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Budget travel with kids

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How to make that family holiday affordable!

 I would rather budget travel with kids than not travel at all.  Whilst it would be awesome to holiday in upmarket resorts every time, this is not financially possible for most families.  

Travelling with kids is definitely more expensive than travelling without kids.  You can no longer stay in dodgy accommodation, you have more mouths to feed and in general, kids seem to be attracted to stuff that costs money. This doesn’t mean it can’t be done cheaply though!

Here are my tried and tested tips for budget travel with kids


Travelling in off peak or shoulder season reduces the cost of everything! In particular, there is a huge price difference in flights and accommodation when comparing peak season and off-peak season.

Lonely Planet guides give a good indication of peak travel times and average weather conditions for a given month. There is no point travelling off-peak to a beach destination if it’s too cold to swim!

Shoulder season can be a good way to go.  You can usually find the information for free online.

budget travel with kids
Shoulder season in New Caledonia meant the water was a bit cold. We can live with that!


Most domestic flights are free for kids under 2 years.  International flights usually charge around 10% of the adult fare. This is providing you are happy to have them on your lap and don’t require a seat for them.

Depending on the airline and route, international flights for children aged 2 years to 11 years can be drastically reduced also. Domestic flights for this age group are usually the same as adults.

You can sometimes get cheaper tickets by taking late night flights.  This might work in your favour if you want your kids to sleep on the plane.

When searching for prices, make sure you check the price a few days each side of your proposed travel date.  I have reduced flight costs by hundred of dollars per ticket doing this.

I use Cheap Flights as a starting point for searching flights:

There are lots of flight comparison websites online, and it is worth signing up to weekly newsletters to specific airlines.

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Waiting for a midnight flight to Vietnam. The kids were tired enough to sleep on the plane without complaining!


If for you, a holiday isn’t a holiday without a 5 star resort, luxury is really quite affordable in South East Asia.

If you are willing to stay in standard hotels, guest houses or home stays, you can drastically reduce the cost of your holidays.  Guest houses in South East Asia are really affordable and can be surprisingly….well, fantastic.  Check out tripadvisor for reviews before booking.

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A cheap Bungalow we stayed at in Kanchanaburi, Thailand. For under AU$30 we had a room with an open air ensuite.  The room had nothing else but a bed and an air conditioner. Do you need anything else? No!

In Thailand, we had a lot of success phoning guest houses listed in the Lonely Planet book as we stepped off the bus or train station.  I wouldn’t recommend doing this anywhere in peak season just in case there are no vacancies.

If you are the kind of person who needs to book in advance, (some destinations like The Cook Islands, require that you do) then shop around on the internet.  I always use this site to book accommodation as they make it easy to cancel if you need to:


Private rentals can be a lot cheaper than brand name resorts and hotels.  We once stayed in a private rental (thanks to a quick google search) in Honolulu, right on the Waikiki Yacht Harbour for a quarter of the price of the Hilton which was right next door.  Plus we had the added benefit of our own kitchen which goes a long way to reducing costs.

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The lovely Yacht Harbour at Waikiki Beach, Honolulu. Our private rental accommodation was right on this!

Quite a lot of hotels don’t charge for young kids if you are happy to use the existing bedding.  Being honest, our kids end up in our bed at various times in the night anyway, so this isn’t an issue for us.  You just need to check with the hotel/resort beforehand.


If you are really on a budget, camping is the way to go!  You might be surprised to learn that you can actually camp overseas as well.  You will need to do a bit of research, as some destinations are more camp friendly than others.

Australia is ideal for camping with plenty of options and facilities.  We nearly always camp in either a roof top tent, or a pop-top camper when travelling around our home country.

Camping doesn’t always mean roughing it either, plenty of camp sites have toilets, hot showers and camp kitchens.

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Our roof top tent set up for travel around Australia. We stay in this if we are doing serious 4wding, usually we travel in a off-road Jayco Swan Pop-Top Camper


This is a fantastic opportunity to completely cut out accommodation costs.  If you are in Australia, try www.aussiehousesitters.com.au

If you need someone to look after your house and pets whilst you are away, there is an endless supply of grey nomads registered on this site seeking house sitting opportunities.  Basically, they look after your house and pets whilst you are away in return for free accommodation.

There are a few house swap websites around as well.  This is great if you find another family with kids willing to do a swap for a week or two.


This can be an affordable solution to accommodation and hire car issues.  If you get one with a kitchen you will save plenty of money by self-catering as well.  Some destinations are more motorhome friendly than others.

You will need to do your research.  For e.g. New Zealand is a popular and easy place to get around with a motorhome, as is Tasmania; however the UK can be difficult as the roads are so narrow.

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Motorhome hire in New Zealand. It’s a bit squishy inside but the caravan parks we stayed at had heaps of green grass to spread out on. The van also had cooking facilities inside and a toilet that we never used.


This really depends on the destination.  In South East Asia, food is so cheap that you can easily afford to eat on the streets or at restaurants the majority of the time.

Elsewhere, self-catering can be the way to go.  Paying a little more for accommodation with a kitchen can save you a lot of money as you can just go shopping and cook up cheap meals like you would at home.  I find this easier with a picky toddler anyway.

Some caravan parks and most camping sites have camp kitchens, or you could always find a public park with free BBQ’s.


My credit card has reward points, so I use my credit card to pay for absolutely every weekly expense.  I recommend paying your balance off weekly!  At the end of the year, I convert all of my reward points for either flights or vouchers that will make travelling cheaper for e.g. car hire vouchers.

If I am going overseas where vouchers won’t really be useful, then I cash in all of my points for Woolworths vouchers. If I don’t have to pay for shopping for a few weeks then I can set aside the money I would normally budget for shopping for our holiday.

Frequent flyer reward points with various airlines can also be collected the same way through shopping.  I love the Qantas frequent flyer system, they easily accumulate through fuel and shopping purchases.  Most of my kids birthday and christmas presents are purchased using Qantas reward points.


Don’t get sucked into thinking that you need to purchase special items for travel.  I once purchased a luggage bag from the op-shop for AU$5 and it lasted five years.  That’s $1 for every year! You don’t need a special travel stroller (see my baby and toddler carriers for travelling section where I mention the cheap one I purchased as an experiment).

You don’t need special clothes for travelling unless you are going somewhere freezing cold.  The only special items I have purchased for travel was a snowsuit and thermals from Aldi for a snow holiday in both China and New Zealand.


In general, South East Asia is cheaper to travel around than other destinations.  Thailand and Vietnam are incredibly good value for money with both meals and public transport being low cost.  The culture is also very welcoming of families with kids.  Check out my page on Vietnam for our experience there with kids.

For our last overseas holidays, I had a budget of AU$3,000.  I desperately wanted to visit the Cook Islands, however AU$3,000 will barely cover the flights.  We headed to the Vanuatu island of Espiritu Santo instead and came in just under budget. (Check out this post to see how we did it.)

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Ripley (aged 3.5 years) rowing a boat with our lovely Vietnamese rower (aged 70 years)

Just do some research! Some destinations at first glance seem expensive, however if you follow some of the above tips, you might find them more affordable than you think.

Need Some Family Travel Inspiration?

For information on ALL of my travel destinations,check out My travel destinations page. It includes information on what to expect in each destination when travelling with kids.

For more tips on budget travel with kids, saving money for holidays and travelling with kids, check out my tips for travelling page.

You could also sign up to my fortnightly newsletter here so you don’t miss out on the good stuff.  I’m not spammy and I won’t share your email address with anyone.  I promise!

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