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Reward content – January

It’s time to reward yourself for taking the UK Savings Week Challenge!

With credit card bills to pay off from the Christmas spend and the dark nights plus cold weather still hanging around, it’s understandable that for many of us, January is not the brightest month in the calendar!

But what can we do about that?

Planning a holiday is a great way not only to inject some sunny excitement into your life, but also to motivate you to carry on your saving goals into 2024 (or to get back on the bandwagon if you’ve had a December slide!)

So we asked our UK Savings Week Ambassador Steph from Big World Small Pockets to inspire us with her top travel picks for 2024…

If you’re anything like me, then scoring a travel bargain is one of the best thrills around!

So I thought, rather than simply list my top travel picks for the year ahead, I’d take a slightly different, budget-orientated direction and bring you my top travel dupes of 2024.

If you’re not familiar with the term, then a dupe is simply an affordable alternative to a more popular or well-known product or, in the case of travel, a more popular or well-known destination.

So if you’ve always wanted to head to Scandinavia, Greece or Peru, but want to bag the same vibe and scenery for less, then check these 10 great travel dupes for a bargain getaway in 2024.

1.     Skip Finland and Head to Estonia

If you want a great dose of Nordic culture without the price tag, then I highly recommend the country of Estonia.

Situated in the Baltic region, Estonia is a small country, big on the saunas, hygge vibes, fab food, great drinks and trendy minimalist style.

The Old Town in the capital Tallinn is UNESCO-listed and one of the best preserved (not to mention beautiful) Medieval cities in Europe; second city Tartu, is the European Capital of Culture 2024.

Just a couple of hours from Helsinki, Estonia is amazingly close to Finland, meaning cultures and climates are very similar – think beautiful winter scenes from December to February and long summer days from May through July.

But while Finland is known for being big on the budget, Estonia boasts many of the best things about the Nordic region, for a fraction of the price!

2.     Dodge the Greek Islands and Go for Croatia

Santorini and Mykonos may have an insta-famous shine to their name, but a stay on these islands can be incredibly expensive as a result.

Not to mention crowded!

After all, those sunset sea views beyond whitewashed streets don’t come cheap… or without saving your spot at least a few hours before the golden light even descends!

So why not recreate the perfect moment for a fraction of the price (and a fraction of the hassle!) and head to the Croatian islands instead?

Here you can enjoy amazing Adriatic scenery, beautiful boat rides and crystal clear swims around budget-friendlier gems such as Hvar – which still boasts trendy photo spots, cobbled streets and amazing seafood restaurants – and nature-paradise Mljet – which is filled with peaceful lakes and woodland.

3.     Skip Hawaii and Opt for Madeira

If you’re looking for lush, near tropical landscapes, with foliage that drapes down the side of volcanic mountains and feels almost prehistoric in its grandeur, then the good news it can be found closer to home than you think!

Madeira, the Portuguese island off the coast of northwest Africa, is known as the Hawaii of Europe and, thanks to its stunning black sand beaches, incredible hiking routes and diverse terrain, it really does resemble the far more expensive US version.

Of course the language is different, but the flights are a heck of a lot cheaper!

Many budget airlines fly to Madeira from across the UK and once there, I recommend hiring an electric car to get around (doing away with fuel costs) and staying in a local guesthouse, like Quinta da Saraiva, which offers free electric vehicle charging.

4.     Ditch Malaysia in Favour of Sri Lanka

If you’re keen to explore some of South Asia this year and want a country that offers a huge level of diversity – from cities to islands, history and authentic culture to food and markets – the wonderful country of Malaysia has always been a popular choice.

But after heading there last year, I’m now naming Sri Lanka as the better option, thanks to the amazing array of experiences you can have there at an even more affordable price.

In fact, I’m naming Sri Lanka as one of my top budget destinations for 2024 full stop!

From its stunning coastline filled with marine life, beautiful beaches and surfing, through to its central highlands famous for its tea plantations, temples and train rides, Sri Lanka is a travel feast!

Throw into that the mix Sri Lanka’s amazing food, incredible hospitality, wealth of UNESCO sites and safari opportunities and I dare you to find anyone that doesn’t have a sensational stay here!

Even luxury hotels in Sri Lanka are pretty affordable right now, so why not make 2024 the year you tick this gorgeous island off your list?

5.     Skip the Amalfi Coast and Travel to Sicily

Who doesn’t love a slice of Italy?

Filled with incredible beaches, great cities, top tier historical sites, wonderful wineries and food galore, this country really is a terrific tick in any travel box.

But unsurprisingly, it doesn’t come cheap, especially in the holiday hotbeds of the Amalfi Coast, Sardinia and Tuscany.

But there is a great alternative!

