Steven and Chris

Family Holiday On A Budget

Planning a family holiday on a budget can sound like an oxymoron. But it is possible! Travel expert, Kathy Buckworth, shares 10 great tips to help you stay on track while you're planning and while you're away on holiday.

1. Set a Budget and Research Online Within It

Go to amalgamated travel sites but also visit individual airline, hotel and resort sites for special deals. Make a spreadsheet of all the costs, and what it includes, that fit within your budget. Start with basic categories like "ski", "sun", "cottage", or "Europe", for example. Look for places where kids are free to stay, or free to eat. Have some options for comparison purposes.

2. Book Off-Season

If the kids are not yet school age, Kathy Buckworth: Plan Family Holiday on Budgetor can miss a few days, book outside of summer vacation, Christmas break and March break. Visiting a ski resort in their "shoulder seasons" (fall or spring) can be great. Hiking, biking, mini-golf, swimming pools, all at deep discounted rates. Also airlines have peak flying times, within the day or week. Look for less convenient flying times, connecting flights, if the kids (and you!) can take it.

3. Use Your Points Program

Automatically airline points come to mind, but check the balance of your other points programs - grocery ones in particular, where you can cash in points for gift cards which you can use before you go for clothes, luggage, and on the road for meals, hotels, generic credit card, etc. Many credit cards also offer travel booking services where you can earn reward points as well.

4. Buy Tickets for Attractions and Admissions Online and In Advance

It starts with a schedule of what you want to see and do at your destination. A schedule will help keep you on budget (no spontaneous bookings) and buying tickets online before you go spreads out the cost over a few months, versus all on one bill, but also there are great deals for online purchases. Once there, you'll also save time in line as you already have your tickets.

5. Check All-Inclusive Details and Look For Hidden Fees

Are you sure the Kids Club is included? All drinks, and all restaurants? Some all inclusives offer one buffet restaurant "included" and the other (usually nicer) sit down restaurants come with an extra fee. Water sports can also cost more, so if you've promised the kids they'll be doing those, make sure it fits in your budget or look for a spot where they are included.

And make sure you don't blow your budget once you get to your destination!

6. Meals!

If you've been able to get a room with a kitchenette, you're in luck and can save a lot on eating in. Breakfasts and lunch is especially easy, but dinner can be done as well. If you don't have a kitchen in your room, you can always stock up on breads, grains and fruits to make for an easy in-room breakfast and avoid the cost of an expensive buffet (unless you are at an all inclusive). Sometimes renting a flat or apartment can make more sense, even if the up front costs seem more, when you include eating out all the time when in a hotel room, it can be less expensive. Look for Early Bird and "Kids Eat Free" specials and remember that many restaurants serve huge portions, so order to share, not per person. If the kids are little, order for them, and as they get older, get them to decide who will share what/with whom, within a few choices you provide for them. For airline travel, buy snacks at the grocery store and avoid the cost of food onboard or in the airport. Pack an empty water bottle to fill once past security.

7. Stick to Your Schedule

"But we're on vacation!" Adults probably say this more than kids, but the appeal of spending more, eating more, and doing more is always there. Fight the impulse by trying to stick to a pretty strict schedule which ties directly to your budget. If you discover something new you'd like to do or try, eliminate another activity or event in order to make room in your schedule and budget. Take a family vote.

8. Beware of Your Mobile Devices--All Of Them

Do your research before traveling to make sure you'll have WiFi access if you need to stay in touch while you are away. Check your plan with your provider to see how much it might cost you to talk/text and access data. Investigate getting a sim card for your phone where you are traveling to, or just decide to go completely off the grid and avoid any additional costs. Check the kids' phones too.

9. Pick Up Local Papers and Look For Local Free Events

Once you've booked into the hotel, walk around and pick up a local paper or check out public flyers to see what events are on for families in parks, town squares, etc. Museum rates are often great in the off season, and sometimes free, but consider making a small donation if you visit.

10. Revisit Your Budget But Stay Within It

Make sure you take stock of what you are spending in cash, your credit card, and other payment methods. Track it to see if you have room for an extra activity, but also to stay on track and not have a nasty surprise when the bills arrive once you get home. Watch your currency exchange and check to see what your credit card company would be charging versus getting the local currency.

The Live Well Network
Knock It Off!
Mirror/Mirror
Live Big with Ali Vincent
My Family Recipe Rocks!
Food Rush
We Owe What?
Let's Dish
Deals
Mexico: One Plate at a Time
Home with Lisa Quinn
Hiring America
Children's Programming
The Chew
Military Makeover
The Balancing Act