Free or Close To it Travel Budget Things UK and Ireland: Tours and Just-Do-Its


Yeah, traveling is very expensive. Get to the fair city of your choice and the € £ amounts just go up. So how do you budget to get the most out of your budget? Food is always going to get you if you do the restaurant thing, and well that’s why foodies travel, and high priced tours for cities and surrounding areas might get you empty pockets quick using all your daily spending cash in 2 hours. Not so good. So food and entertainment for next to nothing, that’s the ticket.

Walking and Transit

Walking every city you go to and/or using public transit will help keep the budget down. Visit travel websites and check out any free tours listed there, then maybe the ratings check out is good. Not everyone has your tastes. I try to find articles by locals who actually go on the tour, to get their feedback. I also find the hotel map approach works well. Take that free map and fold it in quarters. Find out what is free to do in each city and area and make a list. If there is an attraction that will suck up some money, pick one per day and the rest must be free. This way you don’t feel like you have paid huge sums for plan flight but can’t afford to do anything. Check for the local “mommie” lists online, the free things to take kids to. Some of these are just as fun for adults, we are all ages 10 to 13 really.

Tours, to Tour or Not to Tour

Some cities you tour may have people who give tours on a pay-what-you-like basis. This is usually someone who is local and may even donate some proceeds to charity. This also means it’s not a grand tour bus, public transit. But wouldn’t it be great to see how people there really enjoy their city? It may be a no frills tour, but think about how much you may really see. If you would like to travel outside of the city and can’t afford the high car rentals, a tour to castles and historical sites may be the best bargain, but again look for reviews. Remember, if you can find a smaller more personal tour situation, it may be worth the extra £ 20.00 as the larger tour companies are over crowded and well, there are a lot of people.

Now, I tend to be lone wolf on my travels. I really don’t like being glommed on as a tourist with it being quite obvious that I am one. Try as you might, locals will spot you for miles. I find locals won’t bother with you if you scream of tourist. But small, local tours are not huge, with like 50 people in tow where people can see you coming for a mile, and really you are out with people just hanging out. Also, if you like keeping up with being fit, try a bike tour.

Children in Tow, Make them Lead the Way

Got kids traveling with you? Teach them how to budget, put them in charge of researching all the free things they can do in the city you are visiting. Kids will fidget  and complain or just plain sulk if they don’t have things to get them busy. Put them in charge. Of course this means monitoring and having final say, but challenging them to find out how much they can see in an area and things that would actually interest them can be a great activity and how cheap it is is a great life lesson. ,Are there any kid led tours? Hey, that’s better than a lemonade stand for fundraising.


Food will be everywhere. But how do you find something to make you happy. Check out the local vendors via Yelp or online foodie articles. But still, what may make someone else salivate may bore your taste buds. Street food is usually the best for variety, but not all travelers can stomach deep fried haggis. We may want to eat it but the body says “no”. So, what do you do? Some places you may stay, if you plan for a few days, may have kitchenette or at least a hot pot and microwave. You can fake a fridge with ice if you have to. The B&Bs however want you to eat with them, so if you have the huge full breakfast in the am, you can nosh the rest as street food. Ratings online are fairly good, some people give you real commentary that is more helpful than food critic columns. It’s spring, so check for food festivals as well.

Food tours will help you find good real food the locals eat, not the touristy pubs or traps. There are hidden gems and food cart setups in most well traveled cities, you just need to know where to look. You can also ask about other local things to do that won’t be on a brochure.

Meet UP

Yeah, you know the Meet Up app where you can find locals doing things that you may like to do? People all over the world join up. If you like table top gaming and want to meet locals in a fun and safe setting, and maybe experience the local cuisine at the same time, it may be a great treat for you.

