One of the things my wife and I talk about often is how to save money travelling with kids.
We have been living away from Australia for close to 10 months as I write this and in this time we have visited six countries (including one stop over) in this time.
Most of the travel to other countries was done at the end of our time in Vietnam.
So at the end of this time we travelled to Cambodia, back to Ho Chi Minh City, China stopover on the way to Tokyo in Japan, back to Hanoi in Vietnam, through to Singapore and then back to Australia.
All of this time we had to be aware of how much we were spending because we were travelling with us, the kids and living out of hotels for a month.
So it is pretty easy to have a blow out of budget if you aren’t keeping an eye on it.
Why do we want to save money in the first place?
We choose to save money when we travel so we can spend it on our experiences and travelling more too.
So there are quite a few areas we look at when we are planning our holidays.
I’ll list them here for you and run through their meaning below.
- Flights, Buses and Trains
- Travel in Country
- Buying stuff you don’t need
Saving money on Flights, Buses and Trains
When we start planning we usually start with the dates of travel and where we want to travel.
Makes sense doesn’t it?
After sorting these out we start looking at how we are going to get there.
Is it easier to fly or travel by bus or train and also we look at the cost of each option at this time too.
I must add, when you look to save money travelling with kids it doesn’t mean you have to put your family safety or comfort at risk. You can plan and budget for both.
I read lots of reviews to gauge whether the transport we have chosen is safe and also if the website is safe to book as well, as the online threat for fraud is pretty real these days too.
While booking for travel for one leg of our latest trip we didn’t use one site to pay for a bus trip as it was being red flagged by Google as being unsafe to use.
So keep an eye out for these too as the last thing you need is your credit card being skimmed by others before you have even started travelling!
Most of the travel sites these days let you compare flight costs so you know what you are up for roughly when planning your travel.
When we aren’t using a travel site or a travel agent we try to book through the airlines own website rather than booking through a third party site.
We found this can save us a fair amount of money and also lower the risk of turning up and not having the correct information to travel or the seats not being booked properly.
When booking kids seats on a plane there are so many different age groups across the airlines that offer free travel or they offer discount rates on seats for kids in different age groups.
So make sure to check these costs out too because you can save yourself a lot just by looking, spending a bit of extra time and finding out whether your children can travel for free or for a lower cost.
Plane, Bus or Train?
When we decide how we are going to get from A to B we usually look at the distance and also the cost too.
For instance, for our trip to Cambodia we had the option of travelling by plane or bus.
So we had to take into consideration the price, travel time, safety and also our experience of the trip.
Living in Ho Chi Minh City made it sensible to explore bus travel too, as there are plenty of bus and tour companies that travel to Cambodia.
We had to also consider getting a Visa for the border crossing (this is another story in itself!), so both flying and travelling by bus took care of this too.
So we decided on the bus experience in the end compared to flying the family to Cambodia.
It was about a quarter of the price, took a little longer than a flight, but we got to see more of the countryside heading out of Vietnam through to Phnom Pehn in Cambodia.
We have taken train trips between Barcelona and Spain before as this was the best option at the time and also taken the train to Portugal from Spain too for the same reasons above.
And again, the cost saving on travelling on the bus for kids compared to kids flying are huge!
Saving money on Hotels and Accommodation
With so many hotels to choose from and so many websites you can book through these days it can be a bit daunting knowing where to start.
Tell me about it!
If we aren’t using a travel agent we usually look online and compare hotel pricing across a few booking websites and also then compare this pricing on the hotels website just to check.
Most hotels will honour the pricing and specials on the hotel booking websites if you get hold of them via email or give them a call if you prefer to book direct.
We have only had a few hotels that don’t reply back to us if we get in touch direct.
Most times it is just easier to book hotels on a travel website that compares prices because they do have some great specials!
A tip here for using a booking site, still get in touch with the hotel either to confirm your booking or, if needed, to see what the best option is for getting transport from the bus depot or airport to them.
Many will have a shuttle service or be able to offer you a way of getting to them easily for the best price option.
But the top benefit of getting in touch with your hotel is the confirmation of booking, you know it’s a done deal and it eliminates the potential risk of you turning up to be told that you don’t have one.
This happens and happens quite often.
When looking at booking your hotel make sure it is in the area you want to spend the most time and see the sites, especially with the kids in tow.
You may book a cheaper hotel outside of the city to save money but it will end up costing you an arm and a leg for tuk tuk’s or taxis going to see the landmarks or into the city to explore.
We like to walk everywhere so we always try to stay close to where we need to be and also within walking distance if we can to see most of the main tourist spots.
Another way to save money when booking accommodation is to book a hotel with an appropriate star rating.
As we have learned, a hotel in Japan that is three star is close to a 4 star hotel in Cambodia.
So book appropriately and read the reviews, it will give you an idea about the hotel quality and also save you money in the long run as you won’t pay for something you don’t need or want.
Lastly, hotels have different rules on kids ages too and also the amount of people allowed in a room.
