Anyone whose ever tried organising a family holiday knows that you don’t often find the word “cheap” involved. There’s no doubt that getting a famiy up and out the door – to anywhere – takes time, effort, and, yes, money. But those on a tight budget should not despair. A cheap family holiday can be done – it just takes a little know-how.
“You don’t need to spend a lot of money to enjoy a great family holiday,” says Catriona Rowntree, mum and veteran presenter of Channel Nine’s Getaway program. “What does help a lot is organisation.”
1. For the best deals on family holidays go online. There are plenty of websites designed to help you, and I particularly like the ones where other holidaymakers write in with their responses and experiences. Spend 15 minutes double-checking other people’s thoughts on your accommodation choice before you book. You want to make sure it resembles the brochure or website.
2. Try to book accommodation as close to favoured locations as possible, just to make it easy when you get there. Your independence is everything and details like easy access to the sites, the ability to have a hire car, or even just a microwave at your accommodation to save you eating out every night can make a huge difference.
3. Don’t get sucked in by glamorous details. Often the best experiences have nothing to do with your surrounds and everything to do with friendly people, great service and friendships made. You can find that in an Aussie caravan park – I think we have the best in the world.
Time works to your advantage when you’re planning a family holiday. While you often see great “last-minute” deals, which might work for the single or the spontaneous, but the fact is that, for families, the best and cheapest airfares and accommodation deals are had by booking early.
If you’ve left it too late to book summer at the coast or winter in the snow at great earlybird rates, don’t despair. The smart money heads in the opposite direction. You can enjoy a wonderful beach holiday in May or September at a fraction of the cost of a high-season stay. Yes, it’ll be too cold to swim, but you can still enjoy long walks on the beach, sand-castle building and all the fun of beachside holiday attractions – without the crowds. Ditto for the mountains. No snow, but lots of lovely long bushwalks and adventures to be had.
No matter where you decide to go, the cheapest option for family holidays is always self-catering. It’s best for nutrition, best for budget and best for sanity. Takeaway gets very expensive – and kind of boring – when you’re limited to eating it every night. As Catriona says, look for at least a microwave! If you’re looking at staying at a resort, search for one that offers a “kids stay and/or eat free” option – but check the fine print to make sure your 13 year old is still classified as a kid.
The Gold Coast is a popular holiday destination for families, but there are so many attractions on offer that it can get very expensive. Look for special Theme Park passes that offer multiple entry to multiple parks. These can offer great value, but be sure to check park rules – many no longer allow families to bring picnic lunches and the food options can be pricey.
Of course, there are a lot of free activities still available for family holidays. Beaches are still free. National parks offer amazing spaces for kids to run wild. Our cities are well-stocked with adventure playgrounds, bike tracks and museums. One way to enjoy a new area at minimum cost is to look at a house swap. This works beautifully if you have family friends in the city while you’re near the coast or in the country, or vice versa. One week in someone else’s house, living a different life, is a fantastically budget-friendly way to holiday.