Whether you’ve just caught me on Channel 4’s ‘Holidays Secrets: Is Last Minute Best?‘ or have stumbled across me another way, let me take a moment to say hello, my name is Chelsea and I’m a bit obsessed with searching for cheap holidays.
First things first, make sure you’re following me on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube for loads of cheap holiday tips.
I’ve got a new site in development at the moment so for now, let me show you a few posts that may help you save money on your next holiday.
You can also check out some discounts on your favourite brands here too!
I also do a weekly holiday hotline on Instagram where I ask you guys to submit your requests and then I go in search of the best deal for you.
You can check out the findings of my last hotlines here.
I also love capturing my own cheap holidays over on YouTube.
Remember to come and follow me over on Instagram for more holiday hotlines and a chance for your request to get answered for free!
And if you want to support what I do, come and check out my Patreon for extra perks like hotel upgrade templates and holiday itinerary planners!
Top tips for cheap summer holidays
Book your flights sooner rather than later
Long gone are the days when you could rock up to the airport on the day and ask for a cheap flight. The stats show that flights costs almost always go up in the last week before travel – and that’s before even taking into account travelling at peak times.
The fact is that the summer holidays are always going to be popular travel times and so waiting for the price to drop is always going to be a tricky game.
My advice is if the price is an ‘typical to lower’ than the average cost, then book knowing that you will have spent less than more than half of the people on your flight.
You can find this out by popping your flights into Google Flights, selecting them and looking out for their helpful price bar (though remember to check the flights on Skyscanner too as they can often be even cheaper!).
Hopper is also a good app that uses stats to predict whether it’s the right time to book.
Book a hotel with a good cancellation policy and then check for last minute deals
The good news is that it is still possible to score a last minute deal when it comes to your accommodation – hotels do not like leaving rooms empty and so last minute price slashes are known even in peak times.
However, there is an element of risk here and so a good way to get around that is to book a hotel with a good cancellation policy early. Some hotels will offer this as standard.
Then, closer to your holiday you can scour to check for last minute bargains and cancel your original booking if you find a deal.
Book a holiday rental insteadof a hotel
Whether it’s an apartment or villa with pool, the great thing about a holiday rental is how much money you can save by buying food, drinks and snacks for the duration of your stay!
If you want an Airbnb or villa, book early
Whilst many owners do higher their costs for peak times, some just have a basic rate that runs across the whole year. However, to find these cheap deals you’re going to have to get in and book early before someone else does.
And remember, if you haven’t used Airbnb before, you can get £25 off your first booking here!
If you want an Airbnb or villa and have left it late, get ready to haggle!
Similar to hotels, Airbnb hosts don’t want their place going empty so put an offer in instead!.
Read my full guide on how to haggle on Airbnb here – there’s even a template email to send!
Booking a package holiday? Do it yourself for less!
One of my favourite things to do is to use package holiday sites as a springboard for my own searching. If they’re advertising a mega deal, before you hit ‘click’, have a search for the flights on Skyscanner and accommodation on Trivago to see if you could do it cheaper – often you can!
What I also like about this is that it’s a simple way to discover cheaper flights to popular destinations and then you could always swap out their chosen hotel for something more you, or perhaps even a villa or an apartment.
Do bear in mind that if you’re booking your flight and accommodation separately you will not get the ATOL or ABTA insurance offered by most package holiday companies so make sure you’ve got travel insurance and buy on a credit card or a visa debit card for added payment protection on purchases over £100. Read up on more ways to protect yourself here.
House sit for free accommodation
Did you know that you can bag free accommodation by looking after someone’s house, watering their plants or even feeding their pets? I’ve done it twice and it is amazing.
There’s also a list of alternative ways to whittle down that price at the end too.
Get £25 off by booking with cashback
This isn’t supposed to be part of the work I’ve been recently doing with Quidco but I thought I would highlight here that you can get a £25 bonus plus cashback by signing up to Quidco and spending £250 on travel before 9th Feb 2020 by using this link.
