Your money will go much further in some destinations compared to others.
This might be because it’s a place where the local currency value is much lower, making local transportation costs, accommodation costs, attractions and meals much more affordable.
Or it could be that you’re choosing a destination that has plenty of free activities so you are saving money on entertainment and attractions.
One of the best family travel on a budget tips is to control your spending is deciding where to take your family.
Look for a place that has a variety of affordable activities. Some locations are known for providing free or inexpensive entertainment options.
Places that have a variety of outdoor activities can be a great way to cut your entertainment costs – if your family enjoys spending time outdoors!
Activities such as hiking trails, beaches and cultural attractions can keep everyone busy without spending a thing.
3. Travel During The Off Peak Season
One of the quickest ways to save on travel is to go during the off-peak season.
In most cases, this is winter and outside of the local school vacation times. Unless you’re heading to somewhere popular for winter activities!
Travelling during off-peak season only not increases your chances of finding flight deals but can also help you cut the cost of some other aspects of trips like accommodations and car rentals when prices are drastically lower.
Think about the advantages of avoiding your destination during its peak seasons:
Reduced prices and the comfort of travelling through uncrowded places.
During off-peak times, the travel industry usually offers tempting deals.
With fewer tourists, you can enjoy places without them feeling overcrowded compared to peak season.
4. Avoid Visiting During Special Events/Holidays
Unless you are specifically visiting a destination for a special event, avoiding these times can help reduce your costs and also likely mean fewer crowds too.
Always research what’s happening around the time you are considering your visit.
Sometimes even just adjusting your dates by a few days can have a big impact on prices and availability.
5. Travel Outside The School Holidays
There is a golden opportunity for parents of young kids who have not yet started school to travel when most other families are back in the school routine.
Outside-of-school vacation times paired with the off-peak season is certainly the best time for family travel on a budget.
The one catch to this though is if you have school-aged kids, usually off-peak travel means during school term.
This article isn’t the place to go into detail about the benefits of world-schooling vs classroom learning, because we believe both are important, so this is something you will need to consider for yourselves.
6. Choose Off The Beaten Track Destinations
If you want an unforgettable family trip with your kids without going broke, think about travelling to alternative destinations that aren’t as popular as the top tourist spots.
These might be different regions in the same country you had in mind, but lesser-known cities or budget-friendly alternatives.
This also includes up-and-coming destinations that aren’t on many people’s radars yet – just make sure you’re choosing safe places to visit.
Travel Insurance: Make sure you don’t leave home without travel insurance. Trust us, it’s one of those things you don’t want to skip, especially when travelling with kids. Check out SafetyWing.
7. Know Your Travel Dates Far Ahead
Knowing your travel dates well in advance gives you the opportunity to book a cheap flight and find a great hotel room deal.
Most hotels and airlines provide early bird discounts and promotions.
It also gives you a large choice of possibilities, enabling you to choose budget flights, rental cars and hotels that best suit your family’s needs and price range.
Additionally, it reduces the possibility that you will end up with few choices remaining since all the best options are already booked out in advance.
As an example of the opposite scenario, back when travel was just resuming after you-know-what, we rebooked our Great Ocean Road trip (for the 3rd time) fairly last minute, during the summer school holidays here in Australia.
We did not have many choices for accommodation and everything was priced high. Thankfully, we were prepared for this and had flight credits to ease the high cost.
Knowing your travel dates far in advance also has practical advantages that enable you to save up for your family vacation and potentially be able to splurge a little more since you’ve given yourself more time to plan and prepare.
8. Keep Your Destination Options Open
On the flipside of this, if you don’t have a specific destination in mind, but rather a time frame instead, you can remain flexible with your destination and wait for the perfect package deal instead!
Often the best package deals are for travel in the near future, with combined cheap flights, a hotel room and sometimes bonuses such as resort credit or tours included.
These package deals can be a huge money saver to travel cheaply and enjoy popular destinations for much less.
Over the years we’ve had some fantastic luxury vacations by staying flexible and booking a couple of months out.
5-star all-inclusive resort stays in Vietnam and a combined hotel, flight and Great Barrier Reef tour deal in Cairns, just to name a couple.
Saving Money On Travel Expenses & Food During Your Trip
There are plenty of ways to afford family travel by adjusting a few of your travel habits for your family vacation.
