Top 10 Tips on How to Plan a Mini Break on a Budget: Edinburgh Edition

I have just returned from the most fabulous three day break in Edinburgh, Scotland’s magnificent capital city. This was a mini break with two of my friends, with all of us travelling on a student budget. We managed to compromise very well on costs without compromising at all on the quality of our city break. We managed to book our flights and accommodation for a total of £107.84 each. We flew from Luton airport to Edinburgh airport with EasyJet, and got the tram from the airport to the centre of Edinburgh. We stayed in a gorgeous apartment on Montgomery Street, in the centre of the city.

Here are my top 10 tips on how to plan a brilliant mini break on a budget wihtout compromising on quality…

1. Book as Far in Advance as You Can

The further in advance you book your travel, the cheaper it will be. This goes for any destination! We booked our accommodation and flights in May, and our trip was in September, so we planned it 4 months in advance. For return flights booked this far in advance, I only paid £37.78. Our airbnb cost £210.18 for two nights, so split between three of us we paid £70.06 each. There was a £28.18 service charge included in this. For a lovely flat, spacious in such a central location, this was a very good deal. Planning in advance really pays off!

Here are some photos of our gorgeous airbnb, it just shows you that by saving money, you don’t have to compromise on quality…

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2. Travel Outside of School Holidays

If you are a university student like me, then you have the advantage of having holidays that are outside of the school holidays and being more flexible with dates. Try and go before the school holidays if you can, May and June are much cheaper than July/August if you have finished your university year by then. The school holidays means that accommodation and travel costs can almost double in price. We also found that September seemed to be even cheaper as it was outside of both the Scottish and English school holidays (bear in mind that if you are visiting a different country then school holiday dates may differ).

3. Use Comparison Sites to Find the Best Deals

We used Skyscanner to find our flights. I cannot recommend this tool enough. You can input your destinations and it tells you the cheapest options for travelling. It also lets you add the option to include other airports and non-direct flights if these are cheaper options. There is also a feature to search for the cheapest month and destinations. You can also find hotel and car hire information on here too.

It’s also useful to compare if it’s quicker/cheaper going to your destination by train, plane, ferry or driving. We found that even with a student railcard, the trains were considerably more expensive and would have meant a very long journey.

4. Sit Separately on Flights

Another cost that can be avoided is choosing to not pay to sit together on the flight. If you are spending a whole holiday with people, then it’s not the end of the world if you don’t sit next to each other if you are on a short haul flight like we were. However, we checked in for our flights about two weeks in advance and this meant we were placed next to each other anyway on both our outbound and inbound flights.

5. Limit Your Luggage

For this trip, we took hand luggage alone. This means you can avoid the cost of having to pay for putting luggage in the hold. Small savings like this can add up to save you a fair bit of money. Additionally, it also means you don’t have to hang around waiting for a suitcase once you’re off the flight. Not having heavy bags to cart around with you is also a bonus, this applies if you are travelling by train too. Our flight landed at 10am on Monday and we could not check in until 3pm. On Wednesday when we left, we had to check out by 10am and our flight was not until late evening. Therefore we knew we had to carry our luggage with us for these times in between. By having just a light rucksack, it meant our luggage didn’t limit us. We were still able to visit the castle and walked up to Calton Hill without being weighed down by heavy bags.

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6. Don’t be too Fussy About Travel Companies

We flew with EasyJet due to their company in general having lower cost flights compared to other airlines. Other airlines may offer what is considered ‘a ore luxurious experience’ but if you are on a short flight and it gets you from A to B then going with cheaper options to save money is definitely a good idea.

7. Be as Flexible as You Can With Where You Travel From

The closest airport to where I live is Birmingham. But we worked out that the cheapest flight at the time was from Luton airport and that airport parking was only £30 here. The Flybe flights from Birmingham to Edinburgh were significantly more expensive. So even though we drove a bit further than we would have to get to Birmingham, it was more cost-effective for us to go to Luton instead. So if you can, it’s good to be as flexible as you can with airport/train station locations as this may save you a significant amount of money.

8. Plan a Rough Itinerary in Advance

We roughly planned out the main activities we wanted to do Edinburgh and what day we could do them on (weather permitting!). Due to only having three days away, this meant that we knew we could include our prioritised activities in the small amount of time we were in the city. By booking certain activities in advance it can save you money and often saves you queuing for long periods of time. Additionally, so many great things to do are often free! On our last day we walked up Calton Hill which gives you an incredible view of the whole city of Edinburgh around you. I would thoroughly recommend visiting if you are in Edinburgh. We also enjoyed a coffee and pastry in Gardener’s Cottage which is the restaurant set on the edge of Calton Hill. This was surprisingly very affordable at just £5 each, but avoid at lunch and dinner unless you want a very pricey meal! Walking round and soaking up the atmosphere of the Royal Mile and Princes Street Gardens was another lovely experience which won’t cost you a penny. Most cities will have free galleries and museums you can visit, the National Gallery is free in Edinburgh, as is the National Museum of Scotland.

