holiday hotline #4 – cheap group summer sun, Dubrovnik on a budget, Boston for under £500 and luxury Sofia hotels for less

Another week, another hotline!

And if you’re all ‘what you on about Chels?’ then let me explain. Once a week, over on Instagram, I ask you to send in your holiday conundrums and then I go off in hunt of some cheap holiday deals for us all.

So, what have we got this week?

Well, the one thing that I saw a LOT of were requests for group trips this summer so let’s delve a little deeper…

REQUEST: Summer group holiday for no more than £450 each

What’s Holly after then?

  • 5-7 nights
  • 8 people
  • From Manchester
  • Week of August 19th
  • Pool
  • Close to the action
  • Max £450 each

Phew! Holly is wanting a LOT of boxes ticking here but let’s see what we can find for the ultimate group getaway this summer.

Manchester to Faro
Sat 17th Aug to Sat 24th Aug
£126

TOP TIP: Remember when you’re searching for groups to always put in the correct number of travellers. This is because airlines often sell seats in price tiers and so they may only have a couple of tickets available at the cheap price you see in front of you – which gets a bit awkward when you click through to book and the prices suddenly rocket up!

Faro airport is the gateway to the Algarve – Portugal’s southernmost region known for its Atlantic beaches and golf resorts. What’s more, Portugal is really well priced and so you don’t need to spend a fortune once you’re out there as well.

Whilst you’re getting in late and leaving early, you save £59 each from flying at slightly better times.

Also, since Holly requested 5-7 days, this is a good way to get 6 whole none travel days for less. What’s more she won’t feel like she’s wasting money on that first night accommodation because the place I’ve found has to be booked for a 7 night minimum anyway.

ENTER STAGE LEFT:

OH HELLO.

Villa Avios is pretty decent, right?!!

I found this bad boy on Oliver’s Travels which is ‘a website where people can find and book exclusive, luxury chateaux without having to shell out a fortune’.

What I like about Oliver’s Travel is:

  • They only recommend places they’ve actually seen
  • You’ll often find homes that aren’t on Airbnb
  • They offer a best price guarantee
  • They have a free concierge service that can help sort out other aspects of your holiday

Should we have a bit more of a nosey?

So, wanna know how much this place is?

£2199 for 7 nights

That’s just £275 each for a group of 8 for a whole week – and since it sleeps 9, it could be as cheap as £245 each if they could recruit an extra person.

Whilst this villa isn’t quite in the thick of the action as some I found on Airbnb, it is easily the nicest l found in this price range and I was honestly shocked at how cheap it was compared to what else was on offer. Especially for 7 nights.

Also, you’re just a 15 minute drive from Albufeira which has a VIBRANT nightlife meaning if you wanted a big night out, your taxis are not going to cost you the world.

As well, there’s lots to do in the area including beaches, golf courses, mountain bike trails, surfing, water parks, deep sea fishing and scuba diving.

If you’re wondering how you’d even get to Villa Avios, do not fret.

At 40 mins drive away from Faro airport, I’d definitely recommend hiring a car for any stay on the Algarve. Car hire is cheap and there’s so much going on along the coastline that it would be a shame not to explore it.

In a group, I actually think 2 cars are better than one big people carrier as it normally much cheaper (the cheapest 9 seater I found was £530 for the week!), 2 cars will give you more space to cram luggage, and lastly it gives you the option to split up to try out different activities during the week.

So, for flights, accommodation and 2 cars for Holly’s group of 8 mates, the entire trip comes in at £418 each.

JOB DONE!

Right, we’ve got time for a few more quickies.

REQUEST: London to Boston November group trip

Sophie wants:

  • London to Boston
  • 30th Oct – 3rd Nov
  • Accommodation close to the city for under £1000

First things first, the flights.

London to Boston
Weds 30th Oct – Sun 3rd Nov
£270 each (pssst it’s only £255 if there’s only two of you)

We’ve started seeing cheap flights to Boston for a while now but damnnnnn son that’s a sweet ass deal.

