You want to travel or take a holiday but wondering, how you can afford it? This is by far the question I get asked the most, and my advice is always the same. Travelling on a budget is an essential part of all our travels. Without this budgeting method, we wouldn’t be able to travel as much as we do.
As a family of 4, and being a full-time mum, keeping our travelling on a budget is even more important. I love the planning side of travelling, so I have decided to share how I breakdown my budgeting method. I want to show you that you don’t need to be rich to travel.
Booking flights when travelling on a budget
This is the first thing I look at when travelling on a budget. Pretty much 99% of our travels are planned around where we can fly, for the cheapest price.
Flexibility on location is the key to budget travel! The easiest way to do this is to use a flight search engine. I tend to use Skyscanner the most but you can also use; Google, Kayak or Expedia. First put in your departure location, I use London. Then they should have an option for the destination to be ‘everywhere’ or ‘anywhere’. This will allow you to do a broad search and find the cheapest destinations at that time. From this I would normally pick out one of the cheaper options and start there.
Choosing your date’s
The next biggest factor in flight costs is the dates. Obviously the school holidays are going to be a premium however there are ways around this. If your schedule allows, choose flights on a Tuesday, wednesday or Saturday. These are least popular days to fly, they will often be cheaper as there is less demand. I work around the school holidays by choosing a non conventional holiday length. So as an example, looking at a 2 week half term. I would book an 11 day or 9 day break, this way not as many people are travelling those days. If dates are not an object, then you can use a calendar view. This will show you every date and the cheapest date to fly for each destination.
There are two points under this, firstly, the times of your flight. Choosing the awkward flight times; the 6am outbound flight or the super late landing time this will 99% of the time be the cheapest option. The second is directed at longer haul flights, direct flights are favoured; so if your schedule allows look for flights with a layover. You can often get a short layover time that doesn’t add much time to your travel. Alternatively, use it to your advantage. Most countries offer something called a stopover and they are either free or very subsidised. You will get to visit another country on your travels and they come with transfers, hotels and top attraction tickets.
Using alternative airports
This won’t count for everyone but we have multiple airports all within 3 hours of our home. Stansted is our closest airport at around a 45 minute drive. However, airports like Heathrow and Gatwick offer more flights and airlines. You can weigh up the cost for you to fly from our most local airport. It could be cheaper though to fly from another airport and pay for a hotel the night before.
Clear your history
And finally, The device you are searching on; your phone, laptop or tablet uses a thing called cookies. Cookies allow a websites to track your searching habits. This means that if you are going back time and time again to the same flight, you may notice the that particular flight is now more expensive. One way to beat this is before going ahead to book, clear all your browsing history including cookies. Alternitively, use a different device.
This is my second step; and the most fun part, choosing your hotel. It is one of the most flexible costs, but can also eat up a massive chunk of your budget. I am not ashamed to say that we do choose really cheap accommodation. If it has aircon/heating and wifi, then we are happy. For us, the priority on our travels are the experiences than what our room looks like.
Weigh up how much time you are going to be spending in your hotel/room. If you are choosing a city break, likelihood is you are going to spend less time in the room. A beach holiday you may want to spend a little more for added benefits like pools, food etc.
Firstly, have a look at the different areas of the country. Then pick out a rough area you want to stay in. Use a couple of hotel sites to find the best prices. I mainly use Hotels.com. They offer a bonus night scheme, you earn a free reward night for every 10 that you stay. They also offer different bonus’ such as a free bottle of wine or late check out. There are lots of different companies offering similar schemes; Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb to name a few. The filter tabs are great for setting your budget and any must haves. Then I would use the map option to zoom in on the exact locations.
Examples of prices
As an example, if I was booking a hotel in Asia. I would be looking at spending between £20 – £30 a night for a family of 4. For this, you can get a really comfortable hotel. We have stayed in the Novotel In Bangkok, or a beachfront resort on one of the Islands for this budget. We now spend little more than when we were just a couple travelling. As a couple we would spend on average £10 – £15 a night for a double room in a basic hotel.
As another example Europe is pricier, expect higher priced rooms for less luxury than visiting Asia. Our recent trip to Italy we spent £45 – £50 a night for city centre hotel rooms that were very basic.
Finally one of our favourite places to visit is the UAE. People always assume we spend loads of money visiting there as it oozes luxury. However, it’s actually one of the best places for 5-star hotels at 3-star prices. We have stayed in some amazing hotels for £25-£50 a night for a 5 star family room including breakfast. Making it a really affordable family destination.
Something optional that is probably a little cheeky, but it is worth a shot. Once I have booked a hotel, I will email them just to confirm our arrival time. I will drop a birthday or anniversary bomb in there. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t, but you may get a free upgrade or little extra from the hotel.
These costs can sometimes be forgotten about but can also really eat into your travelling budget. Things to consider are:
How will you get to the airport and how will you get to the hotel at the other end. If you are parking at the departure airport, holiday extras is a great site for cheap on airport parking. They always have a discount code so google one before you pay. For transfers I like to use Holiday Taxis they offer different travel options like shared coaches, private cars and shuttles. If you travelling with small children, you can also request a car seat to save on your luggage. Have a look if there Is there a public train or bus option, or will you need a taxi? Public transport is normally the cheapest option, and actually a lot easier than you would believe. Especially in Europe and other very developed countries.
If we have a really early flight, I always check the cost of hotel with parking compared to just parking. You may find you can stay the night before for £10-£15 more than parking alone. Saving yourself the long car drive at 3 am.
All the little things such as drinks, snacks and food can be double the price in an airport. My best advice is to just pack your own, especially for children. We take snacks and any baby milks we need for the flight in hand luggage. You can take these through security. So why pay more when you can buy it for half the price in a supermarket?
Top tip – you can’t take liquids over 100ml through security, but you can take empty drink bottles. Most airports, around the bathrooms, offer free drinking water taps. Simply fill up your empty bottles here, saving a fortune on the water in the shops.
Excursions when travelling on a budget
This is a completely flexible travelling budget and adaptable to what you enjoy doing on your travels. This for us is one of the main things we are happy to spend more of our budget on. However, I also balance this with finding lots of things we can do for free. Things like going to the beach, a local park or getting into nature. All these things are free to do with kids, and it helps weigh up the big things; day trips or passes to theme parks.
Trip advisor is a great option for researching ideas. Look up the most popular things to do and what is around you. They also show options for companies offering these trips with prices. However, always look around, unless its something that needs to be booked way in advance. Sometimes we will also hold out booking until we get there. Especially in certain countries, as you will always get a deal at the local tourist offices. Viator is another site I like to look at when pre booking tours and they always have a deal on.
Finding food on a budget
Again this is very personal to you and your travelling budget. This is something we are very thrifty with. We will try to book a hotel with breakfast included in most locations, especially your more expensive cities. At lunchtimes, we will normally grab something to go. Mostly we try to find a small stall or supermarket. These are cheaper and we will buy things like bread, meats and snacks. You can then keep in our room fridge for multiple days.
Dinner is our eat out meal where we will actually sit somewhere and enjoy a proper meal. Roy is gluten intolerant so we can sometimes find it difficult eating in restaurants. We always have to plan where we eat, ensuing they have options for him. Again we use Trip advisor as it is also great for filtering food intolerances/preferences. They also have a ‘cheap eats’ section. Some of the best meals we have had in places have come from these at really cheap prices.
Another travelling budget tip is, check out local websites like Groupon or local delivery services. You can often get a discount code or voucher.