Let’s face it, travel is pretty expensive at the best of times. Throw a couple of kids in the mix and you have a recipe for a broken bank account and maxed out credit lines!
First you pre pay all the travel fares and accommodation, then comes the cost of food and passes for all the attractions these tiny humans want to visit. Then lump on top of that the t-shirt, photo and cuddly toy they want as a souvenir for news at school when you return home. Planning and paying for a family holiday can fast become a parent’s nightmare.
However it doesn’t need to be this way. With a bit of careful planning, know-how and creativity, you can get the best deals and save yourself valuable dollars. Letting you enjoy the next trip away as much as the rest of the family!
Saving on travel costs
Obviously taking a family holiday requires a fair bit of forward planning so waiting for last minute deals is not always your best option for reducing travel costs. Luckily quite often with booking flights, the further out you book them the cheaper they can be. Once you know your preferred destination, keep an eye out for special deals. You can sign up to email fare sale notifications from individual airlines and travel companies’ websites to do a comparison of all the airfares for your chosen dates.
Once at your destination, to reduce on travel costs, try to do as many activities within walking distance as possible. It’s a great way to ‘explore’ with the kids and really experience the culture of the place you are visiting. Public transport family fares are usually good value. Some cities even offer free buses at certain times like Adelaide Metro and Sydney Buses. With all this, you might be able to cut out or at least cut down on a few days car hire.
Hiring bikes can also be a fun and cheap way of getting around. The cities and towns with good bike trails, like Canberra around Lake Burley Griffin and Brisbane along the riverfront, offer a number of hire places to choose from. Some will even drop the bikes off at your hotel. Pick up some free bike path maps from your closest visitor information centre, council or library.
Saving on accommodation
Look out for last minute hotel deals or package deals for families – you can quite often pick up specials such as pay 3, stay 5 nights. Also some hotels and hotel booking websites offer interesting loyalty programs. One example that enables you to quickly redeem some free nights is HotelClub.
Consider booking a holiday home. This option is often cheaper than a hotel (especially with a large family) and gives you the freedom to let the kids run about and make noise without having to worry about disturbing other guests. Plus you can save by cooking your own meals.
Try hunting out a local camping ground that has family cabins or make your vacation a bit of an adventure and stay in a tent! The kids will love it.
Saving on meals and dining
The most effective way to save on dining out costs while on holidays is to book accommodation that offers in room kitchen facilities where you can cook your own food. If you take the holiday home or camp ground option this is pretty much a given. Just having one or two self-catered meals will save you a fortune! Some hotels such as Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley offer family package deals where you can save on children’s meals when dining with a paying adult.
A great idea for the daily activities is to pack some lunch and snacks before you set off for the day. This can shave literally hundreds of dollars off your holiday bill and also save you, and the family, from eating fat filled junk.
Saving on attractions
Ask at your hotel if they have any partnerships with local tourist attractions as often hotel guests are offered a special rate or visiting incentive.
You can check the local papers, online deals sites, tourist maps and the back of supermarket dockets for special deals and discounts to local attractions and fun parks. When purchasing attraction passes, make sure you ask if they have a family deal pass or any other option that will save you money. With extra incentives, sometimes the yearlong VIP pass can work out cheaper than just buying tickets for the day.
Look for free activities that you can do with the kids like visiting parks and beaches plus attending free concerts and educational seminars. Again local papers will be a great resource. During school holidays you will find that many councils, national parks, libraries and even shopping centres offer free (or very cheap) kids’ activities.
Saving on shopping
Everyone wants to come home from a holiday with some new gear to show off. Knowing where the best places to shop are located can save you big time. Hunt out the local factory outlets and streets similar to that of Melbourne’s Chapel St where you can pick up quality local clothing and other labelled items for heavily discounted prices.
Saving on creating the memories after
On your return home you want to remember all those amazing moments you had. Printing out photos can get pretty pricey, although with sites like Snap Fish you can sometimes get a great deal on a number of prints. If you can wait, keep an eye out for slash price print specials that large stores like Harvey Norman and K-mart run several times per year
Another, more special way, to capture the memories is to create a photo book. Simply head online to one of the photo printing websites to create a wonderful family album that comes printed and bound as a book for you to treasure. These sites are always running deals on photo books and you can create a meaningful masterpiece for very little effort.
So, while holiday costs can run into the thousands if you aren’t careful, with a bit of thought you can return home with some dollars in your pocket. What’s the age old saying? “The best things in life are free”… so just remember it’s the fun and togetherness that counts. Get creative for your next holiday and the kids will have just as good a time, if not better. Especially if youare smiling too!
Anna Johnson loves to travel and has memories scattered all over the globe. Now back in Australia with a family Anna still enjoys travel and loves sharing her experiences with others. Follow Anna on G+: https://plus.google.com/u/0/+AnnaJohnsonOToole