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How we can afford family travel so often (and how you could too)

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(Last updated on: 10/12/2020)

How can we afford family travel so often? This is a question that I get asked a lot!

Nope, sadly we are not rich, we haven’t come into money and I do not get ‘free’ trips as a travel blogger (maybe I could if we were not limited to travelling in the school holidays when holiday companies are busy and not willing to offer product reviews etc). Instead, we can afford family travel so often because we prioritise it!

Prioritising family travel does come with compromises. Some people choose to spend their money on the latest designer footwear or a lavish night out on the town. We spend our money on travel. Here are some of our tips and tricks that allow us to undertake the family travel trips that we do. 

How we afford family travel

Travel is ingrained in me (I’m a sagittarius, what can I say?). If I don’t have a trip to look forward to I get depressed. I can deal with the gloomy prospects of Brexit, the endless rainy days and the fact that the only post I ever receive is for bills, but only when I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. I honestly, think that without a trip to look forward to I would be a very miserable and grumpy person!

Not everybody can resonate with this. For some people, a night out in a nice restaurant or buying a nice new dress will cheer them up just fine. But everybody is different, and that’s just not me!

Fortunately, hubby is more than keen to pursue lots of travel adventures with me. Whilst I don’t think he would be quite so depressed as I would without them, he definitely loves travel just as much as I do! And that’s one of the reasons I married him!

You might also be interested in my post ‘We’re married! My amazing Thai-Asian themed wedding’

So, by default, now that we are parents, we have moulded and adapted our adventures to suit the needs of little feet as well as ours. Family travel has so many benefits, from the educational value to the sensory elements. In the past two years we have travelled to many destinations with our baby/toddler which includes South Africa, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Canada and Costa Rica, and we will continue to travel just as much in the future!

Being parents, however, does bring with it additional costs in everyday life. In fact, according to this article published in the Telegraph, the average cost of raising a child in the UK is a whopping £230,000! Yikes! So with all of the added costs of nappies, clothing, food, school supplies, toys etc, this naturally begs the question- how do we afford family travel?

How we afford family travel

I have narrowed the answer to this question down to seven main tactics that we use, as a family, to ensure that we can afford family travel.

I haven’t updated my wardrobe since 2008

Seriously, take a look at what I am wearing in Turkey the year I met my husband… I actually wore this same dress on my recent trip to South Africa almost 6 years later!

How we can afford family travel so often

For me and my family, clothes are not as important as travel is. My husband and I rarely buy new clothes and when we do they are almost always in the sale. Baby Isla’s clothes have either been given to us by friends and family, are second-hand (seriously- they only wear them for a few weeks before they have outgrown them!) or they are supermarket/Primark bargains.

I would, hands down, rather my daughter got to experience seeing elephants roaming in the wild or searching for bears in Canada than be wearing the latest Moana dress and Ugg Boots!

Why not try adding up how much you spend on clothes/shoes? For many people, this could easily add up to the cost of a family trip away or two each year!

We buy second-hand

Many of our friends have expensive phone contracts, sofas on monthly payments and TVs on finance. We don’t buy expensive items for our home, unless we feel this is absolutely necessary.

Some items we have are second-hand. This includes our table and chairs, bedside cabinets and wardrobes. We usually pick these up super cheap on Facebook buy and sell groups or on Gumtree.

You might also be interested in my post- How I went from Verging on Bankruptcy to being in Credit in Three Years… and Travel was to Blame

Other items we buy new but we try to find the best bargains. For example, when planning my daughter’s travel-themed nursery, I found that most cots were in the range of £250-£400! This was more than I paid for my own bed! So we took a trip to Ikea and got a bargain cot for just over £100.

Some items we do view as being worth spending a bit more money on, such as the mattress for our bed and my husband’s mountain bike that he uses for off-road biking (although the bike was also second hand). If it has a big impact on comfort or safety then we will spend a bit more. BUT we restrict such spending to things that we view as essential only!

Toys are another expense for parents. We tend to pick up bits in the sale/from the supermarket for a reasonable price. I am also a big fan of Amazon. We picked up our kids fire tablet, for example in the Black Friday sale- it was a steal at almost half the usual price (click here for latest prices)! There are many second-hand sales which focus on children toys too, so this can be a great place to pick up a bargain!

We socialise at home

I can get a nice bottle of wine on offer in the supermarket for around £5-£8. The same bottle of wine is likely to cost in the region of £20-30 in a bar/restaurant. This is a ridiculous mark-up and will eat into your family travel fund FAST!

We generally opt to socialise at home, as opposed to going out, which enables us to save a substantial amount of money each month, which helps us to be able to afford family travel!

This goes for adult-only socialising, such as dinner parties or drinks. But it also goes for mummy socialising too. I will get together with my mummy friends either at each others’ houses (never underestimate the entertainment your child will find in playing with other children’s toys!), or at the park, which is free.

We travel to affordable destinations

As many of you know, hubby and I both work in education. This is a major limitation for our travel fund because travel in the school holidays always costs sooo much more!

Nevertheless, there are ways that you can still find a bargain!

One way that we are able to afford family travel is because we are flexible with our destination choices. If a place we fancy going is too expensive, we simply leave it on our bucket list and move on to the next. The world is a big places and there are many different places to choose from!

If you choose a destination that is slightly out of season, has become less ‘fashionable’ or has had some kind of difficulties effecting their tourism industry, then you just might find a good bargain!

