Guide to: UK Hotel Breaks
Never overlook the UK as an alternative to heading abroad when you need to get away. Whether you’re living it up in London, relaxing in the Cotswolds or dipping your toe in coastal waters of Cornwall, there are loads of useful tips you can use to help slash the cost of your bill.
Here we run through the key steps for bagging a great bargain, plus clever ways to save from special rates and haggling to university stays, riverboats or even sleeping in the trees!
Do your research to find the right hotel
Whether you’re heading for the bright lights or lazing around in the country, the most important first step is to decide where you want to stay. You may already have a specific hotel in mind, but if not, make sure you do your research.
When doing your homework, don’t trust the star system! Amenities determine these ratings, not quality so a five star rating might simply be because they’ve got a pool, gym, fancy reception and conference facilities – not how nice it is!
Star ratings can be provided by reviewers, independent bodies or even the hotel itself, so treat them with a pinch of salt. If you really want an accurate star rating, check the hotel across a few different sites including the AA’s and Visit Britain.
Check TripAdvisor to see what other guest have said, its now a world wide institution and lists detailed reviews and genuine customer ratings for more than ten thousand hotels across the UK.
Typically these reviews are from past guests and as well as providing you with genuine objective feedback, they can be a really useful source of insider info – what room to stay in, wifi passwords, what to eat (and what not to eat!). Whilst useful, always be aware that anyone can post a review and its not unheard of for a hotel to sign up and post its own glowing one. Don’t just settle for the first thing you read – homework, remember?
Once you’ve settled on particular hotel, check the price if you booked directly. It’s a good place to start if you want to haggle later and gives you a chance to check if they’re offering any direct booking special offers.
Check a comparison site to see if you can find the same room at a lower rate
Hotel prices can really vary, but thanks to comparison sites, you can easily find the best price for the hotel you’re interested in.
For UK stays try Trivago, which covers over 250 different brokers and tends to be slightly cheaper or TravelSupermarket, where you can broaden your search. Or check out Kayak and Skyscanner if you want alternatives.
While they’re not comparison sites, Hotels.com, Booking.com and Expedia are all worth checking for extra discounts, free stays and member-only benefits (you may have to sign up to benefit from these).
Found a good deal through a comparison site? Call the hotel directly to see if you can bag an even better bargain by booking directly.
Hotels listed on the comparison sites have to pay a commission when you book through them, so if you find a hotel you like, try giving them a call directly. They may offer you a better deal because they wont pay a commission so they’ll be able to pass some of the profit back to you as a discount.
You may need to do a bit of haggling, but you’ve got nothing to loose. The worst that can happen is they say no, leaving you to book via the comparison site, which gave you your original price.
This works best with smaller chains or independent hotels but also keep an eye out for ‘direct booking price guarantees’ with bigger chains such as Hilton, Premier Inn, Marriott, Ramada, and Travelodge.
Discover huge savings on ‘secret rooms’ if you’re willing to do a bit of detective work.
Massive hotel bargains are available from secret hotel sites. With these you’re only told a star rating and approximate location – you only find out the hotel’s name once you’ve paid. It means you can find hotel rooms at rock-bottom prices, as they don’t have to worry about loosing trade from their direct customers who aren’t aware of the ‘secret rooms’. It’s a risk, but these sites are pretty selective about the quality of the hotels they work with, and it can be a lot of fun.
The biggest site for this in the UK is Lastminute.com (they also offer these kind of deals for international hotels) but you can also find ‘secret hotels’ on Hotwire, Priceline, Laterooms, SuperBreak and HotelDirect.
Use cashback sites to earn up to 13% back on hotels
Cashback sites pay you when you click through them to get to a retailer website and spend money. Essentially, its just one extra click, to get to where you’re going anyway (obviously you’ll need to sign up to them first and setup your account, but then you’re good to go).
You can use these sites to save hundreds of pounds off the cost of a hotel if you’re planning to be away for a while. Rates vary for different hotel booking sites, but two of the biggest cashback sites in the UK, Topcashback and Quidco, pay up to 13% for bookings through some of them.
It's important to remember that cashback isn’t guaranteed, so think of it as a bonus and make sure you can’t find the same hotel cheaper somewhere else first.
Sunday is primetime for bargain hunting
It’s the day of rest, and that applies to hotels too. It’s typically their quietest booking day, so you’re more likely to pay less to stay on a Sunday. Look out for special offers such as three-for-two nights, dinner included or a free bottle of bubbles if you stay on Sunday nights.
