Is travel a priority for you but you just can’t see how to fit it into your budget? Families in many different financial situations seem to be able to afford to travel the world. So how do they do it?
Common and crazy ways to afford family travel
Some of these tips you might have heard before, and you might even be putting them into practice now but still can’t seem to fit travel into your budget.
Let’s be honest, the reason I can afford to travel A LOT is not that I’m picking up incredible deals on flights and hotels (though that does help), it’s because we made some BIG changes and redesigned our life.
Read on to get some new ideas on how you can prioritize travel without sending your family broke.
1. Take an expat assignment
Do you work for a company that has offices overseas?
Many global companies will provide incentives for employees to transfer abroad. These transfers can come with lucrative salary packages, travel budgets, and free accommodation.
You get to see a new area of the world and have some extra spending money to travel while you are there.
2. Travel with work and accrue points
Do you already travel with your current job or have the option to take on a role with more travel?
Many employers will allow you to collect any points from airfares and hotel stays. If you can try to accrue points with a single hotel chain such as Marriot, Accor or Hilton.
Points can then be used to pay for hotels around the world. Your frequent traveler status can also get you other perks, such as room upgrades or free breakfast.
3. Make a savings budget
Work out how much you’ll need to save for the trip that you would like to take.
Consider the cost of airfares, accommodation, rental car, travel insurance as well as daily expenses for food, entertainment, and souvenirs. Add an extra 10-20% as a buffer.
Next work backward from when you will need to pay for the trip and figure out how much you’ll need to save each paycheck.
Instead of putting the money into a separate account where it won’t earn any interest look at putting it into a mortgage offset account or in with your regular savings and keep track of the amount on a separate spreadsheet or notebook.
Knowing where you are spending your money is one of the first steps to getting control of your finances. If your finances are spiraling out of control, I recommend you start by getting some guidance with a budget advisor or by reading some personal finance blogs.
4. Downsize your house
I know this might sound drastic, but many families that prioritize travel save money by living in a smaller house or a more affordable area.
While saving a few dollars here and there on grocery store sales and skipping the odd latte does add up over time, cutting your housing costs will add up to thousands of dollars a year.
How often do you use a formal dining room, guest bedroom or basement? Spend money on things you value. How about sleeping on a sofa bed for the weekend your in-laws are visiting and giving them the master suite?
Spend your weekends traveling rather than maintaining a large house and property.
5. Try House Swapping
We’ve done several home exchanges over the past few years. While it does take a bit more work organizing and getting ready for an exchange, the cost-saving can be huge.
One of our first home exchanges was to Copenhagen in Denmark, we stayed in a central 3 bedroom apartment. Similar apartments were upwards of 200 Euro per night. We saved over 2000 euro and also had a fully functional kitchen, toys, and books for the kids, as well as insider tips from our hosts on the best places to visit.
6. Make money from your house
The house that we owned before we left New Zealand had a separate studio unit. When we didn’t have family or friends visiting we would rent the studio to tourists. When there were sporting or cultural events we could charge a premium.
I know other people that will rent their house for a few weeks a year during the peak season, they get to leave during a busy time plus get some cash to pay for accommodation elsewhere.
7. Decide on your priorities and compromise on the other stuff
Wouldn’t we would all love to stay in that central location, in a swanky hotel, eat out at every meal and purchase the VIP skip the line tickets at every attraction. Most of us will need to compromise and decide where our priorities lie.
Spend money on things that are important to you, and look at how you can save on the others, keep reading below for some ideas on how to make savings.
When saving for a trip, it helps to know all the costs.
Transport, accommodation, food, and entrance fees are some of the ordinary expenses you will have. Also, keep in mind the not so apparent expenses like travel insurance (by not having it, you risk a lot more) rental cars, luggage, checked baggage costs, airport parking, resort fees and departure tax.
You can use websites to get a rough idea of how expensive or cheap a travel destination is.
If these costs can push you over into credit card debt, you might need to spend a bit more time saving.
9. Compromise on accommodation location
For city breaks consider staying in a less expensive suburb. This works best in cities with good public transport. Choose accommodation one or two stops out from the most popular (and expensive) location.
Consider which attractions you plan on visiting and try to stay close to transport that will get you to these attractions without adding too much time (or transport costs).
Also consider the cost of parking if you are road tripping, centrally located hotels will often charge a lot for overnight parking. Stay further out and use public transport or park and ride services. Compare the cost of booking at a secure parking garage separate but close to your hotel.
You might want to take things even further and even stay in a nearby city or stay rurally and then take day trips.
For our trip to Tuscany, we stayed in an Agriturismo taking day trips to Sienna and Florence. We had a full kitchen, BBQ and large pool to use for a fraction of the cost of staying in a city.
10. Spend your first or last night in an airport hotel.
If you are flying in late for leaving early, you can often save money by staying in an airport hotel. You also have the added convenience of not needing to travel far for your flight. We have used this hack many times when on resort vacations.
To explain further. If you are staying at an all-inclusive resort, you will pay the same price per night no matter what time you leave. Say the cost is $400 per night, if you arrive at 8pm you pay $400 for that room despite not using the pool or getting to eat dinner. Staying at an airport hotel will typically cost $100 and the cost of breakfast.