Visit a non traditional summer holiday destination
Yes, I’m sure you’d to relax at the beach but if you’re really after a great value holiday, I’d recommend heading inland or to a city. As there’s less demand for these destinations, you could end up finding a much better deal and just because it’s not by the sea doesn’t mean you can’t score yourself a hotel with a pool!
Fly inland and travel to the coast another way
If you’re really gagging for that beach holiday try flying inland instead – big capital cities that aren’t on the coast are normally a good shout as there’s lots of flights going there – and then look at either taking the train or driving to the coast.
Whilst not a beach destination, we once took a 2 hour train in Italy to get between Rome and Perugia and it cost just £10 each and was a lush way to travel (though that may have something to do with the bottle of prosecco we took on board…)
The great thing about summer holidays is that it’s warm and you really don’t need to pack much. Make a clothes plan before you go away and stick to it. Use a big fabric backpack (this is what I use) that you’ll be able to use for flights with even the crappest allowances. If travelling in a group, book a suitcase between you for liquids if you really need them or order your liquids through click and collect at a Boots after security. Yep, THIS IS A THING!
I used to pack LOADS but now I love going travelling light – give it ago on your next holiday!
Not sure where you’re going to go? Use clever search enginetools
When you just want to get away, there are loads of search engine hacks that can help you spot a cheaper fare.
My favourite is the Ryanair fare finder which allows you to select date ranges. DREAMY.
WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE ELSE DO THIS??!!
Other search engines have great tools but a lot of them clump your searches into month blocks. This can be really helpful for August, but not in July when you only want to search for school holiday dates and the cheapest prices will obviously be those outside of that.
Here’s one way you can kind of hack your way around it – though it’s a bit long winded!
Kayak let’s you search for ‘anywhere’ and they also allow you state the duration of your trip – LOVE IT as it allows flexibility.
They also make out that you can search for 4 weeks around your selected date but it’s a lie mate.
Once you click search it forgets that date and then you can only select a whole month to search.
WHY ARE YOU TEASING US KAYAK?!!
However, I did find this helpful…
Once you’ve selected a destination, look to the right as this graph does allow you to toggle through the trip duration and you can spot where the cheaper prices will lie.
But then again, if you know what destination you want, you’ll also get this from the banging calendar view on Google Flights!
Google Flights also have a clever search tool that allows you to search for weekends, weeks and two week return flights in a certain month (though annoyingly we’re note quite at the summer holidays yet!).
On the homepage, leave your destination blank, click search, and then click into the dates and toggle over to ‘flexible dates’.
And as always, check your flights on Skyscanner before you book.
Skyscanner also allow you to search for ‘everywhere’ in a certain month but I’d like to see some more options from these guys in the future!
This week’s holiday hotline is a culmination of a few people asking for cheap summer holidays so I’m going to show you some of the deals I’ve rustled up for couples, families and groups of mates.
Remember, if you want to be involved with the next holiday hotline, make sure you’re following me over on Instagram.
Cheap summer flights from all over the UK
Before I give you some solid holiday options, here’s some cheap flights from all over the UK that might intrigue you but remember – check the accommodation prices before you hit buy on those cheap flights!
