We’ve wanted to see many places in the U.K. but being budget travelers we just couldn’t justify the cost to visit. A very cheap flight and a free week of accommodation lured us there for a short time last winter. Then, London served as a hub to move on to cheaper Eastern European countries.
The United Kingdom is one of the most expensive areas to visit in the world. That distinction immediately deleted it from our list of possible long-term travel destinations but our first short visit left us pining for its stoic castles, cozy pubs, and gorgeous historic architecture. So much so, we were inspired to try harder to find an affordable way to spend more time there.
The best thing about location independence is the freedom it gives us to pursue housesitting opportunities in places we want to see at any time. That one thing, housesitting, helped us afford to visit six cities in three countries spanning eight weeks in the United Kingdom. We did it spending only $55 USD a day! Here’s a detailed account of where we went, what we did, and how we saved.
Bury St. Edmunds
We have stayed in Bury St. Edmunds twice, both times were because of housesitting. Bury is a little gem less than two hours North of London. It boasts an award-winning market, a historic ruined abbey, acres of tranquil gardens, stunning medieval architecture, and a renowned brewery.
The first time we visited Bury it was a short one week house sit in February. We were so happy when the homeowners invited us back to care for their home for two more weeks the following summer. Some of the money-saving conveniences staying in Bury are it is a very walkable town with lots to see and do in a concentrated area.
The best shopping, attractions, and picturesque gardens are in or close to the historic center. We walked everywhere we wanted to see in Bury. The only time we took cabs was to get to and from the train station. Additionally, both Cambridge and London were easily accessible from Bury, making it easy to make day trips to both places without spending additional costs on accommodation.
We spent $51 a day total during our second stay. Here’s are how our costs broke down for the two weeks we spent in Bury Saint Edmunds:
All prices in USD
Accommodation costs: $0.00 (free because of housesitting)
Beer and Wine at home- $90
Restaurants and attractions- $170
Transportation- $152 (including the train trip to Bury and a day trip to Cambridge)
Total Expenses– $716
Housesitting saved us between $150 to $200 a night in accommodation costs. That’s as much as $2800 for two weeks in a budget hotel in the summer in Bury!
We try to visit the attractions that are fun, educational, and the best value for money. In Bury, those included a Green King Brewery Tour. Taking a food or drink tour early in a trip is a great way to get more food/restaurant recommendations. We discovered our favorite pub in Bury, the Nutshell because of our tour guides suggestion. We spent time at the local market. It was fun and affordable to shop, taste, and grab great street food at the market. We also saved walking everywhere, visiting the Abbey Gardens (a huge, free, outdoor oasis) and booking train tickets online and in advance.
From Bury, we moved on to another housesitting assignment in Cardiff, Wales. The now capital of Wales, Cardiff, is highly regarded as one of Britain’s leading urban centers. The surprisingly compact port city is nestled between an ancient fortified castle and an ultramodern waterfront.
Most of Cardiff’s top attractions are in the lively center. Our house sitting assignment was too far from the center to walk so we made use of public transit to get around. Once we were in the center we had no trouble walking to see everything we wanted to see. We most enjoyed spending time at Cardiff Bay. There was so much to do and see in that area alone; museums, an amusement park, a sand park for kids, a variety of restaurants, and terrific views of the Bay.
While we were in Cardiff we took one day trip to Caerphilly to see the largest castle in Wales. Caerphilly Castle was stunning, the most impressive Castle we saw in all of Europe.
We spent $55 a day during our stay. Here’s how our costs broke down for the two weeks we spent in Cardiff:
All prices in USD
Accommodation costs: $40 (one night in a terrible Airbnb rental)
Beer and Wine at home- $120
Restaurants and attractions- $102
Transportation- $194 (including train trip to Cardiff and the day trip to Caerphilly)
Total Expenses– $768
If we had stayed in a budget hotel in Cardiff rates would have been between $83 to $100 a night. Housesitting saved us as much as $1400 on our stay in Cardiff. A trip almost 50% cheaper because of free accommodation housesitting!
We saved even more, exploring the area where we were housesitting. Cardiff is very green, with magnificent parks and green spaces. We were very close to one of Cardiff’s oldest parks, Victoria Park. It is a huge urban playground with huge trees, a network of walking and biking paths, a kids park and paddling pool and so many beautiful flowers! We loved it so much we, visited the park daily.
Our next housesitting assignment took us back to England, to Sheffield in South Yorkshire. We stayed in the center the night we arrived and were able to spend the next day exploring some of the sites in downtown before our assignment was to start. We were stunned to see how beautiful Sheffield is!
It is the greenest city in England, it has two million plus trees and 80 sprawling public parks! Sheffield is built on seven hills so there were plenty of opportunities to enjoy lovely views of the city and surrounding Yorkshire countryside. We always had something fun to do outside and had no problem staying close to home, exploring the area where we were housesitting.
The beauty of the city was one thing but we accepted this assignment because of the types of pets! We looked after a very sweet whippet dog, Murphy, three of the cutest chickens, and a degue (a cross between a hamster and a guinea pig) named Rodney. It was so much fun getting to know all of the pets! We had a great time and saved a lot of money exploring the parks and hanging out with the animals in Sheffield.
