As this post goes live I should hopefully be exploring the beautiful streets of Amsterdam - that's if this crazy weather doesn't delay my flight! I've been excited for this for longer than I can even remember, even though it only really became a reality a few weeks ago. I've been telling myself for about three years now that I'm finally going to bite the bullet and book a weekend away to Amsterdam but I simply never got around to it.
When I found out my manager had given me a couple of weeks holiday though (which needed to be used up), myself and my friend Briony decided to go for a long weekend and in a matter of a week or so, the whole thing had been planned and booked. This was only within the last few weeks that we made the decision to go so as you can imagine, it's been a quick process focusing on a tight budget.
The flights simply are not worth mentioning in terms of advice; a flight to Amsterdam takes around an hour or so and has always been (and will always be) cheap. Obviously it depends where you're going on holiday but there's little point in me giving advice on where to find cheap flights.
Accommodation was another matter altogether though. We knew it wouldn't be super expensive no matter where we decided, but we still wanted it to be as cheap as possible whilst still getting a roof over our heads!
One thing I learned about finding cheap accommodation when booking this long weekend away was that you should always think outside of the box. Our first assumption was to book into a hotel but we soon found there were much cheaper options. Checking into a hostel was our first idea, although unfortunately a lot of people tend to steer away from this idea. I found that hostels in Amsterdam were really cheap and were also exactly the type of thing we were looking for as two young travelers wanting to explore but also have a good time. A hostel sounded inviting because we knew it would mean meeting loads of people our own age with similar interests with us and I also knew that staying in a hostel would mean having a lovely atmosphere throughout the weekend.
We decided against a hostel in the end because we wanted something a little more secure & private for our first time in Amsterdam, but next time we'll definitely be checking into one. Other things we considered was renting a flat for the weekend which sounded very chic and fun! Some of the places we looked at were absolutely beautiful and one place even had a pool! Airbnb was one website that was the most helpful and I found it's app super easy to use too. I think had our budget just been a little bigger, we would have definitely have booked ourselves into one of the plush apartments that were on offer. They weren't especially expensive - the rates were actually very cheap for how lovely the places were - but our budget only really covered places that were quite far out of the centre which wasn't ideal for us.
In the end we decided on staying on a cruise boat! Not only was this one of the cheapest options but it sounds really fun and it offers everything a hotel offers for just that bit cheaper. The rooms are basic but lovely and WiFi is free too. Although staying on a boat probably isn't something that's available at every place you go on holiday, this is just a prime example of how thinking outside of the box and not limiting yourself to booking into a hotel room can save you lots of money and also give you a bit of an adventure!
Another thing that was really helpful was the app Hotel Tonight. I had £30 free credit left over from when I first downloaded the app and signed up (You can grab £15 free credit too by using my code referral code LJOY9 btw!) and I actually found this really easy to use. It displayed only a few hotels from budget ones to plush ones and made it a lot easier than trudging through pages of results to find one suitable for me. Since I had credit to use, we thought it would be nice to book ourselves into a more plush place for one night of our trip and in the end, our room for the first night right in the centre only cost me £8!
Obviously it's not ideal flitting from hotel to hotel but if you want to explore different parts of where ever your holidaying, it could well work out cheaper to stay in two different hotels for two different halves of your holiday, especially when you take into account different discount codes you can use etc. If you're really looking to save money but can't face staying somewhere bland throughout, you could always pick somewhere super cheap for the first few nights and then using the money you saved for that, choose somewhere a little more plush for the final half of your holiday.
I in no way consider myself an expert on travel but with hoping to get out and about more - if even just in the UK - in 2015, it's important to me to learn how to budget and shop around. I definitely think I did a good job in this case and that overall we've probably saved a good £100/200 pound by mixing things up a bit as opposed to just booking into a standard hotel for our entire stay.
Do you have any travel tips when it comes to booking accommodation? Let me know!
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