Hello and welcome to our Budget Travel Tips blog. Do you often spend your days dreaming of distant lands or wondering how you’re going to save for that next big adventure? I know we do! In this Budget Travel Tips blog we hope that you will find all you need to help you get the best savings for your next holiday. Whether you book a European city break or a family holiday in the Lake District, these tips will help you bag that ultimate bargain vacation or staycation.
Have we missed something important? Do you have a travel tip of your own? If you would like to leave your own ‘ultimate budget travel tips’ in the comments below, we’ll add these to our ‘Readers Top Tips’ blog…coming shortly.
1. BOOK EARLY
Good things come to those who book early and for us booking early is vitally important. When you have children you are past the ‘last minute-allocation on arrival’ bargain holiday. If, like us, you’ve done your research and know exactly where you want to go, get it booked! By booking early you often get the pick of the hotels before the rest of the country has even opened a travel brochure! Being on the ball is extremely important when it comes to booking flights for D-I-Y holidays. Budget airlines like EasyJet and Ryanair usually offer the best price when flights are first released. Mummy and Daddy often sit up until the early hours of the morning in anticipation of cheap flights being released. If you plan on booking a popular destination or are needing flights during school holidays, flight and accommodation searching in the early hours has it’s advantages.
In 2016 we decided that we wanted to spend Christmas in Lapland and so spent weeks stalking Skyscanner and Norwegian Air for the release of flights. It’s safe to say that we were one of the first to book flights from Dublin to Helsinki with Norwegian Air. Although, when we booked the outbound flight the return flights hadn’t yet been released, it was a chance we were willing to take to grab that flight bargain…definitely not a plan for the faint hearted!
2. BOOK LATE
Book early, book late…are you confused? Ok, so point 2 is a little contradictory to point 1, but…sometimes it really does pay to wait. If you’re not afraid to wait until the absolute last minute, and you are happy to be allocated your hotel upon arrival, then booking with just a few days until departure can offer great cost saving advantages. There are literally thousands of companies who offer ‘last minute deals’ and you can pick up a real bargain, often costing less than a third for the same holiday as someone who booked months in advance. Be careful though…do your research first to ensure that the ‘1p all-inclusive holiday’ isn’t a scam…and always remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
3. SCHOOL HOLIDAYS
This topic is highly controversial and we all have different views, but for us, we have no concerns taking our children out of school early.
Summer holidays are approaching and travel companies hike up their prices. Do you a) take your children out of school just a few days early to ensure you grab a holiday bargain, or b) pay the full hiked price in order to maintain a 100% school attendance record and avoid a fine?
Taking children out of school during term-time for a holiday will always raise eyebrows, but by doing so, you can literally save hundreds, and quite often, depending on the holiday destination; thousands of pounds. We are of the opinion that when we travel our girls learn so much more than in those 2 or 3 days that they missed in the classroom. To be frank, the last few days before the summer break is usually spent playing games in class and having fun, no work is done and everyone, including the teacher, is winding down.
Over the years we have met so many people on holiday who have since become good friends, so our girls gain travel experience and witness first hand different languages and cultures; and in years to come will be able travel on their own with confidence and knowledge.
If greedy holiday companies didn’t hike up the prices during the school holidays, parents wouldn’t have to take their children out of school before term ends, ‘supply and demand’ has a lot to answer for! So… YES, we think taking them out of school early every now and then doesn’t do their education any harm, quite the opposite, it enhances their learning. Use your own judgement. If your child is lagging behind in class then taking them out of vital learning may do them more harm than good…use common sense. But remember…not all classrooms have 4 walls!
There are also other ways of saving money regarding school holidays. Note when other parts of the country have their school holidays. We live in Northern Ireland where children finish school at the end of June, so for us, we find flying via England, before the English schools break up, gives us decent savings.
tip: don’t have your main holiday during the peak summer period, instead, think about making the most of Halloween, Easter and May holidays.
4. D-I-Y vs PACKAGE
This is where we think you will save the most monetary wise, but not always. We have learned that if you like a certain holiday company’s exclusive properties, then D-I-Y is not an option, plus it doesn’t always work out cheaper. It’s always important to do your research but for us D-I-Y is the only way to go, very rarely do we book package holidays. Over the last few years we have saved thousands on our previous holidays, with our biggest savings coming on our D-I-Y holiday to the Santa Claus Holiday Village in Rovaniemi, Lapland…and we got to see the real Santa Claus.
