Family holidays can be fun when they are to exotic, once-in-a-lifetime destinations, but travelling with children can be a costly and expensive exercise. Family vacations don’t have to cost the earth – there are many ways to trim expenses. After all, kids don’t care about staying in five star hotels, they just want to spend time with you. Here are suitcases&strollers’ travel tips for how to do budget travel with kids.
Travel With Baby
· Babies are cheaper to travel with than older children. Under 2s are free on most flights (and come with their own extra luggage allowance), don’t cost you much in terms of meals and can usually just bunk into your room saving you the cost of an extra bed. [For more reasons for why you should travel with baby, read the suitcases&strollers story here.]
· Compare budget airlines with fully serviced ones. In principle low cost carriers are generally cheaper for the basic ticket alone. (But do note: by the time you add in all the extras you will need when travelling with kids (such as luggage, pre-assigned seating, priority boarding) you may find the costs difference is almost nil. Compare that with luxury of flying a full service airline and then make your assessment. If the budget airline still comes up trumps, book it.)
· If you don’t care which type of airline you fly and you’re not fussy about the timing, regularly check the airline websites for flash sales. By “regularly” we mean every day, multiple times a day. It is possible to get those ridiculously priced super cheap deals, but you need to be online the minute they go live and the tickets are usually only available for a few minutes.
· Check which airport your flights go into and out of. Depending on where you are going, saving money on the transit to and from the airport can give you extra spending money for your holiday.
· If you have pre-schoolers, travel during off peak times, especially outside of your local school holidays. As well as much cheaper airfares, this has the added bonus of sometimes flying with fewer passengers (meaning more room for you to spread out).
· Where possible, don’t fly. For instance, in Europe its often much cheaper and simpler to catch a train cross-continent than to fly. Do the research to compare the costs.
· If you can stand it, stay with family or friends at your destination. The price of a thank you box of chocolates and bottle of Champagne is far cheaper than a week in a hotel.
· Look for house swap deals online or through friends. Websites such as Airbnb are actually more family-friendly than you might think. [To read more about the pros and cons of using Airbnb for families as reviewed by two suitcases&strollers mums, read the story here.]
· Consider alternative forms of accommodation outside a hotel or resort such as camping, homestays or hostels. Many hostels have private rooms with ensuites that you can rent and, although they are basic, they are far more economical than even the cheapest hotel.
· Do the research on all the costs of your chosen accommodation. For instance, when comparing a private standalone villa versus a resort, factor in the costs of eating in restaurants every day in the resort compared to having your own kitchen in a villa and make your assessment from there.
· If you are staying in a hotel or resort, bunk into one room if you can. Kids can usually sleep anywhere so check the pictures of the room online for sofas or trundles that you can use as extra beds. Or bring your own blow up mattress with you. Even if you have to pay for an extra single, it will still be cheaper than the extra room.
· Travel with another family. This has lots of cost-savings benefits. For instance, if you are in a resort or hotel, the kids can all share one room. You have more options if you prefer to opt for a villa or a house as you can look at larger places with multiple bedrooms while the economies of scale will often work out cheaper than renting a small house on your own.
· If you think your kids will sleep on the flight, opt for overnight flights as that will save you the cost of a room on the way over and the way back.
· Suss out the size of the meals at the places you eat on the first day. If the servings are huge, encourage the kids to share between them or with you to save on costs (and wastage).
· Take advantage and fill up on the free food or meals you have already paid for such as breakfast, bread at the table or happy hour drink and snack promotions.
· Bring food with you. There is nothing worse than paying for an entire restaurant meal because junior is peckish. Carry plenty of travel-friendly, non-perishable snacks so you don’t have to have formal meals all the time. [For ideas on the kinds of food to pack see the suitcases&strollers story Travel-Friendly Foods.]
· Look for a local supermarket so you can purchase fresh food without paying hotel prices. For instance, if your kids still like their milk before bed, it’s much cheaper to buy this at a supermarket than the resort bar.
· The best way to really understand a new culture is often to avoid the touristy activities and do as the locals do. Happily, this is usually also a cheaper way to experience a place. Search online for forums or websites for mums based in the place you are travelling to. They will often have tips and ideas for cheap or free activities to entertain the kids – such as good parks, community theatre events and the latest play centres – and you might even meet some locals while you are there. [For more ideas on cheap or free activities you can do with kids in most cities, see the suitcases&strollers story here.]
· Save money on souvenirs by creating memorable craft activities relevant to your trip. Instead of buying plastic fantastic you're likely to be throwing out in a year's time, engage the kids in creating a scrapbook or diary or some other memento to remember the holiday by (and have family bonding over shared memories while you're at it). [For more ideas for how to do this see the suitcases&strollers story Capturing Travel Memories.]
· Choose a local destination or activity and think of fun activities that will interest the kids. This doesn’t mean you can’t still have a memorable holiday, it just means you need to think outside the box to save the price of airfares and physical travel. Pitch a tent in a local park or on a nearby beach. Put some sleeping bags in the backyard. Hire a station wagon and set up camp in the back of the car. Book a local hotel with cable TV and bring your own popcorn. All the kids need is a change of environment and a talking point, so use your imagination!
To meet a family who travelled the world with kids on a very tight budget, read the suitcases&strollers story Backpacking With Kids