Making a decision to stay in self-contained accommodation and cook for yourself is often far cheaper than dining out for each meal of your trip.
Especially if you have a large family.
Unless you are travelling to a cheap destination, meals are one of the biggest costs of any family travel trip.
We often stay self-contained, either in a hotel with a kitchenette or in vacation rentals that have everything you’d have at home.
This way we can cook all our meals or at least pick and choose when we want to dine out.
Dining out can quickly increase your expenses, especially in popular tourist countries, and heavily empty your trip budget.
Additional Advantages of Self-Contained Accommodation:
Cooking your meals gives you an opportunity to make healthier decisions, which is helpful for people with dietary needs or health goals.
It is perfect if you are planning to stay longer since it is perfect for comfort and budget management.
Self-contained Accommodation offers a practical and affordable option to make meals for you and your kids.
10. Pack Lunches For Day Trips & Travel Days
Bringing your own packed lunches on day trips is a smart move that will not only help you save money but also help you skip the expensive fast food and restaurant stops.
Restaurants that are usually found near tourist spots and transportation stops are usually overpriced.
By packing your own lunch, you can avoid these pricy options and make better use of your family travel on a budget.
There are quite a few good reasons to do this:
You won’t have to waste travel time to look for restaurants, stand in line, or wait for long food delivery service.
You can have control over the ingredients and serving quantity of you and your kids when you pack your meals.
Eating homemade food provides a sense of comfort and stability especially if you have young kids who will have a hard time adjusting to their surroundings.
Less upsets for sensitive stomachs when you are choosing foods you are comfortable with.
11. Dine Outside Popular Tourist Areas
However, don’t skip trying the local food at your destination!
You can still enjoy local restaurants and authentic dishes without having to splurge all your vacation savings on food.
Cut your dining costs by choosing to eat somewhere that isn’t a tourist hotspot. Local restaurants in these less popular areas are typically cheaper and less busy.
Street food and food trucks are often a great chance to sample authentic dishes at a lower price too.
12. Look For Meal Specials
Another option for saving money on your family travel budget is to keep your eye out for meal specials.
Many restaurants and cafes have a daily specials board or a special of the day that is much cheaper than their other menu items.
13. Bring A Reusable Water Bottle
Travelling with a reusable water bottle is not only a budget-friendly and environmentally responsible choice, but it helps to make sure the whole family stay hydrated too! Very important when you’re travelling!
Depending on where you are visiting, the tap water may not be safe to drink so make sure you know if this is the case before you fill up your water bottle.
If you still need to purchase water, you can instead buy a larger single water container and use it to fill each of your water bottles.
This is likely cheaper than individual disposable bottles.
14. Use Coupons For Food & Drink
Every budget-conscious traveller can appreciate a good discount! Some destinations have tourist guides that have discounts for food and attractions.
While these discounts may be small or may simply include a free drink with your meal, these small savings can still add up!
15. Buy Cheap Snacks At The Supermarket
Our first stop anywhere when we are travelling is to the local supermarket. We always stock up on a few local snacks to carry with us during day trips and travel days.
This means less spending on overpriced snacks. It also means no hangry kids who need food NOW or they will lose their minds…
Yeah, hungry kids are fun! Get snacks. Avoid the meltdowns.
16. Stay Within Walking Distance Of Shops Or Transport
A travel strategy that not only encourages convenience but also helps you to spend less is to choose hotels or vacation rentals that are located close to stores, markets, or public transportation hubs.
You can cut your costs on hiring a car by using public transport or you can save on restaurant meals by purchasing food at the local supermarket or markets and making your own meals.
17. Compare Cost Of Hire Car Vs Local Transport
Sometimes public transportation costs far outweigh the cost of hiring a car and this can blow out your family travel on a budget if you don’t do your research first!
Hiring a Car
If you can get a good deal on a hire car or if you’re expecting to spend a lot on public transport, it can often be a better option to have a rental car instead.
Especially if you’re planning day trips that would otherwise require you to book day tours. Instead, you can self-drive and just pay entry admission.
Advantages of a rental car:
Convenience: Gives you freedom and convenience, enabling you to drive at your own pace, explore off-the-beaten-path destinations, and visit attractions.