More recently, March 2018 to be exact, we booked a D-I-Y ski trip to Alpe Cermis, Cavalese and once again, our outgoings were considerably lower than if we had booked with a travel agent. Don’t always opt for the obvious and book the large popular resorts, by stepping out of your comfort ‘package holiday’ zone, you can save serious amounts of cash! Familiarise yourself with popular sites like Skyscanner and Booking.com, both offer discounted flights, accommodation and car hire, these sites can be your best friend for holiday savings. Since our children, now aged 9 and 4, came along, we have never booked a package holiday. Whilst going D-I-Y isn’t for everyone, and fills some with dread, for us, it’s the best way to get a great holiday destination at a fraction of a package holiday price.
5. WAYS TO SAVE BEFORE YOU GO
Don’t just save on booking your holiday, try and think of ways to save throughout the year! We could write a whole blog post about this, but we are Travel Bloggers, so we will leave it up to the experts at MoneySavingExpert to give you a few ideas. There are lots of ways to save a few pounds (or even a few hundred pounds) that can go towards those all-important holidays. Check that you are getting the best deals for all of your utilities, insurances, TV packages and mobile phone contracts.
The biggest money drainer, in our opinion, is food. Not for everyone but we love the tip of picking up reduced items at the end of the day’s trading, you can save hundreds of pounds per month depending on how big your normal weekly shop is. Shhhhh….did you know that M&S knock 75% off certain products 2 hours before end of day trading! Reducing your weekly shop by £50 equates to a saving pot of £2500 in a single year, that’s potentially two D-I-Y holidays or one package holiday paid for!
Think before you spend, ask yourself ‘do I want this or do I need this’ before you part with your hard-earned money. It’s very easy to waste £20 per week buying unnecessary and non-essential items, but if you tuck that money away, that’s another £1,040 in the holiday pot.
tip: a family trip to supermarket always costs us more when we take the girls, they shove absolutely everything into the trolley, including magazines, toys and junk food, So now, we leave them at home with Nana and Granda, or Daddy takes them to the library whilst Mummy shops.
6. BE ON THE LOOK OUT
Always keep an eye out for bargains! An airline flight sale, a deal in a local travel agents window or a top deal on Groupon…savings can be had! A great way of hearing about upcoming deals is to sign up to Newsletters. On a daily basis our inbox is full of travel emails from companies such as Easyjet, Disneyland and GodSavethePoints; ensuring that if there is a money saving deal to be had, we are going to be one of the first to hear about it. Groupon is another great site; download the app on your smartphone a few months before your holiday and check out the deals for your holiday destination.
Another app you should download is Tastecard, the app gives you 2 for 1 dining offers, as well as cinema discounts. We joined this ‘subscription service’ just a few days before we visited London for a family wedding, the first 60 days costs just £1.00, after the 60 days the annual cost is just £74.99…an absolute bargain if you’re gong to use it eekly, but cancel if not.. Should you decide that you don’t want the subscription, remember to cancel before the 60 day introductory offer ends.
One of our favourite cost saving tips is to keep an eye out in national newspapers for bargain breaks. Collect tokens, redeem, save hundreds of pounds…it really couldn’t be any simpler. Summer 2018 and a fortnight in Italy cost us a mere £320 (accommodation only) by using the ‘collect and redeem’ method. The vouchers were collected from a very popular UK tabloid and we saved a phenomenal £1900 on the Eurocamp brochure price.
7. CREATE MEMORIES DON’T COLLECT POSSESSIONS
Just last year, we made the conscious decision to stop buying our girls a ton of presents (Birthdays and Christmas) that, in the most part, are played with for a few weeks and then tossed to one side, never mind the fact that our house already looks like a toy superstore. As a family we have started to see that’s it’s far more important to create memories than to collect useless possessions. Christmas 2017, and a first for us, Santa’s toys didn’t take up the whole living room, and we honestly think the girls enjoyed and appreciated their presents even more. By the end of January 2018, we had our three main 2018 holidays booked and paid for.
As for Mummy, for Birthdays (next one is the BIG 40) and Christmas, rather than getting the usual flowers, chocolates, jewellery etc, she would rather receive a weekend break or spa weekend (discounted, normally a Groupon deal or hotel special offer).
