It is no secret that I love a holiday. Through the blog I have been fortunate to stay in some really incredible places over the years (often free of charge or discounted) and whilst that is such a lovely treat, much like trying a really fine wine, there is no going back… So when it comes to booking and paying for my own trips, I have high standards coupled with a keen eye for a bargain. A couple weeks back Carrie and I went in search of some last minute sunshine before baby number two arrives, a baby-buddy-moon if you like and, as I had returned from the Croatia holiday less than a fortnight earlier, we were on a pretty tight budget. But with a little bit of time and research, we managed to book a three day break in a five star hotel, half board including flights and transfers for less than £300 per person. And we nailed our spending money budget at a meagre £100 each. So here is how we did it…
My first stop is always Kiwi.com for a quick flight search. Select your ‘From’ airport, destination ‘Anywhere’, your ‘Departure date’ (I always try to enter a range of a couple of days here to find the cheapest option) and be sure to select a ‘Trip length’ rather than ‘Return date’ – this way you can select a length with some flexibility. For example, I searched for departures from Glasgow between 5th and 7th July for a 2-3 night break. Next, filter your selecting direct flights only in the ‘Stops’ section and then sort by cheapest (which they hide over on the right hand side (it defaults to ‘Popularity’ otherwise. Right now this gives me return flights to Ibiza for £76. When we booked a few weeks back Mallorca was one of the cheapest options at around £80 return per person.
Next I go incognito – this is important because the internet sneakies know where you look and they start to hike the prices up if you flounder on your decision making. If you go incognito then essentially nobody is watching you plot the cheapest, most awesome holiday ever.
I plug a couple of the options I have found into Skyscanner and save my favourite times and prices so I can keep an eye on any fluctuations and and get to work on sourcing the cheapest and best hotel before committing. It is always worth remembering that different airlines have different baggage policies and fees so if you need more than a carry on do your research first. BUT I managed to pack a teeny tiny Ryanair carry on for three days and if I can do it, so can you (packing blog post in the works).
I always check Booking.com first of all and love the easy filters, etc. For smaller islands like Mallorca or Ibiza you can simply search the entire island and then I like to filter by 5 star and by price. It is always worth considering where your hotel is located too – check the map to see how long your transfer is going to be as well as, crucially, if the hotel is isolated or in a village or town. If you find a brilliant deal on a swanky hotel but it happens to be in the middle of nowhere you are bound to spend a small fortune on food and drinks because you are the captive market. I narrowed it down to two choices for our Mallorca trip, both were around £380 for the three nights but whilst Es Revellar perhaps looked more beautiful (and would have certainly been the romantic choice were I travelling with the husband) it was isolated, whereas Blau Portopetro was right in the heart of a pretty little coastal village with plenty of other options for dining.
Having narrowed my choice down I had a quick check on the hotel’s own website and found their rates to be cheaper and if I signed up to their newsletter I became eligible for a further 15% discount. So we opted for half board for just £165 per person (only £15 more than bed and breakfast).
I am a big fan of Airbnb too of course but for a three day girls’ holiday it just felt easier on this occasion to book into a hotel. The convenience of buffet breakfasts and an adults only pool won us over.
Normally on a family holiday I prefer to rent a car allowing us to get out and about to explore but on such a short break it really did not feel necessary. And whilst there are some fantastic deals out there, I have been stung more than once with a long stint waiting at the car rental to collect and that eats into precious holiday time.
Taxis or public transport are often great options but only if you are not going too far. But our hotel was around a fifty minute drive from the airport, making a taxi too pricey. So a transfer it was to be. We searched on Travel Supermarket for the best deal and opted for the shared shuttle at £24 each return. So yeah, it went the scenic route around the East coast of the island before finally depositing us at our hotel but we were quite content sitting and chatting for the hour and a half.
EATING & DRINKING
Whilst our hotel was lovely for the budget and we had a brilliant time zipping around in golf carts and lounging by the adults only pool, the food was a let down in my opinion. Breakfast was absolutely fine but the buffet dinner was another story. The tripadvisor reviews were mixed as far as dinner was concerned so we were prepared for this but the ‘Creamed cauliflower, white chocolate and shrimp’ dish was a real surprise… In fact there was plenty of choice, fresh breads and salads and the dessert table was cheerful enough but it was most certainly not a five star dining experience. Luckily we had plenty of gorgeous options within a few moments walk.
We ate lunch out each day at the loveliest place in the village, Na Petra. The setting and decor were stunning and the food was excellent. We stuck to soft drinks and salads with bread on the side but could have equally shared a pitcher of sangria and still managed on our tight spending money budget.
The first night we ate dinner at the hotel exclusively, the second night we did a small dinner at the hotel buffet followed by a small plate and a mocktail at Na Petra and the final night we treated ourselves to a meal out at Restaurant Norai which was wonderful and only around twenty-five euros a head for a main dish, dessert plus soft drink.
Other money saving tips include stocking up on water and crisps from the local minimarket to avoid paying hotel prices.
For me food is a huge part of any holiday so it is always worth checking restaurant reviews before making your choice and opting for somewhere really lovely. Sitting in beautiful surroundings eating delicious meals really gives you the five star feeling and if you are smart about it, it does not have to cost to the earth. Pinterest is absolutely brilliant for this and I always search the name of the village as well as restaurants, etc. before any trip to source the loveliest of spots (like Na Petra).
It really does pay to do your due diligence; read reviews, check multiple sites for the best deals and hunt down the five star experience you want for a fraction of the price. For truly special places I do often think it is well worth paying a bit more for a little bit of luxury or a more boutique experience but I found this to be such a fun challenge and Carrie and I were both delighted with our few days in the sun on a budget. Whilst the hotel might not have been what I would call luxury, it certainly ticked all the boxes with the basic room being extremely spacious, the pools all being clean and well maintained and the setting being perfectly pretty. Those tiny Mallorcan bays are just so beautiful…