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Best Money Saving Tips for UK Accommodations

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Don't let the UK's reputation for expensive accommodations put you off visiting. It's true that the average cost of a hotel room in Britain is about £100 a night and the idea of spending nearly $200 for a night in a, possibly, grim and mediocre hotel is certainly off putting. But there are other kinds of lower cost accommodations to choose from as well as ways to save on conventional hotel rooms. Consider these ideas:

1. Stay on the Edge

In most places, you will pay a premium for staying in town and city centers. Check out the public transportation situation with the local tourist board -- some towns even have free shuttle buses in their high seasons. You may be able to save as much as 40% by choosing lodgings on the edge of town.

2. Go for Guest Houses

Smaller hotels, with fewer hotel type services, are called guest houses. Nowadays, with mobile phones and wifi available pretty much everywhere, in room direct line telephones and business centers are extras you don't need anyway. And if you can live withou a concierge, a bar, or the usual front desk services, you can chop quite a bit off your bill. Guest houses are similar to B&Bs but usually larger. Try this one:

3. Choose an owner-occupied B&B

Smaller B&Bs and farmhouse B&Bs are inexpensive and great ways to meet the British on their own turf. Staying in a family occupied B&B is a bit like being someone's house guest. You might have to share a bathroom (or not) but you might also get the best room in the house. Breakfast will be home made and you'll have a chance to chat with your host and other guests. And the best part is that it will cost a third as much as an average priced hotel.
Consider Life Hill Farm, a friendly, owner-occupied B&B in the Yorkshire Wolds.

4. Consider going in the off-season

Depending upon what you enjoy doing, this may or may not be a good idea. January and February are the cheapest months for travel in the UK. If you already live in a cold climate, you won't be put off by the weather. But days are very short and outdoor attractions close earlier. So if you want to spend a lot of time outdoors and you don't like rising with the sun, it's probably not a great idea. On the other hand, if you're a fan of bright lights and big cities, winter can be a great -- and cheaper -- time to visit.

5. Try House Swapping

House Swapping is a great - and safe - way to save thousands on your vacation yet live in comfort, like a local. Ever since the Cameron Diaz movie "Holiday", in 2007, the idea of exchanging your home with a like-minded stranger (which has actually been around for a while) has really taken off. HomeExchange.com is a membership organization that helps house swappers get in touch with each other. They have loads of members, with lots of great properties, in the UK. And other than the small membership fee, swapping your home for another big enough for your whole family, is free.

6. Choose a Chain

What the international chain hotels lack in charm they more than make up for in price and reliability. If you're on a touring vacation, how much time will you be spending in your room anyway. As long as its decent, well located and clean, it's probably all you need. Save up for a special hotel or bed and breakfast along the way by sticking to the tried, tested and cheap chains for your stopovers.

7. Negotiate

If you can, don't pay for more than one night in advance. Then look around to see what else is available. If the manager of your hotel thinks you might move to another hotel - and if your hotel isn't full - you may be able to negotiate a better price. It never hurts to make an offer and, even at some of the fanciest hotels in town, you could get lucky.

8. Self-Cater

Cottages and small apartments where you cook and clean for yourself are rented by the week and much cheaper than other kinds of accommodations. You could rent a house, big enough for five or six people, for a whole week, for not much more than the cost of a couple of nights for two in a good hotel. The National Trust has a selection of wonderful, historic cottages available this way. Or try Cottages4You, another good source of self-catering accommodations in the UK. Check out My Top UK Vacation Rental Websites for some of the best.

9. Rent an RV

They are called caravans in the UK and some caravan parks are located in very scenic spots -- The Cornish Coast or National Parks in Wales, for example. In London you can camp in a nice, wooded area of Crystal Palace Park, near public transportation to the center of town, for less than $30 a night. Click on GoCaravanning.com for links to RV rentals all over the UK.

10. Give Hostels a Try

Hostels have come a long way from the days when they were rough and ready bunkhouses and camping barns for student backpackers. Though there are still plenty of those around, nowadays hostels cater to families and seniors, some have private rooms, some offer breakfasts and cooked meals, some have bistros and bars. It is even possible to hire an entire castle, at hostel prices, for a wedding or big family gathering.

What has not changed, though, is that they are usually the cheapest safe and clean rooms around.

11. Search the Internet

Never book a hotel before checking out the many online, accommodation search engines first. Spending time searching for the best rates on the Internet can save a lot of money. In fact, many hotels have special Internet only rates and last minute Internet packages.

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