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How to Save Money on Your Trip to Scotland

How to Save Money on Your Trip to Scotland | CosmosMariners.com

I love to travel. And I've had the opportunity to see some amazing places and meet some amazing people.

But one of my absolutely favorite trips was with my husband to Scotland in 2011. I'd wanted to visit the country way back when I was studying abroad in London in 2005; I had a weekend trip planned for Edinburgh, but the 7/7 bombings happened, and I didn't feel comfortable traveling that close to the terrorist attack. 

Landon was game to head to the UK on our first big trans-Atlantic trip, so we started planning where we'd like to go and what we had to see.

We had our top ten must-see places, and then we sat down to see how our possible trip would fit into a budget. 

Let me be the first one to tell you that having a budget stinks. I know that it is a perfectly normal part of life, but still! Budgets can be total kill joys. 

I was determined to make sure that we'd see everything we wanted to see while paying for the entire trip in cash before we left. (Landon and I are really, really big on only buying the things we can afford at that very moment.) It wasn't like we were millionaires or anything; quite the opposite. At the time, Landon was working as a Financial Services Rep at a local bank, and I was a K-12 teacher (and we all know they're just rolllling in the dough). We weren't your average candidates for a massive European extravaganza. 

When it was all said and done, we stayed for two weeks in Scotland (a few of these days were in London). Our trip budget was set at $4500, and, once everything was said and done, we came in under budget. 

We did not starve. 

We did not feel deprived at all. 

We bought souvenirs. 

We saw a ton of stuff!
How to Save Money on Your Trip to Scotland | CosmosMariners.com
Edinburgh Castle in (where else?) Edinburgh

In other words, we had the best trip we could imagine--and it didn't cost us an arm and a leg. 

So, how did we manage a low-cost Scotland trip? 

1) We went in the off season

Our trip dates were November 11- November 23. Let me tell you--this is NOT the normal tourist season in the UK. 

Prepare to be cold. 
How to Save Money on Your Trip to Scotland | CosmosMariners.com
Stirling Castle--brrrrr.
Prepare for it to rain.

How to Save Money on Your Trip to Scotland | CosmosMariners.com
The fog and rain really add something to the atmosphere, don't you think?
Prepare for the sun to go down at 4:30 in the afternoon. 

Prepare for some attractions to be undergoing renovations or be closed for the season.

Once you get over those issues, it's a wonderful time to visit. We made sure that all of our must-see attractions were open during our dates. There were a few places that I would have liked to have seen (Glamis Castle, for one) that was closed for the winter. I can't be too sad about this missed opportunities because we saw so many OTHER cool things. I really didn't feel as if our trip lacked anything because of the seasonal considerations. 

Plus, we were often the only people in the exhibit/ castle/ tour, so we felt as if we were getting a private showing for the price of a regular ticket. When we went to Rosslyn Chapel (LOVE), we arrived right at opening, and the only other people on the property were the workers. Because of the lack of tourists, our guide hung around with us for a hour and a half to talk about the structure, land, and history--just a little better than the 30ish minute tour that we should have gotten!

How to Save Money on Your Trip to Scotland | CosmosMariners.com

The same thing happened at Doune Castle (which was so fantastic that it made my top 5 most memorable travel moments ever). We had complete reign of the castle, which was partially creepy, but mostly so, so cool.

How to Save Money on Your Trip to Scotland | CosmosMariners.com

Everything was cheaper: the train tickets, the plane tickets, the hotel rooms. If you can swing a trip from November to March, do it. 

2) We stayed outside of the cities.

How to Save Money on Your Trip to Scotland | CosmosMariners.com

Edinburgh and Glasgow are beautiful--and should not be missed on any Scottish trip--but, if at all possible, venture out of the major cities and get into the Scottish countryside. Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful, you'll be able to stay at places that look like they were out of a fairy tale (only you don't have to be royal to afford them). 

We stayed at a refurbished sanatorium in a little village outside Stirling called the Dunblane Hydro Hotel. It was once a place for those suffering from tuberculosis to come rest and recuperate in the Victorian period. We loved having it for our home base!


How to Save Money on Your Trip to Scotland | CosmosMariners.com

You could also consider staying at a Landmark Trust site (which includes cottages, estates, and actual palaces)--some of the properties start at just 12 or 13 pounds per person per night. 

3) We booked through American websites. 

This doesn't hold true for all vacations, but since the dollar was so much weaker than the pound when we went, we booked through American sites. In other words, on the actual British site, a hotel room might cost one hundred pounds; the same hotel on Orbitz cost us one hundred dollars, which was a huge savings over the course of two weeks (at the time, it was almost $50 difference per night!).

Find the perfect Scotland hotel here!

4) We only ate one big meal a day

No, we didn't starve. We ate breakfast (which was included in our hotel room price) several days; the days that we didn't have that as an option, we picked up some breakfast bars at the local Marks and Spencer and ate in our room. We'd then choose to eat a big lunch or a big dinner; for the other meal, we would split something in a little pub or have a couple of appetizers. Doing this allowed us plenty of room for snacks, so we got to sample many fun Scottish treats. Irn Bru, anyone? We also saved money while still staying full and happy.

How to Save Money on Your Trip to Scotland | CosmosMariners.com

5) We flew economy and didn't check any bags

The airline can't lose your luggage if you don't give it to them, right?! They also can't charge you for having oversized bags, either. (See how to pack for a two week trip using only a carry on.) Economy class stinks--I can't lie--but for only $717 a ticket (round-trip), I can deal with a few hours of discomfort. 

6) We were willing to try new things.

We combined a hotel and transportation one night by traveling on the ScotRail Caledonian Sleeper. By stalking the website every single day, I found a bargain berth fare for us on the night we wanted to travel, and saved us over 200 pounds! (Bargain berths start at 19 pounds; regular fares start around 150 pounds.) Even without the bargain berth price, we would have saved money if you consider that hotel and a regular train ticket cost more than a sleeper ticket. Plus, it's totally cool to say that we've stayed in a sleeper train!
How to Save Money on Your Trip to Scotland | CosmosMariners.com
The quarters were tight, but they made up for the lack of space in awesomeness.
We also did something on that trip that I've never done before--completely change our plans at the last minute because of a personal recommendation. Landon and I had planned to go skeet shooting and picnicking at Aviemore, about 2 hours' drive from our hotel, when a super friendly hotel staff member suggested that we drive to the nearby Trossachs instead. On a whim, we decided to listen to his suggestion, and ended up having a great time. It didn't cost anything other than our gas in our rental car!

How to Save Money on Your Trip to Scotland | CosmosMariners.com
Showing some Clemson University love in the Trossachs!
How have you saved money on your vacation? What are you willing to splurge on when it comes to traveling? 


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