Holidaying on the cheap

Smart Consumer: How to fund your next holiday

By John Cradden

Thursday January 26 2012

This is traditionally the time of year when many families plan and book their summer holidays, but if a tighter household budget has ruled out your usual two weeks in the sun, there are loads of clever ways to get away for next to nothing.

The Irish spend nearly €800 per person on average on their summer holidays, according to last year’s booking data from online travel and leisure retailer

Granted, this is almost half as much as the French (nearly €1,600) and a good bit less than the British (€1,000), but it’s still a fair amount.

The options below could help radically cut the cost of your usual holiday, help boost your holiday budget or help you see the world for less.

House swap/ exchange

Having a holiday in someone else’s home while they have one in yours is now so easy to set up that it’s a wonder why more people don’t do it.

There are a number of international home swap agencies with bases in Ireland, such as Homelink and Intervac, who have hundreds of members here. You pay a flat fee each year and this allows you to put a listing of your house with photos and to browse others. Then you simply email people to see if they’re interested.

Marie Murphy of Homelink says Ireland is a very popular destination for home-swappers, especially with the Americans, Australians, French and Germans.

Best of all, your home doesn’t need to be in a tourist location. “Our members look for a clean comfortable home and use this as a base to visit other parts of the country, so people with homes in any part of Ireland can get involved,” says Murphy.

Get on board

If you’ve always liked the idea of taking to the high seas, look into becoming part of a boat crew. Sites like put together boat and yacht owners and would-be crew members of all kinds of ability.

You’ll have to work of course, and it won’t necessarily be salaried, but the payback is that you’ll be on a yacht. Trips can be short or long.

Use cashback/ daily deal sites

You can find some very useful discounts on holiday packages if you book through websites like, but look also at ‘daily deal’ sites like,, and

Daily deal websites offer products or services for a discount — often as much as 50pc or more — over a limited period of 24 to 36 hours, but sometimes a bit longer. Members of these websites receive online offers and invitations.

A great many of the discount offers are related to holidaying or weekends away.

Similarly, a cashback website, such as, is a type of reward website that pays its members a percentage of money earned when they purchase goods and services via its affiliate links. So avail of any travel offers and you’ll get money lodged directly into your bank account.

Family volunteering

We’ve all heard of holidays spent volunteering overseas, which is fine for students and young people, but can it work for the whole family?

EIL Intercultural Learning is an Irish not-for-profit organisation supporting local projects across the world. It offers volunteering placements of a minimum of two weeks, and participants can volunteer with their family on the same project.

There is a participation fee which covers accommodation, meals, transfers and support, but not flights, visas, vaccinations or medical and travel insurance.

So while you might not save a whole lot, if you fancy a longer trip further afield, it’s one way to go to see more for less.

Bolster the holiday budget

You might not have a holiday home, but if you live in an area where parking is at a premium and have an unused parking space, you could rent it out for anything up to €75 a week.

You can advertise on websites such as, a free global site that carries Irish listings, but they will charge a small commission if you successfully rent out your space.

If you have a decent camera and can take a decent picture, you could approach stock photography agencies or sites with holiday snaps you have that are picture-postcard perfect.

Websites like and are always looking for professional-looking, high quality pictures.

This article first appeared in the Irish Independent

‘The only expenses are travel costs’

Thursday January 26 2012

Fionnuala King and her husband Jim have been swapping homes with families overseas and in Ireland for well over 20 years.

The now-retired couple, who live in Raphoe, Co Donegal, have holidayed in homes in Ireland, England, Germany, France and Belgium, but also as far away as Canada, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. They’ve been using the Homelink house-exchange website since 1997. “At the beginning, it was a case of perusing the book and then writing countless letters,” says Fionnuala. “Now it is all online.”

Even with their two children grown up, they rarely find themselves holidaying on their own. “One or other, or both, often accompany us or join us at some stage of our exchange,” she says, while other members of their close family will often join them too. “I generally look for an exchange house or apartment that sleeps at least four, so as to have the flexibility of having family or friends join us.”

Fionnuala says it is difficult to say just how much they save, but there is no doubting that they save considerably compared to someone renting a holiday home for two weeks.

“A home exchange allows you to stay in a place for a longer time as you don’t have to pay for accommodation,” she says. “The only expense is the cost of travel and whatever you choose to spend.”

In addition, you can cook your own food, “so eating out becomes a choice rather than a necessity”. They also generally exchange cars, so that cuts out the huge cost of hiring a car or travel by ferry.

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