While families have just as much wanderlust as singles and grey nomads, it’s one thing to skip around Europe during a gap year, or board a five-star cruise liner for months on end, and entirely another to travel internationally as a family of three, four, or more. The good news is that there are plenty of ways families can stretch their hard-earned dollars further.
Travel during the off-season
Holidaying during the low-peak season can save hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Think a ski resort in summer or a beach vacation in autumn. It’s during the off-season that airlines offer the best deals and hotels and resorts promote package deals to keep them in business. Sites like TripAdvisor and Skyscanner are excellent resources for comparing hotel and airline costs. Sign up for alerts so you never miss a price drop to your preferred destination. Low season also means less crowds and easy-to-get bookings at restaurants and attractions. If you’re less flexible, look at indirect flights – that extra take-off and touchdown equals money in the bank.
British Columbia, Canada
Whistler Blackcomb in the famous Rocky Mountains is filled with fun for all the family during the warmer months. From hiking and bear tours for the adventurous, to all-ages entertainment and a fun zone featuring mazes, trampolines, bouncy castles and more.
During spring (May) and autumn (October) you’ll find the best rates and fewer people in this tropical destination. The sun is shining, the water is warm and all the activities you could imagine – from snorkelling to volcano viewing – are on tap. For discounts to all the big attractions you can’t beat the Go Oahu Card.
Book alternative accommodation
While many hotels and resorts offer family getaway packages that include an extra night or kids’ meals for free, there are options on where to lay your head that can save you even more. Airbnb is the biggest player in this space with an incredible choice of homes (and customer reviews) to base the family that include a kitchen, laundry and often a pool to swim in or backyard to play in. Many homeowners are often willing to act as local guides too, giving insider tips on where to dine or sightsee on the cheap. Family-focussed hostels are another option and can be found everywhere from Thailand to Turkey. These properties offer basic private rooms with up to six beds and an en suite bathroom, a communal kitchen and usually a TV or games room which is perfect for kids who can only handle a few hours of sightseeing a day.
This Airbnb in the bustling Piazza Navona area sleeps four, has a dine-in kitchen, laundry, Wi-Fi, air con and heating. Despite being steps from some of the city’s most popular sights, it’s soundproofed for a good night’s rest.
Mile Map Hostel is a cheap, cheerful and modern hostel in the Silom area of Bangkok. Family rooms are clean and come with a double and a bunk bed, shared bathrooms, shared kitchen and a communal area to connect with other travellers in. Right outside the door are endless food options, flower stalls and a Hindu temple.
Research transport and free attractions
Once you’ve arrived, exploring further afield by bus or train is an excellent option with mini nomads in tow. Not only will you see more using ground transportation, you’ll cut out airline queues, expensive airport food and taxis to ferry luggage. Most capital cities offer transport passes that enable you to see more for less on buses, trams, trains and ferries. Self-guided walking itineraries are becoming more popular too. You can download itineraries online (check out GPS my city) for learn-as-you-go neighbourhood tours. And there are always free options such as beaches or riverbanks to roam, parks to picnic in, gardens to wander, museums to visit and other cultural attractions featuring free exhibitions.
This colourful city has bike paths galore, paddle boats for exploring canals and plentiful museums ranging from hands-on science exhibits to excite tweens, to learning more about Ann Frank for teens. Explore the nation further with the Holland Pass that saves time and entry fees at city attractions and museums.
Mexico City, Mexico
This high-energy metropolis offers a friendly exchange rate, cheap food and transport and a plethora of modern and historical attractions. There are Aztec ruins right in the midst of downtown, world-class interactive museums like the Papalote Museo del Nino and a Six Flags amusement park.
More ways to save:
Insurance – spend to save
One of the most overwhelming parts of travelling with kids is that things can – and will – go wrong. Whether someone falls ill, or a sentimental purchase disappears from the overhead locker. Plan ahead for any mishaps with an insurer that will cover it, whatever ‘it’ is. Exploring online is the best resource for insurance that ticks all your boxes and covers every family member for the destinations you’re visiting.
Avoid exchanging money at the airport. The fees will instantly leave you short. Keep your credit card handy for emergencies and withdraw local currency at the airport ATM when you touchdown.
Be savvy with air miles
Use your spending throughout the year to bolster your frequent flyer points. Anything – from the weekly grocery shop, to a home renovation – can add up points. This can be through supermarket loyalty cards or paying for expenses with an airline affiliated credit card. Allow at least a six-month window when booking flights with points to ensure the whole family is accounted for. Another way to book with miles is a ‘points plus pay’ system that allows travellers to scale down the cost of flights. It’s genius if you don’t have enough points for the entire ticket.