Whilst every blogger and their cat is enjoying the view of azure Maldivian waters, whilst sipping on a margarita from an actual coconut I’m pretty sure the majority of us don’t have a spare couple of grand on hand right now (yet we are all so bloody jealous and totally in need of a holiday right?). The answer is – we’ll just have to resort to a budget holiday (as you do, every year). But this time won’t be all about those breakfast-included hotel deals and stale ham & cheese sandwiches for lunch. Today I’m sharing my secret tricks that turn your budget city break weekend into a super fancy experience you won’t forget! All these tricks are super easy – some require a little bit of extra money but none of them will break the bank – and I promise you that every single one of them will elevate your budget weekend into new heights!
HOW TO TURN YOUR BUDGET BREAK INTO A LUXURIOUS RETREAT
✈️ Location, location, location
It’s ever so tempting to go on Booking.com & sort your search results by price keeping your eye firmly on the £20-30 mark per night. The thing is that these insanely cheap places usually come with a price tag of a public transport day ticket (unless you want to spend your holiday in a residential suburb amongst a jungle of blocks of flats). Do a little research – how much does a day ticket cost? How many of you are travelling? Add it all up & you’ll see how much more you can actually spend on a hotel closer to the city centre. And whilst you’re at it, choose a hotel with character to make your stay extra special. Sometimes small boutique hotels have very affordable rates and they really do take their customer service that extra mile. Like this apartment we stayed in when we went to Prague last year – it was right in the historical centre, for around £40 a night (we didn’t need to buy any public transport tickets which would work out about £8 for both of us per day). Plus staying bang on in the historical centre makes you feel oh so fancy!
✈️ Pack lightly, but strategically
Our common sense tells us that packing lightly means spending less on luggage allowance hence having more disposable cash for when we’ve arrived at the destination. When you do a little counting you’ll realise that even the most expensive check in luggage won’t cost you more than £30 and if you’re sharing with your friend or your other half it’ll work out max £15. That’s also the amount of money it’ll cost you to have a (mini) plateful of lasagne & (half a) pint at the airport Wetherspoons. Taking a check in bag means you can pack your antiperspirant, favourite perfume and a few pretty dresses that will make you feel a million dollars instead of sticking to just a pair of jeans and a perfume sample you got from Avon 5 years ago. Feeling pretty on your holiday doesn’t cost a lot but it makes you feel absolutely priceless!
✈️ Flagging down a taxi is not as glamorous as 1950’s movies make it out
It’s in fact a real pain in the butt (where’s the taxi picking you up? how much does it cost? how much should it cost?) and can become incredibly expensive – especially in large cities. And let’s be honest – you never know what standard you should be expecting – I’ve once flagged down a taxi in Prague (in much haste, to say the least!) and despite being Czech born & raised I couldn’t tell whether the driver was taking me to my hotel or whether we were replicating the Hostel scenario. Whichever city you’re in; choose a reliable, safe and perhaps a slightly more luxurious transfer service (to get that I’m on a fancy holiday feeling!). Blacklane is a company that operates in 250+ cities (including Prague, Paris, London, New York & Hong Kong – try to find a city break where you wouldn’t be able to use them, I dare you!), their fleet is nothing short of luxurious (you can pick whichever car model suits your budget) and the booking is just the easiest. You can book them either online or via their app – both giving you the exact (and guaranteed!) price straight away (which especially in a city you’re not familiar with is a godsend). And you know what’s that one thing that makes you feel like you’re on a proper fancy retreat? When you get a meet & greet at the airport – complete with your name printed on an A4 (and even spelled correctly!). Check out all the cities they operate in right here.
✈️ An evening at the opera
Another way to luxe up your otherwise pretty low cost holiday is getting tickets for an opera, theatre or even an old school ball. If you buy them in advance they will cost you as much as a dinner for two at Pizza Express (if not less) and trust me – you’ll feel like a royalty for the night! Just to give you an idea of the prices I’m talking about – I’ve been to a theatre performance in the City of Rhodes that cost me less than a tenner and it was absolutely tremendous! Dress up for the night (with heels and all), go for a really fancy dinner (if you’re at a seaside city then you have to choose a restaurant with a sea view, obviously!), get all three courses, a bottle of wine and then stroll along the cobbled streets (or book a ride with Blacklane) to the nearest opera house, theatre or a dance ball. Go for something more grandiose – the National Theatre in Prague, Palais Garnier in Paris or Teatro dell’Opera in Rome. These all have red carpets, royal balconettes and you will be able to watch the likes of the Swan Lake, La Traviata or Rome & Juliet. An experience you’ll cherish for the rest of the year (at least!).
✈️ Finding those eateries that only locals know
Eating out in fancy restaurants gives you the ultimate luxurious vibes but let’s face it – it’s dead expensive. Like, insanely expensive! Still – there is a way to get around this and enjoy a little bit of luxury on budget! Even the busiest most touristy cities in the world are inhabited by people who live there full time. It’s their home. And when you’re at home you ain’t paying the tourist prices! Search for hidden gems of restaurants in narrow back streets, those that are just one stop on the tube away or those that are camouflaged as a part of a hotel. I promise you, the time you’ll spend searching for that fanciness will be well worth it – plus you get to explore places other tourists won’t step into!
✈️ Jam pack your schedule with unique experiences
They say we should be collecting memories not mementos – and they are damn right. Instead of meaningless strolls through dozens and dozens of souvenir shops that are all but the same find something new you haven’t tried yet and give it a go. Riding ponies on the beach, visiting a local farmers market with a bunch of tulips under your arm, taking up a drawing class from one of the rooftops. The world is your oyster and picking up a new skill or an experience will make your holiday so much more memorable and will make your soul feel super pampered – and some of them don’t even cost a thing! Airbnb are now offering a range of various activities on top of their regular accommodation offer – you can check them out here.
💭 This post is in collaboration with Blacklane however all these tips & tricks are my very own, all tried & tested in some of the most beautiful cities in Europe.