What to pack to cut the cost of a staycation

Picture of an english cottage with a wooden gate and leaves trained over a trellis above it

Packing to cut the cost of a family holiday

Skipping off on holiday with only a passport, credit card and big smile sounds super spontaneous.

It’s also likely to be super expensive.

It’s all very well trilling “Oh, you can always buy stuff when you’re away!” to people who overpack (ie me).

But then you end up paying over the odds for new versions of things you already have, and wasting holiday time traipsing round unfamiliar shops. You can also miss out on deals and discounts.

As with much frugal living, it’s a balance between saving money and saving time. I’d rather spend a bit longer on my packing, so I can spend less when we’re away.

Packing list to cut the cost of a staycation

This summer, like hordes of other families, we opted for a staycation. We’re just back from a fortnight in the Lake District.

In my quest to make the most of our money while away, here’s some cost-cutting essentials from my packing list:

National Trust and English Heritage membership cards

If you’ve paid for membership, might as well make the most of it! Comes in handy not just for visiting assorted castles, forts and gardens, but also free parking at NT beaches and nature reserves.

If you’re not already a member, get 15% off annual membership* of English Heritage if you use the code EH2018 before the end of August. There’s info on National Trust membership here, but if you’re feeling really sneaky, join the National Trust for Scotland for less and still get access to properties in England.

Making the most of membership for family days out

Supermarket loyalty cards

At home, I use my Morrisons More card and East of England membership card most often. But other supermarkets might be closer while we’re away. If I’m shopping somewhere with a loyalty scheme, I like to pick up those points, so I dig out my Sainsbury’s Nectar, Tesco Clubcard, Boots Advantage card and Iceland Bonus card before leaving. Even better, avoid a bulging wallet by using an app like Stocard. Stocard lets you scan your loyalty cards, then show the barcode at the till.

Supermarket vouchers or codes

Less one for the suitcase, but useful when planning ahead. I book a supermarket delivery to arrive at the start of self-catering holidays. It saves money compared to emergency purchases at the nearest garage or corner shop – and I save more by checking for any voucher codes or money off a minimum spend. This year, I got an email just before our holiday with a Sainsbury’s voucher for £12 off an £80 spend. Perfect timing.

Maxing out supermarket vouchers

Food for the first night

It’s hard resist the siren call of a pricey takeaway if you arrive, tired and hungry, to face an empty fridge. We’ve had a couple of holidays where the supermarket delivery booked for our first evening was delayed, leaving us ready to chew the furniture.

So this year I made and froze a vat of bolognese sauce to take with us, plus some pasta and broccoli. It meant we could eat half the sauce on the first night, and half later in the holiday transformed into chilli con carne.

What to pack to cut the cost of a self-catering holiday

Packed lunch

No post on cutting holiday costs would be complete without mentioning packed lunches!

I try to avoid the eye-gouging prices at motorway service stations by taking a load of drinks and snacks. Refillable water bottles then come in handy for the whole holiday. We’ve even invested in a second S’ip by S’well bottle, after we were so impressed with the one I was given for free. Also important to make sure any provisions end up in my footwell, rather than buried deep in the boot…

Top tips for thrifty packed lunches

Boredom busters

Car journeys feel even longer with squabbling children in the back. I can’t pretend travel games are the entire solution to world peace. But packing a selection of games, books, pads, pens and electronic devices can help limit warfare. You’re also less likely to crack at motorway services and buy multiple magazines, plastic tat and junk food in the hope of keeping them quiet. Top tip: take a power bank to recharge any devices that are flagging.

Vouchers for attractions

We love trying out all kinds of entertainment and attractions while we’re away, but ticket costs can really mount up. I dig out any “Grown Ups Go Free” vouchers and other loyalty scheme offers. We’ve used vouchers from cereal packets to save well over £100 visiting different Sealife centres, for example, and cut the cost of visiting Pensthorpe with Tesco Clubcard vouchers. But they can’t save any money stuck on the mantelpiece at home.

Top 10 frugal things we did on our holiday

ID like a driving licence and utility bill

Bear with me on this one. Even on holiday, local libraries can be a lifeline for borrowing books and DVDs, getting decent internet access, printing tickets for attractions that won’t scan your phone or taking refuge from the rain. Take ID if you want to sign up for a visitor’s library card.


Now – over to you. What do you add to your packing list to cut holiday costs? Do share your top tips in the comments, I’d love to hear!

*indicates an affiliate link, so anything you buy through it will help support the blog, as I will get a small commission at no cost to you. Many thanks!

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  1. Pat Chester
    14th August 2018 / 7:22 pm

    my daughter’s family and my hubby and I are going on holiday to North Wales in September. Between us we have £140 of Morrisons vouchers and £50 of Sainsbury’s reward vouchers so most of our food for two weeks covered (4 adults, 3 large boys).

  2. Hazel
    14th August 2018 / 7:35 pm

    I totally agree with your food advice. Bimbling round a market or a French supermarket is fun occasionally and if you’re under no pressure to get dinner on the table in the next 30 minutes to prevent meltdown.
    I always make sure I’ve got a few basics that go together- pasta and tinned tomatoes and garlic, pasta and tuna and onions and garam masala, rice and eggs- and a rough possible meal plan so at least the first few days are covered. I have a list of ingredients to take and a few sheets of camping/self catering recipes and know I have all the spices and other extras I might need for them. And a tin opener!

  3. Kathryn Hipkin
    1st September 2018 / 8:47 pm

    Sounds incredibly organised. I remember a few years ago we took a self catering apartment in Edinburgh. I had won 4 x £50 Asda vouchers so they paid for all the food when we were there – a massive saving, especially as my 2 are fussy eaters.
    I tend not to bother with things like National Trust as there’s not much near us but you’ve got me thinking about it now!

    • Faith
      14th September 2018 / 7:36 am

      Woo hoo many cheers for winning ASDA vouchers! For membership like National Trust and English Heritage, it’s definitely worth thinking about whether you’d get value out of it. With English Heritage, I looked at entry prices for stuff near us, plus a couple of options near our planned holiday destination, and it added up. Then we made a conscious effort to use the membership while it lasted.

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