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Frugal, fabulous holiday ideas

Whether it's the call of the wild or the lure of sandy beaches, planning your next holiday is what gets most of us through the year. But with the SA economy being downgraded and everything – including travel expenses – getting more expensive, it can be hard to stretch your hard-earned cash to achieve your dream holiday. We look at lots of out-of-the-box ideas to vacation in style and on budget.

Rand-friendly destinations abroad

Book long in advance, plan carefully and you can still enjoy an exotic holiday abroad, with flights starting from just over R5000 return. Think Zanzibar (R5400), India (R5400 if booked 6 months in advance), Istanbul (R6200 for Durbanites), Morocco (R5800) or Bulgaria (R6400).

Once you're there, you'll spend as much or less on food and drinks as you would in South Africa. For example, in India a local beer would cost R26 and a cheap meal just R32. Eating in Morocco is cheaper than in SA (almost 10%), with hotel rooms going for around R800/night. An average hotel room in Bulgaria would set you back around R600/night with eating out being 44% cheaper than in South Africa*. In fact, most of the the former Eastern Bloc countries – Hungary, Albania, Yugoslavia, etc. – and some Baltic countries (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania) are popular rand-friendly destinations.


How to book the cheapest flights

From being flexible with your dates to booking your outbound and inbound flights separately, there are many hacks to booking the best-priced flights. Make full use of credit card loyalty programmes to earn frequent flyer discounts. For local flights, always play around with an airline's one-month low rates window, to see when the best-priced flights are.

For flights abroad, check cheaper haul carriers like Qatar Airways, Etihad, Ethiopian and Turkish Airlines first, and keep an eye on the petrol or rand price of oil, as this filters down to the ticket price. Use a flights aggregator such as Cheapflights or Travelstart to see all price options in one place, then check with airlines directly to see which one has the cheapest price. Be sure to sign up to all relevant newsletters too in order to buy the moment they advertise a flight sale.

Earn money with Airbnb

Thousands of South African homeowners have already taken advantage of Airbnb – renting out their homes over the holidays for extra cash or to fund their holidays – earning on average R28 000 a year. It's easy and safe as you can read reviews of visitors and contact them via social media. Rent out your entire house, a granny flat or even just one room to make some extra cash.


House swap and stay for free

Want free accommodation? Then check out the likes of Homeexchange for overseas homes or local version After paying an initial sign-up fee, you can browse homes and start interacting with hosts to see if they would want to stay in your home – often including cars, pets or even a boat! If you own a second property, you don't have to do simultaneous stays. Just imagine – a month in New York or two weeks in Berlin could be yours.

Don't feel comfortable with strangers in your home? Then why not put feelers out if any friends or family (or people in your social media circle) will be interested in a house swap? Everyone benefits and you get to explore a new city or region for free.

Happy campers and self-caterers

Local is lekker - we live in such a beautiful country that there is always something new to explore. The trick is to book your camping and self-catering accommodation well in advance – out of peak season where possible. However, if you need something last minute, contact hosts directly and offer them a cheeky price. Often they would rather earn something than nothing at all! If you've never tried camping before, borrow some gear from friends and try a night under the stars – your kids will remember it much more than a cramped hotel room.


Come on, ride the train

Many say the Shosholoza Meyl long-distance passenger trains are one of SA's best-kept secrets. Enjoy the old-worldly romance of a train vacation and take in beautiful countryside scenery as you travel along the same route as the Blue Train.

The Tourist Class is relatively no frills while the Premier Classe includes a private sleeper and all meals and afternoon tea in the restaurant. For example, if you leave on a Wednesday, Friday or Sunday, you'll pay from R1230 per adult for an overnight journey (JHB-Durban) with dinner and breakfast included, while a journey from Joburg to Cape Town (2 nights) costs from R3120 per adult (kids pay 80% of this fare) with all meals included.

Celebrate the staycation

Finally, if you really can't afford to go away, staying home can be just as fun. No traffic jams, no queues, no noisy neighbours. Make your staycation extra special by getting the kids involved and working out an activity plan. Pretend you're tourists with an open bus tour, discovering new sights and enjoying a picnic in an unusual spot. Stock up on board games and DVDs, and spoil yourself with a week's worth of pre-cooked meals.

Prices quoted are for illustration purposes only and were correct at the time of writing this article.

Focus on the money you're saving – just think, you could be going away somewhere special the following year, or investing that money in paying off or sprucing up your home.



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