How to Budget on Holiday

Trying to travel as much as possible in a year is something I’m always trying to do, but fitting it around holiday allowance at work and managing it on a budget is a constant struggle.

After returning from a three week trip to Australia I wanted to share some thoughts on how best to keep to a budget when travelling, to show that you can have a great time whilst on holiday without having to spend too much money.

Before I go on any holiday I tend to go on a research spree. I check out my favourite blogs, ask around my friends who’ve been there, search through my favourite magazines – Condé Nast Traveller and National Geographic Traveller – and even check out the geo tag on Instagram.

It’s a great way to find out the best spots in your holiday destination, and is always a great way to find good deals there as well! Throughout my travels I’ve always managed to keep to a budget and still have a good time, and so I wanted to share my tips!

Look for happy hours/meal special deals

The best thing about travelling to a city for a holiday is you get to take advantage of the weekday happy deals. When searching for spots to eat it’s always worth checking out menus online to see if they’re in your budget. Often, most places will offer a happy hour deal or sometimes even weekday specific meal deals that you can use to your advantage.

If you’re in a location where Street Food is on offer then don’t be deterred from venturing down to experience local delicacies at a cheaper price!

Cook for yourself where possible

I understand this might not be a popular option when on holiday – who wants to cook for themselves when trying to have some r&r?

Two reasons (apart from the money-saving reason of course) 1- sometimes if on a long trip going out for dinner can get a bit heavy and unhealthy, even if you’re eating healthy meals out nothing really feels as comfortable as something home cooked.

2- if you’re in a hot destination – and of course I’m mainly referring to Australia here – sometimes having a BBQ can be a great option to still taste the local food and save some pennies. When in Sydney, Byron Bay and even at the Palm Bay resort we chose to have BBQs on some evenings,

Find cheaper airport transfers/included in hotel deals

Sometimes the hidden cost of a holiday lies in the little extras that can be forgotten. Airport transfers often fall into that category for me but once again, a little research can go a long way.

Check out several different options for airport transfers, as sometimes the most popular and advertised option may not be the most cost effective or suitable for you.

Take New York for example, often the most recommended route is the infamous yellow cab and whereas it does have it’s scenic advantages it’s also pretty costly. Whereas for only $5 you can get the Jamaica train

You can also often find hotels which have free airport transfers included in the deals which is a filter on Booking.com when you search.

Walk when possible

Not only is it a cost effective option but it’s one of the best ways to see a new place you visit. One of my favourite ways to see New York is just by pounding the pavements and having the chance to experience the city in ways you might not otherwise from a subway cart.

This is accessibility dependent of course – I’m aware, as an able bodied person it’s easy for me to say this. If public transport is an option, when visiting a new location on your travels it’s best to research if any discount cards – usually for locals like an Oyster (London), Metro (New York) or an Opal (Sydney) etc. card – might make your trip cheaper.

And if you’re not opposed to Uber then I also find an Uber Pool is still a cost-effective way to get around. It might take a bit longer than a standard trip but it’s a great way of meeting locals if you’re both up for a chat!

Stay Away From the Tourist Traps

Sometimes it can seem a bit mad to pay extortionate amounts of money just to access a viewpoint to get a view of a city you haven’t seen before.

The golden rule of this blog is that if there’s a rooftop bar available, always opt for the rooftop bar.

But seriously, most skyscrapers that offer pay-for-view points also tend to have high end restaurants and bars included. The Rock in New York, the H building in Chicago and the Shangri-La Hotel in Sydney are all guilty of this and they’re more often than not free to enter (except of course you’ll be expected to buy food or drink when you’re up there).

A view is always much better with a cocktail in hand, so when visiting a new spot check out the available rooftop/sky high bars that are on offer before handing over your cash just to access a viewing platform without the added vino.

I hope you enjoyed this post, more travel posts will be coming to the blog every week, but in the meantime my holiday snaps can be found on my Instagram @GrundyTravels.

Thanks for reading x

The Freehand Chicago

Looking for where to stay in Chicago we certainly weren’t short of options. Despite usually swaying towards an Airbnb, it seemed that to find a good, central spot in the city it would be best to go with a hotel.

This is where the Freehand Chicago came in, which by a pure plight of luck appeared on Secret Escapes a few weeks before our trip, despite the fact I’d already reserved a spot there on Booking.com. I swiftly swapped the bookings round to take advantage of the deal, which was pretty nifty at £200 for a 4 night stay (half the price of what I had already reserved initially). City and tourism tax was also pre-paid which meant we didn’t have any extra costs to worry about on check out.