Berlin, Germany – 5 nights – Weds 19th Aug – Mon 24th Aug – £58 each Ibiza, Spain – 4/5 nights – Sat 8th Aug – Thu 13th Aug – £60 each Nice, France – 7 nights – Tues 28th July – Tues 4th Aug – £67 each Budapest, Hungary – 7 nights – Tues 18th Aug – Tues 25th Aug – £86 each Seville, Spain – 7 nights – Thurs 6th Aug – Tues 11th Aug – £86 each Porto, Portugal – 5 nights – Sun 26th July – Fri 31st July – £102 each Luqa, Malta – 9 nights – Tues 21st July – Thu 30th July – £106 each Faro, Portugal – 7 nights – Tues 28th July – Tues 4th Aug – £115 each
Copenhagen, Denmark – 5 nights – Wed 22nd July – Mon 27th July – £41 each Amsterdam, Netherlands – 5 nights – Wed 12th Aug – Mon 17th Aug – £48 each Prague, Czechia – 7 nights – Thu 6th Aug – Thu 13th Aug – £80 each Lisbon, Portugal – 7 nights – Thu 20th Aug – Thu 27th Aug – £107 each Barcelona, Spain – 5 nights – Sat 15th Aug – Thu 20th Aug – £110 each Luqa, Malta – 7 nights – Wed 12th Aug – Thu 20th Aug –£130 each Malaga, Spain – 8 nights – Wed 12th Aug – Thu 20th Aug – £136 each
Dublin, Ireland – 7 nights – Wed 5th Aug – Wed 12th Aug – £58 each Paris, France – 5 nights – Fri 7th Aug – Wed 12 July – £112 each Malaga, Spain – 7 nights – Wed 22nd July – Wed 29th July – £118 each
Milan, Italy – 7 nights – Sun 16th Aug – Sun 23rd Aug – £75 each Munich, Germany – 7 nights – Mon 3rd Aug – Mon 10th Aug – £76 each Girona, Spain – 7 nights– Sun 16th Aug – Sun 23rd Aug – £97 each Faro, Portugal – 12 nights – Sun 23rd Aug – Weds 2nd Sep – £105 each Dubrovnik, Croatia – 7 nights – Thu 13th Aug – Thu 20th Aug – £114 each
Amsterdam, Netherlands – 7 nights – Sun 9th Aug – Sun 16th Aug – £73 each Luqa, Malta – 7 nights – Tues 25th Aug – Tue 1st Sep – £75 each Krakow, Poland – 7 nights – Thu 13th Aug – Thu 20th Aug – £124 each Venice, Italy – 7 nights – Mon 27th July – Mon 3rd Aug – £156 each
Dublin, Ireland – 7 nights – Sun 26th July – Sun 2nd Aug – £44 each Amsterdam, Netherlands – 5 nights – Sat 25th July – Thu 30th July – £94 each Limoges, France – 7 nights – Thu 23rd July – Thu 30th July – £112 each Pisa, Italy – 7 nights – Fri 14th Aug – Fri 21st Aug – £118 each
Hopefully that will give you some ideas but let’s put a few of them into motion to show what cheap accommodation you could find as well.
Cheap summer holidays for couples
Berlin is a great example of non-traditional summer holiday destination that’s a lot of fun in the warmer months.
James and I went last August and had the best time zipping about the city of e-scooters, drinking bottles of beer out in the sunshine and even travelling out to one of the many lakes Berlin brags on its outskirts.
What’s more, there are loads of great 4 star hotels available for around £60 a night – even in the summer – though do check whether there will be aircon. Ours didn’t have any initially and it was SO WARM!
London to Berlin, Germany Weds 19th Aug – Mon 24th Aug £57 each
What’s more, if you book with Quidco you can earn 8.4% cashback if you book with a credit card, as well as qualifying for the bonus £25 back if you sign up with this link.
Without cashback – £204.50 each for 5 nights With cashback and bonus – £179.61 each for 5 nights
Cheap summer holidays for families
So, I’m going to show you hear how you can use package holiday sites to find a good deal but then book it yourself to save even more money.
Here’s a week long holiday to Mazagón, a beach town in Andalusia, Spain. The Mazagon hotel has a kids club, entertainment and a pretty bad ass pool (hello pirate ship and slides) and the price per night includes half board which should help keep your daily costs down.
I found this deal on loveholidays which is great website to use if you’re a fan of package holidays as I love the fact you can select multiple departure airports – for this I selected ‘Any North West’ – and that you can select a date but then add up to 5 days flexibility either side.
However, let’s take these details and break it down.
