Cost Saving Ideas for Families Who Travel

Travelling is an expensive hobby. Cost saving as a travelling family can be difficult. My husband will tell you how much money we spend for me to be allowed topics for my blog. I myself think we travel first and the content comes from the experience. So I experience and then blog, not experience to blog. There are many ways as a family you can save here and there to make the whole adventure more palatable.

Time your trip

If you have small children – absolutely do not travel in school term. The difference in hotel rates may only be marginal but the airfares can be as much as double of the times outside of school holidays or school holiday shoulder periods. Most deals will have blackout periods of school holiday periods. Shoulder periods have the added advantage of missing the crowds. It’s a win win situation really.

We are taking our eldest out of school next week for a holiday and it is not something I thought I would do. He doesn’t cope with missing school so we have greatly avoided it until now. We now feel he is able to cope with the time out of school, or maybe it’s me that can cope with the guilt I will be fed for the coming months of how he missed this and that because of me. The flight difference for a family of four was half price comparative to 3 weeks later when the school holidays start.

On the plane

Consider packing lunches and snacks for the plane. You can’t land with this food but you are expecting to consume it on the plane anyway. Many of the cheap flights these days do not provide meals and you need to purchase them. I find many of them don’t have enough stock so if you are in the back rows you get nothing.
Consider packing Vegemite (yes, showing my country of birth) and some individual packets of snacks – rice crackers, popcorn and some sweet biscuits. I do try to avoid anything that is going to give a sugar high on any flight regardless of whether it is an hour or longer. I always pack water bottles but all the airlines have different rules as to how much so be prepared for it to be emptied in some places.

cost saving ideas

Rent a house over hotel

If you are a family of more than 4 people you may need to have 2 rooms in a hotel. Simply comes down to number of people v’s size of rooms and access to the fire escape. Have you seen how squishy some of these rooms are when you add a roller bed? Serious logistical to challenge to move around and get to the bathroom.
I find a house is better for longer stays but a hotel is great for shorter stays. We stayed in a hotel last week and not only could I not buy milk and put in the minibar as it was close to full, I forgot. When it came to bedtime the children were already in their pyjamas and lying I bed when the request for milk was made. The nearest convenience store was at least a 10 minute trip out and back and I couldn’t leave the children in the hotel room to get this. So, I had to order from room service at a cost of $6.00 per glass and $8.00 delivery charge. A house on the other hand would have a fridge ready for you to add these items.
The question is really do you want to shop and cook or do you not want to have to do that. Shopping in a foreign country is both an adventure but also difficult. How long you are there for is how you answer the question?

cost saving ideas

There is an app for that

That old tagline is really true. There is an app to find parks and playgrounds close to where you are staying. You can use an app to find restaurants and local businesses. Tourist points of interest can also be found using an app. Use the ones you like and you will be able to find things that interest you. Use the deal apps to then help you find discount vouchers and codes for packages to these places of interest. Often overseas visitors are able to get better deals than locals if they purchase a bundle deal.

Phone and data

In the states it is possible to rent a Wi-Fi point for as little as $20 for 4 days or so. Remember in the states there is free Wi-Fi everywhere. We stayed in Santa Monica and the phone would use free Wi-Fi in the hotel grounds and as soon as we left the City of Santa Monica has free Wi-Fi also. Contrary to that Disney didn’t have Wi-Fi. Consider using a local sim card. Do your research prior. Global roaming charges are a ridiculous way to spend money. Some hotels in Singapore will lend you a handset with Wi-Fi to help you find your way around and be able to look up information as you tour the city.

Purchase tickets in advance for discounts

There are two ways to strategise how to get discounted rates for tickets. One is purchase in advance for deals. The other is check last-minute offerings. The later means you run the risk of missing out – for example Alcatraz in San Francisco needs to be booked a month before but there is an opportunity to fill the no-shows if you wait at the boat departure at some ungodly time in the morning. Work out what you can’t moss and what you are happy to justify. My girlfriend just went to Thailand and she haggled for the four tickets on a tour of Phi Phi island (made famous with a James Bond movie) and yet her husband would have paid regardless as it was something he wanted to do and experience. In this instance there are so many tour operators that she was unlikely to miss out.

cost saving ideas

Pack snacks during the day.