Both fares only include a 10kg carry on bag but for a 4 night trip, YOU CAN DO IT. I BELIEVE IN YOU!

If not, it will cost you an extra £35 each way with Norwegian (add your bag separately rather than selecting LowFare+ as that is an extra £50 each way but does include meals and a seat reservation) or an extra £100 return with Virgin (this also gives you a seat reservation and extra air miles).

Now for the accommodation which, knowing America, finding a place for 6 people for 4 nights under £1000 is gonna be TRICKY.

For big groups like this, I do find that you get more value out of booking a holiday rental as three hotel rooms can really add up.

So, I’ve headed to Airbnb and have popped in the dates, 6 guests, selected ‘entire home’ and have specified at least 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms because too much sharing never makes for a nice trip – AMIRITE?

Then, using the map, I’ve zoomed into Boston so I can find something that isn’t too far away.

Straight away, I can see our budget is going to be a struggle. But what can we get that isn’t too far from it?

Airbnb
Dorchester – home next to subway that’s 20 mins to Downtown
3 bedrooms – 3 beds – 2 baths
£278.75 a night – £1115 total
(you can get £25 off here if you haven’t used Airbnb before!)

Airbnb
East Boston – short walk to transport for easy access to Downtown
3 bedrooms – 4 beds (2 are sofa beds) – 2 baths
£291.75 a night – £1167 total
(you can get £25 off here if you haven’t used Airbnb before!)

Airbnb
South Boston close to Downtown
3 bedrooms – 3 beds – 2 baths
£325 a night – £1300 total
(you can get £25 off here if you haven’t used Airbnb before!)

But still, how do we get to that £1000 pricetag?

By taking away a bedroom.

Airbnb
East Boston – Very close to airport and 15 mins drive central
2 bedrooms – 6 beds – 2 baths
£257.75 a night – £1029 total
(you can get £25 off here if you haven’t used Airbnb before!)

Given that there are 6 of them travelling, if they went with the cheapest Airbnb here, their whole trip would only cost them £441.50 each.

TO THE US OF A!!!

REQUEST: Warm June getaway from North West for two

Sophie is after:

  • 3 -4 nights
  • 2 adults
  • 22nd June +/- 1 day
  • Leaving Liverpool or Manchester
  • Somewhere warm
  • Not Barcelona or Rome
  • £200 each

Right, with a small budget it’s very important that we find… CHEAP FLIGHTS!

*spends lots of time searching and realises that if you want warm in June, you’re still going to have to spend a bit for flights*

Manchester to Dubrovnik
Sat 22nd June – Weds 26th June
£98

Whilst the price might be nudging £100, this is actually a great price for Dubrovnik. The least expensive flights for similar trips to Dubrovnik usually cost between £145 and £215!

If you haven’t heard of Dubrovnik before then CONGRATS because how you’ve managed to escape all that ‘it’s where they film Games of Thrones’ chatter is quite the achievement.

It’s a city in Southern Croatia fronting the Adriatic Sea and it’s known for its Old Town which is LUSH AF.

Whilst it is a hugely popular destination – they’ve even started limiting the number of cruise tourists visiting the Old Town – since you’re heading there in term time, it won’t be as busy as it could be.

And the good news is that weather wise, it looks sunny and around 28 degrees.

But the big ol’ question – is there anywhere decent enough to stay given that Sophie has just £200 left to cover 4 nights in a popular tourist destination?

*spends lots of time searching and realises just how damn popular Dubrovnik is especially when you’re searching for a trip that’s in 2 weeks*

If we’re really trying to keep to budget, this new listing could work really well.

Airbnb – Apartment Tonci
Dubrovnik
£49 a night – this includes all the additional fees
(you can get £25 off here if you haven’t used Airbnb before!)

An 8 min drive from the old town (you’re close to a bus station), this apartment is based in Babin Kuk which is a wealthy district known for its high-end hotels, stylish spas and yacht clubs. It’s also got a beach and plenty of supermarkets, bars and restaurants.

