SUMMER holiday time, and whether you are going away for a break or staying at home, it doesn’t need to cost the earth for your family to have fun.
You need to plan well ahead and understand where the savings are, particularly if you have a tribe of children and don’t want to constantly hear the traditional family holiday chant, “I’m bored”.
For the Koch family of four kids, we went into shock when our eldest turned 12 and we were told on most airlines she had to go onto an adult’s fare. Thanks very much. It got even worse as the other three children passed this same milestone.
Summer holidays are fast approaching and, while you should be organised by now to get the real bargains, there are still plenty of ways to keep holidays costs under control.
Rent an apartment instead of a hotel room
Where you stay makes a huge difference in total vacation price. Opting for an apartment, cabin or beach shack rental instead of a hotel room not only saves money but, typically, offers more space and flexibility.
We’ve found we can rent an apartment for, say, $150 per night, whereas two hotel rooms would be $300 per night. We’re cutting the cost in half and also get a nice living room with space for the kids.
Start your search on homesharing sites www.airbnb.com.au and www.stayz.com.au where it’s easy to filter for certain preferences, including number of bedrooms and proximity to public transportation. Even Trip Advisor’s website has a similar home/apartment rental search engine.
If you do stay at a hotel, avoid the buffet breakfast unless it’s included for free. Breakfast is a hotel’s most profitable meal … and your biggest waste of money. While $25 per person might not seem outrageous, it adds up quickly. Pick up staples like yoghurt, cereal, and fruit from a supermarket instead … the kids won’t care and your wallet will thank you.
Having an apartment with a kitchen lets you cook meals instead of always going out to restaurants. Making your own breakfast and lunch will leave some money over if you want to go out for dinner.
Some restaurants offer bargain rates during slow times, so by changing routine and eating the main meal at lunch or an early dinner before 6pm, restaurant bills can be cut considerably.
Choose activities carefully
Don’t over commit to a hectic (and expensive) schedule. A bit of planning goes a long way.
A Koch tradition is always a hop-on-hop-off bus tour as soon as we arrive in a new city. It provides a good quick whiz around the most famous sites and an opportunity to see which ones are worth coming back to.
The bus guide, and local tourist brochures, will provide a good idea of the popular free attractions and tips on where to buy cheap tickets to shows. Remember that if you have little kids, they often lose their stamina after a couple of hours so big, expensive all day tours will be a waste.
Mix paid activities, like museums, with simple, relaxing free ones, such as a day at the pool or exploring a local park. Even with museums check Trip Advisor to see whether they have free entry after, say, 4pm which may leave two hours to have a look. We used to do this a lot to see whether a museum was worth coming back and paying for a longer look.
Instead of aiming to take a bunch of quick trips as you might with a spouse or friend, it’s more cost effective to take fewer, longer vacations with the family. Once you’ve sunk the money into getting there, the cost per day goes down the longer you’re away.
Longer vacations also play into budget-conscious strategies like buying groceries and lounging by the pool because there’s no pressure to fit every restaurant and activity into a few days.
Visit during shoulder season
Visiting somewhere just a few weeks before, or after, peak times can result in cheaper accommodation options and reduced-price admissions to attractions.
This trick streamlines the entire planning process and has a ripple effect. By choosing to travel six to eight weeks before or after high season, you save money on everything from flights and accommodation, to car rentals and sightseeing.
Pay attention to exchange rates
If travelling internationally, pay close attention to exchange rates, which can drastically alter the price.
Find a country with a weaker currency than the Aussie dollar … it will be like everything is on sale.
Make use of travel cards, from most banks or financiers, to load up the currencies you need over the year leading up to a big trip. Watch the currency movements and buy when they become attractive.
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