We spent $45 a day during our stay. Here’s how our costs broke down for two weeks in Sheffield:
All prices in USD
Accommodation costs: $75 (one night in a budget hotel)
Beer and Wine at home- $90
Restaurants and attractions- $52
Total Expenses– $625
Hotel pricing in Sheffield is more affordable than other places in England. We still would have paid $975 to stay in a hotel for as long as stayed free with housesitting! We saved more than half of what we could have spent on a trip to Sheffield housesitting and cooking meals at home.
When the house sitting job in Sheffield was done we had a few days until our next assignment in Northern Ireland. With all of the money we saved housesitting we could afford to check out a couple of cities on the way, Manchester and Liverpool. First stop was 24 hours Manchester and we really made the most of our time there!
We were lucky, the Manchester Food and Drink Festival was happening while we were in the city and there were so many great free attractions all located near our hotel in the center.
We enjoyed the festival and then carried on to see the John Rylands Library, the Manchester Cathedral and the Museum of Science and Industry. Eating at the festival was a great way to taste some of the best food in Manchester and the library, cathedral and museum were all free to visit and a terrific way to learn a lot about the history of Englands second largest city.
Staying centrally saved us the most in Manchester. Our hotel, Motel One was right across the street from the train station and all attractions we wanted to visit were within walking distance from the hotel.
When our short stay was over in Manchester we jumped on a train to head to Liverpool to catch the ferry to Nothern Ireland.
Our visit to Liverpool was short and sweet. We had an evening to explore some of the city before we had to catch our ferry the next morning to our last housesitting job in Belfast. We opted to stay central again, within walking to the historic waterfront. Designated a Unesco World Heritage Site, the waterfront did not disappoint. It was loaded with things to see and great places to eat. We enjoyed all of the art, history, and some outstanding fish and chips during our short stay in Liverpool.
Here’s how our costs broke down for our quick trips to Manchester and Liverpool:
All prices in USD
Accommodation costs:$105 for a budget hotel in central Liverpool. Our stay was free in Manchester in exchange for a hotel review. We stayed with Motel One Manchester Picadilly and were so impressed with the rates, the amenities, and the service. While our stay was complimentary, Motel One definitely won our loyalty. We will book with them every opportunity we have because of the terrific value for money they offer guests.
Restaurants and attractions- $160- All of the attractions we visited were free in Manchester and Liverpool. We spent our money on food and drinks at restaurants and community events.
Transportation- $39 total (the train was $23 from Sheffield to Manchester and $11 from Manchester to Liverpool)
Total Expenses– $304
The next morning we grabbed the tube to catch the ferry to Belfast. The ferry ride took most of the day to get to Belfast but it was a very fun and relaxing way to travel just the same.
We had two days in Belfast before our housesitting assignment started so we booked a room with a highly regarded Airbnb host. Staying with him was the best because he recommended so many great places to visit and affordable ways to make the most of our stay in Belfast.
We arrived the evening of the cities biggest cultural celebration, Belfast’s Culture Night. It was a terrific introduction to Northern Irelands vibrant capital. Once riddled with conflict and destruction of “The Troubles” Belfast has transformed into a culturally rich, hip destination.
It is a surprisingly small city loaded with so much to do, Belfast is quickly becoming one of the most visited cities in the U.K. for good reason. Some of our favorite places to visit were Saint Georges Market, Ulster Museum, and the Belfast Botanic Gardens.
We spent $47 a day during our stay. Here is how our costs broke down for three weeks in Belfast:
All prices in USD
Accommodation costs:$124 for two nights in an Airbnb rental.
Beer and Wine at home- $125
Restaurants and attractions- $210
Transportation- $200 including the ferry ride, cabs, and public transit in Belfast.
Total Expenses– $987
Belfast’s tourism growth has grown aggressively over the past few years. One thing that has not kept up with the growth demand is the hotel industry. It was the only destination we had difficulty finding accommodation choices in our preferred price range because of the limited amount of rooms available in the city.
If we had booked a hotel for the same period housesitting we would have spent anywhere between $1400 to $1800 for accommodation. Free accommodation with housesitting made our trip less than half the cost to visit Belfast!
We spent $55 a day overall. Here is how our costs broke down for eight weeks of travel in the U.K.:
All prices in USD
Beer and Wine at home- $435
Restaurants and attractions- $694
Transportation- $715 including the ferry ride to Belfast, all trains, cabs, and public transit.
Total Expenses- $3412
We could have paid 150% more, $6575 in addition to what we spent had we paid for hotels during our eight-week stay in the U.K. Housesitting made two months in one of the world’s most expensive areas affordable for us.
Is there somewhere you’ve always dreamed of visiting but outrageous travel costs prevent you from going? Housesitting could help make that dream trip affordable for you.
If you’re interested in saving money on travel, house sitting or hiring a house sitter is a great solution! HouseSitMatch is a house sitting platform we use and love. Check out their benefits and start saving on travel for your next vacation.