The total cost for a family of four comes in at £1460 – that’s £104 cheaper than booking it as a package.
That works out at £365 each.
Again, check out the cashback deal I’ve got running at the moment to earn a bonus £25 plus cashback on the hotel, meaning you’d save £117 pounds bringing the overall total in at £335.75 each.
It is worth noting that booking your holiday as a package can mean you can put down a small deposit (though in this case, LogiTravel also allow you to put down a small deposit for just your hotel) and that you won’t get the same insurance that comes with booking parts of your holiday together.
However, there are some straight forward ways to cover yourself – including buying on a credit or visa debit card and making sure your travel insurance covers insolvency.
Shop with any retailer on Quidco and spend £10 or more before 31st March 2020
Earn cashback on your purchases for just being a Quidco member
Receive a £10 cashback bonus from Quidco
Withdraw your cashback to your bank, PayPal or as vouchers
You can find the full terms and conditions and a load of helpful pointers here.
How I used Quidco to save £45 on this amazing Greek villa
I signed up on the original offer myself and earned a £25 bonus by booking this UNREALprivate villa on the island of Paros in Greece.
It should have been £367 for 4 nights but because I’ll earn £19.18 in cashback and then get an extra £25 on top of it, it works out at just £80.55 a night!
Watch how I found and booked this amazing place – thanks in large part to throwing a dart at a map of Europe whilst blindfolded…
If you’re new to Quidco, and cashback in general, here’s what you need to know.
What is cashback?
Cashback is the money you can get back on your purchases as a reward when you are a member of a cashback site and buy online using their partners.
What is Quidco?
Quidco are the UK’s #1 cashback and voucher site and they have over 4,500 retailers on their website that their members can earn cashback from.
Is this just for UK residents?
Yes, you must be a resident of the UK to register for a Quidco account.
Do I have to pay to sign up?
No, Quidco earns money from sponsored advertising paid by their retailers and they also have a Premium membership. There is a free membership as well.
How much money can I earn?
It all depends on how much you buy but on average, active members earn £280 a year.
How do I sign up?
Visit Quidco, enter your email and a password, select what options you want and then click ‘Join for free!’
How do I get cashback?
Select which retailer you want on the Quidco website and click the relevant links to start shopping. Quidco will track your visit and your purchases.
How do I know that Quidco has tracked by purchase?
Once you’ve made a purchase, Quidco will track the amount of cashback you’re due and send you a confirmation email. It will also show as ‘Tracked’ on your personalised homepage.
How do I get paid?
Once the retailer confirms your purchase, your cashback will be paid into your Quidco account. From there you can transfer it to your bank account, Paypal account or have it paid as an Amazon.co.uk Gift Card.
How often will this get paid?
Payments are made on request.
How long will it take for me to get cashback on my purchases?
This varies so check the ‘Retailer Stats’ given on the retailer’s page.
How can I make sure that my purchases will get tracked?
Clearing your browsing data can help. You can follow Quidco’s advice on this here.
My purchase hasn’t tracked, what should I do?
You can raise a claim by clicking on ‘Missing Cashback Claim’ in Support.
How do I get a £20 bonus?
Quidco are currently running an offer where if you are a new user who signs up via this link and spends £100 or more on travel before 31st March 2020, you will receive an additional £20 on top of the cashback you earn.
Can I spend £100 across multiple retailers?
At present, this needs to be purchased through one retailer.
I’ve got the £20 bonus – can my partner sign up too?
They can as long as you don’t live at the same address. You can only claim one bonus per household.
For any additional help, pleae visit the Quidco support pages.
A big thanks to Quidco for supporting small creators, like me, and giving us all a chance to save some more money on travel this January.
On this week’s Holiday Hotline, I noticed a bit of a theme.
Lots of people asking about solo travel.
As someone who travels often with someone else, I take for granted how lucky I am when it comes to costs because being able to split a hotel here, a car hire there, can really help when keeping down the price.