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9. Avoid Buying Food and Drink etc. from Tourist Attraction Shops

Often shops at tourist attractions have extortionate prices. Avoiding spending £3 on a disposable water bottle every time you want a drink and paying loads just for a sandwich is always a good plan in my book. Bring a water bottle with you that you can fill up before you go out for the day, and maybe some snacks if you’re likely to get hungry whilst out and about. We took a picnic with us to the zoo and bought snacks from a Tesco Express next to our airbnb so you can just grab something on your way out for the day.

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10. Choose Your Accommodation Location Wisely

By staying right in the centre of Edinburgh, it meant we were able to walk from our apartment to all the central locations that we wanted to visit. We were about a 15 minute walk from Princes Street which was great. It was also near the tram links that we used to get to and from the airport. So by staying in the city centre, we saved money by walking lots, where as if we had been much further out we may have spent more time and money on buses etc. Walking more is also a more sustainable and healthy option, and gives you the chance to see the city you’re in up close.

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I hope this was helpful if you are planning a trip on a budget. Here is a link to another of my Edinburgh posts which has more details on great things to do in Edinburgh once you’re there!

Hope you are having a great day where ever you are in the world,

Mol x

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Exploring the Jurassic Coast

“The ocean stirs the heart, inspires the imagination and brings eternal joy to the soul” – Wyland

Travelling to new countries is one of the most exciting and fulfilling experiences you can have, however, exploring the country you are already in, is also an experience to make the most of. The Jurassic Coast is somewhere I had never been until this trip. Spending a few days by the coast was extremely refreshing.

The Jurassic Coast covers the stretch of coastline in Southern England from Exmouth in the county of Devon, to Studland Bay in the county of Dorset. On this trip we explored Lyme Regis, Chesil Beach, Durdle Door, and West Bay. Having mostly explored the Scottish coast due to many a holiday up North, it was lovely to be able to experience the brilliance of the sea and the skies down in the South of England.

West Bay

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West Bay, or Bridport Harbour, was a small and sleepy seaside town, we mainly visited to see the beach and the cliffs, which you may recognise if you were a fan of the BBC drama Broadchurch (would highly recommend it). The dramatic shape of the sandstone cliffs was one of the locations for the programme and was a lovely beach walk, it was great to be able to look up at the magnificent cliff face whilst being below on the shore. We also ran up the slope of the cliff to get the view from the very top, which was so peaceful being able to see the ocean for as far as the eye could see. As you can see from the photos, if you go early in the morning or later in the day, the sun and the shadows make for a great photography spot. The cloudy weather actually also made for some fab photos.

“To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude” – Jeanne Moreau

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Lyme Regis

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Lyme Regis is how I think of a classic British seaside location. Think fish and chips on the seafront, ice cream cones, and beach huts with doors the colours of pick ‘n mix. We went to Lyme’s Fish Bar for our lunch, and got a classic ’99 with a flake from one of the cute little tea rooms. There’s nothing better than eating outside and listening to the waves crash against the pebbles on the shore. This would be a lovely day out for anyone of any age.

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Chesil Beach

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Chesil beach is an 18 mile long beach and goes from Portland all the way to West Bay, this was very near to where we were staying in Portland.

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Durdle Door

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“Our memories of the ocean will linger on, long after our footprints in the sand are gone” – Anonymous

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Durdle Door is one of the most iconic coastal features in the Dorset area, it was designated England’s first natural World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2001 and is also classed as a natural wonder. This archway was created by the limestone being eroded by the sea, the word ‘durdle’ originated from the word ‘thirl’ which means ‘to pierce’.

This was one of the highlights of the trip, again another lovely beach walk, there were hardly any other visitors there when we went even though it’s a very popular tourist attraction. Many of these coastal features we visited also had really interesting information boards so you could learn more about how they were created.

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Old Harry’s Rock

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The final coastal feature of the trip, and another UNESCO World Heritage Site located at the most Eastern point of the Jurassic Coast. As you can see, Old Harry is a stack out at sea, composed of chalk. The National Trust manage this site and there is a walking route of about 3.5 miles which you can do if you want a walk and a view!

Until 1896, there was also Old Harry’s Wife, a stump, but she was completely eroded in to the ocean so now Old Harry stands alone.

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“After a visit to the beach, it’s hard to believe that we live in a material world”– Pam Shaw

It was lovely to be able to spend so much time outside and on the coast, I find it very relaxing being by the water, this would be a great trip if you love walking and the outdoors!

