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Planning an Affordable Family Vacation

If you travel with kids, then you may have found cheap family vacations more difficult to arrange in recent years. The price hikes for trips during school breaks are well documented, but there’s also the steady upward trajectory of the costs of food, accommodation and entry to attractions, all of which add up when you are traveling as a family.

1.Timing is Everything

Last-minute deals don’t tend to exist during the school holidays, and those that do are usually to less desirable places. If your kids are in school then you’ll know their term dates far in advance; use this information to book months or even years ahead, when prices are still relatively low due to the lack of demand. If your kids aren’t in school yet or you educate them at home, make the most of traveling outside the peak periods, when costs are low and crowds fewer.

2. Use your parenting networks

Baby groups may have kept you sane through the newborn haze, but that collective wisdom extends beyond moral support and diaper-changing techniques. Quiz fellow parents about trips they’ve taken, how much they cost and what they would do differently to save money next time. Likewise in the online world there are plenty of forums and family travel bloggers ready and willing to give you their budget tips on destinations they have visited.

3. Turn the journey into an adventure

Save money on a night’s accommodation and create memories you will all treasure by traveling to your destination (or between two points on your itinerary) in a different way. Taking an overnight bus or train is a huge event for kids and a story they will retell again and again when back home. Alternatively, a family road trip using your own vehicle avoids the cost of hefty air fares and rental cars.

4. Embrace the great outdoors

An African family enjoying nature/ photo courtesy

Kids tend to love spending time in the fresh air, which is great news for penny-pinching parents. Plan day trips that involve nature walks rather than expensive attractions; find the local playground so your little ones can meet other children and take a picnic to avoid restaurant prices. Another great way to save money while exploring the great outdoors is to camp. It allows kids to be truly immersed in nature while also getting involved with some basic chores (e.g. post-BBQ clean-up) so it’s a win-win really, and worth trying at least once, even if you think you won’t like it.

5. Family discounts are your friend

While you can’t necessarily take advantage of big group discounts, there are many little ways families can use the power of numbers. You may be able to get a discount pass for local transport, find family coupons online for the attractions you want to see and take advantage of marketing campaigns such as kids-go-free weeks for theatres or big exhibitions that don’t charge entry for children.

6. Stick to the essentials

African family at the airport/photo courtesy

Anyone trying to save money knows it’s those little extras that really add up and the same applies when you are traveling with kids. Take refillable water bottles, buy ice creams by the pack in a local supermarket and read up on the sites you are visiting before you go to avoid paying extra for audio guides, activity packs or special exhibitions. Having an “eyes only” policy for gift shops can also help keep extra spending at bay.

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