Comfort: For families with young children, having your own car can be more comfortable and spacious.
Privacy: If you want a more private travel experience or for long trips, having your own private place in the car can be helpful.
Rental costs: Daily or weekly rental costs are included in the price of hiring a car and can range widely depending on the kind of automobile, where it is rented, and the rental agency.
Fuel expenditures: Fluctuations can impact your budget because they can change depending on the price of fuel and the route you take.
Insurance: The cost of rental car insurance is usually extra. Although it offers protection, insurance may raise the total price of renting a car.
Parking: In cities especially, parking fees may mount up quickly. Parking fees may also apply at some hotels.
Local Public Transit:
Alternatively, if you are staying fairly central or don’t need to go too far or too often, public transport can sometimes be a far more affordable option for getting around:
Cost Savings: Generally speaking, public transportation is less expensive, especially in urban areas where it is well-developed. For additional savings, you can get daily or weekly passes.
Environmental Impact: Using public transportation often results in more environmentally friendly travel habits.
Local Experience: Traveling by public transportation gives you the chance to observe daily life and engage yourself in the local culture.
Route Coverage: Some locations may not have all the attractions you want to see accessible by public transportation, necessitating sporadic taxi or rideshare use.
Time: Public transportation can be time-consuming, and schedules might not always match your plans.
Travel Activities & Entertainment Budgeting Tips
Often the attractions are a big appeal for any travel destination and with these, sometimes there can be some big costs that can really blow out the vacation costs!
18. Choose Just One Top Thing To Do
Choosing just one must-do activity or concentrating on a small number of must-see sights when making your vacation schedule can cut down your overall spending drastically!
While it’s always nice to see all the things you want to see, sometimes our budgets simply don’t stretch that far, especially if travelling as a large family!
Picking one really special attraction or experience to splurge on can be a good option.
Quality Over Quantity: By choosing just one or two activities, you may devote more time to enjoying the experience. You can take your time to appreciate each moment, ask questions, and fully experience the local culture.
Slow Travel: Travel can be exhausting, especially if you’re constantly on the go and trying to see and do it all. Selecting just one top activity reduces the pressure to jam your schedule with events, lowering stress and enabling a more leisurely journey.
19. Know The Best Free Things To Do In The Area
Almost every vacation destination has some fun free things to do that you can spend your time. Sometimes these free activities are the most memorable!
Do your research before you go so you know what free options you have for entertainment.
Many museums are free all the time. For those that are not, they may have free museum days once a week or on a monthly basis.
Most nature activities are free – hiking, beaches, public gardens and outdoor playgrounds.
There may also be special free events taking place when you’re visiting, such as festivals, markets or public events that have free entry with entertainment and displays to wander through.
Travel blogs are a great source of finding these lesser-known free activities and local tips for affordable family vacations.
20. Look For Group Discounts For Attractions
Most attractions and tours have a group discount option. This doesn’t always mean you need to be travelling in a group of 10 to benefit.
Even a family discount price is often a big saving compared to individual ticket prices.
Most of these family package deals are for 2 adults and 2 children, so if you do have a larger family, you might need to add on individual tickets for your other kids. But some places are great with larger family bundles.
Either way, these family discounts are worth looking into and if you’re travelling with extended family or friends, ask about larger discounts for bigger groups.
21. Check For Free Entry Days (Such As Museums)
By wisely scheduling your visits to museums and cultural sites during their chosen free entrance days or times, you can enjoy free entry to attractions that usually cost money.
Check the websites of the local museums and attractions before you visit or head to the destination tourism board site to see if you can find these free entry days.
Or ask in a family travel Facebook group for their recommendations. These groups are a valuable source of information.
22. Get A Multi-Attraction Pass
In many popular tourist destinations, such as Paris, London, Los Angeles and Rome, you can get a Multi-Attraction Pass, which gives you entry to some of the most popular attractions for a heavily discounted price.
These passes usually have loads of different activities and attractions included, such as museum or theme park entry, river cruises, family activities or dining discounts.
We have used both the Paris Pass and London Pass during our past travels, as they included many of the things we wanted to see and do. This made it great value!
Just make sure you do your research ahead of time so that it actually does include things you want to do.
There’s no point getting one of these multi-attraction passes if you weren’t planning to visit these attractions anyway.
That is just blowing money!
