Having four children and choosing to stay at home with them has certainly taken its toll on our budget, it's tighter than my waistband is after too much Christmas overindulgence. We have very little spare cash, especially given that eating gluten free takes its toll on our bank balance too, but you know what? We have cracking holidays every year!
I really couldn't survive without out holidays, we try to go away twice per year, usually at Easter and in the school summer holidays. Aside from our 'once in a lifetime' trip to Florida last year none of our holidays have cost more than £3000 for the 6 of us, with the average coming in at well under £1000 and we've been to some pretty cool places and had some amazing experiences. My top tips for a budget family holiday are:
- Arrange the holiday yourself, you can usually save a packet if you book all components of the holiday individually. I would never book a package holiday again for this reason. I hunt around for the cheapest travel options (whether that's flights, ferry, tunnel or car hire) and similarly for our accommodation, sometimes it's cheaper to book direct with the owner, sometimes it's cheaper to book through a money saving website of some sort.
- Consider camping and static caravans, things have moved on from the 'Hi De Hi' sites of yesteryear. I'm not a rustic camper, I like my mod cons, my electricity, running water and flushing toilets! It's amazing how much you can save this way and the children ADORE it, they make friends so easily and love the freedom of roaming the campsite.
- Research the local area well before you go, I often plan our meals at local restaurants by researching menus and pricing online, no last minute panic and ending up in the dearest restaurant! Of course being coeliacs it's vital we do this anyway for gluten free food.
- Look for special deals on days out, whether it's using discount vouchers found in papers, loyalty points from supermarkets, cash back sites for booking online or websites such as MoneySupermarket's fab deals page it can save a packet if you plan your entertainment well before you go.
- Book well in advance, I know many say to 'get a last minute bargain' but I've found this often isn't the case, particularly with air fares, ferry tickets, car hire and airport parking. TravelSupermarket is a great site for researching these.
- Al fresco eating - BBQs and picnics are the stuff of dreams of young children, mine would certainly rather have either of these than a meal in a posh restaurang anyday! and the best bit is they are much cheaper than eating out!
- Find free local entertainment - Many museums and beautiful natural attractions are free and visiting with a picnic makes for a really cheap day out.
- Consider youth hostels - the very words may make you recoil, but they can be great, cheap accommodation. If ever we stay in London we always stay at the YHA at St. Pauls, they have family bedrooms to sleep 6 and fantastic cooked breakfasts, all for around £100 per night for all of us!
So with this in mind, my next dream budget family holiday has to be a week at the Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA. My kids and I are *desperate* to see the Canyon and I reckon a week's camping amongst the splendor and beauty of Arizonian nature would be amazing. Flights aside, I reckon I could do the whole holiday for 6 of us for under £1000. Here's how:
- 7 nights at the amazing looking Mather Campground $126
- Tent and airbed for the adults we can pick up from Wallmart en route $99 here
- 6 sleeping bags from Wallmart $90 here
- Plates/cups/disposable BBQs from Wallmart $50
- 1 week's food shopping (self catering) $150
- Entrance to the Canyon parks for 1 wk $25
- 1 week's diesel £100
- 1 week's people carrier car hire from Las Vegas aiport for August 2013 through TravelSupermarket £238.