Whilst it currently has no reviews, you benefit from this by the 20% special offer that the host is offering for the first 3 guests who book a trip before now and 4th September. Yes, there is an element of ‘risk’ here, but it’s also a great way to bag a real bargain.

If you want a place with reviews, try this place for £63 a night, or this place for £69 a night.

Hotel wise, you’re going to be looking at guesthouses in this budget but there are plenty well rated rooms for under £200.

So, going with the cheapest flights and cheapest Airbnb, Sophie’s got herself a trip to a TOP DESTINATION for just £196 each.

That’s £4 each left for a pint at the airport.

I’m having fun, let’s do one more!

REQUEST: Accommodation in Sofia from 16th – 20th July

Okay, so Dani’s request is pretty straight forward.

  • Accommodation only in Sofia, Bulgaria
  • 16th – 20th July

So, let me take you through how I look for hotels if I’m looking for something more than just a cheap place to stay.

I start by googling ‘best hotels in Sofia’ or wherever I’m looking and normally, an article written by The Telegraph is a top result. For Sofia, it’s not, but I do instead find a ‘best hotels in Bulgaria‘ list instead which is a great place to start.

Oh no hang on, it’s three hotels long. FGS BULGARIA – I’M TRYING TO DO A BIT HERE.

Anyway, it does show us one hotel in Sofia called ‘Maison Sofia Hotel’ and so next I open up Trivago and I whack that name in, alongside my dates.

Straightaway, it’s showing me that we can get Dani a room at this four star hotel from just £47 a night (always click on ‘more deals’ for the cheapest price!)

However, at 2.2 miles to the city centre, I’m interested in what we can get even more central.

So now I adjust the filters and I select 3 star+ hotels, a guest rating of 7.5+ and within 1 mile of the city centre.

Straight away I’m VERY interested in this 5 star, well rated, LUXURY COLLECTION hotel from just £84 a night.

The 5 star InterContinental Sofia is also just £88 a night.

Finally, if it is price that Dani’s after, this also looks like a great deal for just £34 a night.


If you’d like some holiday help then make sure you’re following me on Instagram for the next instalment of the holiday hotline!


I have used some affiliate links throughout this article. They don’t charge you more, but if you book through them you’ll be helping me to continue my cheap travel booking hobbies. For full transparency, I earn about 10p if you book a flight through a link 🤣

holiday hotline #1 – solo travel, jordan hacks, dog friendly retreats and birthday fun in budapest

If you’re following me over on Instagram, you may already know that I’ve opened up shop and am taking your holiday requests once a week!

And in the first official ‘holiday hotline’, I had so many requests through that I literally could spend all week searching for getaways for you all.

Alas, I only had a couple of hours to properly research one meaty request and then I thought I’d give my fleeting thoughts to a few others as well.

All of this is over on my stories today and remember, if you’re after a holiday of your own, follow and get ready to submit your own request next time!

THE REQUEST: Perfect solo retreat in Europe first week of July

What a great first query to get stuck into!

Now, if I was planning a solo trip, I’d definitely want to spend some time chilling and enjoying my own company but then I know that I’d definitely get bored and want something or someone to entertain me a little. So what I’m going to suggest is a nice mix of the two.

Now, I’ve clocked the word ‘perfect’ here and thought SHIT THIS IS NOT AN ALL INCLUSIVE CALIPPO ON THE BEACH JOBBY. They want something special. So that’s exactly what I’m going to deliver.

So where are we going?

Well, here’s the flights:

London to Paphos
Sat 29th June – Sun 7th July
£121

Paphos is full of incredible food, archaeological sites, and road trips to beautiful beaches. Plus, at a whopping 4 hours 30 mins flight out there, it’s literally as far as you can get in Europe without hitting the middle east.

Speaking of which…

Paphos to Amman
Weds 3rd July – Sat 6th July
£30

YEH BOI. Not only are we doing Cyprus, but we’re gonna fly on over to Jordan. JUST COZ WE CAN.

