Category Archives: Save on Travel

How to save on travel; find cheap flights, cheap hotels, promotions, discounts, deals and cashbacks to save you money on your European trip. It does take a bit of research to save on travel but using price comparison sites can cut out some of legwork. You can do some cheap travelling in Europe if you go in low season, book in advance with a low cost airline and shop around for the best money saving deals.

Tips on When to Book the Cheapest Flights

Research by Opodo has identified the best days and months to book cheap flights. Analysis of the average price paid during 2016 for return flights from the UK, booked on the Opodo website, uncovered the optimum times to find the lowest prices for flights.

Evidently, flights are cheapest if booked on a Saturday or Sunday. While I was aware that it was cheaper to fly on certain days of the week, which is why I had booked so many flights for travel on Tuesdays, I didn’t realise that day on which I booked the flight would have any bearing on the price of the flight.

There are some price variations between different categories of flight, depending on whether you book on a Saturday or Sunday. As an example, you can save 2.63% by booking a long haul flight on a Saturday. Whereas, booking a long haul flight on a Sunday will only net a saving of 0.84%.

The more expensive the flight, the more money you can save by finding the cheapest flight. Therefore, I’d put more effort into searching for the cheapest flights to Australia from the UK versus a domestic flight.

I’m not sure why it’s cheaper to book flights at the weekend. Maybe there are no searches being made for business trips, so lower prices are required to attract leisure travellers?

The month in which you book a flight also has an impact on the cost of the flight, with September and October being the cheapest months in which to book. Again, there are variations depending on the length of the flight. The largest saving of 13.89% is for domestic flights booked during October. You could save an average of 13.67% by booking a long haul flight in September. It’s a lower saving of 7.81% if you book a short haul flight in September.

As ever, being flexible with your dates and not traveling in peak season, e.g. school holidays, leads to much lower prices for flights.

I reckon that choosing a popular destination where there is plenty of competition between several airlines flying the same route is likely to save you money, compared to a less popular destination which only has one flight a week.

For domestic travel, the three most popular destinations are London, Edinburgh and Birmingham. In Europe, it’s Barcelona, Paris and Amsterdam. If you are venturing further afield, the three top choices are New York, Dubai and Hong Kong.

Edinburgh Castle

It’s also worth looking out for promotions. Some airlines offer a discount on flight prices, e.g. flash sales and voucher codes.

Review of Airth Castle Hotel in Scotland

I booked one night at the Airth Castle Hotel in Stirlingshire, Scotland on the ebookers app. Through the combination of a 15% ebookers hotel discount code (earned through leaving a review for an earlier hotel stay booked through ebookers), £3.79 of credit earned through the ebookers Bonus+ reward scheme, and a 10% mobile deal discount, I paid £40 for one person in a suite including breakfast.

Now I’m always dubious about the exact location of the room in which I’ll stay at grand sounding hotels, as the lower priced rooms always seem to be in some type of annexe, rather than the main building.

airth castle in stirlingshire scotland

Sure enough my room wasn’t in the castle itself, but in a huge modern building, which appeared to have been constructed around the original stables.

entrance to reception at airth castle hotel in stirlingshire

I’d never classify a single hotel room as a suite, as to me a suite means more than one room. But usually, as was also the case at the Airth Castle Hotel, that one room is a decent size. There was a sofa, as well as two armchairs and a small table. It was a proper king size bed, as opposed to two single matresses laid on a large base. The bed was really comfortable.

The dark-stained wooden furniture made the room feel old fashioned and it was looking tired due to the multitude of small chips. The upholstery on the sofa and chairs was in good condition.

suite at airth castle hotel

I was surprised that there were no toiletries in the bathroom, not even a bar of soap. It stated in the guest information booklet, that you had to request toiletries at reception. I queried this on check-out and the receptionist appeared to think there should have been toiletries in the room. It wasn’t really an issue for me. As I was travelling by car, I’d brought my vanity case. But I do think that there should be toiletries in the bathroom of a four star hotel.

The free WiFi had a very good signal.

The room faced onto some open ground between the hotel building and an upmarket housing estate. Between the great bed and the quiet location, I slept well that night.

