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Ten ways to enjoy family travel on a budget

Family trips are expensive. Tickets, accommodation and activities can see hundreds of dollars disappearing in a matter of days – and that’s before you’ve purchased a single souvenir! Luckily there are a few easy ways to enjoy the very best of a trip, without breaking the bank.

1. Rent Your Own Place

Self-serviced apartments and holiday houses are a fantastic way to save on expensive hotel rooms, plus they come with their own range of unexpected benefits when it comes to travelling with kids. While there is no room service or housekeeping and you’re lucky to find any cute bottles of shampoo in the bathroom, the freedom and privacy that your own space allows brings an element of calm to a trip. By creating a sanctuary away from the madness of resorts and tourist hot-spots, you can afford the familiarities of home like the favourite bowl of cereal in the morning, a chilled out film before bed and your own room, while saving a bundle in the process.

2. Packed Lunch

An oldie but a goodie, this is one of the easiest ways to save yourself a mountain of cash when you’re on the road. Making a few sandwiches and throwing a pack of muesli bars in your bag before you leave in the morning may take a few extra minutes, but the hassle it will save in looking for somewhere everyone can agree on, navigating menus and making sure everyone is hungry at the same time will more than makeup for it.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t make the most of sampling all the local cuisine you can get your hands on, but saving up one opportunity to eat out a day and then sorting yourselves out the rest of the time will save you a fortune in money and stress.

3. Do Your Homework

You’re always telling the kids to do it, and now it’s your turn. It’s amazing how much a little shopping around and research can save you in the long run. Budget travel websites like Travel Zoo, Groupon and Kayak can offer great deals on flights, accommodation, car rentals and activities in a myriad of locations around the world.

Also don’t forget to research each attraction before you visit- you’d be amazed at just how many offer family deals at specific times, or even completely free activities for kids on certain days of the week. This doesn’t even require a huge amount of effort as nearly everywhere has a website that will tell you all the deals on offer with one swipe of an iPhone next time you have access to free-Wi-Fi.

4. Go Local

beach winter waves
A trip to the beach can seem like a holiday, even in winter. Picture: Alison Godfrey

There’s a reason that you’ll rarely see local kids at the world’s biggest theme parks and attractions, even if they live right next door- they ain’t cheap. Just getting through the door at some of the more popular attractions can set you back hundreds of dollars.

Check out what kids in the area are up to on their weekends with their families to find some great activities that won’t bankrupt you on day one. Public pools, playgrounds, beaches, galleries, sporting grounds and many museums offer free entry, and if the local kids think it’s cool, that’s pretty much the best review you could ask for.

5. Embrace the Less Than Ideal Weather

School holidays falling during prime weather seasons around the world are not an accident- just a cruel truth. When you think it’s a good time to plan the trip, so does every other family in the world- see tickets, rates and the price of oxygen soaring to astronomical heights.

This may not be logistically possible depending on if any of your family are of school-age, but if you do have the opportunity to take your trip out of term time then think about grabbing it. Sure, it might be freezing cold, desperately humid or bang in the middle of monsoon season, but prices across the board drop accordingly which can offer you a whole new range of destination options that are completely out of your price range in holiday-time.

6. Make the Most of Travel


Direct flights and easy A-B trips are obviously the goal, but they can often come with a hefty price tag. While the thought of connecting three times and touring an unnecessary chunk of a country might fill you with dread, it can actually be a blessing in disguise.

Many a holiday memory can be made at the quirky and unusual spots usually only discovered en-route somewhere else, and if the goal of a family trip is to enjoy some quality time together then a few hours playing driving games at the back of a coach suddenly seems a whole lot more appealing.

7. Pocket Money

Budgeting is key, and this goes for big kids and little kids alike. Setting aside a certain amount of money for each day for essentials, then adding in a little bit for emergencies and a little more for treating yourselves will take the panic out and help you really make the most of each dollar, pound or Euro. Plus it means that everyone has a certain amount to fritter away on tourist trinkets and sugary souvenirs guilt free! Giving the kids their own pocket money and letting them set their budget at the beginning of the trip will also help teach them about the value of their cash and prevent them from blowing it all day one of tat that will end up in the bin.

8. All Aboard

The thought of navigating public transport in an unknown land with a language barrier and a couple of kids is enough to give any sane person nightmares- but bear with us. Most popular tourist spots around the world have a system in place specifically designed to make sense to travellers, and plenty of signage and online advice available through the area’s website to help you prepare before you get there. Many places also have day-trip or family travel deals that will help you save money if your day involves a lot of hopping on and off at different attractions.

Anyway you look at it, hopping on the bus is probably going to save you a considerable amount of money when you compare it to a standard taxi fare.

9. Kick it Old School

For all that people of a certain age love to lament the ‘youth of today’ and their ‘addiction to gadgets’, the kids who have been presented with an expensive gift only to be found three hours later still playing with the box do not just belong to generations passed. Kids have incredible imaginations that don’t depend on flashy toys and swanky waterparks to provide endless hours of fun.

Head into the great outdoors and plan a scavenger hunt, set yourselves challenges or have your inner magpies collect treasures for a craft project. There are plenty of fun activities that require no more than a little imagination – and before you insist they put their phones down, check that they aren’t creating a one-of-a-kind photo album on Instagram that will have you reliving memories years down the track…

10. Get Creative

This is a tip that can be applied to all aspects of trip, no matter how small. Making the most of a family trip on a budget is all about getting creative. Look around and don’t take the first option you stumble across, drop the guidebook and choose your activities specifically with your family in mind and take the road less travelled by – you’ll be amazed at the hidden gems there are to discover.

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