How to do it

Nine ways to save money on a city break

Between a house move and Christmas present sprees, my bank account isn’t as healthy as I’d like. So does that mean I’m abandoning my plans to kickstart 2016 with lots of new travel? Obviously not.

Top tips for saving money on a city break. Piggy bank with coins scattered around.

Because even if you’re planning a break in an expensive city like my home of London, or other European and US capitals, there are plenty of ways to budget and save money on a city break.

So here are my nine top tips on how to get a budget city break, with my travel hacks for saving before I go and keeping costs down while I’m there.

1. Find the freebies
I love taking a tour to get my bearings in a new city, whether it’s boat, bus, bike or by foot. More and more cities have free walking tours where the only cost is a tip for the guide, or check out the Global Greeter Network where locals show you their city while you only need cover expenses like public transport and meals.

2. Maximise your spending
You can’t stop spending entirely, so make it work for you. When I buy online, I use a cashback site (like Top Cashback or  Quidco*) so everyday costs give me a little bonus. Or try a rewards credit card like these from TSB which earn you Avios points to get cheaper flights. Obviously I’m not recommending racking up credit card debt, but if it’s something you’d buy anyway…

3. Get the lowest flight prices
If you know where you want to go and when, set up a flight price tracker – Skyscanner will monitor changes and email you, so if the cost drops you can pounce. It’s a great comparison tool to check different airlines too, as mixing and matching different carriers or booking on less popular days can make a big difference.

4. Stay central
It seems contrary – picking the central places to stay usually means paying more. But if you’re ready to walk, you can save on public transport and it’s easier to dash back if you get an overtired mini traveller. AirBNB’s* central locations are usually a lot less than hotels.

5. Research city passes
City passes can save a fortune – or be a huge waste of money. Before you go, work out what you’re realistically going to do and the cost versus the price of the pass. If you’re first activating a one-day version at 5pm, make sure it’s going to run for 24h rather than just the day of activation too!

6. Reduce the roaming
One big bonus of cities is you’ll find free wifi dotted all over the place, to skip roaming charges. If you know you’ll need data 24/7, check your phone company’s options before you leave – mine has a European package for £3 per day, for example.

Ready to roam

Ready to roam

7. Book in advance
More organisation benefits, but booking tickets in advance can often get you reduced admission. Even better, it can mean jumping the queue too.

8. Timing is everything
A lot of museums have reduced admission times on certain days, particularly late afternoon or evening, which is ideal if you know you’ll only want an hour or two anyway. Quite a few have entirely free days but expect much bigger crowds too.

9. Hit the sales
Sales are not just for Christmas: keep an eye out for flash sales and sign up to email newsletters. Best if you’ve got a definite plan in mind, make a note of the standard cost to compare the sale price. It also makes it less likely you’ll accidentally buy the travel equivalent of an orange mohair cropped top.

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Nine ways to save money on a city break. My top budget tips for keeping the costs down, saving and finding freebies travelling to expensive cities

Compiled in association with TSB*

*Disclosure: If you use this link to sign up to Quidco, you should get a welcome £1 (and I get a little something too). Same goes for AirBNB except you get £20 credit. Any affiliate links are to sites I genuinely use and recommend.

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