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17 July 2017


i've just come back from my 12th weekend away this year, and it's only july. if i carry on in this vain (i don't intend to, but i always say that) i will have only spent every other weekend in london this year. london! the city i call home. the city i chose to live in! that's just... ridiculous? impressive? something? i'm often asked how i do it - all this travel, and to be honest it comes down to two things: time and money. i have very little of both, so i make extra good use of what i do have. 

i take a lot of weekend breaks - taking advantage of annual leave on either a friday or monday, to make it a long weekend away, and i also budget heavily while gallivanting to make those pennies stretch further. so, when challenged recently to take a three-day break in france's second city, for less than £250 per person in total, i knew i had my work cut out for me; the game was on, and i was ready to play. here's how i did it:

find a good combo deal

i used cheapflights.co.uk to help me find not only a, erm, cheap flight for ben and i, but also a great deal on a room too. using internet wizardry, the site pulls in travel dealshttps://www.cheapflights.co.uk/flights/Marseille/ from across a host of different sites and then bundles them up for you to take your pick. this way you can choose your preferred flight times, starred accommodation, transfers - everything, all in one place, without having to use the sky-scanning and room booking and car pooling sites. booking everything in one place saved me between £20-£30 each, because of the deals i was able to get through cheapflights' affiliation with the hundreds of other booking sites we regular folk have never heard of. the flight was super early and the accommodation was super basic, but both of those elements added to the bottom line, and that was the aim of the game.

return shuttle transfers to the airport in london: £30
flights and accommodation: £290.68
return coach transfers to the hotel in marseille: 29euro

...with breakfast included

and, if you can get breakfast included in your stay, then even better. filling up on free breakfast and potentially taking some of the accommodation's snacks with you during the day will save you a ton of money on foods through out the day. our breakfast was included in the stay, so we made sure to make small sandwiches out of the continental offering and grabbing a piece of fruit each before we left the restaurant each morning. sure, it's hella sneaky, but it'll save you that hard earned cash when you're out on the street. similarly, if the tap water is drinkable and you have a fridge in your room, fill a water bottle and take it with you each day. bottled water abroad isn't cheap, but tap water is free.

cost of hotel breakfast: nothing

eat big and sporadically

eating a big breakfast before you head out will keep you going for a fair while, especially if you have the snacks with you. on our first day in marseille we weren't able to check in until 3pm (whaaat!), though we arrived in the city by 10am. because we weren't able to stuff our faces on free breakfast, and we planned to be thrifty with our money, we simply waited as long as we could before we thought we might die from starvation (with exception to a few coffees, a bottle of wine, and an ice cream each), and then went all out on a three-course meal in a waterside bistro near the old port for "dinner". i say "dinner" because it was about 4pm when this happened, but considering we were up at 4am for a flight at 6:35am, we were pretty tired. and because the old port is the main tourist hub, those three courses only cost 16euro each. it had been a long day already by that point, with a lot of walking and sightseeing, so a 4pm dinner that had us stuffed and falling into a food coma in our comfy bed was a godsend!

ice creams, coffees, and glasses of wine: 30euro
three course french dinner and bottle of provence rose: 55euro

...or small and often

but on the second day, we opted for the free breakfast and snacks trick, and barely spent a thing. we filled up on a hearty breakfast and drank as much coffee as we could, as well as recycling the empty water bottles from the day before for cold water from the taps. we took a few croissants and pieces of fruit on the road with us, and snacked happily on these throughout the day, barely needing to spend a penny on anything else. sure, we grabbed some ice creams here and an authentic french hot dog and american beer at the seaside there (there wasn't a lot of options, sadly), but in total, not a huge dent in the pocket money. this kept us full until right into the evening when we popped into the supermarket and patisserie, and used what was left of our pocket change on supplies for dinner. cheeses, cold meats, fresh breads and a bottle of wine kept us sorted for dinner, and was nothing less than a perfect way to end the day.

cost of lunch: 18euro
cost of dinner supplies: 16.20euro

walk as far as you can

originally, we planned on picking up a 'city pass' for travel. this was about 20euro for 24 hours, 30euro for 48 and almost 40euro for 72. we were moments away from buying one at the airport until the woman behind the counter told me her system was broken and she couldn't sell it to me. this was a blessing in disguise as i found out, because we didn't use the public transport in the city once. we walked from the train station to our accommodation (about 20 minutes), from our accommodation to the old port (about 30 minutes), and everywhere in between. over the two and a half days, we clocked up more than 50 thousands steps, but we didn't pay a penny. sure, we didn't get to see everything we wanted to either, because they were slightly further away than we were prepared to walk in the 30+ degree heat, but we fell in love with the areas we did explore and left that city smitten. so, i'd make that decision again in a heartbeat.

cost spent on travelling around marseille city: nothing

...unless there's a boat

because one of the things we definitely wanted to do, was head across to the frioul archipelago just off the coast of marseille. it was a toss up between heading out to the islands at our leisure or taking a half-day trip to the national parc, and in the end we went with one that meant we could spend more time on land and less time on water. the trip to the islands included two stops - one to castle d'if, and then one to frioul, and return. you pay a little extra for the stop at castle d'if - presumably for entry to the castle, but actually, no; that'll cost you another six euros on top. we chose not to pay, and instead sat in the shade by the cafe, watching the boats circling the island until the next boat came back to continue our journey. perhaps if we weren't on such a budget we would have paid the fee; in this case, we preferred not to.

ile du frioul was well worth the trip though. we wandered through native flora and loads of run down farmland to find the most beautiful inlets and private beaches i think i've ever seen. the water was so crystal clear and not too cold for a (toe) dip either. we stayed put on the island until the sun started to dip, and then made our way back to the mainland with our return ticket.

return boat trip around the frioul archipelago: 29.40euro

the following morning would be our last day in the city, and with plenty of leftovers to take with us on our journey back home, as well as the free breaky to fill up on, we needn't have paid another cent. our return coach was paid for and our flight was around 4pm so we had the morning to wander back at our own leisure, munching on day-old baguettes as we went. it was truly excellent.

so, there you go. if you've done your maths then you'll know that all comes in under £500 total for the two of us, including food, drinks, attractions, and getting about. not bad for three days in another country, no? i've certainly set myself a benchmark for all future travel though, which hopefully shouldn't be too hard to maintain considering we landed in the south of france, in the height of summer, and did it on a modest budget. basically: challenge accepted. i have so many more pictures to share, so keep your eyes peeled for some french postcards next week!

*post written in collaboration with cheapflights.co.uk; flights, accommodation and expenses all complimentary, but all words are all mine.

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