I love holidays. The excitement of looking forward to an adventure somewhere new, the food, the weather, the activities, the time away from the daily grind of home life. Last summer we had such a great holiday in France we decided we wanted to go back and explore new parts of the country this year. This post is all about the planning of our pending trip, and the 10 ways we saved over £1k on our holiday this summer.
Growing up as the daughter of two teachers, I spent long summers in France swimming, eating delicious French food and forgetting all about home. I wanted to share some of those experiences with my own girls, so this year we decided to try and get out to France for three weeks instead of two. But when I started looking into it, I couldn’t see how we’d afford a three week holiday to France.
I managed it though, with a bit of nouse. Some research, creative thinking and flexibility helped to whittle down the cost and get us a holiday for nearly three weeks, from almost £3,000 to under £2,000.
1. Book early
We booked everything last November, but I started researching the holiday about a month before that. We opted to break the holiday into three parts: ten nights in a chalet in a holiday park, six nights in a house on a vineyard and two nights in a cottage by the sea.
Once I’d sorted the accommodation I booked the ferry (Plymouth to Roscoffe with Brittany Ferries) and got a return crossing for £400. This saved us £150. If we’d taken bikes and booked a cabin the cost would have gone up, but as it’s a day crossing and we only live half an hour from the port, we didn’t think a cabin was a necessity. Booking our accommodation early also saved us money as we got an early bird rate on the chalet we’re staying in for the first part of the holiday.
2. Don’t do a package
I totally get why package holidays are appealing – I’ve done a fair few myself in the past. It’s great that everything’s sorted in one easy lot, saving you time and any headaches further down the line. And they can work out cheaper than organising everything yourself – especially if you get a last minute deal. But if you really want to save the big bucks then, in my experience, booking early and booking independently is the way to go.
3. Book direct
Again, booking through a travel agent or tour operator can take the headache out of the organisation, but it’s likely to increase the overall cost of your holiday as you’ll end up paying commission. For a week of our holiday this summer we’re staying in a house on a vineyard in Bordeaux (free wine tasting, natch) which I discovered on OwnersDirect. All the places I’d found elsewhere for that particular week were coming in at around £1000 (we wanted a place with a pool, ideally) but the one we ended up booking through Owner’s Direct was £744 – saving us £256, plus I got to speak to the actual owner rather than a third party booking agent. Win.
4. Consider other areas
You might have your heart set on one particular place, but considering less touristy areas, or places further from a beach can dramatically reduce the cost of your holiday. This was where we made our biggest saving, of £548.
Originally I’d wanted to return to the Vendee and have a coastal break for the first part of our trip. This was to be the holiday park part of the holiday, but the site and accommodation I found in the area I loved came to £1,123 for 10 nights. Choosing another site further inland, owned by the same company (Yelloh!), brought our bill down to £575. We found a two bedroom chalet with a covered porch area in a cute little holiday park in the Loire region, very near the river. It has everything we need (a swimming pool, bar, restaurant/cafe and play area for the kids) but is vastly cheaper because it’s a smaller site in a less commercial area, away from the coast.
5. Check out ALL accommodation options
We could have saved even more money if we’d been a bit more creative with our accomodation. In my search I found options ranging from a classic chalet or mobile home to a gypsy caravan, mini glamping “huts” or – obviously the cheapest – taking our own tent.
6. Do Air B&B
We decided to break up the long journey from Bordeaux to Roscoffe with a mini break on the Brittany coast for the last two nights of our holiday. I scoured the area for family-friendly hotels but couldn’t find anything suitable for all four of us for less than £294. That seemed like a lot to spend on just two nights of the holiday, plus with two young kids I thought it’d probably be easier to go with a self-catering option anyway. At that point I turned to Air B&B and found the sweetest little cottage complete with its own garden, just a short stroll from the beach. The cost (including the Air B&B booking fee)? £160. Cha-ching!
7. Get recommendations
When I was researching the holiday (which is part of the delicious anticipation of the whole thing, if you ask me) I asked around for recommendations. It was a mum friend who suggested I try OwnersDirect and a blogging buddy who pointed me in the direction of Yelloh!
8. Sign up to mailing lists
After our holiday to Siblu in The Vendee last summer we were added to the mailing list for the company which proved to be a great way to hear about various deals. Although we’re not doing a Siblu holiday this year (much to the disappointment of my five year old), this won’t stop me jumping at a good deal if one comes up for the 2017. If you find a holiday park or hotel that you love then it’s a good idea to sign up to the mailing list so you don’t miss out on any exclusive offers.
9. Follow companies on social media
For the same reasons as signing up to a mailing list, it’s also worth following any companies you love on social media. Sometimes you’ll hear about a great saving via the company’s Facebook page or there might be an exclusive competition running on Twitter. Either way, it’s worth the follow if it means you’ll save £££ on your next holiday.
10. Allocate time for searching
Like anything in life, the most rewarding things are often the hardest. I spent a good few hours working out if dates matched, where places were and how long it would take to drive there, and then hunting around other sites to make sure I’d got a good deal. I’m not a time-rich person and I did a lot of the hunting late at night after I’d finished my work, but the time I put in paid out. Doing it this way has saved us £1088 – not bad for a few hours work really.
Have you got any more holiday savings tips to add?