However, with a growing demand for solo travel, it’s about time I put my bargain hunting hat on to share some of my top tips when it comes to holidaying on your own.
New to the Holiday Hotline?
Once a week, I take in your cheap holiday requests over on my Instagram and select one to do a deep dive on.
If you want to be involved in the future, make sure you’re following me and keeping an eye out for my stories.
Top Tips for Cheap Solo Travel
Before we crack on with the specific request at hand, I wanted to whizz though some general top tips that will help you book your next solo trip.
However, make sure you keep on scrolling to see what 3 night holiday you could be going on, on your own, for less than £90!
Perhaps the most important things to keep in mind… Visit somewhere cheap!
I’m not just talking about cheap flights – they’re a one off cost – I’m on about somewhere that is cheap to stay, eat, drink, do and travel about.
Here’s some of my recommendations:
Please note: the average costs for hotels come from Kayak based on what’s been booked in the last three days – therefore you will definitely be able to find something much cheaper by staying in a basic hotel, hostel or airbnb – or just by scoring an unreal deal!
Hotel: £47 a night
Inexpensive meal: £5.04
0.5l beer: £1.81
Also try: Kraków, Wrocław, Poznań, Łódź and Warsaw
Hotel: £67 a night
Inexpensive meal: £5.12
0.5l beer: £1.28
Also try: Debrecen, Eger, Lake Balaton, Sopron, Heviz
Hotel: £71 a night
Inexpensive meal: £5.98
0.5l beer: £1.71
Also try: Lisbon, Faro, Funchal, The Azores and Olhão
Hotel: £53 a night
Inexpensive meal: £3.92
0.5l beer: £2.61
Also try: Antalya, Bodrum, Cappadocia and Ephesus
SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA
Hotel: £45 a night
Inexpensive meal: £1.53
0.5l beer: 38p
Also try: Phnom Penh, Koh Rong and Bangkok, Thailand
Hotel: £78 a night
Inexpensive meal: £3.66
0.5l beer: 95p
Also try: Medellin, Bogata and Tayrona National Park
More average daily costs can be found using Numbeo.
Look for accommodation first This may well turn out to be a bigger cost than your flight so take a look at when there’s good availability first and then get your flight!
Change the number of people staying to 1 Lots of booking sites autofill to 2 people and there are many hotels that do offer a single occupancy discount or single bed rooms
Find the cheapest dates to stay If you have a hotel in mind, use Google Hotels to scour for the best rates available using their handy calendar view. Then use Trivago to find which site offers the cheapest price
Use Trivago to help whittle down the options If you’re not so sure where to stay, use Trivago and its handy filters to really nail what you’re after. Always remember to click ‘more deals’ to see the cheapest prices!
Stay in a hostel If you’re wanting to meet other solo travellers, or just really keep the cost down, hostels are perfect – I recommend using hostelworld and using the filters to sort by best rated
Many hostels also offer private rooms if you want to mingle but also have space to yourself
Stay in a Bed and Breakfast B&Bs are also a great shout and if you’re refining your search by selecting how many stars you want, you can often miss out on these as many aren’t starred like hotels.
Book a group activity Solo travel can be amazing but if you, like me, can send yourself a little crazy after too much time alone, then why not plan for a group activity during your trip? It may just be a free walking tour (google whether the place you’re going has one) or a cookery class/hike or food tour!
I’ve used Airbnb Experiences in the past and have always met amazing people along the way. You’ll get money off your first one if you don’t have an Airbnb account already.
Book a group tour Like meeting new people so much you want to travel with them? There are loads of great tours available which will even pair you up in a room (hello splitting costs). Plus, most tours organise everything for you so you can relax on all the details.
Tour Radar is a great site that compiles tours from load of different companies.
Right, let’s put all these tips into action so that we can help out Liam who has asked for:
From London or Edinburgh
End of Feb/early March
As London tends to be easier to find cheap flights from, I’m going to challenge myself by finding a cheap flight from Edinburgh first and hopefully the London option will come in at around the same cost.
