Planning a holiday? Fancy a year packed with live entertainment? Or do you want to shop until you drop? We’ve rounded up some of the best places to find deals online for all of this and more, so you can have fun during your downtime without blowing your budget.
Getting there: the best travel deals
If you need to get from A-to-B, check out these sites and ideas for the very best travel deals:
If you’re booking a flight, Skyscanner compares millions of them, making it easy to find the cheapest deal. Skyscanner then sends you directly to the airline once you’ve found the flights you want. The site makes money through commission from partners and advertising, so it’s completely free for you to use and could save you a substantial amount on your next flight.
If you have a preferred airline, going direct to its website to book your next flight might save you some cash – depending on the airline. British Airways, for example, offers a Best Price Guarantee if you book direct.
…or Google Flights
With other airlines, you might find the cheapest prices can only be accessed through travel agencies, so it’s always worth comparing. Google Flights can be used to compare and track airfares on hundreds of airlines to find the best deals.
Try the Trainline
You can use Trainline to access cheaper rail fares in the UK and across 24 European countries. The site highlights the cheapest prices for advance rail bookings with a best fare finder that’s particularly useful if you can be flexible. You can also use the site to plan trips and check timetables.
Book well in advance
For train and plane travel, the days of the last minute cheap deal are all but gone. Booking well in advance can often provide the best prices. Train seats aren’t usually released until 12 weeks before travel, so set alerts to catch the best fares as soon as they become available (you can even set up a free ticket alert with Trainline).
Split your tickets
It might sound counterintuitive, but split tickets can save you money on a journey. When you split tickets, you buy two or more singles for different stages of the same journey. It’s completely legal, and train travellers have been known to save as much as 90% compared to booking one direct ticket. We recommend using the TrainSplit tool to find the best tickets. Simply plan your journey on their website and they will work out the cheapest split and non-split ticket options for your trip, and give you the option to purchase tickets.
Jump on a bus
Coach travel might not be as popular as it once was, but it gets you where you need to go at bargain prices. On Megabus intercity single tickets start at just £1 and you can travel right across the country, from Inverness to Falmouth, to Aberdeen and Brighton.
Be an easy driver
If you’re crossing the Channel, Eurotunnel may be a more cost effective choice than a ferry or Eurostar service. Quick and easy (you drive onto a train that takes you through the Channel Tunnel), you just pay for the vehicle, including up to nine passengers, so it’s great if you’re traveling with a large group or family. Another benefit is that because you’ll be on holiday with your car or camper van, you can cram it full of your holiday kit without paying for excess baggage! You can then look at further savings through budget-friendly self-catering, Airbnb and campsite options across Europe.
Get on your bike
If you have a bike – and a bit of spare time - it doesn’t have to cost a penny to get to where you’re going, and there are plenty of cost-effective cycle breaks to consider. Bikecation lists a wide range of cycling tours and holidays, and you can search from a budget of just £100-£299.
Stay there: the best holiday deals
Don’t book your summer break without checking through these top tips and holiday savings sites:
Pick a package
If flights to your preferred destination seem expensive, it’s worth looking into a package deal – they can sometimes be cheaper than flights, particularly if you’re going to a popular destination. Travel Supermarket is great for comparing package breaks with the big operators, or try the independent travel comparison site, Ice Lolly.
Visit the Holiday Pirates
If you’re keen on a flash sale, HolidayPirates started life as a blog, but now manually scours the web for the best deals and holiday flash sales. Check the site regularly for the latest bargains.
Start a conversation
If you see a dream holiday with a major provider, such as TUI or Thomas Cook, it might be worth contacting them on the phone to see if you can get a better price or deal. If you’re booking at the last minute, you can also try calling travel agents who specialise in late deals. If you’re brave enough to haggle, you could save a substantial amount.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, lastminute.com is still a great resource for holidays and hotels. Although the name would suggest it’s only good for last minute deals, you can find great prices on the site well in advance of your holiday dates. The Top Secret feature often yields the best results if you want luxury at a discount – and with some simple detective skills, you can usually work out which hotel the deal is for before you commit to booking.
Think about peer-to-peer accommodation
AirBnB is still the most popular site for booking peer-to-peer holiday lets – but it’s not the only option. You might find slightly cheaper prices at smaller sites including FlipKey, which is owned by TripAdvisor, and Homestay, where you actually stay in your host’s home (and breakfast is always included).
You might think cruises are going to be hugely expensive, but there are deals to be had - and simple cost cutting, such as booking an inside cabin, equals big savings. Plus, with your accommodation and food (and sometimes drinks packages, as part of a special offer) included, you might not need to put your hand in your pocket during your holiday. Cruisedeals.co.uk is a handy resource if you fancy a break on the ocean waves.
Carry on camping
Camping has always been a great option for holidays on a tight budget – and thanks to the ‘glamping’ phenomenon, you can forget the days of mess tins and lumpy sleeping mats. Try Love Glamping for affordable ideas and inspiration across the country, from a converted horsebox on the Surrey/Sussex border to a wigwam, complete with hot tub, in Perthshire.
