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How to get free holiday stuff (12 useful hacks)

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Are you looking for free stuff for your holiday, or ways to save money for your next big trip?

We've put together the ultimate list of holiday freebies and money-saving tactics to help you save money on your next big trip. See the world and save some pennies!

Head straight to:

Woman struggling to pack a suitcase

Credit: The Daily Star

How to save money before you leave

1. Use a flight comparison site and book as far in advance as you can

One of the biggest costs of your trip will undoubtedly be the cost of your flight. The further in advance you can book the better, and always use a flight comparison site to compare prices from the different airlines who do that route. Remember to be savvy to airline sales!

Also, make sure that before booking any flights to clear your browser's cookies. Airline websites often hike up the prices of flights if you have visited that site page multiple times.

Don't forget to check out our earlier blog post about how to get flights for free. There are lots of companies that offer shortcuts for how to get air miles without stepping foot on a plane, so make sure you see if there are any you can do before you book.

Undecided/not fussed about the location of your next getaway?

Skyscanner has a feature to fly anywhere, showing you the cheapest flights from your nearest airport.

Always do a quick check of accommodation prices before booking your flight to see it fits your budget. No point booking a super cheap flight if your hotel is too expensive and you have nowhere to stay!

2. Use hotel comparison sites to get the best possible price

Not everyone knows this...

But hotels will often put their rooms on lots of different sites, charging different amounts for the same room!

It’s important to shop around and see where is doing the best deal, rather than just going direct.

You should also check out the prices on Airbnb for the city you’re visiting and get an idea of the sort of accommodation you can get for your money.

A huge benefit of staying in an Airbnb is the ability to cook for yourself. If you’re visiting a notoriously expensive country (I’m looking at you Scandinavia), then it is definitely going to be beneficial to be able to cook for yourself, rather than having to fork out three times a day to eat out.

3. Use hand luggage rather than checking your luggage in

If you’re going on a short trip then don’t waste your money on paying for checked-in luggage.

Airline companies allow each passenger to have a hand luggage suitcase, that you carry all the way through airport security and sits on the plane with you.

You might be wondering:

How will I fit all my stuff in one tiny suitcase?

You'd be surprised how large the allowance is for each passenger. For example, easyJet allows every passenger to have one piece of hand luggage 56 x 45 x 25cm with no weight limit.

You don’t pay any extra for hand luggage as it comes with the price of the flight, so no sneaky add-ons. Most airlines charge around the £30 mark for a checked item of luggage, and that’s each way! When you add that to the cost of your actual flight your price won’t seem like such a bargain anymore.   

There are some restrictions on hand luggage, most notably that all liquids must be in containers of 100ml or less, however, you can combat this by taking samples rather than full-sized products, or decanting products into plastic pots and bottles.

4. Collect free samples of beauty products throughout the year

Not only does taking samples save you space, it also helps you fit in with the hand luggage restrictions. We post all the best health & beauty samples all year round, so make sure you regularly check Magic Freebies to build them up throughout the year, all ready for your holiday.

5. Set up a pre-paid currency card

The best way to spend your money abroad is using a pre-paid currency card. There are plenty around that offer a range of currencies and can be used all over.

Order one for free, upload your UK sterling and spend abroad as you would a debit card. No charges!

6. Don't buy water at the airport

The hand luggage restrictions apply to all liquids, including water. Meaning you’re not allowed to take your full bottle through (hands up who’s downed a bottle of water right by security?!).

Instead of paying extortionate airport prices for water, because where else are you going to get this, you know, life necessity, take through an empty bottle and kindly ask one of the restaurants to fill it up for you with tap water for free.

Hand downloading an app on a white iPhone

Credit: SAGA

7. Freebie Apps to download before you go

Nearly everyone has a smartphone these days, so make sure you use yours to its full advantage while you’re away. There are so many useful apps for travelling that you can download for free.

Want to see some of the best international travel apps around?

Look now:

Maps.me

Maps.me works exactly like other smartphone maps, only it uses GPS rather than data. You need to download the area of the map you need first, but once you’ve done that you are ready to go.

You can be in the middle of the ocean, with your phone on airplane mode and you’ll still be able to tell where you are: tried and tested.

XE Currency

This handy currency converter app works without using any data, so when you’re out and about you can quickly check how much something costs in your local currency. Perfect for haggling taxis or checking to see how much a glass of vino is costing you!

This app is especially useful if you’re travelling around lots of different countries in one trip. Figuring out exchange rates can get confusing, made even more so when the currency keeps changing!

Hostelworld

This free app is a traveller’s staple. It compares the rates and reviews for all the local hostels in your area and is totally impartial so you know that you’re reading honest reviews from people who have actually stayed there. Compare hostels on their cleanliness, location and price, making sure you get the best value for your money.

Grab/Uber

You may already have Uber downloaded on your phone and you definitely want to keep it if you’re heading abroad as you can use your Uber account internationally.

Uber is used in lots of countries and ensures that you always know how much a taxi is going to cost you, even with a language barrier. Grab is the South-East Asia equivalent and is definitely worth downloading if you’re heading that way. Plus, they both tend to work out considerably cheaper than local taxi firms.

