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Family Travel on a Budget – Here’s How You Do It

March 08, 2023

Family Travel on a Budget – Here’s How You Do It

Well, well, well, looks like my little rugrats and I won't be embarking on any grand adventures anytime soon. Why, you ask? Oh, it's just because I'm about as rich as a pauper's pocket. And with the cost of living crisis, you know.... But, you know what they say, money can't buy happiness... or plane tickets.

And let me tell you, I'm not alone in this struggle. Lots of folks out there think family vacations are a pipe dream, reserved only for the elite. But listen up, amigos, because I've got a secret to share: most of the time, that's just a bunch of hogwash! So go ahead and pack those bags, grab the kiddos, and hit the road. Trust me, you won't regret it! Here's some of our money saving tips when traveling en famille where we will explore tips and tricks for family travel on a budget.

  1. Plan Ahead

Planning ahead is one of the best ways to save money on family travel. Start by deciding on your travel dates and destination well in advance. This will give you time to research and find the best deals on flights, accommodation, and activities.

It's also a good idea to create a budget for your trip and stick to it. Consider factors such as transportation, lodging, food, and activities when setting your budget. Keep in mind that you may need to make some trade-offs to stay within your budget.

Points: have you been using your American Express to accumulate those precious Amex Points? Did you know you can exchange these points with a plethors of travel companies, airlines, hotels & car rentals to snag not only free flights, but money off the travel neccessities like car rental, hotel rooms etc. It's not only about collecting Avios for a first class round trip (of which there are always very few available), leverage your points against pretty much all your holiday expenditure. An example of this is shown here:

This 2 week family rental car in Los Angeles would've cost £467.40 if paying in cash, this care with another provider (i.e not being a member of American Express, where there is already a saving built in), would have cost at least £100+ more picking the car up at LAX airport. But even better, if you have enough points, you can redeem them against the cost of the car rental instead, so this car costs £0 and 103K Amex Points!

save money on family car rental with American Express

  1. Be Flexible with Your Travel Dates

If you want to save some serious dough on flights and accommodation, it's time to get flexible.

No, I'm not talking about contorting your body into a pretzel (although, that might impress your travel companions). I'm talking about being open to some unconventional travel dates.

If you can ditch the rigid "I must leave on a Friday" mindset, you'll be amazed at the deals you can snag. Travel during the shoulder season, which is basically the awkward time between high and low season, and you'll likely see some significant savings.

But wait, there's more! Want to save even more cash? Try traveling mid-week instead of on the weekends. Yeah, I know, it's not as glamorous as jet-setting off on a Friday night, but think of all the money you'll be saving.

So, if you're willing to be a little flexible, you'll be rewarded with some seriously sweet deals. Who knows, you might even have enough left over to splurge on that extra fancy umbrella drink.

By being flexible with your travel dates and taking advantage of off-season prices, you'll be racking up those airmiles, faster than you can say "in-flight snack." And let's be real, who doesn't love free flights and upgrades?

So, don't forget to cash in those airmiles, Avios, Virgin Frequent Flyer Points or American Express points (which convert to 15+ airlines and partners) and give your wallet a much-needed break. With a little bit of flexibility and some smart planning, you'll be able to travel like a boss without breaking the bank.

Whilst on the topic of flights with the children, it's a scary prospect, but we can help - check out our previous blog: 

Surviving a Family Flight: Tips & Tricks for Keeping Kids Entertained

  1. Choose Your Destination Wisely

If you're tired of choosing between eating ramen noodles for a month or skipping vacation altogether, we've got a solution for you.

Now, I know it's tempting to just take a quick road trip to the nearest state or pop over to France for some croissants, but hold up! You might be missing out on some serious budget-friendly gems.

Believe it or not, some far-off lands in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and even Europe are actually perfect for family travel on a shoestring budget. That's right, you don't have to sacrifice your life savings just to enjoy some new experiences.

Sure, your flight might be a bit pricey, but trust us, once you get there, your wallet will breathe a sigh of relief. And who knows, you might even end up spending less than you would on a "normal" vacation.

So, take our advice and choose your destination wisely. Forget about the same-old-same-old and go for something exotic. Who knows, you might end up walking on a beach in Malaysia instead of just dreaming about it!

