HOW TO TRAVEL CHEAPER
and MAKE THAT FAMILY HOLIDAY AFFORDABLE
Whilst it would be awesome to stay in upmarket resorts every time you travel, for most families, this is not financially possible. At the end of the day, I would rather travel on a tight budget than not travel at all.
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 to help travel cheaper 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.
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.
There are lots of flight comparison websites online, and it is worth signing up for weekly newsletters to specific airlines.
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 dirt cheap and can be surprisingly, well, fantastic. Check out tripadvisor for reviews before booking.
In Thailand, we had a lot of success phoning guest houses directly from the Lonely Planet book whilst over there, and working it out as we went along. 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’ve had quite a bit of success scoring really good value accommodation on this site:
Check out and compare accommodation options here:
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.
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 realise 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.
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. 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.
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.
USING REWARD POINTS
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. woolworths vouchers and 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 MARKETING
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.
BE REALISTIC – CHOOSE A DESTINATION TO SUIT YOUR BUDGET
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 extremely cheap. The culture is also very welcoming of families with kids. Check out my page on Vietnam for our experience there with kids.
I have a budget of AU$3,000 for our next overseas trip. I desperately want to visit some of the lesser known islands in the Cook Islands, however AU$3,000 will barely cover the flights. This means that we are heading to the Vanuatu island of Espiritu Santo instead. So far, flights and bungalow accommodation have come to AU$1,900 for all four of us. This leaves us $1,100 for expenses whilst there, so there is a good chance we will come under budget for this one!
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.
See my flying with kids blog post for ideas on surviving the plane trip
Check out my Savings plan for holidays blog post on how I manage to save money for holidays
You may also like my ways to save money page for ideas on how to reduce your expenditure
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