âCheap meals and dangerously affordable cocktailsâ: readersâ budget holiday tips | Travel
Eco camping in Suffolk
In July we took our trusty supermarket-bargain tent to Lingâs Meadow, a small eco-campsite near the Norfolk-Suffolk border, for a short but fabulous break. Each spacious pitch has its own picnic bench and fire pit. Eco-conscious facilities include composting toilets and solar-powered lighting and shower. Waking up to the call of a yellowhammer and turning in to the screech of a barn owl was my idea of bliss. Itâs a great base for exploring, including Knettishall Heath, the Suffolk Wildlife Trustâs largest reserve, just five miles away. We plan to return to Lingâs Meadow next summer.
Pitch for two Â£28, lingsmeadow.co.uk
Cycle-camping across Scottish lochs
Where is the furthest you can cycle? After a short train ride to Loch Lomond, I cycle-camped 100 miles across three lochs (Venachar, Earn and then Tay) in Scotland ending up in picturesque Pitlochry. Though I had issues with my bike, I paid nothing as bike repair stations were dotted along the route. Wild camping is legal across Scotland, so we paid nothing for that either. The biggest expense became some celebratory drinks in Pitlochryâs Old Mill Inn followed by the train journey home. A word of warning: try to reserve a place for your bike on trains in northern Scotland. The cheapest holidays involve not paying for hotels, but the freest involve no car travel!
Polish classic â WrocÅaw
A long weekend in WrocÅaw has been my cheeriest holiday to date â how could exploring a city full of tiny gnomes not be? We had to squeeze three daysâ worth of clothes into a small bag, and our room rattled with the morning trams, but no matter! Street art, beautiful architecture and green spaces made wandering the city a (free) joy. Excellent, cheap food was easy to find, from freshly baked pastries to Polish classics. A trip to the flea market sorted souvenirs, and we finished our evenings with (dangerously) affordable cocktails and local beer.
Leisurely pedalling, Cotswolds
A cheap and cheerful Cotswolds holiday by bicycle was brilliant for my family last summer, especially as the weather was so dry and warm. The distances between villages are just enough for a leisurely pedal, and the youth hostels are a great option at about Â£25 a night for a dorm bed or a simple family room. No need to check news about petrol costs, strikes or gridlocked motorways. Picnics from local shops and farms allowed us to eat what we wanted for lunch without anxiety about bills or service charges. Plus we came back fitter and more energised than normal after a trip.
Interrailing again after 50 years
Fifty years after doing Europe on the cheap by Interrail as a student, I decided it was time to repeat the experience as a senior citizen last summer. The seven days in a month for over-60s is still a steal at just under Â£300. The trains are more comfortable than some of the rattlers from the 1980s and you still save money on hotels by taking exotic-sounding night trains such as Vienna-Venice or Paris-Barcelona. The latter left at midnight and we were enjoying coffee and churros on La Rambla at 7am the next day without spending Â£70 on a hotel. Some ferries are included too, making the Greek Islands doable!
Frugal Seychelles â yes, really
Seychelles is not a place renowned for budget holidays, but it is possible to be frugal. My top tip is to get around the main island, MahÃ©, by bus. It will cost you 12 rupees (73p), whereas a private chauffeur will set you back at least â¬150. They come every half hour but there are stops all the way around the small island. The superb beaches are free! sptc.sc/timetable
We stayed on Mersea Island recently, which was an absolute joy just a train ride away from London. Our week was filled with walks on uncrowded beaches littered with pearlescent oyster shells and lined with delightful crayon-coloured beachside huts, eating lobster on the beach for Â£20. Thereâs even a vineyard to visit.
My best tip would be to use homeexchange.com. We have a reciprocal exchange with a family in Galicia in late September swapping cars and all the comforts of a home away from home. Have had over 40 swaps and holidays in San Francisco, Arkansas, New Zealand, Australia, Ireland, France (various), Spain, and have a month-long stay coming up in South Africa in November. Our New Zealand exchangers rescued us for four extra weeks when stranded at the outbreak of Covid. Itâs a great community: give it a try.
North Yorkshire hostelling
YHA Hawes is a fabulous place to stay whatever group size you are travelling with. The Yorkshire Dales location offers superb views from the lounge and dining area, the small town is a few metres away, with pubs and shops. Friendly staff really make the stay complete. There are private rooms with en suites and shared rooms, all reasonably priced.
Winning tip: Talk your way to a free stay in Spain
Iâll never forget spending a week in rural Spain, simply chatting. I made lifelong friends, laughed until my face ached and immersed myself in Spanish culture, all for the price of a cheap flight. Week-long English immersion programmes throughout Spain are always looking for fluent English speakers of all ages and backgrounds. In return for your conversation, youâll have your own room in a smart hotel and eat delicious Spanish food. Stay close to the rugged Sierra MÃ¡gina national park, home to vultures and eagles, or the hot springs of Jaraba, near Zaragoza. No teaching experience is required, just a love of talking.