(Top photo: smartkiwiguy, via)
Oh my GOD this COUNTRY. It's trash! It's a garbage heap! Like, discount for a moment the people in this country – the bad, bad, bad, terrible people; erase them from this picture. This country? This country is trash! Flat swathes of concrete and rising green-yellow plumes of hay fever pollen and scorched fields and high trees and grey little racist towns and cobbles and Sainsbury's and motorways and cast iron skies and the constant need for an umbrella and suntan lotion for a trip out of the house on the same day. Our beaches suck dick. Our holiday resorts are bull shit. You need to get out of here. I need to get out of here. We all need to get out of here.
Sadly – and I don't know about you; you might be fine – but I'm working with a holiday budget of about £200, maybe £220. And this is with me not drinking for a month, and maybe walking instead of catching a few buses, and doing meal plans, and not buying breakfast from Pret ever, and instead making it at home out of oats, and saving all that money instead, and even then – I mean, a lot of the budget of this holiday, if we're honest, came from cashing in that mug of change I had in my room at the local Coinstar. But the point is: we have £200 to spend. But the point is: can a person with £200 and a song in their heart go on holiday still? You fucking bet they can. It's hard, and you might have to sleep in some real shitholes, but we can do it. Come, let us crawl over Europe before Article 50 bricks the Channel Tunnel up dark behind us forever. Okay!
A NOTE ABOUT FLIGHTS
The best way I have found of finding cheap flights is this tool on Kayak, where you put in your budget and pretend you are flexible with holiday dates and then it scrapes some of the cheapest economy class flights from London across Europe as advertised in the last 48 hours. So the deals fluctuate and the deals change, and maybe there is a better and more precise way of getting cheap flights. I don't know. I am not Martin Lewis Moneysaving Expert; I am just a man, just a man trying to send you on holiday and make content about it, please forgive me; please just acknowledge that all air fares were correct as of press time; please, please, please. You can also try Skyscanner – I am not going to stop you from doing that.
THUS ENDS THE NOTE ABOUT FLIGHTS
A NOTE ABOUT HOTELS
Listen, we're on a budget here, mate, so either you can stay in someone's spare room on Airbnb for a week, stay in a nice self-contained Airbnb for a long weekend, spend like two nights in a hotel, or you can split the cost with someone you're not afraid to share a bed with and double the dwell time on all of the above. Honestly, truly, how long do you really need to go away for? Spend a couple of nights abroad and a couple of days off work back in the sunny city in which you live. You'll feel great after this. Replenished. Rebuilt. But yeah, you're not going to sleep anyway that fancy, for that long.
THUS ENDETH THE NOTETH ABOUT HOTELS
LET'S GO TO IBIZA
Where? Ibiza, home to the jolly STDs – not the bad ones, not the life-ending ones, not the ones where your mum is at your funeral just howling, "GONE TOO SOON. GONE. GONE GONE GONE. SUCKED TO DEATH BY THE DEVIL HIMSELF," but definitely one of those fun cheeky STDs; you know, like clap – and extremely red sunburned British people, pissed out of their minds at 3AM and somehow unable to clearly articulate the word "chips" to the very patient man in a bright red polo shirt who runs the kebab stand.
What is there to do? Shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots, shots; some of that grotesque wet snogging you only do when buzzing off the last whispers of teenage hormones; shots, shot shots, shots; vomit on the pale white balcony of your beige hotel; shots; recuperative hangover day in front of the pool; shots; ill-advised £80-a-ticket boat party; throw up, throw up, throw up; shots; lose your favourite hoodie; flight home where ideally your mum picks you up from the airport and tells you everything is going to be alright.
Hotel? You are going to Ibiza for one day, mate. You may as well just neck a couple of Red Bull and stay up all night, maybe dozing in between shagging couples on the beach, but otherwise wait until the sun lazes up from the sea and find the nearest ex-pat café in which to get a Full English. There is literally no point in a hotel. Take one pair of pants and a toothbrush in a bumbag. That's your holiday packing, done.
LET'S GO TO TOULOUSE
Where? It is in France but it isn't Paris, which is good because if you go to Paris with either your boyfriend or your girlfriend then I'm sorry, you have to get engaged – that is the law – and honestly that is just fucking hassle that's going to ruin a holiday. Also, the flights are only £10 to Toulouse. We're going to Toulouse.