So, here are the basics:

The Freehand hotel chain has several spots around the USA, and they appear to cater for several accommodation options. When booking there is the option for a ‘bunk’ in a dorm room, which from their pictures appears like a very high-end hostel setup, all the way up to a penthouse floor which despite all my searching I actually can’t find the prices for…

For our Queen Room we paid £200 via Secret Escapes which was half the original price. The room was nicely decorated, especially the bathroom which was tiled in a deep green. I have to admit by American hotel standards it was quite small for a bedroom, but at least we still had a huge bed within it.

The hotel’s vibe is relaxed and easy going – with a strong sense that they’re really trying to be cool. We stopped by the bar, The Broken Shaker, on the first night to enjoy some cocktails. They also had a coffee shop in the foyer which was always bustling in the morning, despite the fact we couldn’t buy a cup of tea there…

In the elevators there were advertisements for the DJ sets in the bar in the upcoming week, in addition to an advert for ‘yoga and tequila’ which to be honest if we’d have been there I would’ve been up for it…

Not only was there the Broken Shaker and the coffee shop at the front of the building, but also a Photobooth (which we obviously had to use) in the middle, and a large communal area at the back complete with piano and board games. They also had a communal kitchen in the basement which had a kettle and filter coffee, toasters with complimentary bread in addition to fruit and cereal. If you’re in Chicago on a budget then I’d definitely direct you towards the Freehand, as this free breakfast would be hard to come by elsewhere!

The location of the hotel is also a big advantage – right next to the ‘Magnificent Mile’ it’s a great spot – even if you’re not there to do any shopping. We felt like it was a great starting point to start a day of exploring, being able to walk back from the Navy Pier or down to the riverside walk all from our hotel. If you follow South down the Magnificent Mile you can find yourself at Millennium Park with the infamous Cloud Gate structure (The Bean).

It was also right next to Pizzeria Uno which I would heartily recommend if you’re after some Chicago deep dish pizza (and why wouldn’t you be?). It’s also accompanied by Pizzeria Due on the other side of the road if the original place gets too full. The majority of stops we chose to eat at in Chicago were quite central and still close to the hotel, so it was easier to hot-foot it home once the jetlag hit and you wanted to get back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA          Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Overall, if you’re heading to Chicago for a visit I’d recommend the Freehand Chicago if you need a good, budget option hotel with a nice vibe inside. I think it would be hard to find a cheaper deal for the amount of complimentary features in a hotel. Also, if you’re a solo traveller then the dorm rooms and communal areas would be a benefit to making new friends in the city.

I hope you enjoyed this post, more Chicago posts will be coming to the blog every week, but in the meantime my holiday snaps can be found on my Instagram @GrundyTravels.

Thanks for reading x

Hamilton Island

Just like you might sit back in England and watch swallows fly around in the evening, at Hamilton island you have the cockatoos, and the bats. So many bats!

I can’t believe I’ve come to my last Australia post! No later than 3 months after I visited. In the entirety of our 3 week trip, this was the stop that was the most resort-like, and one it took us a while to engage with, so let me explain…

If, in the UK, you’ve ever been to Center Parcs then that is what I would liken Hamilton Island to, but on a grander scale. It’s a self contained island, with it’s own airports, several hotels across the island and the option to hire golf buggies to whizz around (much like you’d hire a bike for Center Parcs..)

The island even has it’s own app, listing the activities that are available, except you’ll find options to windsurf and scuba dive, rather than pottery. In addition, you can also find the restaurants and bars around the island, which shops you can buy food, drink, coffee and freshly baked bread in addition to how to get there (if you don’t fancy splashing out on a buggy you can catch the free island bus).

We chose to stay at the Whitsunday apartments which was the cheapest accommodation option on the island and not a part of the chain that owns Hamilton Island itself. Even though it was ‘budget’ for the island, it came to £362 for 2 nights, so £90 each per night.

We had a one bed apartment with a balcony overlooking the pool and ocean – even though we’d booked a room with a garden view! I have to admit I wasn’t expecting much but was pleasantly surprised at what we had! If I could’ve stayed for longer – perhaps a week – I would’ve been very happy.

If you’re after a more luxurious stay, there are plenty of options all around the island, from the Reef View Hotel up to private bungalows at Qualia (prices starting at $1300 a night).

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Similar to Palm Bay, you can swim in the ocean surrounding the island, but you would need a stinger suit in ‘stinger season’ which isn’t compulsory but highly recommended (read – it’s pretty much compulsory). Even though we didn’t hire stinger suits here, as we went on a surfing trip the next day – we did make full use of the island’s pools.

There are several dotted around the island – some belonging to private hotels which you can’t access without being a resident – but my personal favourite, The Main Pool, had it’s own swim up bar.

As mentioned earlier, if you’re after an experience of The Whitsundays whilst you’re there then Hamilton Island is the perfect spot to start. There are plenty of excursions on offer from the island, but we chose the half-day Whitehaven Beach which included a visit to the iconic beach in addition to the offer of being able to snorkel Chalkies beach nearby.