It’s also worthwhile to work out if you only visited, for example, 3 of the attractions on the pass, would the multi-pass ticket still be worthwhile or are you better to just get a ticket for those 3 activities?
They are great but only when you’re really planning to use the included benefits!
Extra Tips To Save Money On Travel
We’ve covered a lot of family travel on a budget hacks and ideas to help you cut your costs, so here are some more family travel tips to travel for less!
23. Book A Motorhome
If you’re planning a road trip, why not consider booking a campervan or motorhome instead?
This means both your vehicle hire and accommodation costs are rolled into one.
It’s not always cheaper, but quite often it can be a more affordable way to travel and we love taking road trips with kids for budget-friendly travel.
You can find cheap flights when they have their sales or here in Australia, Virgin Australia has daily happy hour deals to specific destinations.
If you know your ideal travel dates, check budget airlines for their newsletter sign-up forms so you can secure plane tickets while they are on sale.
Sometimes these sale seats are limited and sell quickly, so this means you get the alerts quickly.
Setting up flight price alerts on flight comparison sites is another way to avoid missing out.
We use Skyscanner for this when we are in the early stages of planning a trip and starting to think about booking our plane tickets. You can also use Google Flights.
You can stay informed about price changes, flash specials, and one-time deals using fare alert services and airline newsletters.
You’ll get timely notifications right in your inbox, allowing you to take advantage of deals as they arise.
25. Take A Train Or Bus Instead Of Flying
If you are travelling somewhere within a few hours of your home, why not skip flying and look into alternative forms of transport such as buses or trains?
They aren’t always cheaper, but it’s certainly worth looking into if you don’t mind your travel taking a little longer.
Realistically, it sometimes isn’t drastically longer either when you consider sitting at the airport for a couple of hours before you fly.
Here are a few reasons to consider other forms of local transport:
Savings: For short trips or domestic flights, trains and buses are usually more affordable than those for flights. The money you save can be used to cover other costs associated with your trip, such as lodging, meals, or activities.
Scenic: Train and bus routes can provide beautiful views and a more engaging travel experience. Flying cannot provide you the opportunity to enjoy nature, small towns, and countryside up close.
Accessibility: Since trains and buses frequently arrive in the city centre, it is simple to get to your destination without having to take a separate means of transportation from the Airport.
Reduced Airport Hassles: By avoiding airports, you can avoid long security lines, luggage check-in procedures, and drawn-out boarding and deplaning procedures.
Convenient access to your luggage: Removes the need to stand in line at baggage claim, and most train and bus operators give sizable luggage allowances.
26. Use A Flight Price Tracker
We mentioned above how flight comparison sites can be a great way to track sale fares.
They are also just a fantastic option to help you budget for your flights.
Airfare costs are often the biggest expense for your trip and having alerts set up well before you are due to leave gives you time to watch the price patterns and changes.
Numerous apps and online resources allow you to track airline prices – we like to use Skyscanner.
They boost your chances of discovering a fantastic deal when you’re ready to book. Plus you can sign up for alerts for various departure and return date options.
27. Fly With Budget Airlines
Budget airlines typically don’t have all the bells and whistles of their more premium counterparts
For shorter flights, they typically don’t include food or drink in your ticket price.
Often you also have to pay extra to add on checked baggage and choose your seats.
Pay only what you actually need. Budget airline often provides a variety of add-on service, letting you customise your trip to your needs.
You have the freedom to decide on everything, including your seat and in-flight food.
We almost always fly budget airlines.
We are pretty good at packing light, even with kids so this means we can add checked baggage fees to just one or two of our tickets, rather than paying for baggage allowances that we don’t need for each family member.
We never bother with choosing our seats, allowing the airlines to randomly assign this.
They will always make sure the kids are with one of us, and we don’t mind being split up across rows if need be.
Plus, we always take our own snacks on board so we don’t need to buy them on the plane at crazy high prices!
28. Book Your Own Travel To Avoid Travel Agent Fees
By making direct reservations for flights, hotels, and tours, you may avoid the middlemen and save money. By not paying travel agent fees, your costs are often lower overall.
This is a great option if you have a limited budget and you are confident with booking everything yourself.
If you’re not confident with this, the extra expense of having an agent is worth the reduced stress you might otherwise experience when booking DIY trips!