No-frills UK hotels can come in at as little as £20 per night
Some of the cheapest rooms around can be found with no-frills chains such as < a href="http://www.awin1.com/cread.php?awinmid=7694&awinaffid=158520">easyHotels (its easyJet, but for hotels) with basic rooms in London, Luton, Edinburgh, Glasgow and elsewhere for as little as £20 per night. The earlier you book these, the better the chance of a lower price. But be warned, you will not want to spend any longer than necessary in these rooms - they are tiny and can feel like a prison cell!
Another option is Tune Hotels with rooms in London from £35 (or less with a promo), but they’re run like a budget airline so expect to pay extra for everything! A great option if all you need is somewhere to lay your head though.
If you’re travelling to Cardiff, Cheltenham or Eastbourne, The Big Sleep Hotels are great value, with rooms starting at about £45 per night.
Get free cancellation and you can cancel and re-book if you finder it cheaper elsewhere
Some hotels and booking sites allow free cancellation up to a certain date (usually no less than 24 hours before you’re due to check in). If you see the price fall, take advantage of this, cancel your original booking and re-book at the lower rate.
It's worth bearing in mind that for some of these, you have to pay the full rate upfront (even if cancellation is included) so you’ll need to have enough funds available to cancel and re-book, bearing in mind that the refund is likely to take at least a few days to hit your bank account.
Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia and a whole host of others offer free cancellation, as do certain hotels if you book directly - just be sure to check the terms and conditions of your booking before you cancel.
Find luxurious bargains across the UK by signing up to flash-sale sites
Sites such as Conde Nast Traveller, Secret Escapes, Voyage Privé and Travelzoo offer huge discounts on luxury hotels and they often throw in added extras such as afternoon tea, dinner and bottles of bubbly to sweeten the deal. They’re free to sign up to; you just have to log in to check what’s available.
Hotels and travel brokers also often have flash-sales that are worth a look, but always do your own research to make sure you’re really getting a good deal or if you can beat it elsewhere.
Monitor our emails for the latest UK hotel offers
This guide is great for helping you cut the cost of hotels across the UK, but it’s always worth keeping an eye on our Travel Hacks, Tips and Tricks for all the latest time sensitive offers that could save you a bundle.
Slash the cost of city-centre stays by utilising university accommodation outside term time
Ever wondered what it’s like to be an Oxbridge student? The wait is over. University Rooms is a great specialist site that rents out halls-of –residence rooms left empty during the holidays in a number of UK cities, including London, Oxford and Cambridge among others. Singles start from £30 and doubles from about £70. While it’s not the Four Seasons, you might be pleasantly surprised. It can be an extremely cost-effective way to stay right in the centre of town on a budget. Also check out Travelstay for university rooms across the UK.
Our three top picks:
- University of Westminster halls: Marylebone, central London - £96 per night for a twin room, compared with £150 per night for a typical hotel room in the area.
- Edinburgh University halls: close to the city centre - £114 per night for a double room, compared with £150 per night for a typical hotel room in the area.
- University of Cambridge: Gonville and Caius College - £109 per night for a double room, compared with £130 per night for a typical hotel room in the area.
Look around for new hotels with special opening rates
New hotels often have special rates to encourage people to come and stay, sometimes with as much as 50% off or even for absolutely nothing. You can find new hotels that are opening in industry publications such as Hotel News Resource and Hotel Designs.
You can also find this info by scanning social media and keeping an eye on the local papers. It’s worth calling a hotel directly to ask about special rates – what have you got to loose?
Use Tesco points to slash prices on big chains standard rates
If you’re a regular at Tesco and collect Clubcard points, you can trade them in for rewards and redeem them at hotel chains such as Hilton, Butlins, New Forest Hotels and Old English Inns. The biggest advantage to this is that while the points are worth 1p in store, converted to ‘Rewards’ their value can be up to three or four times more. The only issue is that hotels typically only let you redeem against their regular prices which are usually much higher than their cheapest online ones so make sure you use a comparison site first to check whether the saving is really worth while. You may find you get better value from your vouchers elsewhere or even in store.
Loyalty schemes can provide you with some great rates
Many hotel chains have free loyalty schemes you can sign up to offering free stays after you’ve paid for a particular number of nights (not so useful as it can take a while to clock up the rewards), but they also offer extra benefits such as free room upgrades, early check-in/out, free papers and discounts at the restaurant. Good examples of these include Best Western Rewards, Hilton HHonors, Intercontinental Hotels Group Rewards Club and Marriott Rewards. Worth signing up to as its free and if you call the hotel and ask for a discount or upgrade, they’re more likely to say yes if you’re a ‘preferred guest’ so give it a go.