One of the most excessive expenditure on holidays is not necessarily meals but snacks. Try to pick a few things from the buffet at breakfast that can be snacked on during the day. Find a convenience store to pack snacks. Call into the grocery store and buy some snacks to last throughout your activities. My children suffer from hanger (hungry anger) and I definitely need to feed them often to ensure happiness survives.

Pack an insulated water bottle.

You may think packing a stainless steel water bottle is heavy and when you are carrying 2-3 for the family they do add weight quickly. We spent close to $400 on water at Disneyland last year. It was close to 40 degrees (Celsius) and the plastic bottles would just get hot straight away. The water from the bubbler was not chilled and we couldn’t buy ice. Each adult drinks between 1-2 litres a day without heat, with heat more. That’s close to 6-8 water bottles before the children have had any. All of that adding to landfill. In Malaysia all these water bottles end up in the ocean, or on the beaches. Say no to plastic and lump the added weight you are carrying. A good stainless steel water bottle will hopefully by less likely to leak!

cost saving ideas

Happy Hour

You are on holidays and it is likely you would like to have cocktail or two. In Hawaii we discovered the happy hour if each bar and moved between the two. Don’t worry it meant maybe 3 cocktails in total so were still capable and functional to look after our children. What it did mean is that standard or traditional cocktails may be reduced in price but often a pre-mixed special added for as little as $2 or $3 in some places.

Grocery store

Search for a grocery store and try to get a meal from the store. Whole Foods do an amazing array of salads and fruit which are suitable for picnic style eating. Travelling within Australia, a hot chook from the supermarket, rolls and a treat are welcomed. Café food 3 times a day doesn’t suit my children and I am sure many others. They like to eat plainer style food. Plus a chicken and rolls is about $15 as opposed to a single meal in a cafe for what may be a mediocre meal.

Renting a car

Do you really need a car? Can you get there another mode? Try to rent from an office that is not at the airport. Airport rates are nearly always higher. We rented a car last year to drive from Los Angeles to San Diego. We would have been much better off to fly to San Diego (a 40 minute trip) and hire from there. Not because it was so expensive, there just wasn’t a lot to see on the way. American highways are very dull and you need to veer off considerably to see the sights. We returned the car in Anaheim as we walked everywhere. We hired one again in Oahu and returned it once we got to Waikiki as we could walk again.

Another point with cars – they say get a smaller one to bring the cost down. Get one that will fit you and your luggage. A family with luggage can be considerable. We have a suitcase each and a carry-on each. That is 8 bags! A mid-size car was packed trying to fit all our stuff with a pram and a car seat. We ended up leaving the pram in a car park in Oahu after buying the boys some souvenirs and not able to fit in the car.
Make sure you have insurance. Not being adequately insured in a foreign country could be a life changing decision.


Buy authentic. Go for collectibles. Buy a piece of clothing (other than a t-shirt) that they can wear. My sons bought North Shore sweaters in Oahu and they wear them everywhere! My husband wears his Boston Sox hat everywhere. I wear my turtle bracelet a lot. Set a budget for the holiday. My children had a couple of hundred $ when in USA last year. A combination of a generous grandmother and birthdays a few weeks before leaving. Surprisingly they didn’t want stuff at Disneyland, a few small things but they bought loads of things in Oahu. Beginning vs end of trip may have been a factor! I try to buy something decorative for the house. Little dishes, cushion covers, or something I can display and actually remember my holiday from.

Travel insurance

Be smart. Shop around and be aware of child brands to other brands. Your travel agent makes a huge commission getting travel insurance so shop around. Certainly look online but be sure you are reading the fine print. Does this cover car or the activities you will be doing. Be smart.
Click here for a ink to help you find the right insurance.

There are many more ways to save than what I have suggested. It all depends on what level of adventure and comfort you are happy to settle for. What type of traveller are you? Are you able to wing it in places or do you need to have all your accommodation booked? Backpacking and camping are all possible for families you just need to shop around for places that will take families. You may need to mix expensive with budget. When we stayed at Anaheim we went with budget as we were only in the room to sleep, we didn’t think it was worth justifying a larger more expansive room if we were not in it. Take these into consideration and you will find you can save some money just with this alone.


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Jessica Brown says:

    Great article as I embark on trip planning for July next year. Can you recommend any sites/apps that you think are great for cheaper flights or a accommodation?

    1. Support says:

      I will compile a list for you as soon as possible.

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