We have always tried to travel on a budget. It’s so easy to get caught up in the moment and forget how much things cost. It’s also much easier to have the ‘when in Rome’ attitude when your travelling as a single or a couple. Things change when you have a family and the travel budget you once had may look more like a nappy budget or school budget and not leaving much left over to satisfy your travel desires. Don’t get disheartened though because I have a few practical tips on budget family travel that we use and it really helps us get out and about!
Be Flexible, Book Early and Travel Early
Being flexible when booking flights makes a huge difference to the dollar. Have you ever clicked the ‘I just want the lowest fare’ button when searching for flights online? Flying outside of peak times and booking well in advance reduces the cost of the flights dramatically. Being flexible can also mean flying out early. Those red-eye flights are tough but lets face it, we are often up and about early with kids anyway. It’s only for a day and the price difference could make or break your budget. I say (with all fingers pointing back to myself) suck it up and do it! The trip will be so worth it and those few extra pennies to spend will help out heaps. It is also important to subscribe to airline email alerts or follow their social media outlets so that you know when a sale is happening. Don’t be afraid to fly the budget airlines. You may not get the entertainment or food included but that’s OK, just pack your own! Our kids love to watch their own devices when we travel anyway, I just add some new content prior to leaving. Having snacks that you know they will eat and enjoy will not only save you money but also make sure they enjoy what they have.
We have just gotten back from a trip interstate and this time we flew budget airline Tiger Air. When Tiger first came on the scene in Australia back in November of 2007, people were a little nervous to fly with the new carrier and their service was often unreliable. In July 2013 Tiger was re-branded and, along with a joint venture with Virgin Airways, has become a more reliable and budget friendly travel service. We had two flights with them over the past 5 days and were never more than 5 minutes late to touch down at our destination. The crew were friendly, helpful and our baggage arrived safe and sound. Thanks Tiger Air!*
Don’t Pack The Kitchen Sink
Budget airlines are fantastic when it comes to the ticket price but beware of the extra costs involved like baggage. You ticket price can very quickly jump from being affordable to not-so-affordable once you add those extra bags for each family member. Here is the trick, only add baggage for one or two of your family members. This is possible and the option can often be a little hidden on the airline websites. Just keep scrolling until you find it! Also make sure that you book your baggage prior to leaving as it is always more expensive at the check in counter. My other tip is to always carry bag scales so that you don’t get caught out by being just a little over the weight limit and slugged a lump of cash for it! When packing for your trip check the weather forecast to make sure you are packing the right clothes and not over packing with just in case clothes.
Be Savvy When Booking Accommodation
You may have scored cheap flights but what about the accommodation? Don’t get disheartened by the cost of two bedroom apartments, instead be flexible and get savvy. Most of our trips are about the destination and not the hotel room. This means that apart from sleeping in it, we won’t be spending a whole lot of time there anyway. Why not book a hotel room with two double beds and an extra roll-away bed (if needed) instead of the two bedroom apartment, however nice that would be. We often stay in hotel rooms with our family of four as the price is so much cheaper. We have taught our kids to share a bed with no problems and worst case, we split them up and have a kid each. There are also many other options like Air BnB, house sitting or a cabin in a holiday park. Other sites such as booking.com offer free cancellations on certain rooms and then a cheaper price without the free cancellation option. It is also always worth contacting the accommodation directly to see if they can do a cheaper price and often they can.
Shop around and be aware. I don’t really like spending money on cars. I’m all about the experience not how I get there! That means I’ll do whatever it takes to get the cheapest functional car hire I possibly can. I use travel websites to find me the cheapest deal there is which will mean booking through a third-party company and not directly with a care hire company. I always ensure I know where the pick up and drop off points are. If the pick up point is a short shuttle ride from the airport and will save me $50 then I’ll take it! I always take our own car seats. They are free to fly with (check with your airline) and won’t cost me up to $45 or more per day, per seat of the car hire. You can very easily triple your car hire amount by hiring car seats! (convenient but expensive) When it comes to booking insurance for the car it is often cheaper to pay for the third-party insurance than direct with the car hire company. This is where you have to be aware… They are cheaper but it works on a refund system – you pay the excess upfront and they will refund you some time later. If you have a spare emergency credit card which can be used for this then go for it. That is what we do. However, if you can’t live without that excess money for a few weeks then make sure you book insurance that covers the excess immediately.
Our most recent car hire was booked through a third-party company via skyscanner.com. Initially I declined the added insurance when I made the booking. I then received a phone call later that day offering me the same insurance but with a 35% discount. It brought the excess down to $0 as a refund. I was happy with that as I had my emergency credit card ready should we have any troubles. All was well and the car hire was great.
The Spending Money
As your kids get a little bit older they are going to want some spending money for your trip. A few dollars here and there add up pretty quickly and before you know it they will have a bag full of bits and you’ll have a gaping hole in your travel budget! Here is my tip on the kids spending money that we do. Open a bank account or sub account and each week transfer a few dollars per child into that account. I’m talking $2-$5 each. You won’t miss that money week to week and it is the best surprise when you check the account right before your trip. It’s also a great place to put birthday money and Christmas money. One of my daughters favourite memories is gong to Hamley’s Toy Shop in London and telling her she can buy herself a special treat. The best part was that we didn’t cringe at the thought of spending those dollars as she had her own spending money to use.
There are many ways to be travel budget savvy, it just takes some thought and preparation ahead of time. I’m always happy to answer any questions or help you out when it comes to family travel so feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where is your next trip to? Or maybe you’ve just been away? We would love to hear about it in our Family Travel Group on Facebook. Join over 700 parents who discuss and share family friendly travel destinations as well as help each other with many family travel questions. Looking forward to meeting you there!
*This is not a sponsored post. Simply our own travel experience.