The intended use of the reading week in October, and the Festival of Creative Learning in February, is to catch up on work in preparation for the second half of the semester. However, these timetabled breaks are the perfect opportunity to take advantage of the veritable feast of culture that sits on Edinburgh’s doorstep.
A reading week getaway exposes you to different experiences, but as well as this, they can be hugely restorative, allowing you to regain a healthy work/life balance, something that so often goes awry mid-way through the semester.Flights to Belfast, Dublin and Derry are all
highly accessible from Edinburgh at a relatively low cost. Dublin in particular, whilst being a popular tourist destination, can be visited on a very low budget with a huge variety of decent hostels and hotels and many of its famous attractions being free. Hostelworld is a great app for finding affordable accommodation: helpful ratings, reviews and a map, allow you to quickly filter through results and find inexpensive options that still allow a pleasurable stay.
A getaway to wider Europe does not necessarily mean dipping into that overdraft. When looking for cheap flights, Skyscanner is your best friend. It is a useful tool for sorting through the best airline deals. And, if you are not appalled by a certain amount of spontaneity, searching “everywhere” rather than a specific place shows the destinations in order of price.
It is important to note when planning a trip, that cheap flights do not necessarily guarantee a cheap get away. Air fares to Paris are often astonishingly low, but the attractions, food and drink make for an expensive trip, with half a pint costing you an eye-watering €3.50. Instead, opt for places such as Prague, Krakow and Budapest, all of which can be flown to directly from Edinburgh.
Whilst you may have to pay a little more for flights, you will save significantly on accommodation, food and drink. Airbnb’s are particularly good value in places such as these, if you want to keep the budget low yet have a little more luxury than a hostel would provide. With October and February being out of the popular tourist season, prices are likely to be even lower than usual.
A reading week break does not have to be by plane. There are fantastic cities that can be reached easily and relatively cheaply by train from Edinburgh. A railcard is a must if you plan to use trains regularly, as they save you a third on the normal ticket price. Newcastle, for example. Home to the Angel of the North, St James’ Park and a huge student population, leading to a vast array of cheap bars that put Edinburgh’s student deals to shame.
With a return ticket costing you £20-£30 and a budget hotel from around £30, what’s not to love?
If you want to travel further afield by train, using the website Split Your Ticket or Split Train Tickets is a great hack for making train travel more affordable. These websites split your journey into shorter distances, often saving considerable amounts of money. Whilst buying in advance and splitting your fare can reduce train travel prices, it remains a fairly pricey way of getting from A to B.
Alternatively, there is always the option of budget bus companies such as Megabus. If travelling in a group, this option can be quite fun and undeniably the tickets are dirt cheap, with a return ticket to London costing you around £17 compared with the extortionate £68 train ticket.
However, you need to balance your financial saving with the amount of time sacrificed due to a longer period of travel, avoid a full day travelling if possible. So, whether you fancy visiting a great Northern city or a jaunt across the Channel, pack those textbooks into an overnight case and getaway – it would do you the world of good.
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