Bargain Betty

Bargain Betty’s money savvy tips

Cheap holidays


This blog first appeared on MSN at

Holidays are expensive. It’s something I build into my budget. But I’ve just read that a third of UK parents can’t afford to take their children on holiday this summer.

Many Kiwi parents will be planning their summer holidays at least six months in advance. So it’s time to start planning.

There are ways to keep the cost down and here are some of my favourites:

These are about having a vacation at home. But don’t just sit at home — there’s no fun in that. Do touristy things in your own location. If I lived in Wairarapa, for instance, I might schedule in daytrips including a mooch down the main street of Greytown checking out the antique shops, take a trip on Featherston’s Fell locomotive engine and take the kids fishing at Ngawi.

Book a cheap bach or crib
Last year we booked a basic bach at Mangawhai heads for $60 a night. A friend of mine got one for $30 a night on a remote Northland beach. The advantage of a bach over other cheap accommodation is that they’re usually fully furnished, have cooking facilities to save you from eating out, and often come with toys. Our Mangawhai bach had a PlayStation for the kids and kayaks.

Go remote
If you book somewhere in the back of beyond, you’ll avoid spending anything other than accommodation costs and transport to get there and back. I’ve done this — checking into a farmstay hostel north of Kaeo.

Another option, which I often do, is to go on a multiday tramp. That way you’re often only paying to stay at Department of Conservation huts, at $15 a night. When you’re tramping, you can’t even carry an excess of expensive food and alcohol.

That’s Working Weekends on Organic Farms. WWOOFing has been around for as long as I can remember. The idea is that you stay and sometimes eat free on an organic farm in return for a few hours labour each day.

If you’re cooped up in an office all week, the occasional WWOOFing weekend can be fun. You get to meet interesting hosts who’ve often given up the city life for their dream.

Away from home camping is one of the cheapest holidays you can have. Flash campsites such as the lovely Top 10 ones can cost more than $50 a night. DOC and local regional council campsites are much cheaper — although they usually don’t have many facilities, but they’re mighty cheap, lots of fun, and often in very beautiful locations.

I’ve even camped in the garden of a friend’s bach for free — with the use of cooking facilities inside.

Cabins and on site caravans
If you don’t like camping you can still rent cheap accommodation on campsites — which are great places for kids. I’ve rented both cabins and caravans at campsites. Cabins are usually cheaper than similar motel rooms — although they can be basic.

The last time we visited the lovely Te Aroha Holiday Park we rented a retro 1950s caravan for just $30 a night for three people.

Home exchanges
This is a great concept. You exchange houses with someone else in a location you want to visit. I’ve done one formal exchange, when I was in the UK, and that worked like clockwork. I’m also always trying to convince friends to swap houses with me.

That way we can have a holiday without accommodation costs. There are a couple of home exchange websites in New Zealand: HomeSwap and HomeLink, although I haven’t personally used either.

So try these out, or share your own stories of cheap holidays with other readers by having your say here.

More information

One day sale websites


I’ve always been a bit cynical about the one-day-sale websites that have started popping up here there and everywhere. My first impression was that they were selling a lot of cheaply priced Tat that people didn’t need to buy. There’s certainly an element of people getting too excited over these sites. has more than 50,000 people who “like” it on Facebook.

I have, however, seen the other side of them. I’ve noticed that some of the sites like services (eg dental work and beauty therapy) and tourism days out at really cheap prices. I went on a Kayak Fishing expedition, which I have written about for the NZ Herald. The other customers had bought their tours from at half the face price.  If you want to do something like this it’s a great bargain.

More about flying on cheap airlines


Further to my earlier post about flying Jetstar, I’ve just found some useful links about flying on budget airlines on MSN (which I write for, but these aren’t my articles):

The pros and cons of budget airlines

Top tips for travelling on budget airlines

Ryanair to install standing seats

Top 10 tips for saving money on holiday costs

The economy of flying economy class

Another airline to charge extra for legroom

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Sydney Airport


I’ve passed through Sydney airport with time to kill twice recently.  The airport train costs $30 return (even if you only go one stop) and the inter terminal shuttle is $5.50.  Both seem like daylight robbery to me. So I set about finding cheaper ways to get in and out of the airport.  The information desks don’t make it easy. One couldn’t show me a map of the airport and the other kept claiming that the official airport transport was the only way to get around.  If I hadn’t been an expert at asking questions I never would have found out about the 400 bus. This is a local bus at local prices that passes through the airport, stopping at both terminals.  You can use it to get from terminal to terminal or to head North towards Bondi Junction or south to Rockdale.  You could just jump on it to the nearest train station (but beware that it’s not one on the expensive airport line) and swap to a train.  Here’s the timetable info:

And a route map:

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Flying Jetstar


I’m flying Jetstar tomorrow. I learned my lesson last time. Don’t get on board without any food. The airline, bless its cotton socks, makes up for the low ticket prices by charging you for food. It costs an arm and a leg.  So tonight I’m going to cook up an extra large and extra special dinner and put some in a takeaway container.  That has to be a whole lot better than spending $10 on what amounts to a snack. I could buy some takeaways on the way to the airport. But to be honest it’s more hassle than it’s worth to stop.