When there’s no specific destination in mind, it can often be difficult to know where to start so I’m going to show you a really handy trick you can use on Google Flights to help you out.
I discovered this by total accident – I don’t know why they’re not screaming it from the rooftops as it is SO HELPFUL!
Step 1 – Enter your departure airport but leave the destination blank. Don’t worry about what dates are in, just press search.
Step 2 – In front of you will be a list of destinations to the left and a map with prices on the right. You’re going to click on the dates and next to ‘Specific dates’, you’re going to click on ‘Flexible dates’
Step 3 – Now, select what month you’d like to go away in (or you can just select ‘all’) and then select whether you want to go away across a weekend, 1 week or 2 weeks.
For Liam, I’ve selected ‘February’ and ‘Weekend’ and this is what comes up.
ISN’T THAT THE MOST HELPFUL THING EVER?!!
Though make sure to cross check your dates in Skyscanner and Momondo as they can often come up cheaper.
Now, you may be thinking ‘but Liam wanted 3/4 days Chelsea, not 2 and he didn’t specify weekend travel‘ well… You’re right. But as Google Flights is scouring for the cheapest flights across a weekend, most of them do tend to be 3 night stays as 2 nights is often more expensive.
Also, taking less annual leave means more holidays in the future so what’s not to love?!
There are some great options coming up from Edinburgh including:
Now, there are plenty of hostels to choose from with beds for £10 a night on hostelworld but I’m a big fan of these new ’boutique hostels’ that are popping up! You can even pay £4 more to stay in a room with just 3 others.
This week we’re helping Jade who’s after a group trip to Krakow in Poland.
I love a group trip as more people means more people to split the cost by!
I also chose this holiday hotline because I thought it would perfectly show just how amazing Google Flights can be when you have a place in mind but you can be a little bit flexible on your dates.
3 nights is also the perfect amount of time to hook a getaway around a weekend so that you don’t have to use up too much annual leave.
Top tip for weekend trips: A lot of people are looking for that Sunday flight back but by moving the trip back one day and getting the Monday flight home, you can save money and you’re often taking the same amount of time off work!
So first things first, let’s head to Google Flights and most importantly change your passengers to the correct number as there may only be a few tickets left at the lower price you find.
(The eagle eyed of you will spy in the screenshots that it’s for one but this is just as it’s the only way to reflect cost per person!)
Next, pop in where we’re leaving from and where we’re going to.
Next, click on the date box and change your desired trip duration at the bottom. Here, I’ve changed it to 3 days for Jade and her mates.
Now, that seems pretty straight forward but actually, things get even more helpful on the next page so for now just click some dates. Any dates, it doesn’t matter.
By doing this, you’ll see the cheapest flights possible for that day but what if you don’t want an evening flight?
And I bet you deffo don’t want that 6am flight home.
Meaning that your £33 return flight could quickly become more expensive.
And what if the flight times you actually want could be cheaper on another day?
Can you search for that?
The good news is, yes you can.
So, the next thing you’re going to do is select the ‘Times’ button and decide what times you’d ideally like to leave between, and then do the same for your return journey.
For Jade, I’m actually going to keep in a later departure so that it cuts down on annual leave needed getting to Krakow, however I am going to get rid of that 2050 flight option because I think that gets in just a tad too late.
For the return I’m also going with a later flight so that they can make the most of their last day but make sure it arrives home before 2200 so that most public transport is still up and running.
After doing this, go back to the calendar and you’ll see that the prices will have updated to reflect your needs.
You may need to change the length of your trip again at the bottom.
Now, I’m in a great place to look for a cheap price that hooks around a weekend and within a few clicks, I find this great price in March.
The 1950 departure time means that most people, if working in Central London, would only need to take half a day off work or nothing at all if they’ve got a nice boss who will let them leave just before 5pm!
