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How to travel on a budget during a global pandemic

When asked what people value most and want to spend their money on travel nearly always tops the list. But it doesn’t have to break the bank and it is possible to travel on a budget, even during a global pandemic.

Searches for holidays have increased significantly while travel has been restricted, making this a particularly relevant post. It’s true we always want what we can’t have right?

Whether or not you want to go on a holiday this year is a personal decision. I ran a quick Twitter poll – clearly a very accurate form of research… – and the responses were pretty evenly split between wanting to go abroad, to go away within the UK and not wanting to go away at all.

Therefore, it seems a lot of people are hoping to get away in some form this year.  If you are one of these people, here are some tips and tricks to travel on a budget and avoid potential hidden costs.

Do you want to travel on a budget?

In this post I will cover:

  • Transport costs
  • Insurance
  • Quarantine rules
  • Staycation
  • Deals
  • The 75% VAT cut

Transport

Transport is one of the big costs in any holiday and can rack up your expenses very quickly.

But now may be your best opportunity to get cheap flights, if you rate your chances of being able to travel this year.

According to flight comparison website Skyscanner, a return trip from London to Milan this August could cost you as little as £18, compared with the average cost of £105 for the past two Augusts.

There is a risk to booking flights at the moment as by the time your holiday comes around you may not be able to fly. Check the cancellations policy of the airline your booking with carefully to ensure you’ll be entitled to a full refund or an exchange if your flight is cancelled.

One website that is great if you’re looking to travel on a budget flights is Scotts Cheap Flights. Once registered you will receive email alerts about flights up to 90% off their normal price.

If you want to get more alerts and a greater range of deals on flights, you can sign up for their premium service for $49 a year – a good deal if you fly regularly.

Don’t want to fly?

It’s also possible to go on holiday without flying. A convenient option for many in the UK is the Eurostar, particularly if you live near London or Kent.

If you book in advance or are flexible with dates and times, you can get tickets from as little as £25 and find yourself in Paris, Amsterdam and other locations in a matter of hours.

Whether you’re searching for flights or trains, one thing you must do is turn off your cookies. Some companies will increase their prices if they know you’re viewing flights more than once, making the great deal you found 10 minutes ago not so great after all.

Another option is to drive. Arguably the most practical option at the moment, driving can offer you total flexibility and can be a lot cheaper. There are hidden costs to driving but given you would have most of the costs of running a car anyway, your only main expense should be fuel.

Insurance

This is where you may struggle. A lot of companies are simply not offering insurance or not covering you for a pandemic, which is probably your biggest risk at the moment.

Some people choose to risk it and travel without insurance. I would strongly advise against this as if something goes wrong you could end up in serious trouble and debt. If you can’t get insurance for a certain destination, try looking at somewhere else to go or consider cancelling your trip.

When searching for insurance, try price comparison sites like Compare the Market. These show you a range of options but also come with added perks like Meerkat Meals and Movies which can get you 2for1 deals for a whole year.

Quarantine

We’ve seen that the government is not afraid to impose 2 week quarantines on arrivals from certain countries, having caused upset this week by announcing a quarantine on those returning from Spain with less than 24 hours’ notice.

If you still choose to travel to a country which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is advising against travelling to, you may well invalidate your insurance. You may have accepted the quarantine and not worry about the virus risk, but you will also not be covered against any other accident or illness. For example, if you fall and break your leg, you will have to cover your medical expenses and could even need to pay repatriation costs if you require special assistance to return home.

You should also consider your work situation. If you cannot work from home, how will your employer react if you end up having to quarantine for 2 weeks when you return from holiday? Your rights will depend on your individual contract

Additionally, with the job market being unstable at the moment, it is worth considering if you want to risk annoying or inconveniencing your employer.

More information about your rights as an employee and an employer can be found here.

Staycation

A lot of people are looking to stay in the UK to avoid potential quarantines and avoid flying. A staycation can be a great way to travel on a budget and there’s so many amazing places to visit in the UK. However, you have to be careful as the costs can quickly mount up. You can end up spending more than you would’ve done going abroad.

Camping, or glamping – if like me the thought of sleeping on the floor of a tent isn’t too appealing to you – can be a lot cheaper than staying in a traditional hotel. Self-catering can also help you to travel on a budget rather than eating at restaurants every meal.