8. HOUSE SWAP
We haven’t done this yet but we do speak about it quite often! Daddy just isn’t up for ‘House Swap’ at all, he’s not that fussed when he has to sleep in hotel beds, or AirBnB beds; never mind someone sleeping in his luxurious super king size bed! Plus he thinks it’d be our luck to get a weirdo underwear sniffer (his words). Personally I (Mummy) just see it as another opportunity to save money whilst seeing as much of the world as possible.
We have come very close to ‘house swapping’ though, well…what we mean is, Mummy once put her parents newly built bungalow on LoveHomeSwap (they live just 100 metres away from us), and within a day we had an offer of a house swap in Australia! On this occasion, and for fear of losing our babysitters, we gave it a miss.
If you have never heard of House Swap before, basically you can swap homes instantaneously with another family or stay at different times (i.e. you or they have a 2nd home). Mummy loves the thought of a House Swap, not only because it’s for free, but for meeting other like-minded families who also enjoying travelling around the globe. For Daddy, it’s a big no-no!
9. PET SITTING
As pet lovers, we would love nothing more than to bring our fur-baby away with us on our holidays, but due to the distances and destinations, generally it isn’t possible. Luckily for us, Nana and Granda come to the rescue, babysitters and petsitters, what more could we ask for (they also do school taxi runs, gardening services and corner shop when we run out of milk).
A little while ago some very smart cookies came up with the perfect answer to pets and holidays, Pet Sitting. Have someone stay in your home, for free, look after your pets and you go on holidays. Brilliant idea and so Trusted House Sitters was born. Now, I (Mummy) have not yet managed to convince the powers that be (Daddy) to actually go ahead with a pet sitter, but when I find that perfect property in the Canadian Rockies (Daddy loves Canada) or a luxurious hideaway in Sri Lanka (on Daddy’s bucket list), I have no doubt that there won’t be much convincing to do!
Trusted House Sitters obviously do some form of background check on sitters, so your home and pet should be in safe hands (or paws). Always remember that you will be looking after fellow travellers most beloved fur babies, so there will no heading out exploring for 12 hours a day. On the opposite side of the coin, use a free pet-sitter and you’re saving big money on kennels or catteries.
10. GO OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Explore-Explore-Explore! Sometimes it pays dividends to venture off the beaten track and avoid where everyone else in the country is going to. There is an abundance of beautiful countries, cities and resorts that are just waiting to be explored, and more often than not, with a much cheaper price tag than a popular package destination. As a family we love to explore hidden gems and now purposely choose not to travel to your normal run of the mill destinations.
Easter 2018 we enjoyed our first ever family ski holiday to a destination practically unknown to British and Irish holidaymakers, and we didn’t pay anywhere near as much as a package ski holiday. We found cheap flights to Milan, and booked our accommodation through Booking.com. Our hotel, Aparthotel Des Alpes, was just a short 5 minute drive to the magnificent mountains of Alpe Cermis, Cavalese. The total cost for our one week ski holiday was £700 (flights, accommodation, car hire), had we booked with a popular tour operator to a well known resort, it would have cost £700 per person, so a saving of £2100…and that is why we prefer D-I-Y to Package.
note: we were the only British-Irish family to have stayed in the Resort the entire season!
11. FACEBOOK GROUPS
I (Mummy) LOVE FACEBOOK, it really can be better than Google sometimes! There is a Facebook Group for absolutely everything and anything, including Travel and Holidays. I won’t tell you how many groups I am part of…but it is a lot! A few of my favourite groups are Family Holidays with Kids, Travelling to Italy, Eurocamp Unofficial Supporters Club and Lapland Holiday Chat. These groups are where you get to find out the real nitty-gritty warts and all information. Since everyone is always looking to save money, these Facebook Groups and pages are often full of vital cost saving information.
tip: Facebook Groups can be useful for all kinds of information, from how to save money when on holidays, to when to book and how people get the absolute best prices. I also feel that these groups can get you thinking outside of the usual ‘package holiday’ box.
12. TESCO CLUBCARD POINTS
If you shop at Tesco, use a credit card or have a mobile phone, then you are potentially missing out if you are not collecting your Tesco Clubcard points. You can even earn points by having your Mortgage with Tesco and by recycling your old ink cartridges. After building up your Clubcard points you then have the joy of spending them (wisely).
