How to take a super-low budget holiday

From pet sitting and home swaps to planning ahead, be flexible and grab the best deals … fast

Look after other people’s pets

Your holiday dreams may have been put on hold as household bills soar but there are creative ways to book a break on a super-low budget if you are willing to think outside the box.

If you are an animal lover, for example, you could sign up to a house-sitting website that enables you to stay for free in homes around the world. All you need to do is look after other people’s pets and homes. Websites such as TrustedHousesitters and Nomador match you with people who need someone to care for their pets and property while they are away. (If house-sitting abroad, it’s important to check in advance whether a work visa may be required in the destination country.)

You will typically pay an annual fee for unlimited house sits. For example, TrustedHousesitters charges from £99 a year, and if you don’t secure any sits within 14 days of making your fifth application you will get your money back.

Two dogs playing with a ball on the beach
Have you considered caring for someone’s pets as a way to get away for a break and save money? Photograph: dageldog/Getty Images

Home swaps

If you are willing to let strangers stay in your home, try one or more of the house swap websites. You will typically get a free trial period lasting a few weeks, so you can see what homes are on offer. You will then pay about £100 a year for as many home swaps as you like. Check out Love Home Swap, HomeLink and Guardian Home Exchange.

You will usually need to list your home’s details first, and then you can search for accommodation wherever you want to go on holiday. If you can find a week that suits you when your host is also away, you can sort out your home swap. You may get access to a car, too, so you don’t have to pay car rental costs.

Some sites such as Love Home Swap enable you to earn points by letting people stay in your home. These points can then be spent by staying at other members’ homes around the world. This may mean you can travel without having to match your plans with another member.

Another big advantage of a home swap is that you will have access to a kitchen. Making your own meals can dramatically cut the costs of a trip.

Colorful houses in Wimereux, France
Colourful houses in France. Decide where you want to go on holiday, then browse home swap websites. Photograph: George Pachantouris/Getty Images

Be flexible on flights

Many flight prices have risen sharply but there are still ways to get a deal. Start by using one of the flight price comparison sites. Check out Kayak, Momondo, Skyscanner, Google Flights, Dohop and Some cover more airlines than others, so it is worth searching a few and comparing prices for the same flight.

If you are really flexible, try searching anytime and anywhere to get the cheapest options, and plan from there.

Consider the time of year for where you want to travel, too, and plan ahead if you can. January, for example, is usually the cheapest time to fly to Barcelona.

Skyscanner has a simple tool that shows how far in advance to search for flights to specific destinations for a rock-bottom deal.

Aeroplane silhouette landing at an airport during sunset.
Weigh up the cheapest times to travel to your favoured destination. Photograph: Skorzewiak/Alamy

Sign up for discounts

You can get hefty discounts on flights by signing up to Jack’s Flight Club newsletters. You receive an email every few days with the best deals and details of airline sales. At the time of writing, it was showing return flights from – for example – Manchester to Goa for £212.

You could also try Travelzoo, Hotukdeals and HolidayPirates for flight and holiday deals but you will need to book quickly.

Meanwhile, try signing up to get money back on travel offers from cashback websites such as TopCashback and Quidco. For example, TopCashback was, at the time of writing, offering 10% cashback on bookings made through Expedia.

However, Vix Leyton, a consumer expert at Hotukdeals, says: “Resorts and hotels are desperate to swerve aggregators, so it’s also worth trying to deal direct if you find a bargain. As well as the potential for a cheaper price, they may offer you anything from credits to spend on-site to free breakfast.”

Stay in hostels and bothies

There are plenty of comfortable hostels around the world that appeal to travellers of all ages. Many offer private rooms, facilities such as swimming pools and breakfast included for often super-low prices. Search the Hostelworld and YHA websites for budget travel options around the globe.

The cheapest option if you are an adventurous traveller, or going on a walking holiday, is to camp. However, if you are not a fan of camping, or you are looking for cheap stays in remote places, you could try the Mountain Bothies Association.

Youth hostel YHA sign in Lake District
The YHA website can give you budget holiday options. Photograph: Alamy

Travel by train, ferry or coach

Jane Hawkes, the founder of the consumer rights website Lady Janey, says: “Consider travelling by train, ferry, car or coach instead of flying abroad.” Sleeper trains can offer comfortable overnight travel to your destination for a fraction of the cost, she adds.

You can travel through Europe on overnight trains. For example, you can go from Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam to Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Check out Nightjet’s routes and the Man in Seat Sixty-One for suggested routes and to start planning your trip.

Hawkes says: “If you’re heading for France or Belgium, check out the latest deals and offers on the Channel tunnel and ferry crossings. FlixBus offers cheap bus travel across Europe, and tickets for travelling with Eurotunnel cover your vehicle and up to nine passengers.”

You can compare ferry prices at Direct Ferries before booking directly with the ferry operator.

Kos island beach in the vicinity of Kefalos, Greece
A beach on the Greek island of Kos. Photograph: FTiare/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Opt for a package deal

Choosing a package deal that includes travel and accommodation is one of the easiest ways to cut costs. Sites such as TravelSupermarket and Kayak are simple places to start your search.

Meanwhile, you can set your budget, dates and departure airport on LuckyTrip if you are open to suggestions that will include your flights, accommodation and activities.

For example, at the time of writing, LuckyTrip was advertising a seven-night all-inclusive holiday in Kos, Greece, for £500 a person, based on a family room sleeping two to four people.

If you book a package holiday you don’t have to eat at the hotel and take a particular flight. They can simply be a good way of getting a rock-bottom deal, and come with consumer protection under the Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018.

Make use of free tours

Navigating your way around a new city is exciting but it can also be time-consuming when you are using maps and guide books. You could make use of free walking tours in the world’s biggest cities. Check out for options in scores of countries including Spain, Canada and Japan.

By doing some careful planning it is still possible to escape to sunnier climes and have a great holiday when costs are soaring.

• This article was amended on 22 May 2023. Text was added to clarify that, before travelling abroad, potential house-sitters should check whether the destination country may require a work visa.


Harriet Meyer

The GuardianTramp

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