Family Travel on the Cheap – 10 tips to spend less

A cheap family vacation doesn’t have to mean a tent in the backyard or a caravan parked at a dried up lake. While there are plenty of affordable family vacation destinations, there are also ways you can make sure you spend less on any vacation, regardless of where you go, with a little planning. You may even be surprised by the money you can save by eliciting some family involvement too.

Try some of these tips next time you are planning a family vacation to save you some money, without compromising on the experience.

1 – Plan and prepare early
If you have ever had to book flights or accommodation at short notice you will know how expensive it can be, but in the case of the family holiday, you have booked in your annual leave, you know the dates of the school holidays, so there is no excuse for leaving your bookings to the last minute and paying a premium.

As you plan your flights or travel and accommodation well in advance, also start researching your destination through websites, guidebooks or travel magazines. This could also save you money if you find tours or other activities you can book into early as well, while also adding value to your trip.

The risk with any family vacation, no matter how much it costs, is that someone is not going to enjoy themselves. If your children are not interested in where they are and not excited by the activities then there can be tantrums and tears, and not just from the kids. Instead, make sure your whole family gets value from the trip by involving them from the planning stage. Start by asking your children where they want to go, and if your children are old enough you can even let them choose a whole day of activities each. This means everyone gets to do something they want, as well as experience what others want to do too, tolerantly.

To get your children excited in the planning stages, especially since you are booking well in advance, bring home as much information as you can about your destination. Look for novels, story books or movies which are set in the country you are visiting as this will add another level of excitement to the trip – and even some activity ideas– when they can see the same places their favorite book or movie characters have been.

2 – Don’t overextend yourself
Not only will a lot of activities in one day be a lot more money, it will also be a lot more tiring. So don’t forget that you’re supposed to be relaxing and having fun on your holiday, and make sure not to schedule too many things into each day. Especially when you are traveling as a family it is important to keep to a routine, and your children aren’t expected to pay attention in class for ten hours and nor should you expect them to be interested in a full day of sightseeing. Therefore, make sure you plan to return to your hotel in time for dinner and their normal bed times.

3 – Pack lightly
When you start packing for a family the bags can add up, and to avoid excess luggage charges, and the need to hire two taxis to transport you, your family and your luggage to your hotel, aim to pack light. This will also make the trip less stressful because most children as soon as they are old enough to walk will want to carry their own bags, so if you pack a small backpack or suitcase for each person, with supervision, each family member can be responsible for their own bags, and you can move more freely on your holiday.

4 – Schedule free time
Free time is not only a free holiday activity to save your travel budget, a great way to experience some true local culture. Just because you can go to a park or a play ground back home, doesn’t mean you should avoid seeking out parks while you are on holiday, because you can spend time as a family sitting on the grass, absorbing the culture and of course meeting the locals and it won’t cost you a thing. Plus, as interesting as the sightseeing destinations are, there are some times when your kids will just want to run around on the grass, so stave off a tantrum with this method too.

5 – Activities from home
Similarly, just because your children can read a book or do some coloring at home, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do the same thing on holiday. Make sure you pack a bag of activities for some down time with your kids where they can play cards, roll dice, fill out a book of puzzles or color in pictures. These can be useful to return some routine and normalcy to your lives, as well as entertain your children while you are waiting for a connecting flight for example. Occupying children with these activities will also give parents a chance to put their feet up, read their book or enjoy a cocktail, which is also what holidays are all about.

Plus, don’t discount packing a portable DVD player, iPod or portable game console such as a Nintendo DS or Gameboy as a short amount of time spent on these activities also gives everyone a break from traveling, is a free activity and can recharge your kids ready for more sightseeing.

6 – Keep a routine
Sticking to your regular routine will also help you stick to your holiday budget. It is important to maintain a routine for your children when you travel so that they eat regularly, eat proper meals and have the same bedtime because they will be more inclined towards holiday activities if their blood sugar levels and sleep patterns stay regular. This will also avoid after dinner activities which can add up to a lot of incidental spending, and ensures that while you experience the local culture, you also make sure your family eats balanced and affordable meals.

7 – Remain flexible
While it is important to keep your family on a somewhat familiar routine, try not to plan your activities and days too much, because you never know what will come up. When you are flexible you may find that the tour you were going to go on today is half price tomorrow, and you can adjust your plans and save money easily at the same time.

8 – Allocate souvenir budgets
This may not sound like a way to save, but by giving each child a certain amount of money to spend on souvenirs, they can not only learn some financial and budgeting responsibilities, but it will also stop ongoing withdrawals from the travel budget.

9 – Look for package deals
When you are able to find package deals for your holiday services or activities you can spend less overall. Some travel packages will bundle airline tickets, accommodation and car rental together, so that you pay much less than you would if you paid for each service separately. All you have to do is do a little shopping around as you plan your holiday and do your research on the companies offering package deals, so you don’t feel confined by brand loyalty.

10 – Be a local
Saving on your next family holiday can be as easy as buying a local newspaper. When you flip to the entertainment section you will find a list of all the activities and events in the area, and there are sure to be free activities to enjoy in your destination, that you won’t always find out about in travel books.

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  1. Another thing that can be enjoyed for little money: National Parks. You can buy an year pass for much less than a couple of visits will cost. That way, if you live by a park, you can spend a lot of time there. And take advantage of summer programs put on the naturalists and hiking… mtdoonmeister at gmail dot com