What is there to do? A cursory TripAdvisor says Toulouse has loads of fit-looking architectural buildings and churches and shit like that to walk around amongst (think of the Instagram likes of a photo of you in front of Basilica San-Sernin! Worth £10 alone!) as well as nearby vineyard tours and whatever, but let's be honest the best thing to do in France is wake up early, go to a bakery, get served by some old French mama who is really mad you don't speak fluent French to her, buy fresh bread and brioche rolls, go to the Carrefour and get whichever bottle of red is cheapest and like three things of cheese, and just eat and drink all that. You don't need to fuck about with anything else. Pastries, bread, cheese. Tenner a day food budget. Live like a king. A French picnic king.
Hotel? You can do three nights in this whole-apartment Airbnb and still have £40 left over for your cheese and wine budget, which as per the parameters above is enough to get you very, very happily pissed.
WATCH: Heroin Holiday
LET'S IMMEDIATELY GO TO BUCHAREST
Where? It's in Romania, mate, home to the VICE Romania office, which – without fail – consistently produces the strangest stories in all of Europe. They are on an unbeaten hot streak with regards to this. VICE Romania will never be topped. I mean:
EXAMPLE: The Romanian Councillor Proposing That We Cut a Dog's Vocal Cords If It Barks Too Loudly
EXAMPLE: This Romanian Priest Blesses Stuff With His Long, Extendable Rod
EXAMPLE: My House Was Stolen Piece-By-Piece And Replaced With A Cornfield
Who among you can look me in the eye and tell me you don't right now want to go to Romania? You do. You want to go to Romania.
What is there to do? It's a quid a pint, mate. I could tell you, "Oh, go to this olde-style coffee and tea house: it's got really great reviews," or, "This little wine bar is a gem in the centre of the city," or, "This building is really pretty," but you don't care, do you, because pints cost 6 lei, or £1.14. It doesn't matter what plans you make because they will be erased and scribbled over by you being very, very pissed.
Hotel? You can get this city centre Airbnb with a rooftop view and that refurbished wooden pallet furniture your girlfriend keeps liking photos of on Pinterest for £37 a night, or you can shell out an extra £3 a night for a four-star hotel with a fucking massive swimming pool and people who are hired to tidy your room when you're not in it and cook you breakfast every morning. There are some Airbnb rooms on here for £11. I might actually move there for a year. I could feasibly commute.
LET'S GO TO LEIPZIG AND PRETEND IT'S TRENDIER THAN BERLIN
Where? Listen, you want to go to Berlin but you missed the boat with Berlin – everyone wised up to Berlin; it's basically Shoreditch now: it knows it's cool and the prices have been altered accordingly. Berlin is a byword now, not a place, and plus also when you go there you'll just bump into fucking English people, who have moved their in their droves, and that's the last thing you want when you're trying to relax – so we're going to go to Leipzig instead and pretend it's just as cool if not cooler and when we come home and people ask us where we went we shall go, "Leipzig. It was great. You know what: I think it might be the new Berlin?" And we shall make that myth rise.
What is there to do? I was going to do some research here and actually find out things to do in Leipzig (tickets to see RB Leipzig play are €15! €15!), but then I remembered moonfaced VICE contributor Oobah Butler had recently visited the city and had a freakout in a war memorial, and so I asked him what to do instead:
The answer, Oobah Butler says, is "about £2".
Hotels? You can stay in this five-star rated student house Airbnb for £11 a night, or this dreamy-looking self-contained guest room for £26 a throw. This hotel seems like the perfect apex of value and actually nice if you want to spend a bit more to not have to share with housemates, because I just feel that German housemates – though delightful! – will interrupt you on the way to do that last piss of the night in the bathroom, and you will be standing there, half in the doorway and half not, while they ask you in absolutely immaculate English where you live and where you come from, and what you think of Leipzig, and what you do – all while effortlessly rolling a cigarette, the German housemates – and 40 minutes later you're still desperate for a piss and a German housemate is telling you things you might want to do if you ever go to Munich, because you accidentally told them you might – one day, maybe in 25 years – want to go to Munich. It's going to pop, isn't it, it's going to explode. Can German hospitals treat you for an exploded kidney? I dunno. It doesn't feel like it's worth finding out.