Wizz Air only includes a small piece of hand luggage but I’m a firm believer in that being more than enough for a weekend away! Plus, if you’re travelling in a group you could split a suitcase between you to pop some extra liquids in.
As I’m searching for 7 people for Jade, here’s what the final cost looks like on Google Flights.
Which indeed works out at £48 each.
Before clicking through, always check your flights on Skyscanner as it can often find cheaper prices as it searches more third party companies.
The flights are showing up the same price but hilariously, Skyscanner are throwing in an even cheaper option with Ryanair for £43 return.
However, as it’s flying from and returning to different airports AND I have a way to save more money on Wizz Air, I’m going to stick with what I found on Google Flights and click through to book direct with the airline.
The great news for Jade is that she can buy the group membership for £69 and it will save her £108 across 6 tickets – so the membership has instantly paid for itself and, once we’ve added in one remaining full price ticket, brings the cost in at £42.43 each for 7 people.
Even better is that the membership will last Jade a year and as she’s the only one named on the account, she can go away with a group of totally different people and still use the discount – or just use the discount for herself.
To buy this membership, Jade just needs to change the amount of tickets to six passengers and then click on the ‘WIZZ Discount Club Price’.
She’ll then be able to buy membership on the same screen.
Jade then just needs to buy the last ticket at the full price cost.
It pulls in homes from loads of different sites, including Airbnb, and whilst isn’t always the slickest websites (sometimes listings aren’t available) I do like the range of choice it offers.
Top tip: Too many Airbnb results being shown? Select ‘Balcony/Patio’ or ‘Garden’ in your search filters as Airbnb doesn’t have this option and therefore all will leave the listings. However, you will only get listings with those amenities but I always love to have a balcony so this is a plus for me!
For Jade, I’m searching for a place that has at least 4 rooms so that 7 people won’t feel too cramped!
I’m also using the map to search for a spot in Central Krakow.
As the flights were so cheap there’s enough budget left for accommodation to cost £483 a night but I reckon we can get something much cheaper!
From now on, I’ll be selecting just one holiday query a week but I’ll be going IN on it, and covering all the bases.
If you want me to help you in the future, make sure you’re following me over on Instagram.
So, Amy’s been in touch, and here’s what she’s after.
End of March
Cherry blossom season
Flying from Manchester
As someone who visited Japan last year in cherry blossom season and booked it all pretty last minute – not advised, by the way – I know that this can be done!
Cherry blossom season is always super popular – with both tourists and the Japanese – and you can check out the best dates to visit the different areas here.
For 2020, Tokyo’s supposed to start flowering from 21 March and be in full bloom by 27 March.
But be aware that last year it came early and so it’s not quite an exact science!
I was so lucky as I found our flights for just £258 (ridiculous, I know!) and so the first hurdle is gonna be getting Amy to Tokyo on a budget…
Let’s do this.
So, as Amy wants the end of March, it does make things a bit pricier (it’s getting close to Easter!) so as a quick aside, if you can fly between Thurs 12th – Fri 27th March, you’ll pay £133 each less.
But anyway, onwards!
Tues 24th March to Tues 7th April Manchester to Tokyo Nippon Airways / Swiss Air £670 each
£670 may not seem a great price initially but actually, according to the stats on Google Flights, it’s not too shabby at all!
There is also a £469 flight on the 29th March yet the connections are a total horror show. But… I guess an option if you love flying and long layovers???!
What about other airports?
Alright, alright, I suppose I can help a few others out as well.
London – Tues 24 Mar – Tues 7th Apr – from £370 each
It does involves a long layover in Shanghai both ways but they do have a 72 hour visa pass for people in transit and there are plenty of hotels in and around the airport for that overnight layover on the way home!
There’s also this option with much shorter layovers for £433 each.
If you wanna fly direct, the best price is from Mon 16th for £780 but if you want to go later on like Amy, it’s going to set you back £979 each!
