Be it a day trip or weeks on the road, most of us love to travel. But it doesn’t always come cheap, especially if you travel as a family. I’ve written this two part post to share the tips that help us afford to travel.

For context, we are a single income family and debt free family of five. My eldest daughter does travel with us at times making six.

Best value or budget doesn’t always mean the cheapest. Sometimes its worth paying a little more to save money down the line or for extra comfort and convenience. Travel is to be enjoyed, not endured.

But anyway, a little glimpse into the way we go about things…

Lubeck, Germany. Exploring on foot, for free.

Prioritize your spending before you even leave home.

Travel is important to us. So we are really focused on balancing what we need to live a full, happy life and be able to afford to travel.ย We think long and hard about what really brings us joy.

Some things just aren’t as important as freeing up funds for adventuring. Goodbye Sky TV, because I would rather explore the world than watch it. We don’t eat out regularly, I’m happy to cook and eat at home. I stopped buying glossy magazines full of clothes that I couldn’t fit into and couldn’t afford anyway.

If this stuff is important to other people, no judgment. But if you want to travel, you need to make that a priority.

Things Helen Loves, Vicars Close Wells. Medieval houses with tall chimneys stretch into the background
Visiting a Medieval Close in Wells, a free glimpse into the city’s history.

Shop around.

 Check the price for the same product with different sellers.  Use comparison sites.  For example, I  booked a four night break in the Moselle in Germany in August for five people. I checked out the price for the same holiday with four companies, including  booking direct with the park itself. There was a three hundred pound difference between the highest and lowest quotes. For the same holiday.

Oh, and always read the small print. One quote seemed like gold until I added in the compulsory charges for linen, final clean etc.  But when you have that best price…

Things Helen Loves, Orchids in the Palm House
Some times it’s worth paying the entrance fee. The Orchid House, Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens.

Get some added value.

Can you run your booking through a reward scheme? The caveat here being that you NEVER book something just because it does offer a reward or incentive. Find the most cost-effective option first and then see if you can book it via a cash back site like Top Cashback. This allows you to earn cashback on a range of purchases at no extra cost to you. If you haven’t signed up yet, do it here.

Find out if the company you are booking with offers any extra reward schemes or incentives. Sometimes you can double up cash back and incentive. Over the years we have had cash discounts as a loyalty bonus , free nights in some nice hotels via reward schemes and hundreds of pounds in cash back.

Find the way that works for you and then work it hard.

Things Helen Loves image of family in ice bar
Rare family shot in the Ice Bar, Oslo. Tickets pre-booked as an add on to the ferry booking at a discounted rate.

Tweak your Travel Dates.

Be flexible and consider low season travel. I know flexible isn’t always possible. With four children and a husband in the military, flexibility can be a luxury. But changing your travel dates by even a few days can be a real saver.

For example, we visited the beautiful Dutch island of Terschelling and travelling just a few days before the spring season officially began saved us a lot of money. Plus, traveling low season means things tend to be quieter, everything is less busy and the overall pace more relaxed. All good!

Terschelling Beaches.

Research will save you money.

It’s also fun and inspiring. When planning a trip ,check out what is on the area. Big events drive up prices…think Edinburgh in the Fringe or Munich during Oktoberfest. If you plan to visit a few cities or sites, research where you’ll stay. Is it better to fan out from one base or book multi stays?

Things Helen Loves, carved monkey embellishment at London Natural History Museum
Natural History Museum, London. A free and fabulous museum.

Dig into the main sights or places you want to see. Do they charge; if so are they value for money? Can you mix up paid and free activities? Does the tourist office offer a discount card?ย Can you get a personal discount due to your job, being a student and so on. We’ve saved quite a lot with military discount. It’s always worth an ask!

Organised tours like hop on/off buses or ferries can be convenient, but convenience costs. Can you buy a local travel card instead? In London, for example, fare capping or a travelcard will be a lot cheaper than a tour bus or the riverboats. We found that one out the hard way.

A little knowledge ahead of time can create a much smoother experience on so many levels, and it will save you money. Know before you go, or pay when you stay.

Get researching, get excited.

Ask The Experts

We are lucky now to have a huge amount of research and advice at our fingertips via the internet. Use it. If you look up the trip you want to take and add the words ‘budget’ or ‘low cost’, there’ll be someone out there who can help you out.

For example, I’m currently planning our first ever family cruise and I’ve been watching Emma Cruises. Her channel is a gold mine of mistakes to avoid, money saving tips and general cruise loveliness.

It’s good to learn from experience, even if it’s someone else’s. Right?

I hope there was something in here of interest or that might help you save money on your next trip. If you have any tips or money-saving travel hacks please do leave me a message in the comments. It makes my day to hear from you.

Post originally published in 2017, updated and reposted in 2023.

Helen x

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