Thanks for reading, hope you’re having a fab day where ever you are

Mol x

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The Best of Bergerac: The French Market Towns You Will Fall in Love With

Welcome back to my Best of Bergerac series, the final instalment is here gang! So far we’ve covered the fabulous food, and some of the more rural scenery, today I am sharing with you the two market towns which made our trip; Duras and Eymet. So if you love a bit of travel photography and an insight into somewhere new, grab a coffee and enjoy. 

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Duras was only about a 10 minute drive from the village of Taillecavat where our villa was located, so we went to this town frequently over the two weeks we were in Bergerac. Everything we needed was here…

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This display of flower bouquets just sums up how gorgeous the market stalls are!

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(This photo above is of the BEST restaurant we have ever eaten in, and yes that is a big claim, there are more details in part one of this series if you want to hear about the place with the best food and the shots of gin they give you between courses! Find it here!)

Duras is a truly beautiful and quaint little French town, think cobbled streets and brilliantly bright shutters. To me, this town is like the ones you think of when you imagine a classically authentic French town.

The town comes alive on market days, it was fascinating to see how it transforms from seeming like a small sleepy settlement, to a hub of  excitement. Suddenly, the colours brighten, the cafes liven up, and scents of spices, cheese, fresh fruit, and pastries fill the warm air.

The locals are out and catching up over a coffee, while the ex-pats are also out in force and making the most of the sunshine.

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The chateau placed grandly on the hill behind the market streets acts as a splendid backdrop for the event (the tallest building you can see in the background of this photograph).

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There is something more exciting about buying fresh food from a local who makes their livelihood from selling their delicious produce at markets like these, compared to buying it from a supermarket. As you can see from this garlic display above, the rustic displays make it all look even more appealing. Any fruit of vegetable you can imagine was on offer at the market. Huge selections of cheeses were also displayed, wheels of yellow and white, and the roast chicken cooked fresh on the rotisserie also smelt incredibly inviting!

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This was a small charity clothes shop just off of the main market streets, again everything seems so full of colour, everything about this town feels vibrant and full of life.

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Another great feature of the markets is that so many of the food stalls give out free samples, who doesn’t love a freebie, especially one you can eat?! A discovery we have made over a few trips to Southern France is that fresh olives are fab when you buy them from a market stall than a shop. Olive tapenade is one of the best things we’ve ever bought from the market, it’s a type of savoury dip made from olives, we’ve also tried one made from sun-dried tomatoes before which was perhaps even better! Pair it with a fresh baguette and this is something you must try if you see it abroad.

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One evening we went to the night market in Duras, it was around 38 degrees Celsius, I have never felt heat like it! The covered square that is in the centre of the market was lined with tables and chairs, we decided to go so we could try even more of the delicious food. We bought a selection of dishes from various stalls to share between all of us. We tried the calamari, olive and anchovy pizza, this was beautiful because it was fresh and made there and then. We also tried what we think was some sort of sausage curry, our lack of French meant we were not completely sure what exactly we were trying at times, this actually made it even more exciting!

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Eymet

Eymet was slightly further out from our villa so we only visited once, which was to go to the night market. We had stayed near this town on previous trips to France so we knew it was somewhere we wanted to re-visit.

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The street art on this building gives a very striking entrance to the market, it made me think of Paris with its romantic artwork and flower lined balconies. The town dates from 1270, as you can see, the old buildings with their slanted beams and slightly wonky roofs ensure that the town maintains its original character.

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There was also another huge selection of food at this market, mussels and chips seemed to be the most popular option! The pizza was also available from the same people from the Duras market, another firm favourite.

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The crepes from this cute little stall were the BOMB. If you want to hear more about them and the other incredible food we ate on this trip then this is also featured in part one of this series!

This display of greenery and flowers was outside one of the houses on one of the side streets…

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This is a view of the River Dropt, a tributary to the Garonne river, which runs on the outskirts of the town. This was taken from the little bridge above where lots of people were sat feeding the birds and enjoying their food from the market.

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And that marks the end of the Best of Bergerac series, France you have been fabulous! (Wow you’d think I’d at least be a little bit tanned but clearly not).

If you have not visited the South of France I would highly recommend putting Bergerac and the Aquitaine region on your travel bucket list!

Credits to my Uncle as he took a lot of the photos featured in this post! Check out his Instagram for some incredible photography @spresly

Thank you so much for reading, have you seen part one and part two of this series?!

Part One: The Ultimate French Holiday Food Guide

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Part Two: Sunsets, Sunflowers and the BEST Villa

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Hope you are having a fab day where ever you are,

Mol x

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