The weather's warming up and everyone’s thinking about their summer holiday, but keeping costs down, especially if you have a few little ones along with you, isn't always an easy task. In fact, without careful planning, you can find yourself spending more than you intended.
Fortunately, having a meaningful and memorable summer holiday doesn't have to cost the earth. While an all-inclusive package deal is less work than striking off on your own, they also run the risk of being overpriced and uninteresting. Trying to take a trip on a limited budget, on the other hand, is a tried and tested recipe for adventure!
1. Choose self-catering accommodation
Hotels know that they can charge a small fortune when there aren't very many other options around, especially in high season, and many don't think twice about ripping off their guests. Self-catering options allow you to eat healthy and delicious food at a fraction of the price that you would spend in a restaurant. Get the whole family together to pitch in and cooking can transform from a chore into a bonding activity.
2. Family train and bus discounts
Don't forget to look out for special offers on family rail or bus travel. Plenty of companies do discounts for those travelling in larger groups and these are well worth taking advantage of. There are usually some deals that offer free or half-price entry to attractions in conjunction with travel tickets, but these are only ever available for a limited time!
3. Go camping
Camping is still the king of cheap travel, and when the weather's warm and you plan to spend most of the holiday outdoors anyway, the freedom of a movable home allows you to pitch up in some truly spectacular locations. It might not be as comfortable as opting for self-catering accommodation, but as long as everyone is keen to sleep under the stars it can be great for families.
4. Plan ahead
Prices can really start to spiral out of control when you haven't researched your destination properly. You should know what you can afford to spend each day and have a rough idea what everything will cost - including those hidden surprises such as parking. You’ll generally get the best deals if you book 9 months in advance. The exception is when you book something really late - around 4 weeks before you plan to go. Booking late can be even cheaper than booking early, but you lose out on flexibility.
5. Take packed lunches
As with self-catering, taking a packed lunch with you is far cheaper than buying something at a restaurant or cafe - and with a little imagination can be just as delicious! According to research from Nationwide Building Society, parents will spend an average of £340 on food and drink for their children over the summer holidays. That's £90 more than they'll spend on entertainment and treats! Self-catering and packed lunches can bring these figures down to a much more reasonable number.
6. Check for free activities near your destination
Taking a trip to the beach is something that we all have fond memories of, and fortunately they are usually amongst the cheapest options when it comes to an activity for the day. Within England, you're never more than 70-something miles from the beach. Also try to do some research to see if there are any free events on in the area when you are visiting. You might find that there's a food festival or street market in town which will keep the family entertained for the evening. Have a list of free nearby museums on hand so that you have something to do if the Great British weather turns sour.
7. Travel with another family
Travelling in a larger group often means larger discounts! If you plan to rent a larger cottage or holiday home, then splitting the costs between two (or more) families can mean that everyone gets more for their money. Not only that, but large groups are much better at entertaining themselves in the evenings, without needing to go out and empty their wallets. Charades anyone?
8. Strike a bargain
We British can sometimes hate to bargain, but really bargaining is nothing more than finding a price that both parties are happy with, and there's no harm in trying. You can often get a better bargain if you go somewhere off season, agree to make multiple purchases, or if there's some minor flaw with the product that makes full price seem unreasonable. Try quoting prices you’ve been offered by one company then asking another if they can beat it.
9. Consider renting your home out (and staying away for longer)
The most savvy summer-holidayers know that there's no point leaving an empty house behind. If you live in a desirable area, there's a good chance that you'll be able to cover a considerable amount of the cost of going on holiday by renting out your house whilst you're away. If you do manage to find someone willing to stay in your place, you can often stay on holiday for less than it costs to live at home!
10. If you have young children & teenagers… consider a cycling holiday
Transport is another major cost for most holiday goers, but travelling can be free if you have a set of bikes at home already. Cycling holidays are fun, healthy and cheap! Simply decide which hostels you'll be staying at along your chosen route, and head off out through the front door. You’ll be amazed at where you can end up at after just a few days of cycling, and you’ll give the whole family an amazing sense of achievement.
11. Stay in the UK (or go really far away!)
Flights can easily eat up most of your budget before you even worked out where you are going to sleep! Holidaying closer to home, such as in the Welsh wilderness or the Scottish highlands, can be just as exciting as a trip overseas but at a fraction of the cost. If you simply have to go overseas, try to pick a non-obvious destination to cut costs. Think Serbia rather than Spain for a much more interesting holiday at a vastly reduced price.
12. If you’re going abroad, getting a good exchange rate is crucial
You almost always have to pay something for the simple act of changing your money from one currency into another, and commission as well as ATM charges can be very steep when you don’t know what the going rate should be. Some credit cards will get you great deals, but they tend to come with their own set of drawbacks. Alternatively, you can always stay within the UK and not worry about any of that nonsense!
About the Author
Ben is an entrepreneur who was born and bred in Conwy, a world heritage site on the North Wales coast. Ben runs Great Escapes Wales and loves exploring the Welsh countryside in his free time.