I have to say we had a really great time – and the snorkel experience came with Stinger suits included you’ll be happy to know. Whilst in the sea we saw fish, turtles and my partner saw a jellyfish but I’m grateful he didn’t tell me until we were out or I’d have hot-footed it straight out of the ocean there and then.

If you’re after a trip to Hamilton Island without having to spend an obscene amount, there are plenty of options to do for free. There are walking trails around the island, in addition to activities (mainly aimed at children/families I believe) located at Catseye beach. There’s also ‘moonlight movies’ and live music down at the marina area if you want something to enjoy in the evening.

As for food, there are several restaurants around the island, but both evenings we chose to take advantage of the take away options available as the view from our balcony was hard to beat. Opting for the pizzeria and then the fish & chippy the next night, we managed to save money whilst also making the most of our prime location on the balcony.

4679fd02-f3d3-4508-abeb-ffcafc62d845.jpg

If you’re after a little luxury retreat whilst you’re Queensland, I would recommend Hamilton Island if you’re after a large-scale, family-orientated resort style stay. If you want a quieter, more self-catering and remote holiday then I would point you towards my post about Palm Bay Resort on nearby Long Island.

Hamilton Island doesn’t have to be too luxurious if you’re on a budget. We were and we managed to make the most of it with what we could do – on our apartment balcony enjoying our shop-bought wine and takeaway pizza we still managed to soak up our surroundings without blowing our budget.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and if you’re looking at more luxurious stay in Australia then Hamilton Island would definitely be your best bet. This is my last Australia post, but for the rest you can find them on the Australiasia tab. In the meantime my holiday snaps can be found on my Instagram @GrundyTravels.

Thanks for reading x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brisbane Round Two

What do you do when you’re returning to Brisbane with still not a clue what to do? Well, you do it all again..

I have to admit when I returned to Brisbane this time round I was battling some sort of sleep deprivation/jet lag thing, as I really wasn’t feeling 100% myself. It’s such a shame with hindsight, because with only a day to try and explore the city, we really couldn’t cover much ground.

Regardless, what we did see of Brisbane was brilliant – even if it was an almost identical trip to my last time. There were a few little tweaks this time, which I’ll go on to explain…

Last time I visited Brisbane I was in a similar situation – only a day or so to try and explore the city. And I’m slightly ashamed to admit I only scratched the service.

Although this time I did manage to extend further to North of the River, visiting the Brisbane Botanical Gardens, which are certainly a little oasis in the heart of a big city. If your legs get tired like mine were, there are plenty of Lime scooters throughout the city you can grab to whizz around with instead.

This time around we stayed at the Next Hotel Brisbane, enticed by their rooftop swimming pool and attractive Happy hour deals. Whereas the room was a standard double – and includes 4 free items from the mini bar per stay by the way – the rooftop bar and pool was an added bonus to enjoy above a bustling city below.

My partner and I both took turns to do a few laps across the pool, but it seemed more people were there to drink and enjoy the view than risk getting themselves a bit wet. This was something we certainly joined in with as the happy hour was a great deal, and it wasn’t too busy for a Friday evening, meaning you’re not battling the crowds to get to the bar.

After a dip (and a margarita or two) we stepped out at sunset to walk along the Southbank to look for somewhere to eat. Once again, I went back to exactly the same place as last time – Mucho Mexicano – it was just too good not to go back too! One sharer fajita platter and a jug of sangria made for a perfect evening meal between two of us, and it wasn’t too pricey either.

The area we were in – around the Southbank gardens, meant it was a nice place to walk around to get back to our hotel late at night. Watching the locals sit back in the parks and enjoy birthday celebrations, or just Friday night drinks, was fun to watch and feel a part of, and was the closest feeling of being back in London.

Another aspect of Brisbane we got to explore this time around was further down the Southbank and across to the Botanical Gardens. Love how Botanical gardens seem to pop up everywhere around Australia, but they’re a great way to spend an hour or two exploring, or just sitting in the sun.

If you fancy a swim and you don’t have the luxury of a rooftop pool like we were lucky enough to have then the Southbank has a man-made pool with sandy beaches and sun loungers to sit back and relax. If there’s one thing I’ll say about Brisbane, it’s one of the most cost effective cities to enjoy in Australia, as unlike many cities there are plenty of free options to enjoy yourselves, whether exploring the botanical gardens or relaxing on the Southbank.

I love looking back at our brief time in Brisbane, and even though this tiny post doesn’t do it much justice, I hope it’s been of any help to anyone planning a trip there anytime soon.

I hope you enjoyed this post, more Australia posts will be coming to the blog every week, but in the meantime my holiday snaps can be found on my Instagram @GrundyTravels.

Thanks for reading x