UK on a budget

UK Travel on a Budget

We’ve talked about how to save money in London, but what about once you leave the city? Most of the food tips remain the same, and it’s easier to find inexpensive accommodations outside of London (many with breakfast included!). There is so much to see and do in the UK and you surely can’t see it all in one trip. And entry fees start adding up if you just go to see the “big” places. Here are a few tips for outside of London (and awesome pictures of our trip!).

MUSEUMS – Most UK museums in and out of London are free! And the category of “museum” goes beyond stuffy old galleries of paintings (though there are some amazing ones in that category as well!). A sampling of some of these include:

Two of my favorite museums are in South Wales:

  • Big Pit – A real coal mine. They take you down the elevator and you walk in the actual mines. I have to say this experience was one of the most chilling ones I’ve had. There really is no light down there at all. Your eyes never adjust when they turn the lamps off.
  • St. Fagan’s National History Museum – This outside museum is a large collection of historic buildings from all over Wales that have been moved into one large park. Walk through Welsh history. Visit the traditional Welsh bakery (since the museum is free, spend a couple pounds on yummy bread!), see a blacksmith at work, and walk through traditional Welsh row houses decorated in various time periods throughout history. I just love it here!St. Fagan's UK Travel

GET OUTSIDE – There are so many beautiful hikes and walks throughout the country that are all free (or a just a few pounds for parking). There’s no way to include all of the possibilities here, but a few of our favorite experiences were:

  • Malham Cove – It’s a beautiful walk to the cove and a million steps to the top with sweeping views of the countryside. The road we took up to Malham was one of the most picturesque roads we’ve ever traveled.Malham Cove UK Travel
  • Brimham Rocks – This place tops my list for my unexpected favorite. This large park is full of crazy rock formations that you can just climb all over! It was beautiful, fun, adventurous, and each formation was so different! (I look forward to bringing my kids there.)Brimham Rocks UK Travel
  • Orrest Head – There are hundreds of beautiful hikes in the Lake district with amazing views of the surrounding areas, but if you’re doing a quick visit to this part of the country and you’re staying in Windermere, this was a simple hike with rewarding views!Orrest Head UK Travel
  • Avebury – The entire town of Avebury is part of the largest stone circle. Though the stones aren’t as large or close together as Stonehenge, they’re just out among the fields and I really enjoyed the little village and walking around the stones.Avebury Henge UK Travel
  • Caerphilly Castle – Though you have to pay to go inside the ruins, walking completely around the moat is an amazing experience. It would be fabulous to just have a 13th Century castle ruins in the background of daily life!Caerphilly Castle UK Travel

NATIONAL TRUST TOURING PASS – For overseas visitors, you can become a short-term member of the National Trust. Mr. T and I bought a 14-day 2-person pass for a total of £57. This pass allowed us into nearly all of the National Trust locations throughout the UK for free. We loved the freedom this pass provided us. We were able to just stop in to any National Trust site we passed that sounded interesting. Most we had planned in our itinerary, but a few we happened upon along the way. A few of the places we enjoyed were:

  • Stonehenge – The pass also gets you in to Stonehenge (though you have to book online because Stonehenge is run by English Heritage). If you feel the need to visit here (and you might as well if you have the touring pass that gets you in free!), book your tickets for the very first thing in the morning and take the first shuttle you can get straight out to the stones to get pictures before the crowds arrive. Then you can visit all the other areas of the visitor’s centre when you are done looking at the actual stones.Stonehenge UK Travel
  • Fountains Abbey – There is something so peaceful to me about a giant cathedral ruin with grass growing inside. I simply love Fountains Abbey. Definitely walk to Anne Boleyn’s seat for the view of the cathedral from there.Fountains Abbey UK Travel
  • Powis Castle – Wales is full of castles and this is one we happened upon while driving. It is a similar time period to Caerphilly Castle, but instead of being left to ruin after the Medieval Wars, Powis was inhabited all the way up until 1988! The castle and extensive gardens are in immaculate shape and were fun to visit.Powis Castle UK Travel


