Practical ideas for amazing family vacations that won’t break the bank.
Holidays are some of the most significant peak experiences in any family and more often than not, these are the moments that create those core memories in our lives. If you value your vacations together then it is a good idea to plan ahead and get creative to make them longer and more significant.
The first thing to understand is that a family holiday is a group activity and its success will depend on how well each person’s wants and needs are met. One unhappy member can easily ruin the enjoyment of everyone else and whilst you can’t please everyone all of the time, with careful planning you can balance the experience for you all.
An important first step is to understand what family members think would make the break a win for them. What activities would they like to do? What is the overall vibe they would like? Relaxed or action packed? Eating in or out? The more information that you have, the better chance of designing a great break.
Another obvious set of factors are the time available, season and of course your budget. Once you have all of that you can consider some of these ideas to create your perfect holiday.
Close to home
You can save a lot of money and lengthen your holiday by not travelling too far from home. Check local tourism organisations for locations within a few hours of home and I often recommend checking guides designed for travelers to get some great ideas. I’m consistently surprised by how many activities I do while interstate or overseas that I have never done in my own backyard. Less time travelling is more time relaxing and enjoying!
Another holiday growing in popularity is the ‘staycation’ where you simply sleep at home but spend extra money on activities in your own town or city. Team up with extended family or friends and make it a social affair taking turns to choose and coordinate activities. Shared meals add to the fun and you can often get some excellent group discounts.
If you are feeling crazy, what about a house swap with friends on the other side of town? Leave a list of favourite activities and surprise your guests with just how fabulous your suburb can be.
Miss the peaks
School holidays are always peak times and the reality is that most families can’t really avoid taking their breaks then. If you are heading away in term breaks you can still save some money by avoiding the seasonal factors and crowds. For example, spring is peak season at Uluru but it is still spectacular in Winter or even Easter.
Booking a long way ahead is probably the best tip for cheaper accommodation and travel with many destinations offering deep discounts when booking 6-12 months ahead. Ironically if you can’t book that far ahead, you can sometimes also get great accommodation deals on the last minute systems.
Save on food
Meals can be almost as expensive as accommodation or transport for many vacations. If you are staying somewhere like a resort its often a great money saving tip to include breakfast for what is often a small extra charge. Eating a big breakfast means that you often only need snacks through to dinner. Looking for accommodation with a kitchen can drastically reduce your overall holiday costs as you can buy and prepare your own meals. Even just taking your own coffee plunger can save $20 each day.
Use crowd sharing apps
Services like Airbnb or Uber can significantly lower your costs in many cases for accommodation and transport respectively. If you are new to these services they simplify the process of finding services in people’s private homes and cars. It’s not for everyone but worth considering if you are looking for a different experience.
Discounts and offers
Many activities offer discounts on pamphlets in the foyers of hotels and at tourist information centres. It is worth dropping in to see how much you could save by simply picking up a discount code or coupon. In many cases, there are packages too which allow visitors to one attraction a discount when moving onto another.
A favourite traveler strategy is to allocate a budget to each day of the vacation and keep an accurate record of your spending. On the surface it is limiting, but the reality is that budgets free us to spend our money where we want to and it keeps us from blowing out and regretting it later. A creative approach can be to have ‘cheap’ days and therefore release some more money for ‘splurge’ days. It helps to set family expectations on some days to be more low-key which saves money and also allows more relaxing time between high energy days.
Plan free activities
There are so many cheap or free activities that it is often possible to keep costs to a minimum and just pay for food, transport and accommodation. Plan a bushwalk or head to the beach for the day. As a general rule, most people love novel activities so by simply being creative you can have an exciting vacation.
Packing a tent and heading to the great outdoors is almost always the cheapest getaway on offer so if you are needing a break without the cost, head to a location where you can have some basic facilities and plenty of activities for the kids. Living in tents can be intense so make sure you plan it well and think through everything you will need to avoid it becoming an anti-holiday!
Holidays can be super fun and relaxing but they don’t have to cost the earth. Hopefully with a little planning and creativity you can create some fabulous memories and get a little bit refreshed at the same time.