It may seem a strange thing to say when in Scotland, but it was too bright in the conservatory style restaurant where I had breakfast.

restaurant at airth castle hotel in stirlingshire

The large white lampshades suspended from the ceiling looked a bit like cacti doughnuts.

bar area at airth castle hotel in stirlingshire

The buffet section included fruit juice, cereal, yoghurts, fruit, bread and pastries. The Danish pastries were fresh and yummy.

airth castle hotel breakfast buffet

A hot breakfast was cooked to order.

airth castle hotel cooked breakfast

You really need your own transport to stay at the Airth Castle Hotel. Although It’s in a central location, near the Kincardine and Clackmannanshire Bridges over the Forth Estuary, Airth is only a village. I’d recommend a visit to see the giant kelpie sculptures at Helix Park (a 15 minute drive from the hotel), and the Pineapple building, with its adjacent woodland walk, which lies a couple of miles from the hotel.

kelpies

In summary, I really enjoyed my stay at the Airth Castle Hotel. It was excellent value for money at £40 for the night. The room was spacious, quiet and comfortable and the breakfast was good quality. It’s probably wise to take your own toiletries with you.

Click here to compare prices for the Airth Castle Hotel on the HotelsCombined price comparison website.

Review of Premier Inn Perth City Centre

I stayed on a Saturday night at the new Premier Inn Perth City Centre in mid November 2014. I paid £35 on the non-refundable rate. This was a good price for a Saturday night stay, as prices are usually quite a bit higher than for Sunday to Thursday nights.

The building was formerly part of Puller’s dyeworks. I liked the fact the Premier Inn is in a central location, next to the Festival Hall, yet still offers free parking for guests. Free parking isn’t gauranteed, as the hotel has more than 80 rooms and a relatively small car park. Therefore, I planned to arrive at the hotel early to ensure I got a parking space.

premier inn perth city centre exterior

However, my plans were thwarted by the SNP conference taking place that weekend in Perth. There must’ve been loads of delegates staying at the Premier Inn Perth City Centre as the car park was full when I arrived around 11am. Fortunately, I knew where to find free parking within a 20 minute walk of the city centre. As the conference ended later that day, I reckoned I’d be able to get into the car park after 5pm.

I checked into the hotel around 3pm. I was allocated a room on the ground floor facing the car park at the back of the building. I didn’t hear any noise from the car park. I thought that my room was lovely; spacious, fresh, comfy and well appointed.

premier inn perth city centre room

I took advantage of the 30 minutes of free WiFi to upload some photos. I can’t understand why Premier Inn are so mean with the tea and coffee supplies in the bedrooms. You only get two teabags and two sachets of Nescafe.

I’d highly recommend the Premier Inn Perth City Centre, especially if you can find a room for under £40.

Should I Buy a Bratislava City Card?

If you’re visiting the Slovakian capital, it’s worth investigating whether abuying a Bratislava City Card would save you money. The card costs 10 Euro for one day, 12 Euro for two days or 15 Euro for three days. (Prices valid June 2014).

The only things that are free if you have a Bratislava City Card are:

  • An one hour guided walking tour of the historic city centre
  • Public transport throughout the city
  • A demonstration of folk art production in the Exhibition and Retail Centre for Folk Art

bratislava city card

All other attractions offer discounts, varying from 5 -50%. This means that you need to decide which attractions you wish to visit and then check out the discount offered by the Bratislava City Card, to work out if you should buy the card.

As my hotel, the Danubia Gate, was close to the Old Town, I didn’t plan to use any public transport. I’m not keen on guided walking tours, as I prefer to go at my own pace. I wasn’t that interested in a folk art demonstration, thinking it might be a bit of a sales pitch.

I was in Bratislava for three nights equating to two full days. One of these days was a Monday, when all the museums are closed. I didn’t intend to visit more than a couple of museums anyway. I fancied visiting the Galleria Nedbalka, which exhibits modern art. However, the card only offered a 20% discount on the 4 Euro entry, which would have saved me 0.80 Euro. I also thought that I might take a sightseeing cruise on the Danube, when the card’s 15% discount on the 6 Euro ticket price would save me 0.9 Euro. The most significant reduction for places I wanted to visit in Bratislava was the 50% discount (3.25 Euro off) the 6.50 Euro price for the observation platform at the UFO on New Bridge.

UFO odservation tower

The UFO on New Bridge

Therefore, if I was to visit the Galleria Nedbalka, take a river sightseeing cruise and go up the UFO observation platform on the same day, I’d save 4.95 Euro by spending 10 Euro on a one day Bratislava Card.

I reckon that in order to save money by purchasing a one day Bratislava City Card, you’d need to be staying at a hotel outside the city centre, want to do the guided walking tour and visit at least three or four attractions that day.

If you have two to three full days, which don’t include a Monday, and intend to visit almost all the city’s museums and attractions, then a two or three day Bratislava City Card would make sense.

