How to have a hen-do holiday for under £100
Heading overseas for stag and hen parties is growing in popularity. And it can actually work out cheaper than staying in Britain!
Any no-frills bride-to-be (they do exist) would be happy with a simple night-out-on-the-town to celebrate their hen-do. But when friends come from far and wide, a trip abroad not only sounds fun, but is sometimes the economic option too.
My own hen-night-turned-weekend-extravaganza was two years ago, but the rules of thrift still apply to any bridal party travelling abroad this year – or even just any long weekend away. You can do it on the cheap, even if the destination is flash – after all, I travelled to Venice!
What a lavish expense I hear you cry! Should have saved it for the honeymoon! But we spent less than £100. That comprises flights (including taxes) and accommodation for three nights.
The 11 family and friends up for the trip lived in different cities and I didn’t have the space to put them all up in my two-bed house - some would have had to sleep in the kitchen with the cat, while queues for the bathroom would have been akin to a festival. And hotel and train prices in the UK aren’t always bargains either.
So a trip to Venice it was. We ate well, drank well and saw the sights - without wasting a penny.
Step one – plan (and book) well in advance
Once you know when you want to go, book months ahead. I booked our easyJet flights eight months before travelling and it was the flight prices that determined where we went. Tickets to Venice were rock-bottom at £50.
If you can stay flexible about where you go, booking really late is also as effective as booking early. Find more tips like this in Six ways to cut your holiday costs in 2012.
Step two – cheap accommodation
Our party only needed somewhere to be horizontal for a few hours a night, so luxury wasn’t high on the priority list. The excellent Plus Jolly Camping cost us around £12 a night for a mobile home, sleeping three people each and with an en-suite. They were basic and clean. Plus the site had a swimming pool, a restaurant, and a bar.
Although it was situated on the mainland, a minibus departed regularly to the island, took 15 minutes and cost two euros. There are also sister campsites in Rome and Florence.
You can also try Wimdu, which links hosts with travellers and encourages you to live like a local. Or to search for a range of property types around the world, including hostels, apartments and campsites, try hostelworld.com or hostels.com.
For anyone wanting luxury without the price tag that usually accompanies it, a new, free app called JustBook offers last-minute bookings at upmarket hotels with savings of up to 50% on the usual rates.
Step three – plan the food
Food and drink is always going to be a major expense on a trip away, unless you’re staying in self-catered accommodation or have an all-inclusive deal at your hotel.
I booked a two-course dinner by Piazzo San Marco (the main square in Venice) for 50 euros including a glass of Prosecco thanks to toptable.co.uk. The website has changed recently (booking a meal in Venice is no longer an option) but you can still make international restaurant bookings – even in the Caribbean, Hong Kong and Singapore. You can also try bookatable.com.
All other food and drink was purchased away from the tourist traps and included simple, good value pizzas for less than 10 euros and as Prosecco is a regional drink, it’s a good value choice.
If you can pack light – leave some room in the suitcase for food and wine to take with you.
I relented and let the hens share a bag each in hold (previously I was met with looks of dismay and cries of “I don’t do only carry-on luggage”). But still, half the cost of one suitcase in hold per hen kept the basic getaway budget under £100 and we made sure there was room for a bottle in each bag!
Step four – getting around
Avoid the gondola and do as the locals would. We did a lot of walking or took a vaporetto (water bus) to get around - much cheaper than a gondola, which is pricey and regarded as a novelty for tourists. Always read up on how the locals get from A to B, as it’s likely to be low-cost.
We did treat ourselves to a water taxi ride on a speedboat. After all it was a hen-do, not an exercise in resisting everything fun to make life cheap. However, with six people per boat it worked out at under 10 euros each for the pleasure – so we were hardly playing loose and fast with our cash.
Step five – it’s free to look!
Seeing Piazzo San Marco, the Rialto Bridge and navigating a maze of narrow streets was how we tasted Venice in a short space of time. There was nothing to pay for looking at the sights and walking around!
Post-nuptials I travelled to east Africa for my honeymoon. Finally, some extravagance I hear you say! But I did spend part of it sleeping in a tent . . .
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