29. Eat Street Food Instead Of Restaurant Meals
Instead of spending your money at pricey restaurants, try some of the delicious and inexpensive street cuisine to experience the local flavours.
While staying within your trip budget, you can explore the regional cuisine at a much lower price – and often find the best food of the trip!
30. Don’t Order Drinks
When dining out, water is not only important for staying hydrated but also your wallet’s best friend.
The majority of eateries provide free tap water, so you don’t have to pay extra for a cool beverage.
Due to price markups, beverages at restaurants can be rather pricey. You can dramatically lower your overall meal expenses by forgoing drinks.
Otherwise, consider looking for places that offer happy hour specials if you still want to enjoy a drink.
31. Do A Vehicle Relocation
If you are looking to hire a car or hire a campervan, many of these services have the option of a vehicle relocation service.
This is where they require a vehicle to be returned to a different destination and you get your hire cost drastically lower than you otherwise would if you’re driving it back to where it needs to go.
The one downfall is that you don’t get a lot of extra time for this, so you can’t fit in a lot of sightseeing compared to hiring for leisure.
But if you’re looking for an affordable way to get one way, this could be perfect!
32. Travel When Kids Are Young
There is no doubt that travel with young kids is cheaper than when they are school-aged (or worse, teenagers)!
Babies and toddlers don’t require their own plane ticket. They are usually free in many hotels if they use the existing bed set-up, or require just a cot.
They are also usually free for most attractions and they don’t eat much!
It might seem daunting to travel with a baby or travel with a toddler, but with the right trip, it can be a great experience.
We did our very first international trip with kids to Vietnam when our youngest was still in a baby carrier.
Our first trip with 2 kids was to Europe, through Poland, Croatia and Hungary. Thankfully with a little extra help with extended family.
Sure, they might not remember the experience.
But they will love looking back at the photographs and videos of their younger selves in exciting places around the world and you and your partner don’t have to give up having adventures because you’re parents!
33. Be Careful Of Currency Exchange Rates (Usually Better To Wait)
If you’re heading to a different country, you likely want to make sure you’ve got your money sorted before you travel.
While it isn’t a bad idea to have a little local currency on you before you leave, it’s worth checking the currency conversion rates carefully before you convert.
Banks can sometimes have better rates than the airport currency exchange booths… but not always!
Exchanging currency at a time when rates are favourable is also a good idea.
I use the XE app with currency price alerts set up to track this. It’s a great option when you’re preparing to travel (or just looking to purchase something in a foreign currency).
34. Find Package Deals
Package deals are made to make your planning process easier and help your family travel on a budget.
Many of these deals require you to travel sooner, so they are great for flexible dates.
You can often find cheap family travel deals where kids fly free or kids stay and eat free with paying adults. This can save you a load on your overall trip!
Sometimes they fall during the winter break or less popular travel times, but they are a good option if you want cheaper prices to a popular destination.
How To Budget For Family Accommodation
Aside from the cost of flights, accommodation is the other big expense for most family trips! Especially if you have a big family.
35. Do A Housesitting Swap
Have you ever considered a house swap? Trusted Housesitters and Home Exchange are both well-known sites that connect you with other travellers so that you can look at doing a housesitting swap.
This way you get the comforts of a homestay, but without the same costs that you pay for typical vacation rental sites.
They can also be a great idea if you’ve got pets that need care too!
You can find out more about what is involved in a housesitting swap at Trusted Housesitters.
36. Share A Larger Accommodation With Friends Or Family
A fantastic approach to save on lodging costs and improve the quality of your trip is to share a larger lodging with friends or family and share the costs.
We often travel with Simon’s extended family and we always look for an Airbnb or one of the vacation home booking alternatives.
This means more space, self-contained and private, compared to booking several hotel rooms.
Some of them are also dog-friendly, which is great if someone in your party is travelling with a dog.
We don’t have a dog, but we did stay in a dog-friendly home with Simon’s brother when we visited Margaret River, which meant they didn’t need to organise a dog sitter.
37. Stay In A Youth Hostel (Many Are Family Friendly)
Youth hostels aren’t just for young backpackers! Many are very family friendly and they are great options for budget accommodation.
We have stayed in many different youth hostels in Australia during our travels and some of them have been fantastic!
