Our choice to live frugally is, as I have explained before, primarily to finance an early pay-off of our mortgage, however, it would be all too easy to focus only on that, and to totally lose sight of the fact that life should be lived and enjoyed in the meantime. Recently Ben's rugby team were heading off for a weekend to Barcelona, with a match to be played out there as well, and we wanted to go with them. I've never visited the city before, and Ben has family not far away, so it seemed likely that we would be able to "kill two birds with one stone" as it were, and see them at the same time - a good way of adding value to the trip.
For people like us, who enjoy getting away for weekend breaks etc, but are limited (even if by choice) financially, there are lots of ways to ways to make this more affordable. This time around the accommodation and flights were being booked centrally, but had this not been the case we would have shopped around online for the cheapest options, and booked the flights as far ahead as possible in order to get the best price. For us, so long as a hotel is clean and decent, then it doesn't need to be fancy. We usually avoid drinking in the pricey hotel bar in any case, so whether the hotel has one or not is largely irrelevant. Breakfast - particularly the buffet style of service - is a useful extra to have included, as it means you can regard it as a proper meal, this meaning less is needed for lunch.
Travel to and from airports can be a large proportion of the costs - particular of a short trip, so it is well worth looking into the best options for this. We live fairly close to Stansted Airport, and have direct buses, however, the fare is now around £9 per person, each way. Parking the car in the long-stay for this trip cost just £27 - a saving of £9 over the bus fare! Sometimes on a longer trip it can be worth booking into a hotel near the airport for the night before your flight - this often entitles you to leave your vehicle in their car park for the duration of your holiday - saving a small fortune on airport parking fees! If you're not too far away it may even work out cheaper to get a taxi to and from, especially if there are several of you travelling. Most of our party intended to get taxis from the airport to the hotel on arrival in Barcelona - at a cost of around €10 per person. We did a little research beforehand and found that there was a direct train from the airport back to the city centre - three of us travelled this way in the end and it worked out to a cost of less than €1 each! The trains were fast, clean and frequent - it took a little longer, but we were in no real rush.
Food and drink on budget airlines is notoriously expensive - a sandwich and a drink can easily cost you over £7 - or even more. A good way of reducing this while increasing your choice is the "meal deal" available from the likes of Boots. Remember to wait until you are airside to buy though otherwise your bottle of drink will be removed from you at security! This time round we took food from home, and just bought a bottle of water from Boots - this also had the advantage of giving us a plastic bottle that could be filled with drinking water at the hotel and taken out with us during the day, although bottled water was so ridiculously cheap over there that this was no great advantage this time. When we are visiting anywhere different we always prefer to eat local food rather than searching out the familar British menu items, and this often works out cheaper, particularly if you avoid places on the main tourist trail and search out the places frequented by locals in side and back streets. Barcelona has lots of small restaurants serving tapas for a decent sum - €10 or thereabouts gets you a good, and authentic, meal. Some of the street food is also excellent - a flatbread with lamb and salad was superb, described as a kebab but far above the sort of thing we recognise as that in the UK, and the market we visited had plentiful stalls selling fresh fruit salad (€1 - €2 - and absolutely delicious) and freshly squeezed juices for €1 each. Markets and supermarkets are a great idea for picking up lunch as well - we often buy a loaf of good bread, and some local cheeses or cold meats - and then picnic with those - far less expensive than going into a restaurant for every meal. In Europe most supermarkets have chilled bottles of wine available too - just check for a screw cap and "borrow" the disposable plastic cups from the hotel room and you're sorted, and in Barcelona a perfectly drinkable bottle could be found for just a couple of Euros. Just check carefully that you are allowed to drink alcohol in public in the area you have chosen for your picnic!
With airport security restrictions being so tight these days the ability to pack ones toiletry kit into one small plastic bag becomes ever more useful. Rather than buying those little miniature travel bottles of shampoo, shower gel etc, keep an eye out for companies offering free samples and send off for these. Sachets of body lotion, shampoo & conditioner (often given away with magazines etc, or direct from manufacturers launching new products) are super-handy, and the same applies to moisturiser etc. A standard sized roll-on deodorant is no more expensive than a "travel-size" spray deodorant, and you will be able to take it on trip, after trip, without having to continually replace, or worry that it will not last a three or four day trip. A set of travel bottles and pots are useful as they can be filled direct from your usual bottles and tubes of product at home - just be careful on the sizes as if the capacity of bottles isnot clear they may get taken from you at security in any case. Market stalls often stock the mini tubes of toothpaste at 4 for £1 - and occasionally Boots do a voucher through their "advantage card machine" that you can use to get a small tube of toothpaste absolutely free.
What are your favourite ways of saving pennies on trips away and weekend breaks? Do you camp, or use the cheap Travelodge rooms for example? Ordo you feel that a holiday is a holiday, and hang the expence?