Comic Cons

Like  being a con-ee? Like comics? There are comic conventions around the globe, there was one in Dubai this last week. Check out the county you plan to visit and see if they have a comic convention coming up and maybe book part of you stay around one. I did last year, went to Glasgow Comic Con and had a fabulous time, met the people behind the Scottish Saltire Comics, and many other great indie comic people. Great tips on local places to eat and see came from here. Also traveled back with a great many comics I lugged all over the place 😉

Here’s a list to start, these sites are about free or budget tours:



Edinburgh ( I went on the Ghost Tour, fun)

Glasgow ( I have been to these, worth the walk)


Political Tourism is the New Eco Tourism


When you are traveling to another country, you should always make yourself aware of what is going on before you get there. We all want to have a blissful vacation, and leave politics behind, but some go to actually experience politics and the real experience of being in a local situation. It’s your cuppa. Now is definitely the time.

The world is currently erupting into civil rights marching, and we must celebrate and participate where we can. Currently the “travel ban”, which is heading for part doux, in the US airports for certain countries in flights is causing airport protesting and delays. This backs up planes and flights from originating countries. Keep abreast of the news on the countries you are passing through, have they a relationships with the US at present? But, if you want to say go to Dublin and march in the next protest for women’s rights, check out Twitter and local papers on women’s rights in Dublin. There is nothing wrong with feminism tourism, it’s a great way to really experience how others live and view their world. Just be aware how travel may go, and you may have to land in another area and take other transport to get there, like ferries. The protest map is changing our world.

Women’s Rights Ireland

You should always start reading the local papers of any of the cities you plan to visit. Look for what’s on, and anything like the festival season can bump into your plans. They will affect your travel plans greatly, I know this as the trains got insane last year due to summer festivals and strikes by Scotrail for me. I expect it to be just as crazy this year.

Plan in Advance

Traveling by rail or using ferries this trip, I advise checking the paper for rail news. Before I left last year, I checked Scotrail and found there were planned strikes during my travels. Most of them seemed to  be on bank holiday or something, and sadly all fell on my travel days. Don’t panic, they provide alternative transport like buses. I had a luxury bus tour around Loch Lomond down to Glasgow courtesy of this last year. And that was and interesting adventure, very narrow and crazy roads through Loch Ness and highlands. However, the striking systems in the UK and Ireland follow a solidarity movement in some cases. If one goes out, the rest of transport unions may follow. So keep in mind that your transport may have to change. If you are traveling with a group, you may opt to do a car hire but keep in mind it’s the high season so it is best to do this well in advance.

For example, as I write this and looked at the National Rail site for the UK, I noticed a “Industrial Action” or strike highlighted affecting a particular line. And if you opt to go Virgin Rail, be aware that they use the same tracks and train lines as the national companies, so they will be affected. There is no perfect situation, build in travel time in your itinerary.

Note: High tourist and festival season means crammed trains and buses. Book ahead online and be aware that if you buy a railcard, you may not always be able to reserve online for fixed seats. If you want to see the Munros check a topographical map,  then reserve your seats, near luggage wracks if possible to keep an eye on things. Most of the time people are courteous about luggage, but I do remember when I spent a few minutes rearranging luggage so that myself and everyone behind me could actually use the wracks. Got thanked by a Scotsman for that one.

News of the World

Also, something to keep in mind. If you haven’t read a paper from the UK or Ireland before, I would suggest that you do. Get used to the format a bit. The UK has always had a reputation for in-your-face news coverage. The tattler style magazines and papers are more brutal than in the US. It’s not the US, where we often get very filtered news. The UK can be quite sensationalized. We have crime reports in our papers, but if you see some of the writing and reporting from these countries, take it with a grain of salt. Every city will have it’s dangers, and as a tourist you are a target. But don’t let that deter you. People are just much more open about news and how they live in Europe, that’s what is so great about it. Watch the news if you can, you can get a feel for what is important to the locals and if anything will affect your day. Check the local sports teams playing. In the US we get traffic jams due to games, in Ireland and UK they can get more intense about their sport supporting so game after flow can be treacherous to navigate, so you may wish to reroute before you leave your hotel or restaurant.


Remember, it’s all a journey, that includes the compromises. Don’t be a typical American tourist, don’t have a tantrum. There will be no sympathy. You will  be avoided like plague. Adapt like the Europeans do.

Ireland by rail: luxury trains, historic routes and railway hotels

Glasgow to Mallaig: Great Train Journeys

Travel News

Online Rail Maps

Ireland Rail


National Rail

UK Route Planner

Virgin Rail

Buses Citylink