Told you this was gonna be spesh.

The top tip here is that you can fly to Jordan from Cyprus for disgustingly cheap. In fact, flying Tuesday to Saturday will cost just £14 return, but the flights for Weds to Sat worked better for what I’ve got planned.

To put into perspective just how cheap these flights are, do you want to see how much it would cost to fly direct from London to Amman on the same dates?

VILE.

But before we get excited by Jordan, let’s get back to Cyprus to talk car hire and accommodation.

Car hire

Paphos and the surrounding area is definitely worth exploring so renting a car will help you to get out during the day if you don’t fancy just chilling at the pool.

The good news is car hire is super cheap at £35 for 4 days.

Paphos Accommodation

There are still so many options available for a whole range of budgets but given what’s coming up in Jordan, I think keeping it on the cheaper (but definitely still cheerful) side will help level out the costs later on.

Paphos Airbnb Studio
Sat 29th June – Weds 3rd July
£47.25 a night / £196 total
(you can get £25 off here if you haven’t used Airbnb before!)

This studio apartment is the perfect base. With a small kitchen, air conditioning, balcony and access to a shared pool, it ticks a lot of boxes.

You’re also just 700m from the sea and in easy access to sights, restaurants and nightlife. What’s more, you get access via a lockbox meaning you won’t be charged more for that late check in.

I was really impressed with how many options there were both in Paphos and the nearby area so here’s a few more if you’re interested:

Paphos Airbnb Private Room
£19 a night / £76 total

Tala Airbnb Apartment
£54.74 a night / £219 total

Kathikas Airbnb Entire Stone House
£83 a night / £334 total

Pissouri Airbnb Entire Villa w/Private Pool
£97.50 a night / £390 total

And if you fancied chilling out at a hotel instead, this 5 star option is very well priced considering… Well, considering it’s 5 star!

Azia Resort and Spa
£91 a night / £364.16 total

Next stop – Jordan!

The Wednesday is an early start back to the airport to embark on the next adventure.

Named as one of Lonely Planet’s ‘top places to travel in 2019’, now’s your chance to get ahead of the pack before it gets TOO popular.

Some of the most popular reasons to visit include ancient ruins in Petra, the epic desert wilderness of Wadi Rum and the incredible buoyancy of the Dead Sea.

Now, it’s absolutely possible to visit all three of these places from Amman yourself HOWEVER, as a solo traveller you won’t be able to split the cost of a hire car, hotel rooms or a tour guide, so I think this would be a great chance to embark on a group tour. It also gives you the chance to meet new people!

For our trip to Jordan, I’ve found a 4 day tour, that begins with a pickup at Amman airport. Given our early arrival, this also gives us time to explore the city for the day before we get on the road.

Across the next three days, we’ll explore the desert, Petra and visit the Dead Sea all before being brought back in time for our flight home on the Saturday.

The tour is £372 via Tour Radar and includes:

  • 3 star hotel accommodation for 3 nights (though you may well be sharing will a fellow group member)
  • Tour guide in Jordan (for min 5 persons)
  • 3 breakfasts & 2 dinners
  • All transportation and English speaking driver

Not included are your entrance fee to Petra ($60), tips and additional meals but for what works out as £93 a day, I think it’s exceptional value.

This particular tour worked really well for these dates but currently has only 1 review, so I’d definitely recommend chatting more to Tour Radar (they’re the middle man who sells on the tours) before you book. This 3 day tour has loads of great review but didn’t work as well for our dates.

Back to Paphos!

After an incredible four days of exploration, we’ll be ready to relax so for the last evening in Cyprus, I think it’s time to go ALL OUT and stay somewhere lush.

Staying a hotel will also help with that late flight the next day home as they’ll be able to keep hold of our luggage, and we should be able to still chill out by the pool all day should we want to!

Almyra
Sat 6th July – Sun 7th July
£129 a night with breakfast

As I said, I’m all about going cheaper at the beginning so you can stay the last evening in LUXURY.