Be warned though!

In some areas (for example, Bali) Grab and Uber are banned to encourage the use of local taxi companies. Always make sure you check beforehand if this is the case.

Koko-En Garden in Japan on a sunny day

Free activities to do while you're abroad

So you’ve got the best possible price for your flights and hotel and you’ve downloaded all the free apps you could possibly need for your trip.

Now what?!

It’s easy to assume that when you’re in a foreign country you need to spend loads to see all the different cultures. This is far from the truth, as there are always loads of free activities to do while you’re away.

If your next trip is in the UK, make sure you check out our Cheap & Free Days Out page for all the best free activities across the UK.

8. Free Walking Tours

Fact:

There is no better way to see a city than by walking through its streets, guided by a local. Nearly every major city in Europe will have at least one free walking tour company and in most places, there will likely be quite a few so do your research!

Walking tours may sound a bit dull (I certainly thought so at first), but they are anything but. The guides are proud to show off their city to interested tourists and normally have loads of unique information that only locals know. They also tend to know all the best places to have a cheap drink…!

Most of the tour guides do their job based on donations only, so if you can spare some money it would go down well. Most walking tours last around 3 hours, so you definitely get a great deal for your money.

9. Free Cultural Activities and Museums

There are lots of free museums and galleries in major cities it’s impossible to name them all, but I’ve picked out some of the best-rated ones in a range of cities across the globe.

Have a look into the top rated free-entry museums in the city you’re visiting:

Museé d’Art modern de la Ville de Paris (Museum of Modern Art)

There aren’t many free museums in Paris, so this is a bit of a goldmine. It’s free entry to the permanent collection and after a recent renovation, the museum is looking better than ever. You can see works of art from famous painters such as Picasso and Matisse and discover new modern artists and their work.

Singapore City Gallery

I was so excited when I stumbled across this fantastic museum! Singapore is notoriously expensive, so it’s quite rare to find an outing that is completely free, let alone one that is also really good. In this gallery exhibition, you can see how the Singapore skyline has evolved over the last few decades and get involved interactively in designing your own skyline.

Paço Imperial – Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Paço Imperial is one the most important historic buildings in Brazil. It once housed the Portuguese Royal Family and, after years of decay, was restored in 1980 to its appearance in the early 18th century. Today it hosts a range of cultural exhibitions of painting, art, sculpture, music and more. It’s closed on Mondays, but it has free entry every other day of the week from 12 am – 7 pm.

Amsterdam Cheese Museum

Museum may be a bit of a stretch for this one, but it’s still definitely worth a visit if you’re a cheese lover! Sample as many different types of cheese as you can and find out how it's made.

Plus...

Cheese is safe to fly with, so you can take your favourites back home with you too.

Te Papa – Wellington, New Zealand

Te Papa is one of the top things to do in New Zealand. Te Papa is an interactive and innovative museum that allows you to explore New Zealand’s culture, environment and history. It’s free entry every day from 10 am – 6 pm.

10. Getting in free to paid entry museums

Now, this is exciting!

Loads of the top-rated museums in the world have special days of the week or days throughout the year when entry to museums is completely free:

  • Entry to The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York is free on Friday evenings between 4 pm – 8 pm
  • The Louvre Museum in Paris is free entry the first Sunday of each month between October and March
  • Entry to The Vatican Museums in Vatican City, Italy is free entry on the last Sunday of the month

Have a look into the best museums in the place(s) that you’re visiting and see when they do free entry too.

11. Explore the outdoors for free in parks, gardens and cemeteries

If you’re planning a trip in the Spring or Summer then there are loads of free activities you can enjoy, simply by just being outdoors and enjoying the sunny weather!

Wandering around a cemetery may sound a bit morbid, but in major cities there are some definitely worth visiting. The Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is filled with exquisitely designed graves and tombstones and is the place of rest for many notable figures, including Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Jim Morrison and Édith Piaf.

Wander around the local parks and gardens (these are almost always free entry) and people watch to your heart's content. Save even more money by bringing your own sandwiches; why sit in a café when you can sit on a bench and enjoy the beautiful outdoors?!

Boats on the shore of Gili Trawangan, off the coast of Bali

12. Free holiday vouchers to use

Another great way to save money on your hols is by using all the different free holiday voucher codes.

Here's the deal:

Lots of the apps mentioned earlier have sign-up discount codes so that you can get money off your first use. For example, if you invite a friend to Airbnb they’ll get £25 in travel credit when they sign up, and you’ll get £15 in travel credit once they complete a trip. Buddy up with your travelling partner to make the most of this one!

Don’t splash the cash printing out all your holiday pics when you return. Lots of online photo printing companies have great sign-up offers, meaning you can print out your pics and get them delivered to your door for next to nothing.

Snapfish, bonusprint, Photobox and Boots all have great offers and discounts running continuously, so make sure you do your research before ordering about which is the best value for your money. After all, how else are you going to make all your friends and family jealous about your trip of a lifetime?!

Do you have any holiday freebie tips of your own? Don't forget to share them and let us know.

Have an amazing holiday, you deserve it!

Alex xx