Bratislava Sighseeing Tips

Read my tips on 25 things to do in Bratislava.

Review of Airbnb Apartment near Barbican in London

I searched the Airbnb peer-to-peer accommodation website for a 2 night midweek stay in London in early December 2014. My budget was up to £75 a night, as Airbnb had given me a £150 credit to try out their site. My search criteria were quite restrictive, I was looking for a private room with an ensuite bathroom within a 30 minute walk of both King’s Cross station and Shoreditch High St a few days prior to my stay.

Fortunately I found a room that ticked all the boxes with availability, that was under budget at £115 for the two nights. The room was in a two bedroom apartment with a shared kitchen and living room in Goswell Road near the Barbican Centre.

Before booking I checked with the host that there were no pets and that is was no smoking accommodation. Once that was established, the host confirmed my booking within a few minutes.

Another attractive feature of that accommodation was that check-in and check-out times were flexible. This enabled me to walk straight to the apartment to drop off my case after my arrival into King’s Cross.

goswell rd exterior

Entrance to the apartment block in Goswell Rd

I didn’t meet the host in person, we communicated by messaging. The cleaning lady let me into the flat. I was happy with my room and its ensuite bathroom. It was warm, comfortable and very clean. I did hear some road noise when I was in bed at night, but that’s usually an issue from me in cities.

goswell rd bedroom

My bedroom

The WiFi was faster than our fixed line broadband at home. I was able to upload photos in a flash. The kitchen was really well equipped, not that I did any cooking, but it was handy to have access to a fridge and toaster.

goswell rd kitchen

The kitchen

The living room was so large that it could comfortably fit four sofas and a six seater table. There was Sky TV, but I didn’t use it.

goswell rd lounge

Living room

There was another Airbnb guest, an Austrian guy, in the other bedroom in the apartment. I chatted with him a few times in the kitchen.

I thought that £115 for two nights in an ensuite room in a central location with access to a lounge and a kitchen was excellent value for money, especially compared to hotel prices in London.

If you join Airbnb using this referral link, you’ll receive a credit of $25 (approx £16) which you can use when you make a booking for the value of at least $75 (approx £48), excluding any cleaning fee, within 30 days of the referral.

I’ll receive a $25 credit if you make a qualifying booking, and $75 credit if you sign up to become a host, after you’ve hosted your first qualifying stay.

Click here to read the full referral terms and conditions.

Finding a Good Deal on Accommodation in London

Finding a reasonably priced, centrally located and decent quality room in London can be a real challenge. I love visiting London as there’s so much to see and do. Much of it is free of charge, but accommodation can be a real budget buster.

the shard from the thame path

The Shard from the Thames Path

The cheapest hotel rooms that I’ve found have been by booking at non-refundable promotional rates months in advance for stays during low season. I’ve found January and August to be the best months for low prices. However, this only works if you plan your trip well in advance.  You also need to be quick off the mark, as the promotional rooms can sell out fast.

If you’re happy enough to share a dorm, you could stay in a hostel, but that’s not for me. Sometimes, if two people are travelling together, it can be cheaper to book a room in a budget hotel chain than two beds in a hostel.

There’s the option of arranging peer-to-peer accommodation through sites such as Airbnb and Couchsurfing. I wouldn’t want to sleep on a bed settee in my host’s living room. I’d prefer a private room and bathroom. In London, I prefer to stay in accommodation where there’s no host, as I usually have a itinerary and I’m not looking for company.

You can try a  hotel booking website such as TravelStay.com. I find that having lots of filters, e.g. the area, if there’s a left luggage facility, lift or free WiFi, allows you to more quickly pinpoint potential rooms. It’s not only the price that’s important. If I’m attending an event, I prefer to be within walking distance of the venue to make sure I get there on time.

Outside term time, you can find some bargains at university halls of residence. A couple of years ago, I stayed in an ensuite room at Prince’s Hall at Imperial College near Hyde Park for £39 a night.

princes hall imperial college

Room at Prince’s Hall, Imperial College

Sometimes you can find discount codes and vouchers to reduce the price of the hotel. There’s also the option of using cashback sites. However, as cashback is never guaranteed, it’s safer to use a discount code as the price reduction is applied before you make the booking.

I’ve tried last minute London hotel bookings where the name of the hotel is only revealed once you’ve made the booking. This has been a bit of a hit and miss for me. Sometimes it’s easy enough to work out the hotel you’ll book, but other times I’ve been caught out booking a hotel at which I wouldn’t have chosen to stay. I think that sometimes the original price quoted is unrealistically high to make the discount sound bigger.

