It might be the most wonderful time of the year but it’s also the most expensive. Yep, it’s almost Christmas. But we understand that you don’t want to let your thinning wallet prevent you from having holiday fun this winter.
If you and your mates are trying to organise a winter getaway, you just have to do it smart. We’re about to reveal the best tips, tricks and destinations for having a wonderful winter holiday on a budget.
Firstly, plan your flights right
Flights can be the most expensive part of any trip. And as we’re sure your dad (or childhood Scout leader) has told you countless times, ‘fail to prepare and you prepare to fail’ aka - get them sorted in good time!
The best time to buy flights is on Tuesday, around six weeks before the day you want to leave. Why Tuesday? Because that’s when airlines release their ticket sales, which prompts their competitors to match the price.
And it goes without saying that you should avoid buying tickets on popular holiday days. That means you should steer clear of travelling around Christmas and New Year time. As soon as New Year is over though, it’s your time to pack. January is one of the cheapest months to purchase flights.
Luckily, you’re living on a student’s timetable. Where possible you should aim to buy tickets midweek and not on weekends, as that will save you money again. Flight comparison sites such as Skyscanner are useful in helping you scour the market.
Or you could slum it on a bus
If it’s not about the journey but the destination, then jumping on a two-day bus shouldn’t matter much.
If time is on your side, choose to travel by coach and you’ll save even more money again (that means more money for food and booze when you arrive). Coach lines such as Omio, Flixbus and Eurolines will get you all the way across Europe for the fraction of the price of a flight.
Opt for cheap accommodation
You can also cut costs when it comes to accommodation. Be smart with this. If you’ve purchased cheap flights but the cost of accommodation and living is going to be astronomical once you’ve arrived, you might have to reconsider your holiday plans.
Check out local hostels for a budget stay, consider wrapping up and going camping (yep, even in winter) or find a low-cost Air BnB to split with a group of friends – the more you are splitting it with, the cheaper it gets.
So where should you go?
Here are some of the top winter holiday destinations, where you can have the most fun on a student budget.
Prague, Czech Republic
Highlights: Cheap booze, fancy architecture
In January, flights to Prague can cost as little as £13 from London. That’s about as much as a meal out in your favourite restaurant. Prague is famous for its cheap food and booze. Yep, the rumours are true – a half litre of beer will only cost you around one quid.
Munch on the Czech’s national foodstuffs of goulash, dumplings, pork and potatoes for as little as a fiver and explore the beautiful scenery of the city. St Vitus Cathedral, a stroll along Charles Bridge and a trip to Prague Castle are key selling points.
Highlights: Super-clubs, History
The party-capital of Europe is also surprisingly cheap to get to in winter. You can fly to Berlin for as little as £13 in the New Year.
Not only is it filled with notoriously crazy nightclubs (we’re talking 24/7 parties) but countercultural Berlin is a city packed with history too. Experience the city’s techno scene and try your luck at entering the famous Berghein (but be ready to queue for hours) and then balance it out by visiting the Reichstag German Bundestag (that’s their parliament) and cycle through the city’s famous park, the Tiergarden.
Highlights: Guinness, Irish music (and people)
While this next one is closer to home, it has all the magical charm of a small European city on the continent. Try your hand at drinking like the Irish in the iconic temple bar. Knock back a Guinness and take in the live music there. Then head out for a wander to explore the rest of the city’s pubs and bars.
A flight to Dublin could cost you as little as £11 so you should have plenty of money left over to do typically touristic activities like visit the Guinness museum where you can drink while looking out on a 360 panoramic view of the Dublin skyline.
Ireland is a beautiful country beyond Dublin too. If you have the time you could take a cheap daytrip to the Cliffs of Moher, where scenes from The Princess Bride and Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince were filmed.
Highlights: Better weather, culture and history
While January isn’t the hottest time of year in Morocco, it’s certainly a lot warmer than at home. So if you fancy heading to the African continent this winter, check out flights to places such as Fes, Agadir or Casablanca from as little as £13. Remember that Marrakesh isn’t the only holiday spot this country has to offer.
The exchange rate will leave you with a lot of holiday spends and accommodation in hostels in the smaller cities and towns can be as little as a fiver a night.
In Fes, you will experience leather tanneries, Merenid tombs that contain the skeletal remains of sultans and other royals of the Merenid dynasty. A visit to Chefchaouen is also just a few hours away by bus. It’s aptly called the Blue City and sits high in the mountains. As the name might suggest, all of the buildings in the town are painted blue. This makes for some incredible views.
When in Morocco shop in souks, check out the amazing architecture of mosques and even enjoy a scrub in a local hammam.