Many of us have been affected by the recession and so have our holiday budgets, but if ever there were a time to visit Britain, 2012 is it. This will be a summer to remember whether you’re keen on taking in the spectacle of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations or watching the world descend on London for the Summer Olympics. The cost of accommodation will surely be one of your biggest expenses while on holiday, but not to worry, when staying in Great Britain just remember to think outside the box.
Britain is full of fabulous hotels and B & Bs and these are still the most popular forms of accommodation. Even at this late date there are thousands of hotel rooms available for booking in London this summer; however, hotel rooms and B & Bs aren’t the only forms of accommodation to consider, nor are they necessarily the most economical. When thinking about where to stay, consider one of these alternatives:
Rent a flat: This is my preferred method for staying in Britain and I have rented flats in both London and Glasgow on my last two holidays. Having lived in England myself it feels a bit unnatural for me to stay in a hotel. I like to reminisce about life in my old flat while living like a local. If you want to experience life as a Briton, renting a flat is one way to go. Not only can it be cheaper than a hotel room but with access to a kitchen, you’ll save on the cost of eating out for every meal. Remember to figure in that savings if you are thinking about renting a flat compared to a hotel room. I have used both www.vrbo.com and www.homeaway.com to book my flats and I highly recommend them.
Room Rental: If a flat rental is still too much for your budget then consider renting a room or a bed-sit. This is especially suited for people traveling alone or with a partner. (Room rentals are not normally an attractive option for families.) These rooms are usually found in someone’s home and may only consist of a bed and wardrobe. If your room is not en-suite, then you may have to share access to a bathroom with others but in some cases you may have access to the home’s kitchen as well. The cost of a room rental can be two-thirds to one half the price of a hotel room – just be mindful of location. Residential homes with bed-sits are more likely to be found in the suburbs or outside city centres so remember to factor in the cost of additional travel when considering your budget. Room rentals can be found at www.airbnb.com and at the flat rental sites listed above.
Hostel or Dormitory Room: Hostels (sometimes referred to as “backpackers’ hostels” in the UK) have long been an inexpensive option for young travellers but now individuals as old as 80 are using them. At one time hosteling meant you slept in a bunk bed in a room with eight strangers and shared the same shower facilities but in the last few years the quality of available amenities has improved. Now some hostels offer private rooms, private showers and free breakfast. Most hostels include a lounge with shared amenities like a TV and a computer and some include a shared kitchen for self-catering. The occasional hostel will offer private rooms for small families as well.
But are hostels safe, I hear you asking? The good news is an increasing number of hostels have CCTV and supply lockers where you can secure your belongings. Many hostels have curfew times when they shut their doors for the night. While it may be an inconvenience for those who fancy a late night out, you can rest assured that strangers won’t be walking in off the street at 2 a.m. Naturally you’ll still need to stay alert in your surroundings, but in general hostels have proven over the years to be a safe form of accommodation. Two good resources for finding a hostel are www.hostels.com and www.hostelworld.com. (Universities have also begun letting out empty dormitory rooms during the summer months when students have gone. Check with individual schools for prices, available amenities and safety questions or visit www.university-rooms.com.)
Home or Cottage Rental: This option may be more appealing if you have a family, are traveling in a large group or wish to stay outside a city. Perhaps your aim is to spend a few days exploring the English countryside? Why not rent a quintessentially English cottage in a lovely English village? Need more head room? Then let out a two-up, two down house which is more commonly owned by English residents. Get a real feel for day to day life in modern Britain. For holiday home and cottage rentals, check out Holiday Home Rental.co.uk and Cottages4U. Home rentals can also be found on the flat rental sites listed above.
Home Exchange: This form of accommodation is the new kid on the block. I haven’t tried it myself but I hope to in the future. The appeal of this option is that it’s completely free, you simply find someone who is willing to exchange their home in Great Britain for yours while on holiday. When planning, the biggest hurdle will be finding someone with travel dates that match up with yours in the location you want, but if you can do it, this seems like a great way to go. While it may be free, is it worry free? What about theft or damage to your property? These are all things you’ll need to consider when researching this option. Check out HomeExchange.com to learn more about home exchanges.
When planning your holiday to the U.K., don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone and consider different accommodation options. Not only could you save money, but living like a local means you may gain some cultural experiences that you will have missed with some of the more traditional choices. Whichever you choose, just get here! You don’t want to miss out on Great Britain in 2012.
Melissa Stoey is the author of Smitten by Britain- the world’s first blog for Britophiles (people who love Great Britain.) She used to live in England and is a lifelong Britophile who enjoys sharing her passion for Blighty with others. At Smitten by Britain, Melissa writes about the people, places and things that make Britain great.