  1. Consider Alternative Accommodations

First up, vacation rentals. These bad boys offer more space and amenities than your standard hotel room, and can be a great option for families. Plus, if you're lucky, you might find some killer deals on promotions for vacation rentals. Just imagine having a whole house to yourselves for less than the cost of a hotel room - talk about living the dream! Obviously the cost of Air BNB has substantially risen in recent years as more people use it, but there are alternatives, such as Travel Nest, Lodgify & Plum Guide.

If you're not sold on vacation rentals, how about hostels? Yeah, I know, the word "hostel" might conjure up images of smelly backpackers and questionable hygiene, but hear me out. Many hostels offer private rooms and shared spaces, which can be a total steal compared to a hotel. And who knows, you might end up meeting some cool travelers from around the world.

Last but not least, camping. Yep, you heard me right. Don't knock it till you've tried it! National parks offer some seriously beautiful camping facilities, and it's a fun and memorable way to experience the great outdoors. Plus, you'll save a ton of money compared to a fancy resort.

If you are an American Express card holder, the points you accrue can also be exchnaged for hotel stays, they partner with the likes of Marriott Bonvey (who own The W, Ritz Carlton and some other high end resorts), but also Hilton & Radisson Blu, whee you can severly bring down the cost of your stay with your well earned loyalty points. 

Look at the savings to be had:

american express marriott bonvey points

I also have another cheat tactic for you, but don't tell anyone! If you have a family member or friend who is part of a large hotel group such as Marriott Bonvey, they often have a friends & family promo code, which can sometimes be a huge discount on the room rates. So buddy up with your pal and they can maybe share their promo code with you!

  1. Cook Your Own Meals

Eating out can be a total money pit, especially when you're traveling with a whole pack of hungry wolves (ahem, I mean, family members). So, why not channel your inner Gordon Ramsay and cook up a storm in your own kitchen?

Sure, staying in accommodation with a kitchen might sound like a snooze fest, but think of all the delicious meals you could whip up! And let's be real, there's something super satisfying about creating a gourmet feast on a budget. Plus, you'll have plenty of leftovers to munch on throughout your trip.

But wait, there's more! Don't forget about the wonders of street food vendors. Not only are they delicious, but they're also budget-friendly. Just imagine indulging in a piping hot bowl of noodles or sizzling skewers of meat for a fraction of the cost of a fancy restaurant. Plus, you'll get to experience the local cuisine in all its authentic glory.

tuk tuk tour bangkok street food family friendly

And if you're really feeling fancy, why not pack a portable stove and cook up a storm on the go? You'll be the envy of all your fellow travelers with your culinary skills.

  1. Take Advantage of Free Activities

Save your hard-earned cash for something important like a giant souvenir fridge magnet or a neon-colored t-shirt with a hilarious pun!

National parks are a goldmine for free activities like hiking, bird-watching, and even squirrel-chasing (just make sure they're friendly squirrels). And if you're feeling artsy, many cities offer free or low-cost museums where you can appreciate fine art without having to pawn off your grandma's pearls.

But why stay indoors when you can soak up some Vitamin D? Beaches, parks, and outdoor activities are often free or cheap as chips. Just don't forget your sunscreen, because sunburn is not a souvenir you want to take home.

  1. Use Public Transportation

Forget about renting a fancy car or hailing a limo like a celebrity - why not hop on a bus or train instead?

Not only will you save some serious cash, but you'll also get to experience the local culture up close and personal. Just imagine soaking up the sights and sounds of Bangkok's bustling streets from the comfort of a tuk-tuk or zipping around NYC on the subway (although avoid this late at night).

And if you're feeling adventurous, why not give your legs a workout and explore on foot or by bike? Many cities offer affordable bike-sharing programs, so you can pedal your way through town like a pro cyclist (minus the spandex, of course). 

Many major cities also have a plethora of options for rental bikes, e-scooters and also e-bikes. Companies such as Lime, Bird and even Uber make the process super simple from an app on your phone, linked to your Apple Pay.


So there you have it folks, the ultimate guide to family travel on a budget. Now you can save some serious cash and avoid the dreaded post-vacation credit card bill. With these tips, you'll be able to afford that extra scoop of gelato or even upgrade to the slightly less uncomfortable seats on the airplane. Happy travels, and don't forget to send us a postcard (or at least a funny meme)!


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