Making the most of your buck and adjusting your budget to fit your travel needs is more about flexibility and adventure, than thinking any trip is out of reach. When traveling as a family over-all budget becomes very important because it can add up quickly. Here are a few small fish tricks to consider while not spending a fortune along the way. The world is your oyster, here’s your opportunity to take it by by storm,
Traveling in the off-season. Peak-season simply has been labled “peak” because it is the time of year when people tend to travel or take their family vacations. Usually accompanied with this season, you will find lots of tourists, hiked up prices, and very little authentic experience from a cultural point of veiw. The benefits to planning your vacation during the “low” months of the year increase the quality of your travel experience and allow your buck to go much further. Typically these times of the year are often under sold due to weather conditions or “closed for season” advertising. In our experience, not only are flights a fraction of the price, but also accomodation and activities are halved from their higher season prices. Allowing our family the opportunity to participate in more activities and spend more quality time with the locals enjoying culture and local customes without the crowds.
Get off the beaten path. While it is “easier” to travel to more developed touristy places, they tend to be the most expensive. By opening yourself up to less traveled destinations, you can reap the rewards of authenticity and saving a lot of money along the way. For example, when one thinks of visiting the Philippines with their family, maybe one is put off by certain security issues – terrorism or child kidnapping. Not all “dangerous” countries are dangerous in complete. We visited the Philippines with our two children and had a complete safe experience. Common sense and prior research of affected areas or countries reduces your risk immensely if well organized. Not to mention, most likely increasing a once in life type vacation for you and your family.
Take advantage of Airline deals. In our experience if you take the time, well before your planned departure dates and are flexible + or – a couple days of those dates – you can save HUGE. Also, by doing your searches at different hours of the day can reward you with more favorable prices. For example, just like peak season there are peak hours which booking sites and airlines take advantage of to increase their prices a bit, try doing a search early morning until mid morning. Most international airlines offer discounted prices for children ages 2-11 and often only charge the taxes of the airfare for children under the age of two. We use a combination of techniques including: Kayak.com has an “explore” feature under the “more” tab at the top of the page which allows you to see what flight deals are available all over the world based on your departure date (Kayak). This feature does not have a mobile site available, use your desktop. Google Flights also offers a map option where you are able compare prices for different destinations based on your dates and departure city. Skyscanner.com is another option, though less reliable to those mentioned above. Lastly, when you do find a deal, always double check the actual airlines website for further deals or additional discounts. We managed to score a business-class upgrade due to an error on the airlines main site when booking our flight to the Philippines from Spain. Price was published at a very low price, we booked it. Then, it turned out the price only included the taxes for the flight. Due to it being the companies error and our seasoned travelling experience, we managed to negotiate an upgrade. Lastly, for the real “fly by the seat of your pants” kind of family, if an airline offers you to give up your seats for money or miles – DO IT, it’s a guaranteed deal from your original paid price.
Stick to local. Big hotel chains, restaurant chains, and foreign owned tour booking companies tend to all have much higher prices and lend little hand in supporting local economical growth. Yes, they may offer amenities just like home or very well trained staff to greet you with “like-home” service… Then, why not just stay at home? One of the main benefits to sticking to local businesses is the ability to increase the quality of life for the locals while keeping your experiences as authentic as possible. By using local transport, eating at local restaurants, and staying at guest houses you are more likely to meet locals and interact with people who have the ability to enrich your travel experience by 100%. Maybe you are invited to share a meal with their family, attend a wedding in the future, or share a tea behind the local market… Whatever it is, it surely would be less likely if you had not tried local first. Other services we like and have positive experiences with are www.airbnb.com – A service offering locals to privately let or rent entire houses or rooms for a fraction of what hotels charge. Only down fall in our opinion is no buffet breakfast. Another alternative option for the adventurer is www.couchsurfing.com – A community where locals offer a room or “couch” for you to stay for free in exchange for good conversation, their ability to meet foreigners, and/or sharing a meal with you. They often will also take you around the city and share their life with you from the point of view of a local. Doesn’t get much more authentic than this. We often bring a gift from our home country for these type of stays. Lastly, though we have not used this service, www.homeexchange.com. Home exchange offers those traveling, who own a home or an apartment, to “exchange” theirs for a home stay in another country. It is a free accommodation opportunity.
Eat at home. While using services such as Airbnb, Home Exchange, and Couchsuring you also give yourself the opportunity to eat in. When traveling with a family, it can get expensive to eat out three meals a day. Try to stock up at the local market for picnic-type lunch items or buy some of those eye catching foreign foods for your international at home meal, later that evening. You are not only are you expanding your horizons, but are teaching your children to be adventurous in trying new things. A real bonding experience and for sure memory maker. Lastly, some of our best pictures come from the local markets. People often warm up to the foreigner, as they don’t tend to be part of the main stream tourist route.
Get lost. When traveling as a family, down time becomes very important. Constantly booked activities can become very tiring. They can also rob you of possible money saving adventures, For example: Building sheet tents in your hotel room and watching movies all day long, get lost in the city, have a picnic near a great monument or statue, stumbling upon an unexpected gem, play with the children in a local plaza, join the locals in a public activity (yoga in the park, local street games, etc.), have a family message, go to a local bath, or make a photo shoot around town.
However you decide to cut corners and save money, remember you are on vacation and this should be a once in a lifetime experience for yourself and your children. They grow up fast, but their memories will last forever. As long as you have fun, your children will join your ride and play along. Live large. Dance wild. Love deeply.