Staying in an area just outside central London can save money. Last year I found a room for £32 a night at Travelodge Bethnal Green which is only a few stops on the Central Line into central London.

travelodge bethnal green room

Room at Travelodge Bethnal Green

Hopefully, if you follow some of my tips you can find a good deal on accommodation in London.

 

Evaluating UK Travel Options with GoEuro

We’ve been thinking of re-visiting Plymouth in Devon, in south west England, for some time. What’s put us off is the journey there.

plymouth hoe

Plymouth Hoe by Visentico/Sento

We prefer to take our car for trips within the UK. It costs a lot to own a car, so it makes sense to use it as much as possible, especially as we have an economincal diesel super-mini. However, it’s a pretty long drive down from Berwick upon Tweed to Plymouth and the roads in Devon get pretty congested.

Previously, I’d had a quick look at the option of travelling to Plymouth by train. There is a direct Cross Country train, but the return fare is often near enough £200, which seems excessive.

I decided to check out other options for the journey from Berwick upon Tweed to Plymouth in September on the GoEuro site, which searches through all available rail, bus and air routes.

goeuro

It’s cheaper to take the train via London, first travelling there by East Coast and then by First Great Western to Plymouth. But that increases the journey time from 8 hours to around 14 hours. I did think that with a flexible return ticket you could have at least one stopover in London. We could further reduce the train fare if we bought a Two Together railcard, which gives one third off most off-peak fares for two named passengers travelling together. Although this discount card costs £30,  we could save more than the cost on that one long trip.

I hadn’t considered flying, but GoEuro came up with flights from Newcastle upon Tyne to Bristol with easyJet. Surprisingly, even factoring in rail travel from Berwick upon Tweed to Newcastle and from Bristol to Plymouth, the cost was lower than undertaking the whole journey by train. The estimated journey length was around 14 hours, the same as travelling the whole way by train via London.

easyjet plane

I wasn’t very keen on that option. I thought that there was a higher chance of things going wrong with the increased number of connections, e.g. if the train to Newcastle was late and we missed the flight to Bristol, or if our arrival into Bristol was delayed and we missed the train to Plymouth.

The cheapest option was taking the coach via London, which again took around 14 hours. I thought that it was quite possible that there could be delays on the motorway, plus I didn’t really fancy spending so many hours on a coach. At least on a train you can walk around more.

In conclusion, I thought that trying to find the lowest fare for the direct Cross Country train would be my preferred option for travelling between Berwick upon Tweed and Plymouth.

Buying Hungrian Train Tickets Online

On our twin centre city break to Budapest and Prague with our sons, we decided to travel by train between two cities. I did an online search for tickets. Some third party sites which appeared in the result where charging more than 80 Euro for a ticket.

However on the Hungarian Rail website I was able to purchase ‘Spa Day’ tickets for only 19 Euro per person (approx £16 UK Pounds). The ‘Spa Day’ tickets have to be purchased at least three days in advance of your journey. They are available from twelve weeks before your date of departure.

There’s a guide on how to buy tickets on the Hungarian rail website, the process is rather clunky. Prices are given in Euro, but you pay in Hungarian Forint. I used my Halifax Clarity Card, which has no overseas transaction charges for purchases.

I was slightly nervous as you couldn’t print the tickets at home. The purchase confirmation email instructed me  to go to a blue e-ticket machine at a Hungarian railway station and enter my reference number to get the tickets printed.

budapest keleti railway station entrance

Main entrance to Budapest Keleti Rail Station

I decided to go and pick up the tickets at Budapest Keleti Station, our depature point, on our first day in the city. This also enabled us to find the best route for walking to the station for our departure a couple of days later.

We entered the station by a side entrance, so it took a while to find the blue e-ticket machine. However, if you use the main entrance to the station the machine is located to your right, just after entering the station, close to the information office.

budapest keleti station eticket machine

E-ticket machine at Budapest Keleti Station

The machine printed out one ticket for the four of us, plus a receipt.

rail ticket

‘Spa Day’ tickets from Budapest to Prague

Fortunately, everything went smoothly with the ticket pick up, but I’d have been a lot happer if I could’ve printed the ‘Spa Day’ rail tickets for our journey from Budapest to Prague at home.

Some Good Late Availability Deals on Travelzoo

If you’re looking for last minute deals, Travelzoo have some great offers. I’ve picked a few of my favourite late availability holidays from their site to give you an idea of what’s on offer, along with some of our tips for things to do in the various destinations. I’d advise you be ready to book as soon as you spot a deal that appeals to you, as the best offers can disappear fast.

