Getting away on a shoestring this Easter

IT BARELY feels like the January exams have finished, yet for many of us essay deadlines are already creeping up, and as we get further into a new term stress levels are reaching new heights.  On top of all this, Aber continues to provide us with its typically dreary weather, and each morning seems to inevitably promise grey skies as we draw back the curtains.  It’s no wonder, therefore, that lots of people on campus are starting to dream of a holiday; I should know, as I’m one of them.  Be it a sunshine-filled, island beach getaway, or a few days soaking up culture and exploring a European city, we all yearn for a break from those assignments, with a proper change of scene and a chance to really chill out.   A trip away may seem like an exciting prospect, but for many students a quick check on that tight bank balance often means that any dreams of foreign adventures remain just that.  However, it doesn’t have to be this way, with plenty of travel deals and money-saving tips available to help you go further for less.  This article is designed to point you in the right direction, so that you can get to work on planning that Easter escape, and give yourself something to look forward to this spring.

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Getting there: How to save on travel costs

Often, getting to your destination can be one of the most expensive parts of a holiday.  These days, many airlines seem to charge extra for almost everything, including checked-in luggage, sitting with your friends, and having drinks on the plane.  That’s before you even consider the costs of getting to the airport and the potential of having to spend the night at an airport hotel before an early hours take-off.  This means that finding a good deal on flight tickets is now of extra importance and, fortunately, the internet age has provided travellers with handy tools which help us to bag the best bargains.  One of the most useful resources when planning a trip is Skyscanner (skyscanner.net), which searches different airlines and compares their airfares, so that you can get the cheapest ticket for your flight.  There is also the option to compare prices of trips to different worldwide destinations, which means you can choose to go wherever takes your fancy.  A quick visit to the website while writing this article showed return flights from London to Italy, Morocco or Greece in March for less than forty pounds.  These are just a handful of the numerous destinations which you could be jetting off to on a shoestring – it’s just about knowing where to look for these great deals.

Important to remember, is that for many trips, air travel often isn’t the only mode of transport available, nor is it the cheapest.  For those who see the journey as part of the holiday and don’t mind roughing it a bit, there are plenty of budget alternatives to getting airborne, which mean you get to avoid all the hassle of the airport, while saving money to spend at your destination.  Many students will be familiar with the Megabus (uk.megabus.com), which provides bargain basement travel from Aber to Cardiff and London, however, they may not be aware that the company also offers daily departures to Europe.  While the journey times may be long, the fares are very low and can take you to exciting cities such as Paris, Amsterdam and Barcelona.  As long as you don’t get travelsick, and don’t mind spending hours getting to know the Continent’s motorway networks, this could be an ideal way to get away on the cheap.  Ferries and rail travel are also good options, with special discounts available to young people in many cases.Canada

Staying there: Accommodation on a budget

When choosing a place to stay on a budget, it’s important not to set your expectations too high, as you will probably struggle to find that five star hotel within your price range.  The good news, however, is that there are plenty of affordable options available to ensure you get a good night’s sleep on your holiday.  In many destinations, hostels are among the best value accommodation choices, with prices often starting from just a few pounds a night for a bed in a dorm room.  This is great if you’re looking for basic lodgings and the chance to meet and socialise with other travellers during your time away.  The Hostelling International website (hihostels.com) is an invaluable tool for finding hostel locations and making bookings in cities around the globe.  It allows you to check out the facilities and view images of each property, so you know just what to expect before you go.               

For those who don’t see themselves as the hostelling kind, but still want to save money when getting away, budget hotels can provide a welcome alternative.  Nowadays, these exist almost everywhere and allow travellers to have a bed for the night without breaking the bank.  Indeed, when travelling as a couple or with a group of mates it can often work out cheaper to check-in to one of these than a youth hostel, meaning you spend the same money but get more of your home comforts.  When looking to book these hotels, it is important not to dismiss reservations websites such as Expedia (Expedia.co.uk).  These sites can be very useful, as they search through all the hotels in a particular town or city, allowing you to compare different options and find the best prices.  Normally, the price you pay will be the same as if you booked directly and often, it can be even cheaper.

Being there: Cutting costs while abroad 

A great way to save money while you’re away is to choose a destination where prices on the ground are low.  A strong pound works in our favour, as it means that overseas trips are becoming more affordable.  This year, the Post Office’s survey on holiday costs placed Prague in the Czech Republic as the best value destination for British tourists, while Portugal and Spain’s sunny shores also fared well.  Good exchange rates also mean that visits to North America are also now easier on the pocket, with both Canada and the United States promising a good deal for travellers headed across The Pond.  But that’s enough of the economics for now; there are other ways to save money when visiting another country besides weighing up currency conversions.  For instance, it’s a wise idea to search the web for free things to do in the place you’re visiting before you set off.  If you’re heading for a big city, you should also consider buying travel passes for public transport, as these can leave you quids in, compared to paying for each journey separately.  If you’re on a package holiday, it’s often a smart move to steer clear of excursions which are organised by your tour operator, as the prices of these include a hefty mark-up and the same trips can likely be arranged through a local company or done independently.   Equally, avoid eating at restaurants in tourist hotspots, and instead follow the locals to neighbourhoods where prices are likely to be lower and quality far higher; why not ask a shopkeeper for their advice?  Don’t dismiss self-catering either; why not make the most of being on the Continent by using markets and fresh food shops to create a delicious picnic while saving money?

Hopefully you’ve been inspired by the money-saving tips here and realise that the trip you were dreaming about can become a reality.  So get planning, and give yourself some motivation this term with a holiday to look forward to for the Easter break.