What's costing you more? Staycation vs vacation

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Last year the most popular destination for Brits was...well, Britain. A trend that looks set to continue this year.

But is ‘staycationing’ really a good option? Is a holiday in the UK really any better for your wallet?

Like buying a house or car, it’s easy to focus on one or two obvious expenses without factoring in other costs. Let’s have a look at what you’ll need to think about...

Flights and accommodation – the big two

How much it’ll cost to get there and how much you’ll pay for bed and board are the two biggest costs.

Airbnb revealed that among other staycation hotspots, North Wales saw double the number of bookings compared to this time last year, so take that as an example.

A quick look on Booking.com tells us that in the first week of August a seven-night stay for two in a budget hotel in beachy Aberystwyth could cost around £400. But remember, it depends on the type of accommodation you choose – you could easily double that in a high-end hotel.

Looking at the same week in the Algarve, Portugal, another popular choice for Brits, would cost as little as £250 but it could also cost you comfortably into the thousands.

That’s the first lesson – at some point, it’s for you to establish the must-haves for your holiday. You could spend a little or a lot on accommodation, here or overseas. If you’re not set on your location, the trick is to decide whether you want economy or luxury, then see where the best deals can be had.

The same is true of transport. If you’re headed abroad then you’ll most likely be flying and the prices can vary enormously.

Flying to the Algarve that same week could cost under £100 per person with a budget airline like Ryanair, or closer to £500 with the national carrier TAP. But getting around in the UK can be expensive too – if you’re travelling by train, look for early deals. The ticketing website thetrainline.com lets you set up price drop alerts for specific journeys.

How much do exchange rates matter?

With the recent series of political shocks, it’s easy to see why people might be more inclined to stay home.

The pound is currently worth just 1.16 Euros and 1.3 US dollars, which means holidays in Europe or stateside are expensive. Since the UK voted to leave the European Union, holiday prices to some parts of Europe have soared by up to 35%.

But it’s not as though the weak pound means we get off lightly at home. We end up paying more for goods and services here too, particularly imported produce, which means the price of a holiday overall is still likely to go up. That applies to hotel costs and the fuel to get to wherever you’re headed.

Beyond travel and accommodation there are lots of other expenses to consider. Food and drink is a big one. According to numbeo.com, a three-course meal for two in a mid-range UK restaurant will cost you around £50. Spain comes in much cheaper at £30 and in Turkey you’re looking at half that cost.

But do cheap eats and beers offset the cost of the flights? You can get to Wales and back on a Megabus for a few quid, but not to Portugal.

What price peace of mind?

Another expense that can come as an afterthought is insurance. If you’re staying in the UK then you’re covered by the NHS, but if you’re venturing overseas, you’ll need travel insurance.

Foreign medical bills can easily run into the thousands and it’s not just about your health – a comprehensive policy will also cover potential holiday-ruining things like theft, lost luggage and cancelled flights.

Travel insurance for two people for our week in Portugal can cost less than a tenner, so it’s well worth putting in place. Also remember that, at least while we’re still in the European Union, a European Heath Insurance Card (EHIC) will entitle you to medical treatment in any member state.

What about mobile phone costs?

This one is less obvious, but no less expensive and it’s an easy trap to fall into. If you like to make calls home when you’re on holiday – particularly if you’re away for several weeks, you definitely need to know how much it’ll cost.

But even if you’re not making calls, chances are you’ll want to use an app like Citymapper to get around, maybe another like Yelp to find restaurants and just the internet in general so you can post smug updates on Facebook and Instagram. To do all of those, you’ll need internet access.

Check your deal with your provider – find out what’s included, whether there are data limits and whether your country of choice is included. It's a short sharp shock when you see your phone bill having unknowingly been charged a twenty pounds a day during your trip.

If internet surfing is free, then great, but if it’s not then it can be eye-wateringly expensive. Some ways around it are to use free Wi-Fi whenever you can, but also check out apps like Rebtel – it’s similar to Skype, but uses local phone lines, so it doesn’t need Wi-Fi to make a call.

While we’re on the subject check out our article ‘Seven apps to save you money while you're travelling’.

The weather

Ok, it’s not a cost – at least not a monetary one, but it’s worth factoring in. Unless you go on holiday to sit inside all day then you're counting on some good weather to enjoy.

On the other hand, if the weather isn’t your main concern or if you’re willing to gamble, avoiding peak season could mean big savings, not to mention fewer tourists and maybe less-inflated prices once you’re there. In general, the last week in August and the first week of September are a lot cheaper than the rest of the summer holidays.

Remember the importance of budgeting

Keep in mind that as with any big financial decision, the keys to getting the holiday you really want are research and budgeting. If you have your heart set on a particular destination and it’s the one factor that can’t change, then the savvy way to proceed is to figure out where else you can be flexible.

Think about transport, catering and how much spending money you really need. Could you find cheaper accommodation that’s just as nice through Airbnb for example? Being flexible about other aspects of your trip could help bring the price down, then you can spend quality time on comparison sites and travel companies‘ own websites to establish the best deal.

What now?

  • Compare and spot the best deals: Use online comparison sites, but also check independent providers and even the hotel’s own website. Don't forget about trusty Airbnb.

  • Talk to your mobile company: Better to check. Even if you don’t have roaming in your plan, many providers offer a day or week pass. It’ll definitely be cheaper to plan ahead than just winging it and using the internet abroad.

  • Shop for insurance: It’s not the most interesting bit of your holiday, but peace of mind is important. Remember to check what’s covered and be sure to compare the excess – how much you’d be expected to pay yourself.

  • Be flexible: Establish which bits of your holiday are fixed and which are flexible. That way you’ll know where you can economise to get the holiday you want within the budget you have.

  • Budget and plan: It stops your holiday costs from spiralling out of control. These days there are lots of helpful apps for budgeting, just remember that some are free and some cost money.

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