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Tony Levene is a renowned financial journalist, who has previously been a columnist for Guardian Money. He has written several books, including 'Investing for Dummies' and won the ABI Lifetime Achievement award and the Headline Money award.


Affordable travel ideas

Remember the staycation – the stay-at-home holiday that was all the rage a year or two ago? The idea was to beat the economic blues by taking a vacation in the UK.

You didn't have to worry about the steep fall in the value of the pound which made holidaying in Europe and North America so expensive. During the first year or so of the financial crisis, sterling dropped by at least a quarter against the euro and the US dollar– the two top currencies for overseas holidays making everything in those countries substantially more expensive. And you could avoid all that airport hassle as well.

It was and still is a great idea. The UK has more variety in scenery, attractions and food than almost any other comparably sized country.

But it came with two glaring disadvantages; the weather and high costs. The weather needs no explanation – sitting on a beach with your scarf on is not most people's idea of fun.

Our hotels are amongst the most expensive while the portions in our restaurants are among the meanest so you need more courses. It can be cheaper to fly to Greece or Portugal than to buy a second class peak train ticket from Manchester to London.

Quotation MarksBritish holiday companies push up prices during school holidays including half term breaks – it's supply and demand, they say.Quotation Marks

And because the pound has perked up a little since its all time lows in 2009, prices abroad are not so offputtingly steep
in general.

They can still be steep enough, however. So if your vacation budget has tightened this year, here's some ideas to make your pounds go further.

Substitute a weak currency country for a strong one

One example is visit Turkey instead of Greece. Turkey has much the same climate, beaches, antiquities such as open air theatres and temples, similar food and drink. Fares are roughly the same as well. Turkey is cheaper than eurozone Greece but by how much is unclear – Greek holiday businesses have been cutting costs to compete (and the same is true for eurozone Portugal and Spain). For a no-frills low cost beach holiday, try Bulgaria.

For city holidays, the same substitution can apply. Unless your heart is set on Vienna, try Budapest where prices are around a third cheaper, thanks to the fast falling forint (the Hungarian currency) than in the eurozone Austrian capital. The two cities are similar in architecture, culture and cuisine. And for a really unusual holiday, try Iceland where prices have taken a fall since its financial crisis. Sterling has also strengthened against the Egyptian currency – but there are factors other than cost.

Reduce the length of your holiday

People traditionally take two weeks for a main holiday but while some love it, others are bored by the end. Eight or ten days may be fine – that could leave money over for a weekend break or two somewhere else. There has been a trend over the past decade or so to shorter vacation but more of them. And if your idea of holiday heaven is doing nothing in a beach resort, why go long-haul? You'll spend more time travelling, and you could get jet-lagged.

Travel off-peak

Don't read this if you have school age children, but many holidays booked in the UK are far less expensive in term time, often by as much as a third. The weather in many parts of Europe is better in June or September than
July and August.

Avoid booking in the UK

British holiday companies push up prices during school holidays including half term breaks – it's supply and demand, they say. But many countries have different holiday patterns outside of summer and Christmas. Americans don't regard Easter as a “holiday” period in the way we do and they don't have half term either. So booking direct avoids any UK imposed price hikes.

Consider all-Inclusive holidays

You can budget for major holiday expenses such as travel and hotels but it's all those little extras such as drinks, and restaurant meals that can bust the bank balance. All inclusive, where you can have limitless food and drink at no extra cost, has been fast growing in popularity, especially for more distant destinations. You know what the holiday will cost, you don't have to worry about foreign exchange rates and children will be happier, knowing they don't have to ask for every ice cream.

For further tips and advice, please see our quick guide (PDF).

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