Hubby and I have travelled to Egypt shortly after the revolution, when tourist numbers were down and prices were cheap. We climbed Kilimanjaro during rainy season, which meant that prices were less as it was classed as ‘off-peak’. We backpacked through Turkey when Turkish airlines were having difficulties and were giving away super cheap flights!

It is also worth considering the cost when you arrive at a destination too. Whilst travelling there might not always be cheap, everything else just might be!

I was shocked when I visited Goa for the first time and spent only a couple of hundred Pounds in a week. Compared to my previous holidays to New York, Las Vegas and European destinations, this was INCREDIBLE! So think beyond the cost of your flights…. because overall the trip may end up being better value for money than you might initially expect.

We were pleasantly surprised with the low cost of living when we travelled in Kathmandu, Sri Lanka and South Africa. Canada was as we had expected, which was similar to the UK. Costa Rica, however, took us by surprise- we had expected ‘developing country’ rates and got ‘USA prices’! So this goes to show that it can go the other way too. Moral of the story- always do your research!

sri lanka with a baby

There are lots of ways that you can search for the best deals on the Internet. If you prefer to book a package I would recommend as they always seem to have great deals. Expedia and are my favourite sites for comparing prices on hotels and I use Europe Car to book my car hire. Oh and for ease when travelling with little ones we like to leave our car at the airport and we always find the best prices for this on Purple Parking.

You might also be interested in my post- Top Five Destinations to Travel with a Baby

We use air b n b accommodation

Air b’n’b is our family travel savour!

I’ll never forget the sleepless night we had when we were given a hotel room net to the bar when baby Isla was just 14 months old in Kathmandu. I’ll also never forget the hotel which didn’t start their evening buffet until 8pm, which caused a major meltdown with our then 9 month old hungry baby in Sri Lanka. Then there was the hotel in Canada in which Isla decided to climb on the GLASS table, leaving a huge crack along the top.

Kids don’t always fit with hotels, this is a lesson that I have most certainly learnt.

Instead, we love the flexibility of Air b’n’b accommodations. We can eat when we like, sleep when we like and carefully vet the accommodation before booking. Plus the added bonus is that they are generally more affordable than hotels!

Oh and if you’re interested in staying in an Air b’n’b place and you use this link to book you get £25 off your booking- every little helps us to afford family travel, huh!

We regularly check Skyscanner for the best deals

Like I said before, flexibility is key if you want to ensure that you can afford family travel. Skyscanner has some great deals and I have been using it to book my flights for years.

The website even has a handy function that enables you to be flexible on date and/or location. This lets it bring up the best bargains for you to view! Sometimes (usually over a nice glass of red) I will sit and browse the results on the ‘everywhere’ option!

Click here to check the latest deals on Skyscanner.

We don’t buy gifts for each other 

My final tip for being able to afford family travel is gifts. I come from a family where gift buying is big. I think they think we are crazy when we say that we don’t buy presents for each other! Hubby, on the other hand, comes from a family where presents are not a big part of birthday or Christmas celebrations. And don’t even get me started on Mother’s Day or any of the ‘Clinton Card Holidays’ as Philip likes to describe them!

You might also be interested in my post- Travel-themed gift ideas: For kids

I like to think that we have a happy medium in our family. I don’t want the children to feel that they are missing out, so we do buy presents for them. But hubby and I rarely buy presents for each other.

Instead, we opt to spend that money on travel or adventurous activities. For my 30th birthday Philip bought us flights to Poland for the weekend. For Philip’s birthday a couple of years ago I bought him a skydive. For Christmas one year we purchased flights to Jordan.

For us, travel is the best gift that we could buy!

How we can afford family travel… and you could too!

So there you have it, you do not need to be rich to afford family travel! All it takes is a little money-management and prioritisation!

I’m always keen to hear more tips and family travel hacks… if you have any advice on how to afford family travel I’d love to hear it- leave your comments below!

Did you find this post helpful? Please share on your social media- every bit of exposure helps contribute to our family travel fund!

Psssst! By the way, I have recently designed a flight log book to allow your kids to record all of the journeys! If you’re looking for a special way to record your children’s travel memories then head over to Amazon to take a look!

  1. Ashley

    Very realistic and well-explained tips. thanks

  2. Lellalee

    What a really interesting post! My hubby and I try to save money in similar areas, e.g. socialising at home and not buying each other gifts. As you say, the cutbacks are well worth the effort when you think of all the experiences you can give to your children. xxx

    • Hayley

      They absolutely are worth it!! I’m glad you enjoyed the post- any shares are appreciated!

  3. Phoebe

    Wow your photos of Egypt are so nice. Looks like the little one had so much fun. It’s amazing how developed that part of the world is right now.

  4. Emma Atiase

    I’ve taken note of the services you use in order to bring the costs down, as I would love to go to Italy for my 40th next year, and take my boys (aged 12, and 13) away somewhere abroad too. As a single parent, I haven’t been able to afford this yet, and in addition I haven’t had the confidence to do this alone until now as they are older. I’m hoping with your advice I’ll be able to price it up, and save enough to be able to do this sometime in the future.

    • Hayley

      Italy sounds amazing! If you need and help/advice just shout!

  5. Nick

    Awesome tips, and we do most of these too! We also work while on the road (I’m sure you do too!) and overall just don’t buy much stuff.

    • Hayley

      Thanks Nick! We try not to work when we are travelling unless I need to but there are definitely times when I do. Minimalism definitely helps!

  6. josh

    this is the kind of post that i have been looking for. this is quite nice and lovely post. you really did a good job and you tried a lot.



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