LIFESTYLE

Affordable Last Minute Summer Holiday Destinations

Why eleventh hour is often cheaper than planning ahead

07/07/2016 11:20

There are loads of wallet-friendly places in the UK, Europe and even further afield you can visit on the spur of the moment.

In fact, it’s cheaper to book hotels nearer to your departure date, according to Denise Bartlett of Trivago.com.

“There is no significant difference between booking two months or one day in advance, and it is considerably more expensive to book three months in advance. This information really opens the door to last minute decisions and spontaneous trips,” she advises.

So we’ve picked our favourite places that are great value once you’re there, especially if you plan a hotel stay.

  • Northern Ireland
    Allan Baxter via Getty Images
    If you love a city packed with grand architecture, industrial heritage and chic restaurants, combined with some edgy modern history, Belfast is for you. See the birthplace of the doomed Titanic and her sister ships in the magnificent waterfront Titantic Quarter, or enjoy a Giant’s Boot, Wishing Chair and a Camel at the spectacular Giant’s Causeway. Clamber all over the 40,000 hexagonal basalt columns making up its coastline and, if you’re feeling brave, cross the terrifying Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge just down the road. Whether you rent a cottage or find a city centre hotel in Northern Ireland, prices are reasonable.
  • Bath and North Somerset
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    What have the Romans ever done for us? Apart from founding the UNESCO-listed City of Bath in the 1st century AD, and making your summer holiday affordable, that is…

    Bath, with its wonderful Roman baths and Georgian history on every street corner is a university town, so it’s possible to stay in uni digs for about £36 a night. Add to this bargain eateries such as Best of British Deli with its home-baked pies, quiches, cakes and soups, a stay in Bath can be very affordable indeed.

    If you prefer to get out of town into the rolling countryside, try a reasonably-priced farmstay B&B or cottage near spectacular Cheddar Gorge, the UK’s answer to the Grand Canyon. Don’t miss exploring the limestone stalagmites and stalactites of the Cheddar Caves in which they really do put Cheddar cheese to mature – you can buy some in the gift shop.
  • Pembrokeshire
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    Perfect for those who love to relax on miles of uncrowded golden sandy beaches, build sandcastles, swim or surf in clear azure seas and take long, breezy clifftop walks, Wales’s sublime Pembrokeshire coast and secret waterways could be just the affordable gem for you. The choice of places to stay in this lovely stretch of Wales is astonishing: rent a cottage, book a holiday centre, or camp on the clifftops overlooking the sea. It’s not all canvas and gas stoves though – choose a luxury yurt with its own wood-burner and wood-fired pizza oven at the nearby farmhouse, or a snug, tucked-away forest cabin.
  • Poland
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    Gdansk, Krakow, Warsaw, Lodz. City names that resonate with anyone who has even a passing interest in central Europe’s turbulent history. Once the epicentre of 20th Century upheaval, Poland’s turmoil is now past and it’s a country that is vibrant, chic, energetic – and affordable.

    Explore medieval Krakow with its Gothic heart and layers of Renaissance, Baroque and Art Nouveau architecture. Pause for thought in the many moving Holocaust and World War Two memorials that bear witness both to inhumanity and human resilience. And lose yourself in Poland’s rich, unspoiled countryside – deep forests alive with birdsong, verdant mountain passes with rivers and canals to explore by canoe. It’s possible to experience Poland on £30 a day, but if you really want to spoil yourself, live like a royal on £70.
  • Lisbon
    Renaud Visage via Getty Images
    Rome is not the only European city built upon seven hills – Lisbon is cradled by seven hills too. Lisbon is also the cheapest city in Western Europe. With steep, cobbled streets and undulating alleys, mellow amber colonial architecture, Moorish castles and monastery, it’s a fascinating place to explore, but particularly hard on your feet. So, hurrah for the electric trams, buses, metro and elavadors - cable trams - to take the strain. Adventurous Kate describes Lisbon, “as hilly as San Francisco, only with cobblestones."

    And when you’re finally footsore from exploring the quarters of the capital, cool your toes along the wild stretches of breezy Atlantic coast. Just 30 minutes away, they make Lisbon an excellent and affordable beach/city-combo holiday destination.
  • Dubrovnik
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    Indisputably one of the world’s most spectacular walled cities, the ‘Pearl of the Adriatic’ overlooks calm turquoise waters. Medieval curtain walls provide sturdy, centuries-old protection for the architectural jewels within – elegant piazzas, Baroque chapels and a charming pedestrian-only old town paved with smooth, white marble.

    Chic five-star hotels, top-drawer seafood restaurants and cafes line the coast and waterfront. But here’s the surprise – Dubrovnik offers the cheapest average cost for two nights' accommodation in Europe at just £41. If you go in midsummer, expect searing heat and overwhelming cruise ship crowds by day. To get the best of Dubrovnik, Adventurous Kate advises: “Only visit the old city after 4pm during the summer. Or even 6pm if you can. Believe me, you won’t be missing anything.”
  • Cambodia
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    Once a no-go country even for intrepid backpackers, Cambodia is now very much a part of the Southeast Asia holiday scene, and it’s almost embarrassingly cheap. £40 a day will get you a clean, basic guesthouse room, delicious street food and local bus travel, or you could push the boat out (quite literally) with a luxury hotel, fine dining, a rented 4x4 and still get change out of £250.

    Once in Cambodia, you cannot miss Angkor Wat, the astonishing temple complex built in the early 12th Century, and the world’s largest religious structure. Allow three-four days to visit this UNESCO-listed wonder. As Brian and Shannon of Everywhere Once point out: “You don’t come to Angkor just to see the one temple. You come here to explore the whole area. And that takes time.” Be aware of the heat and remember where your tuk-tuk driver parked.
  • Honduras
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    Eclipsed until now by Costa Rica and Belize, Honduras is the undiscovered budget gem on the Central American isthmus. It’s the Caribbean at bargain-basement prices – you can eat, sleep and sightsee for less than £30 a day, with palm trees, azure seas and pristine white sand beaches as standard.

    Hire a knowledgeable guide to tour the UNESCO-listed Copán - an ancient Mayan city, all sculptures and bewildering hieroglyphs. Travel blogger Jessie Festa recommends, “venturing down into the tunnels, located under Copán’s Acropolis. Though it feels like an ancient Mayan ghost may pop out at any time, it’s cool to see the temples and tombs from an underground perspective.”
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