We followed this plan on our trip to Dubai, this also gave us time to stop in to a supermarket on our way to the resort and stock up on drinks and snacks which weren’t included in our package.
11. Compromise on accommodation size
While a separate bedroom for each child might be ideal, if the budget is tight, consider how much space is absolutely necessary. Those traveling with a baby might want an extra sleeping area so that the baby can nap and sleep undisturbed.
If you can’t all sleep in one room consider different sleeping arrangements to see what works for your family:
- baby in with parents and toddler in their own room,
- or older kids with parents and baby separate,
- parents in the living room and kids in the master.
- Sometimes walk-in wardrobes and entrance ways can be turned into baby rooms.
Now my kids are older we sleep fine all in one hotel room, I go for extra space when it fits our budget.
Check out this post on the pros and cons of Airbnb vs VRBO
12. Credit card travel hacking
Using credit cards is a whole topic in itself. There are many large websites that are dedicated to travel hacking. You can really deep dive to ultra-optimise this strategy.
Some people manage to pay for up to 90% of their hotel and flight costs by using credit card awards points.
You will need to put in some time in researching the right card and how to get the best value out of the points.
If you love research, spreadsheets and getting a great deal, plus have the time to put into it, then credit card travel hacking could be your path to affordable family travel.
13. Accumulate frequent flyer miles
If you are not living in the USA you won’t have many options for credit cards that can earn you miles.
You can earn frequent flier miles without credit cards.
The fastest way is to join the miles program of your preferred carrier. Maybe you fly frequently to visit family or for your work.
The points that you earn can be put towards a vacation flight in the future.
Other ways you can earn are by booking hotels and rental cars through affiliated companies. You can even earn frequent flier points at some stores.
A word of warning: consumer studies have shown that people will spend more to get points than if they had shopped around to get a better deal elsewhere. Know much each point is worth and if you can save money shopping elsewhere, take the saving and pocket the cash.
14. Visit friends and family
Accommodation is a considerable cost, so if you have the opportunity to stay with friends and family take it. If you have a relative or friend that has moved abroad typically they will welcome visitors. I know from our own experience living abroad that visitors from home are a special treat. We always love seeing a familiar face in an unfamiliar land, a little piece of home on our doorstep.
We love showing people around our favorite places and sharing new foods. Getting to experience a destination with someone that is living there is always a richer experience.
15. Travel in off-peak
If you have preschool-age children or home school take advantage of traveling outside of school holidays while you can.
Peak travel times are usually school and government holidays, this can be in your destination or the destination that the majority of the tourists travel from.
Sometimes it is obvious when the peak season is sometimes you need to did a little deeper. For theme parks like Disney use can use an online crowd calendar to look at the expected crowds on a certain day.
16. Set up a flight watch
Start tracking your travel dates to catch discounts and special fares.
To do this search for your flight on Skyscanner and then set up an email alert to be emailed when the price of your flight drops. I recommend adding in some filters like the length of the flight and how many stopovers. A $100 drop on a 40 hour flight to get somewhere 5 hours away might not be worth the savings!
Hopper is another app that you can use to track flights, it also tells you if the current price seems like a good deal.
17. Consider a package holiday
Your local travel agent might also have some exclusive deals they can offer you.
Airlines like Southwest often do good package holidays and if you want to DIY you can get some good deals on sites like Expedia.
18. Shop around to afford travel
Shopping around does take time, but you can get some significant savings.
Best hotel deals:
Watch out for cleaning and booking fees as well as taxes which might not show up in the original quoted price. It can sometimes be hard to compare websites when one listed nightly price includes tax, and the other doesn’t.
Cheap rental Cars:
If you are in the USA a Costco membership is worth it just for the rental car savings (which include free cancellation and usually a free additional driver). If you are out of the USA then rentalcars.com usually has the best savings. Booking direct with the car rental company is always my preference, only use a 3rd party if you are getting a discounted price.
19. Self-cater to save money
Just making one meal a day with ingredients purchased at a grocery store could save you hundreds of dollars over a week-long vacation.
Pack a few staples into your luggage like your favorite spice blend, some tea bags, and ground coffee. If you are a coffee lover, invest in an Aeropress, this little gadget is light and compact and makes café quality coffee, just add hot water. Nanopress is a more expensive travel espresso maker that uses pods.
While some travelers like to get inventive with their hotel room cooking, think boiled eggs in the coffee pot, it really isn’t necessary. There are so many ready to go, easy to prepare, and shelf-stable foods available.
I love collapsible bowls for serving up granola or instant oats.
20. Get a side hustle
This buzz word seems to be popping up everywhere at the moment. A side hustle is a form of making money outside of your regular job. Side hustles come in all shapes and sizes from odd jobs to corporate companies.
A good way to start earning some side hustle money is to do what you already do for a paid job for a few extra hours per week (check the tax and insurance implications).
Another way to earn some side hustle money is to sell off unused items of value that you have hanging around, clearing the clutter might be the first step to downsizing after all!