A roof over your head…

I’ve noticed a few comments on forums recently from people who are either in favour of going for four-five star luxury accommodation or who are totally against it.

With caravans, flats in attics or out of the way cottages being parental choices whilst I was at school (along with tents, youth hostels, converted village halls or huts when I was doing my Duke Of Edinburgh’s Award), the thought of staying in a four or five star hotel was never on the agenda.

Until the mid-1990’s that is when a magazine owner put all of the main freelancers or staffers from his trade and consumer publications up in The Majestic Hotel in Harrogate.

Luxury? Oh, yes, even though I had to be up early in order to drive back to Sunderland for a 9am lecture, the subsequent seminar and then drive back to Harrogate to cover the rest of the outdoor trade show I’d been attending.

After that brush with how the other half have nights away., it was back to guest houses, B&B’s, hostels, Travel Inns, Travelodges, bothies, tents, Gore-Tex bivvy bags or bright orange survival bags as a means of spending a night out.

Whilst Caroline and I have stayed in some good places in the UK, Norway, Austria and Portugal, there’s also been a few places where you needed to wipe your feet as you leave the premises…

Not saying that such places were grotty, but they were (and then some!).

We did have a little bit of luxury for one night only a couple of years ago when we stayed in a hotel back in my old stamping ground of the North East.

Big room, big bed, pricey drinks beside an open log fire – you get the drift.

Enjoyable? Yeah, not bad as it took the mind off going to a family funeral the following morning.

Since then it’s been back to guest houses, cottages, hostels and the tents for weeks or weekends away (apart from two nights in a Portuguese Pousada in Sagres back in 2013).

Things have changed a bit this year though…

Yes, we’ve stayed in hostels and guest houses with ‘character’, but we’ve also had nights in boutique B&B’s, Hampton by Hilton Hotels along with small hotels and the rather decent Aveiro Rossio Hostel in Aveiro, Portugal that put quite a few other gaffs to shame thanks to its comfort, facilities, location and lack of pretentiousness.

Have these experiences upped the ante on what we’re going to be doing over the next year or so? Might do..

Will they be encouraging us to head to posher places on a regular basis? Could do…

And may such places be making a dent in the trip budgets? Not necessarily…

Surprised? So were we when I put together a few suggested itineraries and costings recently for trips here in the UK and elsewhere.

By using sites such as http://www.booking.com, http://www.expedia.co.uk and http://www.skyscanner.net I’ve been able to come up with budgets for trips and then compare them with what’s on offer from holiday companies or those airlines that offer holiday packages alongside their budget flights.

Yes, there’s been a fair amount of tracking going on to see what the various sites have to offer on any given day, but it’s been worth it as the research has ensure that I’ve looked and booked when the price is right. It’s also become apparent that you can holiday cheaper in Europe than you can in the UK!

In some cases it’s been cheaper to book rooms via booking.com than it has to use the hotel in question’s own website whilst in other cases it’s been cheaper to use a flight and hotel ‘package’ combination from the likes of expedia.com and get a few extra Nectar points to help reduce the food bills at Sainsbury’s (other supermarkets are available folks!).

Yes, I’ve checked the prices out for anything involving flights by looking at what the costs are by using a different airport or taking an early flight that has no supplement rather than one later in the day that does have a supplementary cost.

I’ve also cleared the cookies and the websites visited history off the computer before I’ve moved onto another site to do some price checking.

It could be seen as a pain in the neck by some, but if I’m looking for the best deal that I can for a trip then I’ll do it in order to save some money that could be spent on another part of the trip.

Once recent search showed that by flying later in the day, there was a £43 per person supplement to be added to the cost of the trip.

By taking the earlier flight that doesn’t have a supplement, we’ve gone for a posher place to stay, even though the chances of having any meals there other than provided breakfasts are less than zero.

We’ve looked at the hotel’s menu, seen the prices and decided to eat out in the evening.

Why? Because we’ve visited the town before and know that there’s a few good eating places to choose from (we’ve also spotted said eating places names in the hotel review section on expedia.com so we reckon that others have done the same thing).

It’s going to be good to have some luxury on our travels, but we know that there’s also going to have to be a balancing act too.

Fortunately we have a good set of camping gear and a list of potential destinations to visit here in the UK that should give us time away at a reasonable cost – providing of course that the 10 day BBC weather forecast isn’t a bad one.

This happened to us a while ago and we ended up swapping a week in what turned out to be a very wet Wales for a week of sun, alfresco dining and more sun in downtown Paphos. The decision to head for Cyprus was made just three days before the flight out…

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About Keith Rickaby

Fiftysomething writer and occasional photographer who has worked in both the tailoring trade and the outdoor/travel clothing, equipment and footwear game. Past lives include working as an outdoor instructor, managing three bands and doing PR work through an agency or my own contacts. Was a student in the mid-90s and whilst I'm originally from the North East, I'm now firmly based in't Yorkshire...
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