  • Use ATMs, but be careful which debit card! – ATMs will give you the best exchange rate, but most of the big American banks will charge you exorbitant fees for withdrawing cash overseas. Wells Fargo, for example, will charge you $5 for each withdrawal AND a 3% charge of anything you withdraw. Yikes! I used my Capital One 360 Debit Card and was never charged any fees! Just be sure to only use bank ATMs (not random ones at the airport!). Sometimes they’ll try to trick you by putting a non-bank ATM next to a Bank ATM, so look for a bank name before withdrawing cash.
  • Don’t Pay Foreign Transaction Fees – Enough credit cards don’t charge foreign transaction fees these days that it seems silly to pay something like 3% on every purchase when you could avoid it. Make sure you have a credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees.

Traveling makes the world a smaller, friendlier place. Get out there and explore the amazing world in which we live!

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  1. I’ll have to add these to our places to see list. I still can’t believe how much history will be right at our fingertips in a few short weeks… and we have 3 years to explore it!

    • MaggieBanks

      Get out there! (I’ll keep the jealousy at bay). The header image is of Whitby on the coast, which we also loved.

  2. Oh, takes us back to a family trip to our “home” country a few years ago. We did a VRBO on Ullswater and our respective families came to visit and stay. The Lake District is one of our favorite places to enjoy the outdoors. So much of it is similar to parts of NH, VT and ME. Yet much greener. And rich in history, tradition.

    The Yorkshire Dales were relatively close to where I used to work in te UK. Malham Cove and the plethora of fantastic British pubs to enjoy nearby for a Sunday lunch – well too much to talk about!!

    Mrs. PIE used to take regular trips to London with her mum as a kid and the mantra was to do it essentially free. And that involved multiple museum visits. It is still amazing how so many think London has to be expensive. Just not true, as you point out.

    • MaggieBanks

      I like the Lake District, but I feel like it’s so crowded with everyone on holiday. I find I prefer the Dales because there is so much to explore and it’s ALL “off the beaten path” so to speak.

  3. Can’t wait for the photos! And re: the fishing — I have been checking in on that Katmai bear cam often since you posted it. I’m such a nerd, but I love it! I have a total thing for bears, and could see myself one day going crazy and being like that guy in Grizzly Man. Okay, maybe not that extreme, but I love the bears! 🙂

    • Too funny! I have been checking the bear cam too! Looked like one was just hanging around – as if in a hot tub when I looked last! And I bookmarked this for our future planning. We haven’t made it overseas yet – but it is in the plan and these posts help so much.

      • MaggieBanks

        I love that bear cam. It’s my dad’s favorite. We really loved our itinerary in the UK and have finally added all the amazing pictures!

    • MaggieBanks

      PICTURES ARE UP! Also, the bear cam is awesome. I love that they provide that. And I do love bears as well… but feel like living in Alaska my two ways to die are: bear mauling or bush plane accident. So I’m a bit scared of them as well.

      • Love the pics! Beautiful! And I’m totally with you on the grizzly bears. Black bears don’t scare me, but I’m perfectly happy looking at grizzlies through a webcam. 🙂

  4. Carrie

    Check with your bank before you go. They may have agreements with banks in the UK so you can use the ATMs without extra fees. For example Scotiabank debit card holders in Canada can use Barclay’s ATMs in the UK without fees.

    • MaggieBanks

      Excellent point! Some banks are part of worldwide ATM networks as well.

  5. The Green Swan

    I’ll be taking advantage of the National Trust Touring Pass next time I go to the UK, that sounds awesome. When I first went to the UK I stayed in London the whole time. I still have a lot to explore outside London so that will be perfect. Thanks!

    • MaggieBanks

      It’s a whole different world outside of London and just as amazing!

  6. Really enjoying reading about how enthusiast you all are for UK travel! I live near quite a few if the places mentioned in this post and it’s ace to be reminded of how fantastic they are and how lucky we are. Things have been so gloomy post-Brexit so this has really cheered me up!

    • MaggieBanks

      I love the UK so much. When Scotland leaves the UK and starts recruiting people to live there, we’re in! 🙂

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