There are a few ways you can increase you points value, for example, you receive 3 x Value with selected Tesco partners. Tesco Clubcard Travel Partners include Euroshuttle, Affordable Car Hire, Royal Caribbean and a more recent addition is Hotels.com.
If you prefer a Staycation to a Vacation, Tesco also have great partners for days out and dining, to name a few there’s Legoland, Whipsnade Zoo, Pizza Express and Café Rouge. Over the last 5 years we have saved hundreds of pounds by saving our Tesco Clubcard points and utilising them for Irish Ferries, Euroshuttle and Affordable Car Hire. We have set ourselves a challenge to try and pay for a whole holiday with our Tesco Clubcard points…watch this space!
Never ever book a flight without checking Skyscanner first…never! Rather than searching specific dates, run a search for the whole month, you will be amazed at the price difference between a flight on a Monday compared to a flight on a Tuesday. And don’t think Skyscanner is just for flights, it isn’t; you can also book accommodation and car hire through their site.
With Skyscanner you don’t have to put in cities, you can search by country. In the past we have purchased flights to a non-familiar airport and hired a car and literally saved hundreds of pounds, the downside (not for us) is maybe a couple of hours car travel down the motorway. For our 2018 Summer trip it was much cheaper to fly to Milan Malpensa and hire a car, instead of flying into the main airport at Milan Bergamo. It’s just 60 minutes by car from one airport to the other but the pricing was significantly different.
Another site that we couldn’t live without when arranging travel on a budget is Booking.com, it is a fantastic site! The site is so user friendly and there are so many filters to help you narrow down the search results. We love how you can see all the accommodation on a map, perfect if you are looking for somewhere close to a certain area of a city or if you want to be close to the coast. The filter list appears to be never ending and using them will definitely help you narrow down, and ultimately, find the perfect place to stay. Use the filters and search, you will be pleasantly surprised. Booking.com is one of our favourite go-to sites, but the main reason for using this great site is that we can book accommodation and utilise free cancellation, plus many places offer a ‘don’t pay until you arrive policy.
The ‘free cancellation’ policy allows us to look at several different resorts or even countries at one time whilst checking out available flights. It is great to be able to hold the accommodation until we have 100% decided on where we want to go, but please…don’t abuse this. If you reserve a place and cancel just a few days before your intended visit, the vendor may not be able to lease the property or room with such short notice, thus losing out on money.
We have had very different experiences of Airbnb, some good and one seriously bad. There’s a horror story of us staying in someone’s home in Dublin where the owner was paralytic and opened the door with his trousers half way down, when we were led to the lounge there was a porn movie on the TV, the fella sat down and not once did he make any effort to lift his trousers or turn the TV over. On the flip side, there’s the great experience of being regulars with a lovely couple who lease us a room in their home, perfect for when Daddy and Lily-Belle travel to the home games at Anfield in Liverpool!
We do have an upcoming stay in Lapland in February 2019, booked through AirBnB, so hopefully it will be a good experience! For those who aren’t AirBnB’ers, you can either stay in someone’s property (usually a room within a home) while they are there or have exclusivity of an entire property. Most properties are quite standard but there are also some weird, wonderful and whacky properties like canal boats, yurts and lighthouses! Booking through AirBnB is also great if you are not the average 2×2 family, or when children become teenagers and one hotel room just does not suit anymore! Always read the reviews before making your booking.
16. EAT IN
When we go on holiday it’s definitely not to spend every evening cooking, never mind the cleaning up that comes with cooking; so in general we eat out every evening and dine in at breakfast and lunch. This one is not possible for all types of holidays, a definite No-No for All Inclusive…why would you spend all that money on an all-inclusive then dine elsewhere? As regulars with Eurocamps, we have begun to use the in-house facilities and that includes the BBQ. For breakfast we love nothing more than taking a relaxing stroll to the campsite shop for fresh croissants, cheeses and meats, perfect for rustling up a continental breakfasts.
Once we arrive at our Eurocamp destination, we offload the suitcases and bags then head to the local supermarket, normally LIDL as we know exactly what we are getting, Lidl is pretty much everywhere in Europe. Stock up on the essentials and also the very important ice lollies, another way of saving a few pounds! Europe can be hot, so we always seek shelter during the harsh midday sun, plus it’s also a chance to get fed and enjoy some lovely local cuisine. The decked verandas are great to sit, eat and relax.
