City breaks are notorious for being expensive but having done quite a few of them myself, I've learned over the last few years that they actually don't need to break the bank. You can see amazing places and stay in great hotels for a fraction of the imagined cost and there are a few things I always keep in mind when I'm booking my own city breaks, whether they're abroad or right here in the UK.
Play around with the booking.
This is the thing that saves me the most money when booking a city break. I appreciate not everyone is in the position to be flexible, especially if you're confined to travelling within school holidays, but if you can be a little bit open to different dates and airports it can bring the costs down massively. My local airport is Newcastle but I've travelled from all over the country, mainly driving down to Manchester and flying from there because in many trips, it brings the cost down by literally hundreds of pounds and that's no exaggeration. Also, as you're all probably too aware, travelling in school holidays massively brings to cost up no matter where you're going. When Jess and I were booking Reykjavik, travelling in the school half term would have literally tripled the price. Even switching days can bring the cost down so have a play around - you don't know how much you might save.
If you're hoping to stay in a 5*luxury hotel with your own private pool and room service included, it's inevitable you're going to pay a fortune. It's important to choose the best hotel you can at the best price so if you go for total luxury, the price is going to go up. For me there are two things I think about when booking a hotel - location and cleanliness. In New York, we stayed in a Holiday Inn on Times Square and we couldn't have been happier. The breakfast was amazing, the room was big, clean and had all the facilities we needed and it was so affordable. You don't have to compromise on your stay just because you stay in a more affordable hotel. Cairn Group is great for this and have some of the most affordable but high quality hotels there are in this country and whether you're going on a UK city break or looking for an overnight stay at a UK airport. They boast famous names such as Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn, Hilton and Mercure, meaning that you can get reasonably priced hotels for a fraction of the price. I'm wanting to have a short city break to Edinburgh later in the year and Cairn Hotel Edinburgh caught my eye immediately - it's definitely worth looking at the website if you're looking for a UK city break.
Do your research and plan ahead.
This is so important when it comes to saving money. Is it cheaper to buy the tickets for all of your excursions beforehand or when you're there? Where are you going to eat? What are you going to do each day? How much money can you spend each day? If you plan exactly where your money is going to go, you avoid unnecessary expenditure. When Karl and I were in New York in February, we bought tickets for literally everything we wanted to do beforehand and planned everything ahead so that all we had to spend money on was food and any souvenirs (and by that I mean Sephora....). It also means that if you do have any disasters that leave you with less money than you anticipated, you don't have to worry as much about the rest of the trip.
Location, location, location.
Like I said above, location of the hotel is everything. It's what I look for first and foremost in a hotel because taxis can be so expensive if you're going to be relying on them. When I was in Rome, the Colosseum was literally on our doorstep so we walked literally everywhere. We knew the Colosseum was our base so it was easy to find our way back even if we ventured quite a while away meaning we saved a hell of a lot on taxis. Again, this is where groups like Cairn Group come in because you know that you're going to be getting a clean, affordable hotel in a really central location. If you're going somewhere that's more spread out like Paris or New York, it can be worth researching the underground systems as they're really not as complicated as you think. They are so much cheaper than taxis and a lot of the time they're quicker because they avoid traffic. I always research which underground stops are closest to the attractions I want to visit and which lines to get on or change at and it saves so much confusion when you're there.
Remember that food can be expensive.
Food is one of the things that cost you the most on a city break because you don't ever go all inclusive like you do on beach holidays, meaning you need to buy all of your meals, snacks and drinks. If you choose to eat in super posh restaurants, you'll soon see your money disappear so I always like to find small, affordable little places to eat that I'm going to enjoy just as much. I wrote a eating on a budget in Amsterdam post in January because you can still enjoy food without spending a fortune on it and sometimes I enjoy the cheaper food more! It means you can try more of the street food in the city and really get a feel for the culture - the crepe stops in Amsterdam are amazing. Of course, it's okay to splash out if you can afford it and aren't worrying about the cash but if you are trying to keep costs down, it's perhaps wiser to have one or two expensive food treats whilst keeping it simple for the rest of the trip.
Remember to check out Cairn Group if you're looking for a UK city hotel!
What are your tips for travelling on a budget?
*This post is in collaboration with Cairn Group. All views and words remain my own