As much as I love to travel and gallivanting off to different destinations, holidays and breaks cost money – the average cost of a family holiday for four is up around £4,800. Ouch! Put simply, travelling is an expensive passion. Being a travel blogger, I wish I could boast and tell you that I am offered free trips all the time, but that really isn’t the case. Even I have to plan budget family holidays. For me, travel is what I like to spend most of my hard-earned cash on and we are lucky to be able to take several trips annually.
When you think of family travel on a budget, do you imagine having to cut back on luxury, or heading to destinations that aren’t exotic? This really isn’t the case. It’s about picking and choosing destinations that fit – weighing up your budget and then sticking to it. I believe it’s not always about 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 truer.
Budget family holidays don’t have to be basic…
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. Here are essential money-saving tips if you plan on travelling with family on a budget.
Secure the best price for flights
If I told you that it was possible to save up to 60% on international flight prices, you’d bite my hand off, right? I always feel like I’m on a winning streak once I’ve secure the best deals on flights because more often than not, flights are the biggest expense of a family holiday. I’ve recently discovered FlyLine which is essentially a handy booking tool that can find you the best prices on both domestic flights and international flights – wherever you live in the world. How does it work? By signing up to FlyLine’s annual subscription service ($49.99 for the basic plan/$79.99 for the premium plan) you will have access to the web’s best flight deals because FlyLine’s exclusive fares are at wholesale prices with no mark-ups. They also offer ‘flash-sales’ and deal alerts on destinations – so if you’re thinking of going somewhere specific, you’ll be told if a great price becomes available. With their free 14-day trial, too, it’s well worth trying to find a flight deal and seeing how much you could save.
Consider a non-direct flight
If money is more important than time, then consider a flight with a stop-over. These can be considerably cheaper if you have to buy four tickets – and some stop-overs are only for a few hours.
So you know where you want to go. You’ve looked at hundreds of reviews and have narrowed down several accommodation options. Be prepared to look around for the best deals and depending on what type of holiday you’re looking for, be it pays to think about the time of year. For instance, look for ski holiday deals a year in advance and think about going outside of the high season, as many places in Europe still have snow even in the Easter holidays but prices drop significantly away from the February half term. Check out comparison sites for accommodation, meanwhile, going directly to the hotels themselves can also be an option. Don’t just take the first price that comes up. And don’t forget to get a quote from travel companies because they can sometimes secure a better price.
Book very early – or book last-minute
Leaving things until the last-minute work 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 weekend. 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.
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 always try to book mine about three months ahead of time and you can get some cracking deals.
Get the best deal for your travel money
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 have been eye-watering. If you find yourself in this position – withdrawing larger sums in one go will mean fewer 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 a 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.
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.
Consider a house swap
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.
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 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.
Research, research, research
Before you head off to your chosen destination, do lots of 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.
Do you have any more tips on how to save money or how to travel cheap with family? And how do you go about finding the best deals?
Disclosure: This post was written in collaboration with FlyLine