We have had to share beds, use split rooms and in Singapore when we were there last visit, the hotel put a cot in the room at no charge, but if we wanted to upgrade to another bed it would of cost us an extra $50 a night.
So getting in touch with hotels and researching a little can easily save you money.
Although, I might add, we have turned up at hotels and been split into two rooms many times after only booking a single room.
That’s ok though, boys in one, girls in the other with plenty of room to relax!
Saving money on in country travel
I mean “in country” as in when you arrive to your destination and need to travel around.
All I can say here to start with is do your homework as there are plenty of scammers around many of the countries trying to rip off tourists and I’m sure, a few locals too.
We have had a few dodgy fares and it won’t be the last time either I’d say.
In country travel around Vietnam is pretty easy, we either use Grab or the two main taxi companies, Vinasun or Mailinh, no one else.
Although we have a big family compared to most we could still squeeze into a taxi and also a tuk tuk when we were in Cambodia.
Again, if you want to save money travelling with kids make sure to do your research deciding how you will travel around in the country or city.
We look at taxis, tuk tuk’s, buses and trains whenever we are looking at travelling when we get into a country.
For instance in Cambodia it was easier and more cost effective for us to travel on a tuk tuk everywhere, even using a tuk tuk to get to the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh and to Angkor Watt in Siem Reap which are a little further out of town.
In between the two cities in Cambodia we travelled by bus as this was way more cost effective than travelling by plane although you do lose time travelling doing so.
We used buses and trains in Japan and through Europe too when we were there and also have rented a car in Europe too to get around in countries and between.
Renting cars also saves a few dollars too in some instances because you don’t have to buy tickets for all the members of your family and you can park and travel anywhere with ease.
So there are many ways to travel around and, depending on the size of your family, you just have to do some research and reading.
Saving money buying food
This is where we save a fair amount when we have the kids in tow.
We book hotels with buffet breakfasts so we can load up ready for the day ahead.
Having a great start meal wise means you and the kids won’t be searching for snacks before you get to the first bus stop.
On the odd occasion we don’t book a hotel with breakfast, or as in Tokyo the hotel was very expensive for breakfast, we have cereal in our hotel room.
We either take our own plates and spoons or buy the cheap plastic ones from the supermarket when stocking up on milk and/or cereal if we haven’t bought our own.
This works out to be a very thrifty option and can save you a fair amount of money that can be used for experiences.
Usually our main meals through the day out are bought wherever we are and we just pay the price.
Although we have a look around to see if we can split meals up amongst the little ones if needed as they don’t need a full meal at times.
For our in-between snacks we take fruit, nuts and whatever we think is ok and will last in the backpack for the day.
We also take as much water as we can carry even though most places these days have drinking fountains around or if you are on a tour they supply water usually too.
So as you can see you can save money by thinking ahead and keep the kids going through the day without having to buy meals every time you get hungry.
It all adds up in the end!
Lastly is the final meal of the day, dinner time.
We would eat out sometimes but generally we would head to the supermarket and prepare or meals in the hotel room.
Again this would be using the plates we have bought and also utensils we travel around with too.
I have to say, some of the homemade hotel meals from the supermarket were more enjoyable than some of the meals we ate.
Especially since we are vegetarians too, in some countries, decent meals are hard to come by at a decent price.
So there you go, plan and prepare for the kids and yourself and you can save a fair amount daily and also across the trip too!
Buying stuff you don’t need
This is a hard one, especially if you have children and are planning to visit Disneyland!
One of our latest trips was to the Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea and you can imagine what it was like as they have a souvenir store at the end of most rides you have to walk through to get out.
We try to limit the toys or gifts to one each on our travels or really small, memorable items.
It makes it easier to carry around and for us, because we have had to pack up our house and put our belongings into storage, we don’t need the extra baggage.
I can understand that a once in a lifetime trip to Disneyland might be different and understandably you might splurge a little.
But for us at this point in our lives being a bit more mobile and not having too much “stuff” has become important.
And because I’m writing about how we save money travelling with kids, not having too much stuff means you can save money.
So if you want to save a little for your next experience think about your purchases a bit and try not to impulse buy too much.
Do you really need another soft toy for the bed? Do your kids need another soft toy for their bed? Do you really need a Mickey Mouse and Friends Refillable Soft Drink Cup with its amazing “glow in the dark” straw?
More than likely not.
Can you save money travelling with kids?
Of course you can!
All of the points I have run through above have helped my family and I over the years go for holidays on a budget.
We still enjoyed ourselves, ate well and didn’t have to pay excess baggage on the way home.
I do understand everyone is different and families are different too so the ideas above maybe just a trigger for where you can save to spend elsewhere on your holiday.
For instance, saving money on eating out so you can stay in a better hotel or use the savings to do a local tour in the area.
Finally, the key is in the planning for you, if you look ahead and plan effectively, you can save money travelling with kids.
Thanks for reading through, remember to keep on visiting my site or bookmark if you want to see where our next adventure takes us.