Every year, millions of families are lucky enough to escape their daily routine en masse in search of some well-deserved time out. While an exotic jaunt abroad or close to home is something we should spend months looking forward to, the planning and preparation can take its toll.
Holiday costs are a common cause of distress. Hotels, flights, and three meals a day – not forgetting daily activities and the essential souvenirs – can stack up and add to the strain. Don’t risk ruining your vacation by being unprepared. As a habitual holidaymaker, I’ve learned a few cunning tricks over the years to ensure a budget-friendly family break, that won’t break your bank balance.
1. Plan in advance, or go at the last minute
Booking in advance requires plenty of organization and you must be prepared to stick to your plans. Not only can you save money on early bird specials, a lot of essential vacation products are on sale. If you’re taking a summer break for example, sun cream, swimming costumes and summer clothes will all be cheaper during winter.
Last minute accommodation bookings can mean huge cost savings, but it also means your choices are more restricted. If your family isn’t fussy and you’re happy to live life on the edge, then booking a few days before you leave will be easier on your expenses.
2. Take advantage of deals
The Internet is crammed with competitive deals with airlines, hotels and online travel agents all hankering for a piece of your purse. Use comparison websites and sign up to receive offer emails so that you’re the first to hear of any breaking deals or specials that have launched.
Some accommodation websites offer slashed prices at ‘mystery hotel’ rates, where you only find out your accommodation choice after you pay. These aren’t back alley places either, there’s a huge mix and you can choose according to their star rating if you want to stay on the safe side.
3. Save with self-catered accommodation
If you’re anything like me, home cooking is where your heart is. I get tired of rich restaurant food three times a day and find my taste buds craving simpler dishes to be enjoyed in peace. Cereal, tea or a plain cheese sandwich – it’ll give your tummy and your wallet a rest. Choosing self-catering accommodation broadens your options for eating in or out and you can save substantially by purchasing daily groceries that the family will be happy to eat in – like breakfast. Make sandwiches for lunch and you’ll save even more.
4. Holiday with friends
When you bulk buy accommodation and provisions, the costs work out to be much cheaper per person. Find some friends or family that you can tolerate at close quarters for more than a few days and book a large house to split between the parties. Not only will you save money, you’ll have babysitters on tap. Find a family with kids and your own children will have plenty to entertain them day and night.
5. Be smarter with your travel insurance quotes
Children can be both curious and clumsy and if you aren’t covered then your holiday budget could be blown in one go. There are hundreds of travel insurance offers available, but make sure you choose a travel insurance quote based on your type of holiday. You wouldn’t want to spend money on travel insurance covers like extreme sports injuries if you’re holidaying at a spa resort.
6. Don’t fly on Fridays
According to As We Travel, the cheapest days to fly are Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. If you travel off-season then you’ll get the lowest flights and hotel rates – but it does mean you might not experience the best that your destination has to offer. If you want to do some bargain hunting, Tuesday is the best day of the week to find an offer.
7. Avoid tourist traps
It’s obvious, but often overlooked in the heat of the moment when we’re feeling under the tourist pump. Popular visitor sites will have stunning scenery – and stunning prices to match. Make sure you head off the beaten track to find authentic eateries that won’t charge a premium for their location.
8. Don’t take little kids on costly trips
All too often I see families on holiday with little kids who aren’t paying attention to any of their surroundings. Children under 5 will be just as happy on a nearby beach as they would be in Thailand. Unless they’re old enough to appreciate a foreign culture, cuisine or even the rides at Disney World, stay local and don’t spend too much. Think of all of the money you’ll save for more exotic holidays when they’re a older.
9. Try a package holiday
A package holiday helps to control your costs by condensing them into one lump sum. This is an ideal solution for families on stricter budgets or who have a tendency to overspend in the moment. Drinks, food and activities will be covered and can leave you feeling less stressed attempting to create a customized itinerary that will keep the whole family happy.
10. Agree on a daily budget
When you’re relaxing on holiday, it’s easy to spend more than you anticipate. Avoid this by agreeing on a holiday budget and dividing it by the number of days you’re away. Then, take the cash out in the morning and ensure that is all you spend that day. This is also a good way to keep your money secure. Leave some of your cards in the hotel safe and you won’t have concerns about being left stranded with no access to money.
For families lucky enough to afford an annual family vacation make sure you’re able to cherish the time together by planning your approach in advance. Vacation time is precious so ensure you don’t waste it worrying about the costs. Save where you can and spend sensibly. The whole family will feel relaxed, rejuvenated and ready to head back to the daily routine with a spring in their steps.
Joanne Lemke is a final year creative writing student at UOW, who is looking to break into the corporate copywriting space once she graduates and hopefully go on to eventually some day write a book around her other passions, namely cooking and travel.
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