Family-friendly features are becoming prevalent in many youth hostels, including private family rooms, shared or private bathrooms, and common areas where families may unwind and mingle.
Youth hostels are renowned for providing cheap family accommodation. Just make sure you check that it is family-friendly before you book.
38. Stay With Friends Or Family
It’s good for your finances to stay with friends or relatives while travelling if you’re lucky enough to have such an option.
You get to benefit of having free accommodation, with the chance to spend quality time with people you love. Hopefully…
Travel Hacking Tips
Alright, let’s get into some more travel hacking tips to save more on your family travel on a budget!
39. Join Travel Reward Programs
Look into the rewards programs for travel that are provided by credit card companies, supermarkets, hotels, and airlines.
You can earn points on these programs without having to ‘travel hack’ as such, doing your everyday spending with linked rewards programs.
But you can definitely maximise those rewards with a little planning.
40. Maximise Reward Points
By strategically using travel rewards credit cards for ordinary purchases, you can increase your vacation budget.
We have two major supermarket brands here in Australia and both have rewards programs that incorporate several other businesses – department stores, hardware, office supplies etc.
Both have competitive rewards programs and loads of bonus offers that you can quickly boost up your points.
They can be redeemed for shopping dollars but also converted into rewards points for Virgin Australia or Qantas, just for doing your everyday shopping (and grabbing those relevant points boosters).
Alternatively, if you are great at managing your credit card balance each month, you can use this to your advantage.
Make everyday purchases on your reward credit card, then pay off the balance before the due date each month.
This way you’re getting extra rewards points – sometimes double dipping with your general shopping rewards programs, so you can boost your points up quicker and use them for flights, accommodation and car rental.
41. Use An Incognito/Private Browser When Searching Online
Websites are able to follow your online activity, including your travel-related searches when you browse the internet using a standard browser window.
They might utilise this information to tailor their offerings and change the pricing based on how urgent or interested you seem to be.
Not helpful when you’re trying to find cheap flights.
It doesn’t always change but sometimes the difference between your normal browser and the private browser is pretty crazy! Worth a try!
42. Kids Stay And Dine Free
These particular deals can help you save a lot on travel costs. You can often get package deals for families specifically with kid stay and dine free. Some even have kids fly free.
One less person to purchase meals for each day can add up to some great savings.
43. Use Cashback Sites
Cashback websites are useful resources for travellers on a tight budget who want to cut costs on travel-related items.
While you might not get an instant discount on your travel expenses, getting some cashback later on can still be helpful.
How they work is clicking through to their partners via the cashback app, website or with the Chrome extension installed. This creates a cookie that tells them if you made a purchase.
The cashback differs depending on the brand and if there are special boosted offers in place, however Booking.com is one that I often take advantage of the boosted cashback offers and get up to 10-15% back after the approval period (after your stay).
It’s still a way of getting money back into your pocket and can help you save up for future trips!
44. Research Travel Cards To Avoid Excessive Exchange Rate Fees
When travelling abroad, take into account prepaid travel cards with favourable exchange rates to reduce currency exchange expenses.
Before your vacation, load money onto the card, do your research, compare rates and fees, and take caution when making purchases and ATM withdrawals.
If you’re lucky enough to have a bank account that works internationally, you may be able to skip the specific travel card. See what your bank and other popular local banks offer.
Make sure you prioritise card security and have emergency backup payment methods.
45. Book When Exchange Rates Are Good
Plan your trip for a time when the currency exchange rates for your destination are on the rise.
We can’t always time things perfectly with improved exchange rates, but this is another reason why it’s worthwhile tracking these increases and dips with an app such as XE.
Be flexible with your travel dates, keep an eye on rates, and set a target rate. When prices match your target, lock in your reservations to get better prices.
When we booked our cruise on Disney Cruise Line for their first Australian season, the rates were terrible but thankfully we were able to pay off the bulk of the balance as the rates improved and the difference in total was massive compared to the initial quote.
Conclusion: Travel On A Budget With Kids
With a little pre-planning, flexibility and a few travel hacks thrown in, budget family travel is absolutely possible! There is no reason why you can’t have priceless experiences without breaking the bank, whether you’re immersing yourselves in new cultures, unwinding on a beach, or going on an outdoor adventure.