This hotel is gorgeous. It even features on the Mr & Mrs Smith website which if you don’t know, is like a directory of bloody beautiful hotels. They don’t let any old muck on there.

However, if you’re hoping to spend a little less, there are plenty of other options including:

Azia Resort & Spa
£114 a night

St George Hotel
£76.96 a night

So how much for the whole trip?

Flights – £151
Paphos car hire – £35
Paphos Airbnb Accommodation – £196
Jordan 4 day tour – £372
Paphos luxury hotel – £129
Total = £883

It may not be a ‘budget trip’ but for the price, I think it’s pretty damn special (I TOLD YA SO!!)

What if I don’t have £883? Is there anywhere else you’d recommend?

Yes! For a solo trip I’d definitely recommend getting a cheap flight out to Germany (so many in July for under £60) and using their great train network to visit a few different cities.

Germany in the summer is gorgeous and thanks to the popularity of Europe’s interrail passes, many cities are so ready to embrace people travelling on their own.

Stay in trendy hostels for under £20 a night to meet new people and act as a base for exploring historical cities with GREAT BEER!

Now for a few quick requests.

THE REQUEST: 4 day Italian escape

I went to a wedding in Italy last year and flew into Perugia – a place I’d never heard of before but would definitely visit again.

Explore the beautiful city (and eat at La Taverna – INSANE FOOD!), hire a car and explore the Italian countryside – you’re not far from Tuscany either!

There’s loads of decently priced flight options but I found Fri 28th June – Tues 2nd July for £109 which is pretty good considering it’s the summer.

When I went, I stayed with three friends in this sweet apartment which is set in the grounds of a families LUSCIOUS garden. There’s just two or three other apartments so you often have the pool to yourself. It was GORGEOUS.

THE REQUEST: Can take our 20kg dog without a passport, no/few kids, nice accommodation, good nature

I stayed in dog-friendly The Gallivant right on the beach of Camber Sands in East Sussex last year and it is gorgeous.

With spa treatments, yoga on the beach and a great restaurant, it ticks all the boxes for a boutique getaway that feels like a treat.

What’s more, they only allow babies under 18 months and children over the age of 12.

Rates start at £115 a night and they even have a ‘dog lovers escape‘ deal which is £330 for two nights (Mon – Thurs in Sep-May) with breakfast, afternoon tea, a 3 course dinner, endless dog biscuits and a dog rug, toy and water in your room!

THE REQUEST: The best comparison site?

My go to is Skyscanner but I like to check Momondo for prices, particularly for long haul flights.

I also like Google Flights for spotting cheap fare patterns but then I’d always check the price against those mentioned above.

THE REQUEST: Villa in Portugal (Vilamoura are) for 8 adults, a 4 year old and 6 month old

Get on the ol’ Airbnb and my top tip is to not forget about the other websites too!

Hometogo is a handy website for comparing holiday rental sites (it saves you a hell of a lot of time!) – though unfortunately they don’t compare Airbnb!

Also, sites like Booking.com now offer apartments and villas so try searching there too.

THE REQUEST: Looking to go Copenhagen for 2 nights in Dec for 3 adults & 2 children

Manchester to Copenhagen
Fri 6th Dec – Sun 8th Dec
£69 each

Central Airbnb
£388 for 2 nights
(you can get £25 off here if you haven’t used Airbnb before!)

4* hotel – 1 x Superior Extra and 1 x Standard room
£555

1* hotel – 1 x Double Room + 2 extra beds and 1 x Single Standard room
£350

Make sure to visit Tivoli theme park – it’s beautiful at Christmas!!

THE REQUEST: Budapest in Nov for 40th birthday

Bristol to Budapest
Thurs 7th Nov – Sat 9th Nov
£68

You can also go for 5 nights, returning on Thursday 14th Nov for the same price!

Since you’re celebrating your 40th, it only seems right that you should stay somewhere nice. Both of these are great boutique hotel options!

