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The holiday: an essential, if brief, break from the everyday stresses of life when you can shift the focus away from the daily routine and enjoy time with their friends and family (or argue with them). But it’s not all fun and games. The cost of a break in the sun has been climbing steadily with airlines audaciously lining their pockets with ever more ridiculous surcharges. However, your holiday does not have to break the family budget so long as the correct steps are taken to set an affordable budget and every possible means of saving money has been explored.
Follow these suggestions to stretch your budget to the maximum and have a great break at the same time!
1. Family Meeting
If you’re travelling in a large party with more than one family, it’s advisable to meet up and plan the break. Everyone will have ideas about the best way to have a great time, yet because of the probable disparity in disposable income within a large group, acceptable costs will have to be debated and agreed on. Open conversations at this early stage can prevent a lot of the problems that plague group family holidays from ever happening. You won’t regret it.
2. Set a Spending Budget
A categorised travel budget will be easier to set and control than a lump sum. Build the budget based on accurate prices for accommodation, transportation, meals and entertainment. The added bonus is that age-appropriate spending responsibility can help children to understand the value of money when they spend some of their own money for snacks and souvenirs. Teaching kids about money isn’t easy, but this practical technique will definitely help.
3. Travel Off-season
Instead of travelling during the most popular weeks of the year, try to schedule trips during times that are slower. The problem with this is that school holidays often make it difficult, if not impossible, to be flexible without drawing the ire of teachers. However, the truth is that resorts, airlines and venues offer deals to win customers when their business bookings decrease in the off-season and travel packages can be as much as 30 percent cheaper outside peak seasons. Here’s one tip: if you don’t mind flying long-haul you might be able to take advantage of the slower off-season deals in another hemisphere.
4. Air Travel vs. Cars and Trains
If your destination is (within reason) accessible by car or train, attractions along the way can add enjoyment to what will most likely be a longer journey. When a large party is travelling together, trips by train are often much less expensive than paying for flights and myriad surcharges. For remote areas where a rental car would be required, road travel might be much less expensive than the combination of airline tickets and a rental car.
The variety of places to stay is almost immeasurable depending on the travel destination. One excellent way to save money is to find a place to stay that has a fully-equipped kitchen. Breakfast is one of the most expensive meals to eat in a restaurant. When refrigeration is available, lunch can be packed and carried in a cooler to reduce the cost of feeding the family during the day. Hardcore road warriors like Paul Carr advise avoiding websites like Expedia and Travelocity as they take a cut and calling the hotel to get a direct deal. I’ve tried it and it definitely works.
6. Cash vs. Credit Card
Control over spending can be achieved by using one credit card for all expenditures associated with the trip. It’s well worth withdrawing cash in one lump sum to avoid multiple ATM fees and foreign exchange fees – they all add up. If you do do this, make good use of your hotel’s safe!
7. Buy in Bulk
Assuming you’ve got accommodation with a kitchen, go to the local hypermarket and purchase drinks and snacks in bulk – pile them high, sell them cheap is a retail strategy all round the world.
8. Use a Cooler
Snacks, drinks and lunch can be kept cool by keeping fresh ice in a high-quality cooler. You could even hide a few treats in the cooler each day so no one is tempted to stock up at convenience stores, which tend to be expensive. Even if you decide to eat at a restaurant once per day, costs can be reduced by planning ahead, and book a table at one of the cheaper restaurants where the locals eat.
9. Free Entertainment
Parks, beaches, playgrounds and hotel pools are great free places to go where everyone can have fun, although if you’re in Florida with your family it may be hard to sell them on the idea of a day at the beach as opposed to a day at Disney World.
10. Coupons, Sales and Deals
Contact local tourism offices to get any deals and discounts on the local attractions and restaurants. It’ll only take you a few minutes, but can save you a lot of money as opposed to paying the rack rate everywhere you decide to go.