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Max Your Cash: Holidays

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:31 UK time, Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Lucy looks at how to make the most of your summer holidays on a budget, including the possibilities of house swapping, working holidays and couch surfing.

It's not a new idea, but house-swapping is becoming fashionable again. Paul and Jean Bucknall have been enjoying exciting holidays abroad for years.

They swap their home near Conwy for someone else's house abroad. Jean explained why they find swapping homes perfect for them.

"Obviously it's a cheap way of holiday and we quite fancied it, so we gave it a try," she said.

Now swapping works like this. You pay a website to register your home to a database which includes thousands of other houses all over the world.

If someone fancies holidaying in Wales, they contact you to swap. If you see somewhere that catches your eye, you can offer to swap with them.

To register with one of the many websites that offer this service costs around £65.

Over the last 20 years, Paul and Jean have travelled to Germany, France, and Switzerland, and enjoyed two weeks in Vancouver.

They are delighted with how the system allows them to holiday on a budget.

"If we had to pay for the places we go to we just wouldn't bother. It would be out of the question, " explained Paul.

So if you've got a spirit of adventure and you don't mind strangers in your home, this could be the ideal way to drive down the cost of your break.

Lucy also looked at working holidays. The idea may not appeal to everyone, but you can get out and about and enjoy yourself at a fraction of the cost.

One of the many organisations offering cheap working holidays is the National Trust.

Jenny Clegg showed Lucy around their site near Beddgelert. She explained what's expected of you while you're on holiday.

"We do all sorts of things footpath work, at the start of the season we have to paint some beach huts," she said.

The standard holiday is about £100 for the week, which includes dormitory style accommodation. So you would share a dorm with four or five other people.

The more expensive holidays are £200 a week and they have either single or twin ensuite rooms.

Admittedly it's not lying on a sun-kissed beach and you will have to earn your keep, but it's certainly a cheap alternative.

And if you have a real taste for the unknown, you can always try couch surfing. This type of holiday started about eight years ago.

You can get a free place to stay by registering with one of the many couchsurfing websites. These websites have lists of people all over the world with a spare couch, who are willing to put people up at no cost.

Bob Gatheridge regularly hosts people from all over the world at his flat in Cardiff Bay. He explained what he has to offer the weary traveller on a tight budget.

"Personally I can offer them a sofa bed in the lounge. Some people can only offer a space on the floor, and it really depends on the person. On the other side some people can offer a private bedroom with en suite facilities. It really depends on what the host can offer."

But what does Bob get in return? "Some guests provide gifts for the host, but the host never demands anything at all," he told us.

If you're signing up there are a few things you need to consider, especially if you're travelling alone.

Make sure other people know the address you're staying at and have some money spare for alternative accommodation just in case. And don't stay too long in one place - two or three nights is the norm.

So, there are plenty of alternative holidays options out there and remember a break can always be fun - no matter what the cost.

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