LET'S NOT GO TO AMSTERDAM
Where? No, you're not going to Amsterdam.
What is there to do there? I don't think you understand this: even though flights are affordable and it's very feasible to get a nice Airbnb there for an affordable rate, you're not going to go to Amsterdam. "Oh, but I want to g—": no. You're not going to go to Amsterdam because you're going to smoke too much hash – you are going to assume that you are capable of smoking as much as you used to when you were 16 and failing Art at GCSE and smoking every day, forgetting it has been six full years since you got stoned – and then you are going to do the following: i. vomit into a canal; ii. spend anywhere between £8 and £30 on ice cream and waffles; iii. end up in a sex shop spending £45 on a butt plug you will never use; iv. wake up in McDonalds???; v. it is 2AM and you are still drinking in a pub somewhere; vi. you have inevitably paid £80 to watch a sex show and leave there two hours later feeling oddly hollow, unaroused and empty. No, I'm sorry. But Amsterdam is not for you.
Flights? Like, £40! But not for you!
Hotels? I'm not telling you!
LET'S GO TO PORTUGAL
Where? Anywhere in Portugal.
What is there to do there? It doesn't matter what there is to do there, because it's sunny, and that's what you need. You don't go on holiday for the culture, do you? You don't go on holiday to pay £5 for a roaming data package. You go there to wallow in the sun and feel your spirit refreshed and restored, and you go on holiday to walk around a city during the day without any responsibility – no job, no urgent communications that need answering, no worries, just You Time, absolute – and also in Lisbon all the drugs are decriminalised. All drugs. I mean the police don't exactly enjoy you possessing cocaine, but they're not that bothered about it. Think of it: crisp, cheap beer. Fresh-from-the-sea fish to eat. Lovely little bobble of gak. You're not having a better time in Europe for under £200, sorry.
Flights? £50 to Lisbon, £44 to Porto.
Hotels? Airbnb has some exceptionally cheap rooms in people's houses if you, like, want to spend absolutely zero time there doing anything other than showering or sleeping.
LET'S GO TO BRUSSELS
Where? Brussels, in Belgium. Tell that one UKIP uncle you have that you're going to the heartland of the European Parliament, see what he does. See if you can't make him have a third heart attack about it.
What is there to do there? Brussels has good chocolate, good chips with mayonnaise, good burgers, good waffles and they do those mad fruity 8 percent ABV beers that come in fancy glasses and leave you knocked on your arse after two pints, so what, exactly, is there to not like about the place? What? What what what?
Flights? £69 (nice).
Hotels? There are various cheap-and-cheerful hotels in Brussels as well as a well-rated hostel at the station, but if you don't want to feel like you're on a sterile business trip to try and sell the concept of assisted death to various remote anonymous European countries then I'd recommend an Airbnb for some flavour; this one looks suitably east London enough, plus it has a cat, for £19 a night.
LET'S-A GO ITALY
Where? Milan, Rome: depends whether you're into extremely tight-faced fashion mums in £15,000 leather sex boots or lads on mopeds driving really fast around the Colosseum.
What is there to do there? Everyone I have ever spoken to who has been to Italy, when asked what they did there, gets this dreamy look on their face, their expression lilts like a sunset, then they just sigh and say "pasta". And then sometimes sigh again and say "pizza". So I don't really know what to take away from all that, but I think Italy's carb game is still pretty strong.
Flights? £40 to Rome, £70 to Milan, but earlier it said £40 to Milan and then I refreshed the page and it said £70, so I honestly don't know what to think any more. It costs money, alright?
Hotels? Go halves with someone you're having sex with and do £64 a night on this B&B. It comes with access to a balcony that looks really fun for getting drunk on and shouting "SIGNORE!" deep into the inky Roman sky.
LET'S GO TO SPLIT
Where? Split is in Croatia, which has transformed from "quietly unknown sunny cheap city holiday destination" to "loudly very well known sunny cheap city holiday destination" to "stag party go-to" in the space of about eight years, so honestly no idea what to expect from the fellow passengers on your flight here. The chances of a blow-up sex doll being inflated and bounced about the cabin at some point are a solid 40 percent.
