luckily Spanish coffee can be found very cheaply! We got up early and trawled the cafes until we found take away double espressos for 90p. Starbucks can do one.
4.Treat yourselves! It’s a little sad sitting in a dingy hotel room and eating pickled gherkins when you’re on holiday. We spent a while (feeling a little stupid) asking how much a glass was in different places but the search paid off when we found a warm and inviting bar selling wine for one euro. And it didn’t taste like vinegar either.
Don’t go on a cheap getaway with Adam. Because he insists he needs to eat a baguette, a whole block of cheese, three apples and a banana for breakfast. Don’t ask how much he needs for lunch.
Food total: 32.72
Cheap Getaway Activities
We found a mountain walk 10 minutes from the town and spent the day exploring the local countryside. It was fun, free and healthy. We had a day of boat hunting which was the reason for our trip, but if we hadn’t spent the day doing this then there were multiple free things to do found on trip advisor.
We found evenings more tricky. In the summer it’s easy-long walks along the beach, sitting and watching the sunset, star gazing. We still did these things but it was pretty cold, so we ended up watching films in the hotel room with our ironed omelettes more than we would have liked!
We got lucky on the first evening and arrived to the Spanish celebration ‘Night of the Kings’. There was a parade through the town with huge floats, dancers and drummers. So it’s worth looking if any local towns are putting on entertainment. I’ve happened upon many free concerts, town square dances and night markets in the smallest, least touristy towns so it can’t be uncommon!
In summary, cheap getaways really are possible, and I think with a bit more luck than we had this trip could have been even cheaper. Three nights felt like a proper holiday and we had a good amount of time to explore and relax. If you go on holiday to escape the grey UK and you aren’t too bothered about eating fine cuisine then you can absolutely go on holiday for the same cost as dinner out in London! I know which I would prefer.
If you’re looking for inspiration on cheap places in Spain to travel to, then check out our posts on Siurana, Spain’s most beautiful mountain top village, and Sant Carles de la Rapita, where we managed these three days on a real budget!
Let us know your budget travel tips below and help us travel even cheaper next time!