If you want to enjoy the best of Italy, plus some of Europe’s warmest weather, then my top tip is to head to the southernmost part of the country – the wonderful island of Sicily.

Here the price tags are much lower than elsewhere in Italy and, with amazing beaches, stunning baroque towns, fantastic food, Roman ruins and brilliant cities, not to mention an active volcano you can climb, Sicily is this country’s budget-travel jewel.

A huge island, if you only have a week or so to explore here, it’s best to concentrate on one side of Sicily.

For the eastern edge, fly to Catania and enjoy climbing Mount Etna, seeing the historical sites of Taormina and soaking in the beautiful coastline and quaint towns around Syracuse.

For the west of Sicily, fly to the buzzing capital of Palermo, hit the beach at San Vito lo Capo, hike the Zingaro Reserve and then enjoy a cycle day trip on the stunning island of Favignana.

6.     Hit the Slopes in Bulgaria, not France

But now we turn to winter breaks, because with all this talk of sunny spots, it’s also important to remember there’s some amazing snow travel dupes out there too!

And what could be better than taking to the slopes in the wonderful Eastern European country of Bulgaria?

Filled with great winter sport resorts not far from the capital Sofia, Bansko is the most popular spot to head for here and, when you compare the ski pass and après ski prices to the Alps, you’ll understand why!

7.     Skip Peru and Choose Bolivia

If South America is calling you in 2024, then the allure of top spot Peru can be hard to pass up.

But sadly, it’s not as easy on the budget as you might expect!

Thankfully, neighbouring Bolivia provides the same level of Amazon and Andes grandeur for a fraction of the price.

The capital here, La Paz, offers amazing cable car rides as you ascend to its lofty suburbs and afterwards, it’s easy to enjoy epic hikes and experience authentic, local culture around Bolivia, including at the world’s highest lake – Lago de Titicaca.

Don’t miss the colonial city of Sucre, biking the infamous Death Road, jungle ecolodge stays or the amazing Salar de Uyuni while you’re here either.

The last of these is the world’s largest salt flat and offers insane photo opportunities amidst standout landscapes.

8.     Opt for Tunisia Over Morocco

Morocco has been pretty popular for some years with UK travellers wanting a bit of winter warmth, coupled with beautiful coastline, stunning souks, amazing food, traditional culture and unique desert experiences.

But did you know there’s now a new kid on the block?

I visited Tunisia for 2 weeks last year and was blown away by this off the beaten track gem, in particular how safe and diverse and beautiful it was.

From cycling, hiking, rock climbing and kayaking, Tunisia offers a wealth of amazing outdoor experiences, not to mention an abundance of historical sites, Sahara stays and traditional north African cultural experiences (from crafts and cooking classes, to ancient cities and villages).

The jewel in this country’s travel crown however has to be the stunning Sidi Bou Said. It’s the new Chefchaouen in my opinion, only with far less people and far cheaper prices!

9.     Swap South Korea for Japan

Almost everyone I’ve met presumes that Japan is an expensive holiday destination.

And while long haul flights and tours there from the UK can be price-heavy, the on-the-ground costs of travelling in this highly developed nation are actually astonishingly good.

Yup, if you’re travelling with British pounds you’ll be amazed how far they go against the Japanese Yen, meaning shopping, eating out, guides, entrance fees and even hotels here are incredibly affordable.

And, if you’re a UNIQLO fan, then you’ll be delighted that all their clothes are about half the price in Japan!

With so much to explore in this utterly unique country, you really need a month to do Japan justice, but a couple of weeks will certainly give you an amazing flavour of what I’m tipping to be one of the top trending travel spots in 2024.

10. Skip Kenya and Go to South Africa

And finally, if you want to tick an amazing safari destination off your list in 2024, then swerve expensive East African favourite Kenya and head to South Africa instead.

While Kenya is significantly increasing the entrance costs to all its safari parks in 2024, including the famous Masai Mara, you can enjoy this continent’s best wildlife for a fraction of the price in wonderful South Africa.

Choose between flying to Johannesburg and accessing the amazing Kruger National Park, or travelling to wonderful Cape Town to enjoy this world class city with easy access to Addo Elephant Park, penguins at Boulders Beach, whales along the Garden Route and amazing vineyard day trips to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

Self-drive holidays are very accessible in South Africa (they also drive on the left, which is great for us Brits!) and are one of the most budget-friendly ways to explore this country, including its safari parks.

With great exchange rates currently being offered on the South African Rand, your British pounds will allow you to travel in style here for far less and, don’t forget, there’s no time difference either, so goodbye jetlag!

With these top 10 travel dupes, I hope you’ll be able to getaway for less and save more in 2024!

You can find more travel tips from Steph at her website.