What is there to do there? There are beaches and cheap beer. Stop overthinking your holidays. Stop going to "interesting buildings" and being like "on Wednesday we simply must go to this world heritage site instead of lying in the sun eating lobster on the nicest day of the year". Stop sightseeing, stop downloading a special app to help you get around unfamiliar cities so you can travel to the outskirts of them and look at mildly interesting historical gardens. Nobody cares. It doesn't enrich you. Cheap beer and a beach: stop overthinking it.
Hotels? You can get two nights at this nice-ass hotel for £68 right now
LET'S GO TO BARCELONA
Where? You know what Barcelona is, and everyone wants to go there. There is nobody on earth who doesn't quietly have "a weekend in Barcelona" on their to-do list. You want to go there. If you've already been there: fine. But everyone ends up in Barcelona at one time or another. You may as well get it out of the way now.
What is there to do? Look at all them tiled nice benches and architecture and whatever they have; drink sangria in the hazy heat of the midday sun; start getting ready for bed at about 10PM, then look out, confused, from your apartment window, going, "Why is everyone still awake? Where are they going?"; inevitably end up learning The Ways Of The Spanish and starting your night out at, like, midnight, with small expensive bottles of continental beer with limes wedged deep in the neck of them. Buy a paella fridge magnet for your mum. And fin.
Flights? £68, which I admit is tastier than some of the other flight costs we are looking at, but come on, mate. Bar-theh-lona.
Hotels? You're not staying in a hotel, you poor idiot. Rent this single room in this beautiful Anthropologie catalogue-shoot apartment for £19 a night, and spend whatever change you have left on a rip-off "MESSI 10" shirt from a local bazaar or market.
OR YOU CAN JUST GO ON HOLIDAY WITH YOUR PARENTS, AGAIN
Where? You resist it all summer but your mum keeps offering and it's August and you haven't gone anywhere and all of your mates did Glastonbury without you and a couple of them are touring Thailand but you couldn't get the month-and-a-half off work or afford the £600 flights anyway and mum says they've rented the whole villa – it really wouldn't cost anything, you'd just have to get the Eurostar ticket, and then at the other end Steven (your mum's new fancy man is called Steven) would drive us so it wouldn't really cost you much of anything at all, especially when your card gets rejected at the station in front of your mum and she just quietly pays for your ticket anyway, so yes actually, a week in the south of France sounds lovely.
What is there to do? Lounge around the pool; looking after the dog on your own for an entire day when mum and Steven go on a vineyard tour ("Well, we had to pre-book and we thought you wouldn't like it… I'll get up early before we go and make you some sandwiches so you won't go hungry") and occasionally walk to the very end of the field behind the back of the villa and watch the sun slowly set, and you just fucking exhale, and you dive into a perfect aquamarine pool and swim a few laps and get bored, and every time you look at WhatsApp Steven mutters "…–op looking at that BLOODY phone", quietly at first but boiling under with rage, so you stop even looking at your phone, because you don't want him to Go Off, but even that one time you sneak a look at dinner – it's been 100 minutes since you last checked your phone! The WhatsApp groups are going absolute banter! – Steven just full-on erupts, goes like "e–NOUGH!", standing up so the whole table skids along the tiles and makes that sort of high trumping sound, cutlery clanging everywhere, and he goes in that quiet menacing voice – "Me and your mother didn't want you here," he says – and you know how much this ex-copper prick means to your mum, but you can't help yourself anyway, so you call him a "dick" and a "dickhead", and that sets him off; obviously it does. And then he gets so angry he goes pink, and there's three days left of the holiday and the entire mood is soured, really; you see your mum the morning after when Steven's in the shower and she says, "Just… just stay out of his way today," and the drive back to the station is unbearable, and so is the train, and you hug your mum goodbye in London while Steven twizzles his keys and tries to turn on the SatNav to get home, and you ruined it, didn't you, like you always fucking do, you ruined everything, again. A few months later your mum and Steven break up and she says it's not because of you, but you suspect, secretly, that it's very much because of you. Still: net holiday spend was £26 all-in, and most of that was on a Pret at the station before you even left. High score!