Thursday, 31 August 2017

How We Afford To Travel Often As A Family

Before I had children, one of my favourite things to do was travel - and when I found out I was expecting I worried a lot about whether or not we'd be able to continue seeing the world with a baby in tow.

As it turned out, we've travelled more with kids than we did before them - I find that I enjoy travelling even more when I can see the world through their eyes, and so that's probably why I spend a huge percentage of my free time planning out which countries we want to visit and when the best time to see them would be.

I have some big ideas for what holidays we'll be taking over the coming years and after months of trying to plan out when would be the optimum time to visit each place for the childrens ages - I think I have finally it all planned out.

This year our big holiday is a 2 week Mediterranean cruise with Royal Caribbean which is coming up at the end of September followed by a trip to Disneyland Paris with friends.

Next year, we're hoping to do an early Disneyland Paris trip to take advantage of their out of season offers like we did last year as well as a Halloween return visit when we'll hopefully be able to experience a stay in the exclusive Disneyland hotel which stands directly at the park entrance.

Our big holiday of 2018 will actually be our shortest one with a 3 day trip to Santa's Lapland in Finland to see the big man himself in December...for such a short holiday the trip can be extremely expensive coming in at over £5000 for a family of 5 but I think a holiday like this is very time limited as the children will only believe in the magic for a short time and I'm determined to visit before it's too late!

And then 2019 will be the year of a 2 week trip to Walt Disney World and other theme parks in Florida when at 6, 4 and 3 hopefully all of the boys will get a lot out of it, be able to ride everything they want to without too many height and age restrictions stopping them, will understand and recognise more of the Universal Studios characters and rides, and will be able to handle the long travel and queuing times better than they could right now!

A lot of people ask how we manage to do so much travelling as with a family of 5 the prices jump up quite a today I thought I'd share some of the ways we manage to make travelling as cost effective as possible.

1) Make the most of offers and deals

This is probably my biggest tip and it's something I spend quite a lot of time doing. I am signed up to recieve emails from all of our favourite holiday companies so that as soon as an offer comes up, I'm aware of it. We managed to get our 2 week med cruise for under £3k when its valued at over £5k simply by keeping an eye on the offers coming in to my inbox and taking advantage of them.

I also make sure that I find out when a company usually releases its best offers - this works best for places such as Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney World as they tend to release similar offers at similar times each year. So for example, I know that we want to travel to Walt Disney World in 2019 and that we'd want to book that holiday next this year I kept a close on all of their offers, and I've made a note of when they appeared so that I know when to have my deposit ready for next year...I have my eye on the free dining package offer!

The same thing works well for us with Disneyland Paris, we knew that they tend to release their best offers during their quiet period in January...last year we bagged an amazing deal for 4 of us to stay in one of their better hotels for 4 days with VIP perks, transport included and a meal plan for under £750. So although we want to travel again next year, we won't book yet...we'll wait until after Christmas and take advantage of the offers they're sure to release again.

2) Use loyalty points for free entrance, meals, etc where possible

I've spoken before about how using our Tesco Clubcard helps us to afford days out to theme parks, and I recommend using this approach to anybody. There are also plenty of other reward and cashback schemes you can sign up to which will enable you to save some precious pounds on entrance fees and meals. A quick google search will give you plenty to try out!

3) Travel off peak when possible

Up until now we've always been able to freely make the most of the off peak offers but now that Tyne is about to start school it's going to get more difficult. However it isn't impossible and often the lower cost will still work out cheaper even if an unauthorised absence fine has to be paid...I realise that some people won't agree with removing children from school during term time for a holiday and that's your call, but personally I think family time is important and that holidays can be very educational - we don't tend to be a beach holiday sort of family so although Tyne will be taking time out of school in September for our cruise, he will be visiting lots of European museums and Italian landmarks which will provide some fantastic learning opportunities...I think it's entirely worthwhile.

If you do have all younger children and school is no issue at all, then its well worth booking some time off work during term time to take advantage of the lower prices and quiet times - Legoland in particular has some fantastic off peak deals for their hotel.

When the park is closed Legoland offer fantastic Splash & Stay deals for £99 per room at their resort hotel which is a fantastic place to stay with little ones, however you can often tie these in with a park visit  by staying on the night before the park re-opens - you then book your park entry tickets online and voila! You have a Legoland visit and hotel stay at a fraction of the usual cost (The next dates this will work are 13th, 21st and 28th September 2017 just FYI)

4) Look at the best deals for dining 

Dining when abroad can be where you end up with a lot of extra costs, especially in places such as Walt Disney World where the restaurants can be extremely expensive.

It's worth weighing up whether or not you'd be better on an all-inclusive deal on any holiday (This is why I love cruises, as all of your meals are included in the price!) but for Walt Disney World in particular the dining packages can be very worth while...they can be slightly confusing however so the infographic below on Dining At Walt Disney World from Netflights may come in handy.

5) Save, Save, Save!

And this will seem like a very obvious tip I'm sure...but the key to taking family holidays is saving!  I am self employed and so without a fixed wage coming in on the same day every month it can be tricky to put money aside for holidays, so what I now do is ensure that I put aside 20% of every payment I recieve into a holiday fund...this way I always money available for a deposit if one of those amazing offers comes up!
 If I was receiving a monthly wage I would try to do the same with that, and add in some extra money from doing things like car boot sales at the weekends. I've made £60 in a morning at a car boot sale plenty of times, and £60 a week into a holiday fund soon adds up!

What are your best tips for affordable family travel? I'd love to hear them!

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