Edinburgh – Tues 24th Mar – Tues 7th Apr – £706 each
It does involve a 19 hour layover in Amsterdam on the way out but it’s timed really nicely for you to enjoy an evening there and get up with loads of time for your early afternoon flight.
Inverness – Tues 24th Mar – Tues 7th Apr – £630 each
Another long layover in Amsterdam on the way outbut again, a nice excuse for a quick trip there too!
Cardiff – Tues 24th Mar – Tues 7th Apr – £695 each
Once again! KLM with their Amsterdam breaks!
The hilarious thing is that if you were to fly direct from Amsterdam on all of these KLM flights it would cost MORE than any of these listed above. How does that even make sense?!
Normally I’d move onto accommodation but for exploring Japan, the rail pass is a very important component.
But first of all, what is it exactly?
The Japan Rail pass – also known as the JR Pass – is a special discounted ticket available for tourists. It offers unlimited travel on trains operated by Japan Railways Group and includes the high-speed service known as the Shinkansen, or the Bullet Train.
Can you find a discount? No. There aren’t any, so don’t waste your time looking for one (I did).
For a two week trip, I think 7 days feels too short and 14 feels too long but I think if you’re trying to save money, think about doing a stint in Tokyo either side of your travels (that’s what we did!) so you can go for the shorter pass.
However, I’m going put Amy down for the full whack – £319 each – just to cover all bases (and because I love to make life difficult for myself).
There’s no set website to buy your rail pass on – a load of third parties do this – but I can personally recommend Japan Travel Centre as they offer free delivery (they also offer free pick up if you’re in London which is what I did).
Top tip: You cannot reserve seats on most trains outside of the country so make sure you head to a travel centre when you arrive to get a seat! You’re travelling at peak times so it’s deffo worth doing this. More details are here.
I swear I’ll get to accommodation next but more important is to first work out where you want to go.
There are loads of great two week itineraries available online – one of my fave things to do is to look at a professional tour and then try to recreate it – but for the purpose of this challenge, I’ll be following this:
25th – 29th Mar / 4 nights / Tokyo 29th Mar – 1st Apr / 3 nights / Kyoto 1st Apr – 3rd April / 2 nights / Hiroshima 3rd April – 5th April / 2 nights / Osaka 5th – 6th April / 2 nights / Tokyo
This is loosely based on my own journey but do your own research and see what you fancy.
Here we go then! We finally made it!
As the flight arrives in a day later, we actually need to find 13 nights accommodation for this trip.
Given that the total for flights and a rail pass is already £931 each (jeez) this means we have £519 each left for places to stay.
That’s just £43.67 a night each.
Can we do it?
YES WE CAN!
Hold on a second…
Before we get into this, what I found was the best way to keep to budget in Japan was to change accommodation every couple of nights or so. This allowed us to explore new areas, work around a hotel’s busy calendar and also save money on some nights and splurge on others.
Due to this, I’d also recommend packing light. I actually only took my 45L Patagonia rucksack and James took a small wheelie case and a backpack. It made it so much easier.
Please be aware that Japanese rooms are MUCH smaller and if you’re staying in an Airbnb, it can feel pretty basic, but it’s a great insight into how many live in the city. Plus, make sure you check out some pod hotels because they are AMAZING/BIZARRE AF.
My top advice would be to get on trivago, enter your dates and just see what you can get for your money.
I’ve done some searching for you, but please do see the following places as a pick’n’mix selection!
Andon Ryokan – £84 a night / £42 each Pssst – make sure you’re signed in to Booking.com as the price can go down more!
Traditional Ryokan style (you sleep on fold out futons on the floor) but with a modern twist – and a cracking breakfast included too!
Bizarrely, the price is often cheaper for men than women on the same night. It can also fluctuate from night to night and as you have to fully check out in the morning, I’d only recommend this as a first night or last night in an area. But a great experience!
Check out when we stayed in this type of capsule in Kyoto here!