I’m a big advocate of the humble city break. You get to explore somewhere new, experience a different culture, shop on another high street and try new foods. Most of the time, if you plan it right, you can do all of this without having to take more than a day or two off work.
City breaks are perfect if you’re a fan of the “little and often” travel approach as you get to plan lots of trips to look forward to, rather than one gigantic, expensive, blowout holiday. This can be particularly motivating if, like me, you always like to have something in the not so distant future to look forward to.
I’ve noticed, though, that city breaks sometimes get a bad rep for being expensive. They can be seen as synonomous with crap touristy restaurants and overpriced bus tours, but that really doesn’t have to be the case. Here are our top tips on how to plan a city break on the cheap…
This applies to both your location and your dates; if you’re desperate to visit Barcelona on a bank holiday weekend in the height of summer, chances are you’re going to pay over the odds. You’ll save money by travelling off season or by visiting lesser known destinations. My friends and I got an absolute bargain price on a weekend in Hamburg last summer – it wasn’t the trendiest place we could have visited but there was plenty to do and we had an amazing weekend! You’re also more likely to get a cheaper deal if you’re willing to travel midweek or at an awkward time of the day.
Make Skyscanner your best friend
Skyscanner is the most amazing tool to help you find cheap flights. If you’re set on a certain weekend you can change the destination to “everywhere” and it will show you where is cheapest to fly to on those dates, or if say, you really want to travel to Paris some time in May, it will help you choose the cheapest days to travel on. You can also set up price alerts which are great if you’re planning on booking some long distance flights and want to ensure you’re notified if and when the price drops.
Check out Airbnb
I honestly wouldn’t have been able to afford half of the city breaks I’ve been on in the past 3 years if it wasn’t for Airbnb. For anyone who isn’t familiar, you can basically rent other people’s homes or apartments, often for a fraction of the cost of a hotel in the city. New York, for example is a great place where Airbnb really pays off – we were able to stay on the hippest street in Williamsburg for a quarter of the price of the local boutique hotel. However, make sure you also compare hotel prices too – when we visited Oslo we found that it was cheaper to stay in a hotel than in one of the trendy Airbnb apartments.
Do your research
Have a little Google and try and work out average prices in different cities before you book anything. For example, flights to Prague might be more expensive than Sweden, but when you factor in the cost of accommodation/food/booze, you might be better off overall. I also like to look up any potential activities I might like to do in a given city so that I can factor this into my budget and decision making.
Ask the locals
One of the great things about the Internet and social media is that you can reach out to people in your destination of choice and ask for recommendations. I usually put a tweet out a few weeks before we travel to ask for any good restaurant and bar tips, or email any bloggers I know in the local area. Not only can this help to stop you from getting ripped off, but it will also help you to discover some real local gems that you won’t find in your guide book.
Do you have any city breaks planned this year?
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