Deals

If you’re travelling in the UK you could benefit from the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. This gives you 50% (up to £10) off your food and non-alcoholic drinks Monday to Wednesday throughout August. If you really want to take advantage of this deal you could split your meal between two places and get money off in both.

You can find which restaurants and bars are participating in your chosen destination here.

A lot of places offer midweek discounts to avoid having too many empty rooms during quieter times. This usually doesn’t apply during August, but, as things are a bit different this year, it may be worth looking to see if any hotels are offering cheaper midweek rates.

There are also always deals available online on sites like secretescapes.com and lastminute.com. It is worth checking these sites regularly as new offers are added all the time. You may well be rewarded for holding off and booking just before you go.

VAT cut

The government has cut VAT on hospitality businesses from 20% to just 5%. This won’t necessarily mean prices are reduced. These businesses have lost a lot of income in the past few months and may use the cut to cover some of these losses. But some firms may transfer this cut onto customers, particularly if they’re struggling to attract guests.

This may mean there’s some cheaper rates available, meaning it’s worth shopping around to check if there’s any good deals.

It’s also worth remembering that the VAT cut applies to all hospitality businesses. Even if your accommodation isn’t cheaper, you may find restaurants or bars have lowered their prices. This will make the overall cost of your holiday less.

I hope you found these tips useful and it helps you to travel on a budget more easily. For more budgeting tips check out my top four summer saving tips.

If you found this post interesting, please like it and share across social media or send it to your friends. I’d also love to hear your thoughts and experiences, so please do leave a comment! Are you hoping to get away this summer? What are you top budgeting tips for holidays?

By The Twenty Percent

Hi I'm Katie and I use my blog to help young people take control of their personal finances.

14 replies on “How to travel on a budget during a global pandemic”

Good point about the 2-week quarantine. If you aren’t working remotely, it seems silly to risk this, as employers might get upset. Not a good idea in the current job environment – a staycation seems the best option.
I had to fly this summer to see my family in Switzerland, as I wouldn’t have been able to visit them all year otherwise. However, I would have gladly paid double the cheap airfare to avoid having to sit on a crowded plane, squeezed between two other people. If it weren’t for my family, I would have avoided flying for sure. There’s so much to see in England, and I bet most of us don’t know the country as well as we should, even if we’ve been living there for a long time!

That’s my thinking!
I would travel too if I had family abroad, but luckily mine are all very close by.
Very true that most of us don’t explore England too, I’m trying to get out and explore more myself!

We can easily budget for domestic travels or road trips. But with international travel at this time, drastic changes are expected that will incur additional costs. Appreciate for the helpful links you shared!

Thanks for these tips! I wish my country was big enough for road trips to be possible. For now, I’m just gonna contend with reading travel blogs, and dreaming of sipping wine in an Australian winery or something. I use skyscanner and expedia as well, but I didn’t know about the need to disable cookies. Thanks once again for sharing!

I for one would not want to travel abroad right now because I don’t want to spend time in quarantine. Also I really want to cut down on non-essential travels for now. But I do want to do staycation. I am raring to go on a staycation! Waiting for hotels here in the Philippines to open up again and for the cases of COVID-19 to go down. I don’t think I’d want to go anywhere til that happens.

Some great tips here! I’m thinking about booking a UK mini break soon so will consider some of your points 🙂

I’m not planning a trip anywhere soon (abroad or within the U.S.) because of the increase in cases here and just general concerns about keeping my husband safe (he is extremely high-risk) but I like the idea of visiting local parks when there are very few people around just to get a but of good weather. If this ever all sorts itself out, your tips are very useful for when we can travel. Thanks for sharing!

Great post about travelling on a budget. I love that you have highlighted the quarantine rule and how it was implemented with very little notice. I also have no desire to sleep on the floor of a tent.
Thanks for sharing
Mrs D

Great tips!! It’s really a blessing web you can travel on a budget and stick with it. I won’t be traveling overseas for a while but the tips on staying local are great and helpful.

Thanks for sharing.

These are some great pointers. My boyfriend and I are planning either a UK road trip or potentially travelling on the Eurotunnel and taking a road trip of France at the moment – both of which are slightly less risky than flying and safer too. We’ll see how it pans out. Thanks for sharing your advice!

Paige // Paige Eades

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