The kids are out of school, many businesses in Europe are closed, flights are packed in elbow-to-elbow. Ah, it must be August. I arrived in the United Kingdom in the late summer, and this is a rough time of year. Although it’s a beautiful time to visit, it’s also stressful for budget backpacking. Because my yearlong trip was only lightly planned, I learned the hard way that you have to be on your game if you plan travel around the country on a backpacker budget.
It’s possible, but it’s a lot of work!
You see, tourists from the United States and from all over Europe head to Scotland from July through September; cheap accommodation is booked up quickly and tours and food are all at a premium. And although I had my trusty UK Lonely Planet, which had the budget tips, it only halfway works when you’re backpacking quickly during high season. Things like most of the sites in London and elsewhere are free. You can visit all the museums, and you can hike in the Lake District without spending a penny. But the accommodation and transport prices are brutal if you’re not prepared.
There are the five key points I wish I had known before planning a trip to the UK during the summer months. These ones helped me not only save money, but made it possible to find transport and affordable food everyday and somewhere to sleep every night.
1. Book Ahead.
I’m definitely a fan of spontaneous travel and arely do I fully book my trips advance. When I land in a new place, my MO is usually to book the first two nights of hostels. The rest? I leave that up to whim, luck, and the advice of other travels. For traveling the U.K. during high season, that style of travel is extremely difficult. Budget accommodation is booked up, particularly on the weekends.
What’s more, even the cheapie beds are expensive. Some hostels in London raise the prices on the weekends. The only way you will find the affordable hostels is a bit of advance planning. For me, as an American, every price is then exchanged from my home currency into the dominating pounds sterling. If you’re traveling on a low budget, the difference of a few pounds extra stacks up quickly. When I first arrived in the U.K., lack of pre-booking meant I ate up a three-day budget in one heartbeat. All because I had to float myself for a few days until the hostel had openings.
All of the usual hostel sites work for pre-booking. I usually use HostelworldorAgoda. Also consider local listing like the Scottish Independent Hostels site — it has heaps of highly tailored local information, as well as local accommodation. Using sites like Couchsurfing take a whole lot of time to make work, but if you are willing to invest the time into searching and requesting, you can find free couches too. If you still want to be spontaneous, consider just booking your accommodation for Friday and Saturday nights. For traveling families, hostels are still a great choice by the way. Independent hostels especially are family-friendly. Staying in a private room as a family not only costs less for the room, but your family saves money by cooking occasional meals (making breakfast at the hostel is one of the best ways to save money in your food budget!). backpacking,backpacking,backpacking