Over the years we haven’t utilised the free BBQ that comes with our Eurocamp home, but Italy 2018 we changed that and ate in most evenings. The smell of meat, fish and vegetables cooking on our neighbours BBQ tempted us to give it a try, and we are so glad we did. Meats and fish purchased locally, freshly picked vegetables from roadside stalls and we saved lots of money. It’s fairly safe to say we are converts and from now on, when we are on holiday, most evenings we will fire up the BBQ and dine al fresco..
17. TRAVEL WITHOUT THEM
This one is a tad controversial. Travelling without our girls is generally not an option, after all, we are Family Travel Bloggers. We could if we wanted to, as we have the wonderful services of Nana and Granda right next door; but we choose not to.
I (Mummy) remember a family get together when a childless couple congratulated another family member on how they lived life so well after having their children. They were not congratulating them on the many adventures they had had with their children, they were congratulating them for all the travelling that they still did on their own!
Now don’t get us wrong, it is nice to have some R&R with no children in tow, a local weekend away, or a very short European City break, but we really couldn’t imagine travelling far without our 2 girls by our side. Our holidays have changed drastically since the girls came along, we have moved away from 5* all-inclusive luxury in the Maldives to mainly Eurocamp sites. I (Mummy) still crave for that 5* luxury but, for the price of a 2 week all inclusive holiday in the Maldives, I can have 3 or 4 European holidays with the family.
We love holidays, and until the girls are much older, we are happy and content to do cheap and cheerful. If you don’t mind leaving the nippers at home, you are obviously going to save a small fortune. For starters there’s the flights, you can save at least 1/3 depending on the age of your children. Then there’s the room; no need for 2 inter connecting rooms (to give adults and children their own space and privacy), or even a whole villa depending on the size of your brood. And dare we mention that you get a whole bed all to yourselves without children climbing in!
If you do travel without children, food and drink is potentially where you will blow all of the savings. Oh, how nice it is to sit and enjoy a meal without having to take child number 1 to the toilet mid way through, or run after child number 2 as he/she heads for the exit.
Our children get bored at the table, and more often than not we have to hand over a mobile phone to keep them amused. I (Mummy) recall on one occasion having to leave a very nice restaurant after Lily-Belle (she was 3 at the time) went into full meltdown over the peas touching the chips! Nightmare! Ok, so you may spend all of the yearly savings, but think of the benefits of leaving the children at home and enjoying yourselves, plus you can have a few drinkypoos without having to worry about getting the youngest in bed for 8pm.
18. TRAVEL LIGHT
Believe or believe not, in our house it’s Daddy that you have to keep an eye on in the ‘Travel Light’ department, he is a nightmare for shoes and belts. Daddy will no doubt say that it’s me who takes everything but the kitchen sink, but I can guarantee you that there is a purpose for everything that is packed. If you are able to travel light with hand luggage only, do it. Taking hand luggage will save you money plus it will save you time at your destination. A little tip that we have learnt over the years is to buy our toiletries once we arrive at our destination. Alternatively maximise the 100ml flight allowance so that they last the duration of your trip.
If you do have to check in bags, try to use one large bag for everyone. Make use of OrgPac Organisers, our new favourite travel accessory from LeanPac. Around The World In 18 Years is proud to be an ambassador of LeanPac, their adventure products are perfect for the efficient traveller.
Budget carriers sometimes offer a reduced fee for checked in bags provided you purchase this at the time of booking. Be positive on your decision to either go with Hand or Checked luggage before you hit the BUY button.
Last, but by no means least. It’s easy to weigh your ‘checked bags’ before leaving home but not so easy when your packing for your return journey. Pack portable weighing scales, you can pick up a set from Amazon for less than a tenner. Recently we forget to pack ours! Although we were within (just) the limit heading outward, coming home the bag was a whopping 4kg over limit! We ended up doing the dreaded ‘wear 3 layers each’ scenario…never again!
tip: not all luggage scales go up to 25kg (airline baggage allowance is usually between 20kg and 23kg). We use Mofred weighing scales, they go right up to 40kg and cost just £4.89 (Amazon). They often read a few lbs different from the airline scales, but near enough is good enough in our book.
tip tip: order your toiletries from Boots using the Click & Collect service and pick up your order from their Airside Store (after security) at the airport.
Ok, so now it’s over to you. If you have a ‘budget travel tip’ remember to leave it in the comments below and we’ll add these to our ‘Readers Top Tips’ blog which is coming soon.
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