Affordable and authentic escapes with

January 20, 2016

A strong pound, cheap flights and affordable accommodation with makes escaping the post-Christmas slump and January blues just that little bit easier.

Winter city breaks can provide some much-needed distraction during the cold, dark months leading up to Easter, with favourites Paris, Amsterdam, Venice and Berlin topping the polls as most popular city break destinations, closely followed by Madrid, Nice, Rome and Barcelona.

Turn a pricey weekend break into something much more affordable and authentic, with a homestay, where the hosts are on-hand to give insider tips on the best places to eat, drink and explore that only a local would know.

Paris in winter is a magical city, with less tourists and more chance to really get to know the locals. Stay with Parisian lawyers Myriam and Romain in their apartment just one minute’s walk from the Eiffel Tower, for just £77 a night for a double room.

Head to France’s fifth largest city of Nice and enjoy the absence of other tourists saving up for their summer break here. In Nice stay with host Catherine in her classic French-style city-centre apartment, apartment, eight minutes’ walk to the beach, for £39 per night for a twin room.

Take a short flight to Amsterdam and enjoy invigorating walks along the canals, hot Gluhwein in the bars, and award-winning museums and galleries. Stay in the vibrant district of de Pijp, home to Albert Cuypmarkt, the most famous market in the Netherlands, and just a ten-minute walk from the Rijksmuseum. Stay with Homestay host Renee in a loft room, for just £77 per night for two people.

Pack jumpers for a weekend break in Venice, but enjoy blue skies, less crowds and no queues for the gondolas. Rooms in and around Venice lead in from £46 per night, however for £100 a night enjoy canal views in a stylish apartment in Cannaregio, an unspoilt neighbourhood of Venice, with a down-to-earth, village feel, and benefit from host Monica’s local knowledge of the area.

And in Berlin, enjoy the city’s sprawling infrastructure of cafes, bars, restaurants, galleries, museums and theatres during the winter days. Stay with host Tom in a stylish apartment between Alexanderplatz and Gendarmenmarkt, where the Berlin Wall once stood, for just £52 per night for two people. Enjoy access to a fully-equipped kitchen, roof-top terrace and the central location; five minutes’ walk will bring guests to Checkpoint Charlie and the Markisches Museum.

In Spain, the cities of Madrid and Barcelona are packed with affordable Homestay options, which coupled with crisp days and blue skies, cultural events and exhibitions and the alluring pavement café culture can make for an enjoyable weekend break. In Madrid, stay with photographer and art dealer Charo in a stylish room in a beautiful building in the arty Malasana district, for just £39 per night for a double room with balcony, and breakfast included. In Barcelona, stay in a double room, in an apartment with hosts Carmen and Francis overlooking the Sagrada Familia for also just £39 per night.

In Rome, experience a more authentic, Roman culture where crowds of tourists are virtually non-existent. Enjoy a stay with Greta and Mario in the bohemian Monti district, close to the Colosseum, and pay £138 per night for four guests in a suite, or £73 per night in a double room.

For beach holidays, Spain and Portugal are among the favourites, with a wealth of homestay travel experiences available in each country, with Homestay Hosts on hand to give guests insider tips on the cheapest, and best, places to dine out and visit – living life like a true local.

In Spain, there are myriad Homestay travel experiences available in a variety of cities, towns and villages. Stay with history connoisseur Paco and his wife Chiqui in a renovated, period property just a 10-minute walk from the Plaza de la Merced in Malaga for £46 per night for a double room.

In Portugal choose from city-centre apartments in Lisbon, to rural retreats offering an authentic peak into traditional Portuguese life. For £35 for a double room, stay with host Helena in Azinhaga in the Portugese village of Ribatejo, birthplace of Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago.

The strength of the pound against local currencies is also making long-haul destinations, such as Mexico and Australia, attractive holiday hot spots. Further afield, Cancun and Orlando are emerging as the cheapest long-haul beach resorts, according to a report from Post Office Travel.

In Australia, there are homestay experiences on the east and west coast, including the chance to see kangaroos in a homestay in Runaway Bay, on the Gold Coast, close to the beach, major theme parks and Tambourine Mountain, for £34 a night for a double room.

In Mexico, choose from homestays in Mexico City, San Miguel de Allende, Guadalajara and Tulum, in the Yucatan Peninsula, for a truly authentic Mexican holiday experience. In the historic town of San Miguel de Allende, stay with Donald, a retired diplomat, for just for £25 a night for a double room, and take advantage of his insider-tips on the city’s Baroque Spanish architecture, culture and thriving arts and festival scene.

Alan Clarke, CEO at, said: “With plenty of affordable Homestay travel experiences available in cheap European and long-haul destinations, getting away from the UK in January doesn’t have to cost the earth. And having an authentic experience doesn’t have to come at a premium. With our Homestay Hosts, guests are getting an authentic holiday experience and insider-tips they can’t always expect to get from standard hotel accommodation.”

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Helen Coop

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