There are many ways to save money on your next family vacation. Photo: Getty Images
Too late to go on school holidays? Here’s how to plan ahead and save money on your next family vacation.
What’s the best way to save money on vacation? Is it:
(a) leave the children at home
(b) reduce fuel costs by camping in the yard
(c) a road trip that includes a sleeper in the car
(d) read this article
(e) all of the above
Technically, (e) might be correct, but the fact that you’ve come this far means you’ve picked the best answer which is, of course, (d).
Traveling with children can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. There are many ways to cut the cost of a family vacation while still keeping everyone happy.
Traveling by car to your destination is a good option as long as you are safe from the “Are we there already?” (Of course, on a long trip, it may be you who say it rather than the children).
Travel by car is generally cheaper than flying, especially for large families. Plus, there are no restrictions on airline baggage and you can stop whenever and wherever you want. Audiobooks help run the miles and can be played on the car stereo for anyone to enjoy if you are traveling with older children.
If you are renting a car at your destination, bringing your own car seat avoids the additional expense of renting one. The same goes for a GPS or you can use your phone to navigate via Google Maps or an app while you are away.
Fly over there
If you prefer to fly, consider leaving a day or two earlier or later, especially during school holidays, as being flexible with dates can save hundreds of dollars on airline tickets.
Frequent higher tier members can often check-in additional baggage free of charge. If this applies to you, book cheaper rates for hand luggage only for children and check their bag yourself. Children under 2 travel free on domestic flights (and only pay 10% on international flights), so make the most of it while you can.
Staying in an apartment can be slightly more expensive per night than a hotel room, but it’s easier and more convenient, especially for large families. Add the convenience and cost savings of a freestanding kitchen and having your own laundry and it can be a real money-saver.
That said, staying in a hotel room is not out of the question, especially for those with only one child. Keep an eye out for studio-style accommodations with a sliding partition between bedroom and living room as this allows for flexibility and saves the cost of an adjacent room.
It also means you won’t have to hide in the bathroom or sit in the dark waiting for your little one to fall asleep (I’ve been there, I’ve done this – not recommended) .
Find family-friendly hotels and resorts that offer free services. For example, Novotel offers free accommodation (in existing bedding) and breakfast for up to two children under 16, a gift on arrival and free children’s entertainment on the television. Best of all, the whole family can enjoy a late check-out at 5pm on Sunday.
For higher budgets, Cordis in Auckland offers a family package that includes valet parking, kids’ activities, breakfast, and an in-room movie.
There are many ways to optimize your entertainment budget while on vacation. Start by checking the kids’ reduction age limit for tours, especially if you’re swinging between a few activities and need to pay for multiple kids. Some tours offer discounts for children up to age 16, for example, while others stop at age 12.
Discuss the budget for a family vacation before you leave home so that everyone keeps their expectations reasonable while you are away. Encouraging your kids to buy useful souvenirs is another way to avoid wasting money. A drink bottle or school lunch box will be more useful than a giant pencil with a kiwi on top.
Wet weather eats away at a vacation budget faster than you can say tropical low, so pack a few board games or consider buying a new one while you are away. They are much cheaper than the entrance fees to tourist attractions, and you can take them home with you.