Hotel Moments
£109 a night with breakfast

Brody House
£120 a night with breakfast


Right, that’s all for the first official holiday hotline!

Make sure to give me a follow on Instagram if you want to be involved in the next – and let me know if you end up booking any of these!


I have used affiliate links throughout this article. They don’t charge you more (in fact, I’ve put non-affiliate links where that’s the case), but if you book through them you’ll be helping me to continue my cheap travel booking hobbies. For full transparency, I make around 10p if you book a flight through one of my links so… Yeh. NO ONE’S GETTING RICH HERE PAL 😂

how to get your airbnb for half the price

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Airbnb is bloody great but when you’re trying to get a bargain, you don’t have winter sales and promo codes to help you get the price down – or do you?

What many people don’t realise is that whilst Tara has stated that her flat in Knightsbridge is £290 a night, she – as an Airbnb host – has an option to send potential stayees (yes that’s a real word) a ‘special offer’.

I.E. IT’S TIME TO GET YOUR HAGGLE HAT AND YOUR BARTERING BROGUES ON LADS

You could give this a go in any situation, but here are the two scenarios where bartering can be particularly successful:

  • You’re staying a decent amount of time – there’s a lot of work that comes with checking people in and out so if you’re looking for a place for a week or more, owners will be much more open to having you stay rather than 7 different people across 7 different nights
  • They haven’t filled their room/home and time is running out – this is riskier as it could mean you’re left without, yet you could always book a back up hotel room with a great cancellation policy so that you’ve got something to fall back on

I decided to go with the latter whilst plotting a UK break for holiday number six after realising just how bloody pricey staying in the homeland can be.

Here’s what I did:

STEP ONE – Compile

One week before, I searched for available rooms and homes in a whole host of places within a 2 hour train ride of London – notably Oxford, Brighton and Margate.

I created a new ‘wish list’ and popped them all in – this is a great tool as it automatically updates what’s available.

I found 40 places in total.

Screen Shot 2017-10-17 at 20.55.51

STEP TWO – Wait

Whilst checking and then seeing the place you were secretly lusting for get booked up is THE PITS, it’s worth checking in a couple of times over the next 4 or 5 days to see how things are shaping up.

STEP THREE – Pounce

Two days before you intend to go away should be a good point to put some feelers out there.

When I clicked back on, I saw that just 10 places were still available – I said it was risky, didn’t I?! – and the next step was to schmooooooze.

Done in the form of a ‘oh me? I’m just super casual this is helping you more/oh god please house me’ message:

Hi XXX,

Your place looks absolutely beautiful!

My boyfriend and I both work in radio in London and after a rather hectic week at work (and we’re only three days in!), we’ve decided to try and get out of the city, get some of that sea air and hit ‘refresh’.

Our plan would be to explore the area and sample whatever delights the local restaurants and bars have to offer!

Our budget for staying 2 nights is £XX including Airbnb’s service fee which I understand is under what you’re currently looking for, but if you’re wanting to fill your place with respectful guests who you wouldn’t see much of – then look no further!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Chelsea

STEP FOUR – Wait again…

mikayla-mallek-219946.jpg

All my messages got a reply (thank you, kind Airbnb brethren).

8 said they were actually booked but they hadn’t updated their calendar (bahhh)

1 said ‘can you check back in tomorrow?’

and 1 said ‘yeah sure!’

GREAT SUCCESS.

So how much did we save?

My bartering meant that we were able to get a super cute room (with its own bathroom and living room) in Margate down from £105 to £80. Not too bad?

It’s worth saying that the ‘can you check back in tomorrow?’ place would have been an entire house in Brighton for £90 down from £180! So there’s definitely some massive deals to be had.

Extra saving

As it’s always me doing the booking around here, this was James’ FIRST EVER BOOKING on Airbnb meaning he had a £30 welcome offer from a friend, bringing our final cost to a mere £25 each.

If you’ve never used Airbnb before, you can also get some moola off by being referred to by a friend.

Fancy seeing how we got on?