Travelodge’s ‘£29 or less’ sale is regular saver
Travelodge regularly offers rooms for £29 or less. The ultra-cheap rooms are typically released in batches – to really get the best bargains though, you need to know when a new batch has been released. Signing up to our newsletter means you’ll get regular weekly updates on sales that go live including the Travelodge Sales whenever they come on.
Many hostels are dirt-cheap, not dirt-y…
Hostels can provide huge savings over the cost of a hotel. While there are of course dingy ones out there, many are really quite nice and clean with friendly staff, free wifi and breakfast included.
They can be a great way to meet new people and don’t always assume you’ll be shoved in a dorm with a bunch of teenagers – many offer singles, twin-rooms and doubles.
Check out prices and availability through the YHA website (Youth Hostel Association) or if your heading to Scotland, try Hostelling Scotland. Both have some pretty amazing properties from historic lodges to Victorian mansions and even Norman castles like St Briavels hostel in Gloucestershire.
If you’re a ‘hostel virgin’, check out the handy Q&A on the YHA website which explains everything from what to bring, what’s provided and how to keep your things safe.
What about self-catering? Try an apartment or cottage rental
If there’s a group of you planning a trip inside the UK, consider a holiday rental rather than a hotel. There are loads of country cottages, coastal hideaways and city centre apartments available across the UK from sites like HomeAway, Clickstay, TripAdvisor, Airbnb and OwnersDirect that can make the process much simpler.
You can read a full breakdown on booking holiday rentals in our Cheap Holiday Rentals guide right here.
UK holidays from £9.50 per person, only with The Sun
You can grab a 4-day caravan-park stay from about £60 for four people by picking up tokens in The Sun. It’s a limited time promo they run each year in April and at the end of summer.
There are more than 180 parks across the UK with prices from as little as £9.50 per person plus a £10-50 service charge per booking. There are also loads of options across Europe if you’re looking to head further a field, starting from £15 per person.
How does it work? You pick the country and a few dates that you can make. You’re then given an exact date, after making the booking. Bear in mind that they have a no cancelation policy, so make sure you can definitely make all the dates before you book. Full details can be found at Holidays with The Sun, Ts&Cs apply.
Get your Bear Grylls on with a camping holiday under the stars
A great way to explore the great outdoors and escape on the cheap is with a no frills camping holiday. UKCampsite lists loads of campsites by area and facilities so you can choose whether to rough it or add a little glamour (glamour, camping = ‘glamping’). They also have some great user reviews if you’re looking for some extra info. You can also check out our Cheap Camping Tips guide, for advice on how to make the most of the great British outdoors, where to find the cheapest gear and even what to cook over the campfire.
Ever considered a house-swap holiday
There are a number of great house-swap sites out there such as Home Base Holidays, Homelink and HomeExchange that let you swap your home with someone on the other side of the world (or simply the other side of country).
There’s usually a fee to join, but then you won’t have any accommodation costs during your stay making it a potentially massive money saver.
Feedback can be mixed so always do your research and check out the reviews before making a booking, you could find yourself making life long friends or like Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz in The Holiday, perhaps you’ll find true love (Jude Law not included).
UK holiday camps are a family favourite
There are loads of holiday camps all across the UK and they’re a true family favourite with fresh air, fun and loads of activities to keep the kids occupied.
One of the most popular is Center Parcs, with five locations across the Lake District, Nottinghamshire, Suffolk, Bedfordshire and Wiltshire.
Prices aren’t cheap, but there are ways to save:
- Book early, as early as you can to cut costs.
- Consider doing your own meals rather than eating out.
- Take your own bikes and ride the trails around the park.
There are cheaper options available such as Pontins, Butlins and Haven so if you’re considering these, keep an eye online and in local papers for special offers and discounts.
Really want to head outside the box? Try the trees or a riverboat
If you want to try something completely different you don’t have far to look, there are loads across the UK.
You can rent a yurt (like a mud-hut) for about £60 per night, stay in a treehouse (a pretty nice one) for about £90 per night for two or even rent a canal or riverboat (prices vary depending on size of vessel and length of stay).
A few great websites for unusual stays include Canopy and Stars, Waterways Holidays and Forest Holidays for your less traditional options, and all well worth a look if you’re feeling adventurous.
Another option, particularly if you’re travelling alone and you don’t have a huge budget, is to try a bit of couch surfing. With couchsurfing.com you could do this for absolutely nothing, though there is an optional £13 verification fee that could make people more willing to put you up for the night).