As much as I love travel and gallivanting off to different destinations, holidays and breaks cost money… and not just a few pounds – the average cost of a family holiday for four is up around £3,000. Ouch, I hear you all gasp.
Put it simply, travelling is an expensive hobby. Being a travel blogger, I wish I could boast and tell you that I am offered free trips left, right and centre, but that really isn’t the case.
For me, travel is what I like to spend most of my hard-earned cash on. With a bit of savvy saving and juggling around, we are lucky enough to be in a position whereby we can take a few trips annually. But this hasn’t – and won’t – always be the case.
For me a holiday in the UK can be just as exciting and rewarding as flying half way across the world. It’s about picking and choosing destinations that fit – weighing up your budget and then sticking to it.
Last year, because I spent most of my air miles/savings treating hubby to a 40th birthday surprise in Las Vegas, we couldn’t afford an exotic destination as a family, so instead had a great week with our friends sharing the cost of villa in Tenerife, and then going out of season during the October half-term to Cornwall and staying on Coombe Mill Farm.
This year, we were able to go to Thailand through some more hard saving and some extensive bargaining and research, which eventually secured us a good deal. Meanwhile, our five-day sojourn to San Sebastián this October is again courtesy of air miles, a reasonably priced self-catering apartment and local bus transfers – we’ll also be exploring on foot.
I personally believe it’s not about actually saving money – what is important is getting good value for your money. And that’s the difference. Because at the end of the day the saying: ‘You pay for what you get’ couldn’t be more true. Just because it’s the cheapest of the cheap, doesn’t mean it’s going to be any good.
There are several ways in which you can keep costs down and budget when you’re planning your next family adventure without compromising on the quality of your trip.
So you know where you want to go. You’ve looked at hundreds of reviews on Tripadvisor and have narrowed down several accommodation options. Be prepared to look around for the best deals. There are several comparison sites for both flights and hotels, meanwhile going direct to the hotels themselves can also be an option. Don’t just take the first price that flashes up. On some holidays I’ve priced up flights and accommodation separately and still ended up going with a travel company because they can sometimes secure a better price. If you don’t ask…
Book very early – or book last-minute
Leaving things until the last-minute works best for UK holidays, because transport overseas rarely gets cheaper as the holiday season approaches. On the other hand booking flights and holidays super early means you can secure a good deal before demand fluctuates – some holiday tour operators also accept small deposits at the time of booking, and help you spread the cost over a year.
Be prepared to fly at off-peak times and not during the weekends
The price of flights varies considerably depending on the month, day and even time of travel. Avoiding weekends can also have a huge impact on price.
Consider a non-direct flight
If money is more important than time, then consider a flight with a stop-over. These can be considerable cheaper if you have to buy four tickets – and some stop-overs are only for a few hours.
Take your own food
Treating your family to a full-blown meal at the airport, or even just some sandwiches and drinks can rack up the spending before you’ve even stepped foot on the plane. Meanwhile, snacks on budget airlines are ridiculously over-priced. BYO food and save yourself a small fortune.
Book your airport parking well in advance
If you need to leave your car at the airport, the best deals to be had are if you book early. Rocking up on the day, will cost you bucket loads. I booked about three months ahead of time before Thailand – which meant two weeks only cost us £68. Bargain!
Try to get your money changed before you head to the airport in order to secure the best exchange rate. I often order mine well in advance and have it delivered – searching online often garners the best results. On the occasions I’ve not sorted this out, the charges on my debit card has been eye-watering. If you find yourself in this position – withdrawing larger sums in one go will mean less bank charges overall.
Search for travel insurance
I tend to go for annual travel insurance which automatically renews – but it doesn’t necessarily give me the best deal. So I search for new policy each time – and often find prices can vary dramatically. Never accept the first price you find and always compare prices to make sure you get the best value cover you can.
Get a Health Insurance Card
The European Health Insurance Card confirms your entitlement to free or reduced-cost medical treatment in other EU countries. If you’re in Europe and you’ve got an EHIC, you’ll be entitled to the same treatment that local citizens are entitled to – extremely useful in emergencies.
So you’re desperate for a fortnight in the sunshine – but that extra week is costing you double the price… why not take it down to 10 days or even a week – and perhaps make it up with some long weekend breaks throughout the year?
Look closer to home
Many families enjoy exploring closer to home – and why not? The UK is a beautiful country to stay in. If it’s tried and tested, the whole family enjoy it, and you know how much it will cost, then it’s a win win. Camping, farm stays, caravans and cottages around the UK are still just as popular now as they ever were, and holidaying in your own backyard is a great way to keep a tight grip on your budget.
Home swapping is growing in popularity and could save you on average £2,200 per holiday. More and more websites are offering home swapping services so could find yourself in a home away from home. Use a reputable agency to ensure proper introductions and insurance arrangements such as Home Exhange.
Live like a local
I’m a big fan of airbnb – where you can rent unique places in over 190 countries. With varying prices – you can be sure to find suitable accommodation to suit your budget and needs. And I’ve also found that hosts are very helpful in suggesting local attractions and places to eat. It’s like having inside knowledge thrown in with the price!
Cook your own meals
If you’re self-catering then cooking your own meals is a great money saver. If you’re eating out for lunch why not stay in for dinner or vice versa…
Take the basics
Again, if you’ve opted for self-catering, take some basic essentials with you such as tea bags, washing powder and condiments – it means less wastage and not having to buy them all while you’re away.
Use your old suntan lotion
I’m guilty of this – every holiday I buy a whole new set of expensive sun creams – when I still have plenty left in old bottles. Guess what? Suntan lotion lasts two years. Use it all up before purchasing more.
Before you head off to your chosen destination, do a little research about the area and what activities are available. You’d be surprised how many attractions are actually free – from museums to walking tours. It pays to be in the know…
Get a sightseeing or city pass
If you’re visiting a city, buying a city or sightseeing pass could save you £s, as it will allow you to make the most of your trip by getting free entry into all the top attractions and tours, as well as fast-tracking the queues. But do check first what is included and weigh up your options – you may only want to visit a few select places on their lists.
Walk and use public transport
Whenever I visit a city – I like to stay central – which then allows us to walk everywhere. Exploring on foot is often the best way to get a feel for a destination, but if you want to head further afield then jump on public transport. If you know you’re going to be using the metro/tram/buses a lot – then you can purchase transport passes. Different cities have different systems. In Paris, tickets are sold in ‘carnets’ – allowing 10 journeys for €13.30 compared with a one-off single of €1.7.
Turn off your data roaming
Even though international roaming charges are cheaper than they used to be, you don’t want to be hit by astronomical bills. Stick to using the wi-fi back in your hotel or accommodation. And here’s a small tip for you which I recently discovered. If you still want to use your google maps while out and about – pin all the areas of interest while you have wi-fi. And because you’ve scrolled through the maps already, the app remembers them. So when you’re exploring – your saved pins will still show up.
For other ideas on how to stretch that travel budget over the summer check out this article from Mummy Travels