How we afford to travel as a large family
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You’re on Facebook and it’s flooded with photos of the “Jones’s” latest family trip abroad (again), and you wonder weren’t they just on holiday, and how on earth can they afford to travel with all those kids? Does this sound like you? I was the same until we started to make a few small changes.
We are just an average middle-class family. Both parents working full-time, and 3 school-going children, and this year we have had three trips abroad with the girls. Travelling as a family of five is costly, but absolutely do-able if you adopt these cost-saving tips
1. It’s all about priorities.
Our family loves to travel. That’s what we choose to spend our disposable income on. If it means we have to cut back on other things to be able to save for travel, then we do. So whether it’s reducing the number of weekly take-away meals, or not buying another pair of branded trainers, if you would rather be travelling the world, then you need to choose. And if you decide that 2018 is going to be your year of travel, then I would also suggest looking at your monthly expenses and see where you can cut back. Do you have debit orders coming off for a gym contract you that never use? Or maybe a subscription to a magazine you just don’t have the time to read? All these little things start to add up to a significant amount of money over the year.
2. Travel out of peak times,
and that may mean taking school going children out of school for a few days. There, I said it! And now that we have all had a collective gasp, let’s move on. The cost saving is significant, between 25-50% cheaper. Considering the cost of a family holiday, it is not something that can be ignored. As long as you as a parent are committed to making sure your children catch up any missed out school work, I really don’t see travelling in term time as a major problem.
3. Book the trip yourself,
instead of outsourcing everything to an agent. It may be a more convenient option having someone do it all for you, but you pay for these extra services. By booking directly with the airline, hotel, and car hire company, you can secure the absolute cheapest rates, and if you have signed up for their loyalty programme, you can earn reward points or discounts towards future trips.
4. Stick to the same service providers.
We always fly the same airline – KLM. Apart from great service, they fly out of our local airport, so it’s very convenient getting there. But more importantly it allows us to collect loyalty points on 5 tickets, every time we fly, and this soon adds up.
I also often use Booking.com to book our accommodation.
With over 800 000 hotels online to choose from, you will definitely find something that suits your families holiday needs. We have stayed in a number of hotel and chalets all booked through Booking.com. It’s super easy to use, you can book with no credit card fees, and many bookings come with free cancellation up to a certain time period before you travel. Which is good if your plans are not one hundred percent confirmed. I also use Trip Advisor alongside Booking.com to get a more detailed view of the accommodations ratings. I have seen instances where accommodation has been rated as a 3-star on Booking.com, and a 5-star on Trip Advisor, with nothing but rave reviews.
Invest in a little time and research your trip. It’s amazing how much you can save on things like public transport or attraction entry fees. Work out if you really do need car hire, or will you be able to use public transport? Will you need a car every day to get around, or maybe you just need a transfer to and from the airport. Remember to factor in parking fees if not included, motorway tolls and refuelling. If you looking to save on your car hire extras, borrow a portable sat nav from a friend and take along your child’s booster car seat. That’s a saving of around £150 for the week. Another cost saving we do is locating a petrol station that is close to, but not inside the airport terminal grounds. Refuelling at the airport is an expensive exercise!
Always look at day pass tickets for public transport, and family travel passes are a much cheaper way to travel. Some attractions offer family discounts on the entry fees. But you may need to produce your passports as proof of family members. These savings can be as much as 25-50% off the full price. Some attractions offer discounted rates with advance purchase of tickets. If you know you are definitely planning on visiting an attraction, it may work out cheaper to book online ahead of time. In some cities, advanced purchased tickets are the only way to get into some tourist attractions, Barcelona and Paris are ones that comes to mind. This is done to control the crowds during peak season. So check first to avoid disappointment on the day when you can’t get in.
6. Plan your holiday itinerary.
Now this doesn’t mean boot-camp military precision planning for every second. But having a general idea of what you want to do each day, whether it’s a local attraction, or a day spent relaxing at the pool or beach, will help to spread the budget over the holiday. That way, you won’t have spent a small fortune doing all the “fun” stuff in the first few days, with the rest of the week spent trying to entertain the kids at the pool again
7. Self-guided sight-seeing.
I am not really a fan of guided tours and group activities anyway, and I much prefer the flexibility to see what I want to see, at my own pace. There is nothing better than grabbing a city map and planning a day exploring with the family. You get to experience a city like a local, spend as much time as you want at the various sites, and travel at your own pace. It’s completely free and if your kids are anything like mine, they will fight for the honour of being chief navigator.
If you are anything like me, there have been days when I have lost the will to eat, just because I did not have the inspiration to think of yet another tasty meal idea. Cooking is one of my all-time least favourite pastimes. So the thought of having to cook on holiday, just doesn’t sound like a holiday to me! But self-catering is always the cheaper option. And in all honesty, wouldn’t you rather be preparing the family meal in a beach or mountain-side chalet, than at home? Gotta eat either way! And if you are eating out, a great way to stay on budget is to check the portion sizes before ordering. Fussy eaters and small appetites are all just a part of our family dining experience, so I always check menus and portion sizes to avoid over ordering.
9. Travelling is about experiences and gathering memories of special times. Not about shopping.
The more we have traveled with our kids, the more they have embraced this philosophy. They take a little bit of spending money, and will buy a trinket from whatever city we are in. Nothing fancy, just something to remind them of their trip. My eldest daughter buys t-shirts with the name of the place we are in. When she grows out of them, we store them and she has asked me to make her a memory quilt out of the shirts. It will be the start of a new family tradition. I collect pin badges, which I put on a travelling bear (another family tradition and definitely another blog post!) But my point is that as parents, we need to teach our children the value of money and that it is not all about possessions, but more about experiences.
10. Finally...have a plan.
Commit to saving for travel. Have a separate savings account and if you can, set up a debit order for a small amount each month the day after pay day. Trust me, you won’t even realise the money is gone. Cut back on non-essentials and see the pennies start to add up. Wouldn’t you rather have a few less coffees during the week and a few more cocktails at the beach on holiday?
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