Madeira from £399pp All Inclusive

levada madeira

Levada in Madeira by Rupert Ganzer

Travelzoo had a last minute seven night all inclusive to the Island of Madeira for £399, departing from Manchester on 31 March. The price included a 15kg luggage allowance per person.  One of our favourite things to do in Madeira was walking along the levadas, paths along irrigation channels in the mountains. The rock pools at Porto Moniz, on the northern coast of Madeira, are beautiful for a swim but can be a bit chilly.

Mallorca from £299pp Half Board

puerto de soller mallorca

 Puerto de Soller in Mallorca

The Travezoo £299 offer for half board in a 4 star hotel in Porto Cristo, on the the east coast of Mallorca, was appealing to me as there were flights from 14 airports, including Newcastle and Edinburgh, our two closest airports.  The price was also on offer for depatures from the end of September to mid October, as well as last minute from the start of April. I’d recommend a visit to Puerto Pollenca, Soller and Valdemossa when you’re in Mallorca.

Disneyland Paris from £670 for 2 Adults and 2 Kids

disneyland paris

Disneyland Paris by Tallapragada sriram

If you’ve kids or grandchildren and could depart on 5 April, a last minute short break to Disneyland Paris costs £670, based on two adults and up to two kids under the age of 7.  That price includes a Eurotunnel crossing for a car or van, 2 nights at the Davy Crockett Ranch Hotel, daily breakfast, lunch or dinner vouchers and three day park passes. Our twin sons loved Disneyland Paris and it’s featured in our ‘Paris Attractions for Kids“.

North Cyprus from £299pp Half Board

kyrenia north cyprus

Kyrenia in North Cyprus by Mark Smith

Althought I’ve been to Cyprus a few times, I’ve never visited the North. I thought that £299 for seven nights half board in a beach front resort, including flights from London Standsted or Manchester, plus transfers beween the airport and hotel and a 20kg luggage allowance per person, was really good value for money. I wish that there were flights to North Cyprus from our local airports.

Algarve from £399pp Half Board in a Historic Pousada

tavira algarve

Tavira in the Algarve

If you fancy staying in accommodation with character, what about a 19th century palace in the village of Estói on the Portugese Algarve, with daily dinner and breakfast? The price of £399 per person for a one week holiday includes flights from 9 UK airports as well as transfers between the destination airport and accommodation. It’s available on selected dates between 31 March to 15 May. My tips are to visit the nearby city of Faro, the pretty town of Tavira and have lunch at the Restaurante O Monteiro in Cabanas.

Deals selected from the Travelzoo last minue deals page on 18 March 2014.

Review of Travelodge London Woolwich

I stayed at Travelodge London Woolwich in December 2013. It cost £118 for a family room for four nights, which worked out at under £30 a night. It took me around an hour to get from King’s Cross to Woolwich Arsenal station via the Circle Line and the Docklands Light Railway (DLR). It was a five minute walk from Woolwich Arsenal Station to Travelodge London Woolwich. The Travelodge is located at the nothern end of Powis Street, one of the main shopping streets in the area. The building was the former Woolwich Co-operative HQ, originally constructed in 1903; the.attractive facade is now Grade 2 listed.

travelodge woolwich exterior

The lobby was bright and welcoming.

travelodge woolwich lobby

I could see some un-Travelodgesque touches of past grandeur inside the buliding, such as the decorative wrought iron work on the bannister.

travelodge woolwich banister

I was allocated a room in the main building; there’s a separate modern annexe at the back. My room was spacious with two windows. There were large trees outside the windows.The street outside was one way and I didn’t hear much traffic noise through the secondary double glazing.

travelodge woolwich view from my room

Travelodge has introduced a new look. The curtains now have light blue and red stripes with a matching throw on the bed. But the real improvement is the Dreamer beds, which are really comfortable.

All the staff which whom I had contact were helpful and friendly.

I was in London to attend the World Travel Market at Excel. I took me around 45 minutes to reach Excel on foot via the Woolwich Ferry from the Travelodge. Another day I took the DLR for two stops to London City Airport and then it was a 15 minute walk to Excel. Alternativelly, you can do the whole journey by DLR, with a change at Canning Town.

In summary, I was very happy with the standard of my room, the location and the value for money offered at the Travelodge London Woolwich.

Review of Artotel Berlin MitteKeep It Real Travel Review – No Fluff