Natural landscape

From 12 April, staycations can officially restart, which is perhaps even more exciting than the tentative, maybe, possibly of foreign holidays.

With more people staying closer to home, the costs of staycations have soared – but that doesn’t mean you can’t still find a good deal. And no, you don’t have to settle for camping if you don’t want to.

Obviously avoiding school holidays is a great place to start. But if you have to do it then, it’s all about thinking outside the box.

Look on deals websites

Websites like Groupon, Wowcher, and TravelZoo all have travel deals for the UK. Most are for hotel stays, but there are a couple of options for short breaks as well.

Also look for deals on websites that specialise in days out, like Virgin Experience Days. They often offer short breaks that are overlooked as people tend to go to them for one-day experiences.

Make sure any vouchers you do buy will work for the dates you want to travel and that there’s a refund policy in place if your trip can’t go ahead for any reason.

Another thing to look out for is the expiry date – if you’re not planning to travel soon, make a note of the expiry date so you don’t miss it.

Personally I wouldn’t buy vouchers until I’m ready to travel – so don’t buy these as gifts – as there’s every chance a travel firm might collapse before I go.

Go self-catering

Booking a self-catering property will help you save on the overall cost of your holiday if you will cook your meals rather than eat out.

However, not every holiday cottage bookings site has a comprehensive refund policy in place so it’s important you know what the risks are and that you’re happy with them.

Some people have also had luck using these bookings sites to research different options and then booking directly with the owners at a lower rate, effectively cutting out the middleman.

Make sure the website is legitimate if you’re going direct and make sure you have a conversation about refunds before you book. And of course, make sure you book with a credit card rather than debit card or, even worse, via bank transfer.

Check into an aparthotel

The peak holiday period will be perfect for city breaks as more people are now heading for the beach or nature spots when the weather is good.

It means cheaper hotel deals in the city and even better value for money breaks.

Aparthotels are the epitome of that – the great ones offer hotel-style amenities (some even throw in free breakfast) but you get your own space and kitchen if you want to rustle up something for dinner instead of going out.

The benefit over Airbnbs is that these often have concierges or receptionists to check you in late at night, and if you get there before check in time, somewhere to store your luggage.

Plus, many also have the option of adding additional beds, which is great for families.

You can find many of these on sites like Booking.com.

I’ve had great experiences with Staybridge Suites and Staycity Aparthotels.

Do a house swap or pet sit

There are a couple of house swapping and pet sitting websites out there where you can go and stay in other people’s homes when they’re not there.

For a house swap, you basically agree on the dates with another household and then decamp to each other’s homes when the date arrives.

Before you agree to a swap, make sure there’s some kind of vetting process in place and that you’re not invalidating any insurance policies you have.

Pet sitters meanwhile get to stay in another family’s home for free or for a nominal fee in exchange for looking after their pets.