Time for fun: the best entertainment and leisure deals
On your holidays, evenings and weekends, immersing yourself in entertainment and culture is a joyous thing – and it doesn’t have to break the bank:
Get thrifty theatre
If you love theatre, there are a number of ways to access cheap tickets. In London, Theatre Monkey and LOVEtheatre are tried and trusted sites for good West End deals. Locally, sign up to your nearest theatre’s mailing list for advance deals and discounted tickets. There are also theatre clubs you can join to access free or heavily discounted tickets for last minute previews or plays and shows that haven’t sold out. These sites tend not to advertise, so you’ll need to search the web and be prepared to join a waiting list for membership. Find out even more on discounted theatre shows in our handy guide.
Love live music
Local events are much cheaper to attend than gigs by bigger acts and just as satisfying for music fans but, if you love the spectacle of a stadium or arena show, try buying direct from venues to save money. Shopping around if tickets are available from more than one outlet makes sense, and SeatChoice can help by comparing prices for theatre and concert tickets. Don’t miss our guide to buying cheap concert and gig tickets for other ways to save.
Cut the price of cinema
If you’re a big fan of films, cinema membership, loyalty cards are often the easiest ways to save. Odeon is just one of many which offers schemes that can save you money. The Premiere Club is a loyalty system that generates 10 points for every pound you spend on tickets and snacks, and you can then spend your points in the cinema; or, if you’re a frequent film-goer, the Limitless membership scheme starts at £17.99 a month for unlimited 2D screenings in Odeon cinemas.
Consider fringe and local theatre
For even bigger savings, pub theatre, stand-up comedy, fringe shows and independent cinemas offer brilliant deals and savings. Your local paper should have listings for events near you, or check local pub and theatre websites for mailing list options. Reparatory cinemas, including the Prince Charles Cinema in London’s West End, offer great value memberships, special events at affordable prices and double bill screenings for the price of one ticket.
Grab a voucher
Great for inspiration, as well as savings, entertainment voucher sites come in very handy when you’ve got some free time on your hands. Using ‘collective buying power’ to harness great deals, LivingSocial offers its members local and national experiences, with a focus on sports, music and theatre. Part of the same family, Wowcher offers deals on everything from spa days to tours and theatre tickets.
If a session at the gym is your idea of down time, getting a membership at your local leisure centre is usually much cheaper than joining a gym. Look out for special introductory offers and pop in to chat to the sales team to see if they can offer you any extra discounts in person. For more fitness inspiration and even bigger savings, check out our getting fit for free guide.
Tuck in: the best foodie deals
Whether you’re a burger fan or fine dining is your thing, you can access great deals at restaurants anywhere in the world:
In the local deals section of Travelzoo, you’ll find a good collection of foodie deals and experiences across the UK. The site also offers members the chance to ‘double-up’ on savings by pairing a meal with a concert or theatre ticket.
Book a table
OpenTable works with over 40,000 restaurant partners worldwide offering reservations and a reward scheme (OpenTable Rewards). Tastecard is another popular scheme offering big savings at popular restaurants. Look out for free or discounted trial periods so you can make sure it’s worth your while before committing to the monthly membership fee.
Dine in on the cheap
If you fancy a takeaway, Just Eat and Hungry House are dependable apps – and you can filter search results by special offer to find the best prices on the cuisine you fancy. To snag the biggest bargains, save your leftovers for another meal and keep an eye out for those weekly letterbox leaflets, as they could include discounts on your favourite takeaways. Don’t forget though that the best way to save is to recreate your favourite takeaway meals yourself, which will help you save on delivery and be a lot healthier.
If you’re a keen cook, there’s no need to eat out every week. Rather than looking for restaurant deals, switch to daily food shops and check out the reduced aisle for marked down meat, fish and fresh veg. As well as being kind to your bank account, daily shopping is also more efficient (and eco-friendly) as you’re less likely to succumb to bulk discounts, or to buy excess food that goes off in the fridge.
Buy for less: the best shopping deals
Whether you’re at home or on holiday, making savings when you’re shopping is always welcome – here’s how to sniff them out:
Keep a sales diary
Keep an eye on your favourite brands to see when a sale is coming up. If you’re interested in high street sales generally, Money Saving Expert publish a dedicated sales diary.
Research duty free
Not all duty free is cheaper than the high street, so do some research before you travel, to suss out the genuine bargains. In the airport, cosmetics and perfume, and some alcohol offers, tend to be better than supermarkets or the high street on price.
When you’re away, your everyday credit or debit card may impose steep fees and charges for overseas use - find out before you travel what these charges will be. Carrying cash can be risky, and travellers cheques can feel a bit old-fashioned, but you can get prepaid cards, designed specifically for overseas use, that you load up before travelling and can use to make purchases and withdraw cash. There are still fees charged, so make sure you compare as many options as possible: the Post Office offers a secure, prepaid Travel Money Card that stores up to 13 currencies and links to a mobile app so you can top-up, check your balance and view recent transactions.
When you’re away, exchange rates make a big difference to the price of the products you purchase: make sure you have an app, such as Easy Currency Converter on your phone, so you can quickly check out the at-home cost of anything you buy.
Cashback credit cards
Credit cards often give cashback to their customers when they make a purchase. With some credit card providers, this is offered on payments at specific retailers, others offer cashback wherever you shop. If you’re planning a shopping spree, find out if cashback is available with your credit card provider – but do bear in mind that cashback credit cards only make good financial sense if you pay your credit card bill off in full every month.
Wherever you are in the world, plan ahead by checking out which brands have stores or concessions in the place you’re going shopping. Then stalk them on social media via their official accounts to be the first to find out what deals, special offers and discounts they’ve got in the pipeline.
Finding the best cash saving deals has never been easier!