During lockdown, I booked a week of annual leave for mid-August, not really knowing what the situation would be by that point, but with the assumption that Ed and the kids would be on their summer break, and it would be nice to have a break, even at home, together as a family.
Once lockdown restrictions began to ease, and UK breaks were allowed once again, I figured it would be nice to go away, just for a few days, so that we could have a proper break from reality for a bit, after a stressful start to the year.
I didn’t book anything right away, as we have previously been quite successful with last minute breaks, and I honestly underestimated the price hike in UK stays since lockdown.
When I did finally go to book, I discovered that there weren’t that many places with availability, and those that did still have space were charging hundreds, sometimes even thousands of pounds per night. These weren’t 5 star places either, some were establishments that definitely would have been charging under £100 pre-COVID.
Don’t get me wrong, I do understand the huge strain on the hospitality industry, and I understand that, with limited occupancy being allowed, the hotels need to up their prices to save them from going under, but seriously? One place was charging £3000 for a 3 night stay. That’s ludicrous!
When we are being encouraged not to fly abroad at this time, surely there should be some sort of cap on UK price hikes?
Anyway, getting back to booking our stay. In the end, after a few nights of staying up late, trawling Booking.com and, what felt like, all of the glamping sites on the south coast, I decided it would be better to stay one night in three locations and turn it into a bit of a road trip, than trying to book the same place for 3 nights.
We’ve ended up booking a hotel in Gloucester and Bristol, followed by a stay at the Travelodge by Stonehenge for our last night. It may not sound that glamourous, but I wasn’t about to spend thousands when we are in the process of moving house, and our children love staying anywhere as long as it involves packing a bag and leaving the house.
The whole 3 night stay has cost just over £300, for 6 of us (my mum is coming along too, so that’s 2 hotel rooms in each location). We did have a voucher for the Travelodge, which took the price down by £85, but I still consider it a bargain, considering the last minute booking and price hikes across the country.
The other concern we had when booking, was obviously coronavirus rates, which vary across the country. My mum is really on it with finding these out, so she was busy cross referencing postcodes whenever I found a hotel. We avoided travelling too far up the country, because we only have a few days and didn’t want to take up too much of our time in the car. Each destination is around an hour away from the next, and we have an initial journey time of 2.5 hours, so it isn’t too bad.
We haven’t booked breakfast, as it would have added to the price quite a bit for the six of us, and often hotels are not able to provide their usual full English spread anyway. Instead, we will pick up breakfast along the way, and have packed travel boxes of cereal for the kids and croissants and pain au chocolate for us. We are fortunate to be travelling Monday – Thursday, so the first few days of our trip, we can benefit from 50% off our meals, by choosing venues that are participating in the Eat Out to Help Out scheme.
We have both English Heritage and National Trust memberships, so, with some forward planning, we have booked free timed visits to local attractions in the areas we are visiting, again keeping costs down.
If you are wanting to book a last minute break, here in the UK, whether you are just wanting to get away, or have had to cancel a trip to Europe due to recent travel restrictions, I would definitely say go for it, but branch out a bit and look for places you wouldn’t normally go for, if everything is looking booked up.
We opted for free cancellation, which bumped the prices up slightly, but to be honest, when booking last minute, it probably isn’t worth the additional cost, as this only last two days and we are now out of that period (we travel tomorrow).
If you have a budget, stick to it as much as possible by using sites like Booking.com and only searching for places in that price range, and remember to check out local restrictions on the government website, to make sure that you will be able to go out and about once you are there.