30+ realistic and helpful budget travel for families tips

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So many posts will give tips on how to budget travel with kids that take some serious planning. Some will include certain days to book flights or even specific times with certain companies but some never really get down to the nitty gritty of saving money while you are actually travelling with your children on a family trip.

Budget travel for families needs to be hassle-free and easy to do to make an affordable family vacation successful. It also needs to be something that you can implement with kids of any age. There are posts that will tell you how to maximise points or rewards but what if you don’t have them or you don’t have access in your country to these types of programs?

Hi! We are Wyld Family Travel

As Australians, we don’t have many of the systems that are available in other countries and it is down to us to be able to budget while we travel. We also find we rarely get favourable exchange rates too so extra planning must go into that as well. So here are all of our budget family travel tips that help us afford family travel.

Realistic budget travel for families tips

There are so many different things you can do to save money when you are travelling with children and before you leave to maximise your vacation spending money. We know this because we are budget travellers and we travel with our two teen daughters, which always adds to our travelling costs.

In this post, we have put together the things we do to maximise our money when we travel. Small things are easy to implement as you go and once you have them mastered they become part of your travel planning and vacation routine for future travels with your family.

What makes us budget travellers?

We have travelled to over 40 countries with our daughters starting from when our first was 10 months old. We travel from Melbourne Australia and most of our travel has been to Europe. In 2019 we took our daughters out of school and travelled for 14 months through Asia and Europe.

Travelling long-term with 2 teen daughters who were classed as two adults made us look harder into what we already did with our budget travel. The Australian dollar is usually weaker against most currencies outside of Asia and this has made us very savvy in our everyday travels and setting realistic budgets.

girl patting a dog at beijing Hostel
Staying at a hostel in Beijing

Are we only doing cheap family vacations?

While we love a budget-friendly trip with our kids we also like to be able to splurge when we want to so don’t just think we focus only on cheap family vacations! What we aim to do is help you have an amazing family vacation by incorporating free and inexpensive things to help the whole family budget.

We are also lucky that travelling off-season is an option for us. Being from Australia wherever we go internationally is a long journey but we have had to travel during peak seasons and during lesser visited times as well.

Is it just about saving on the trip?

Budget travel for families is also not about what you can do while you are travelling but what you can also do to try and prevent any unnecessary bills or costs for not being prepared.

Some people travel easily within a budget and some others get lost in the moment and return home to things they forgot they did on their holiday and are shocked with a bill later on.

These unplanned costs can make your budget blow out into a mega issue if they are not thought of and at least have some sort of plan in mind on how you are going to pay for them.

Tried and tested budget travel for families hacks

While everyone will have their own budget travel for families tips, here are some of the things we do to maximise our money when we are on vacation with teens. We started these family travel hacks when our daughters were little and now find them just a part of our travel planning.

Accommodation in hotels

As your kids are older you may not need an interconnecting room or a family suite anymore. You may find it easier and cheaper to get 2 rooms very close to each other which may help you save money on accommodation in hotels with teenagers.

Staying in a hotel in side by side hotel rooms

Finding budget-friendly accommodation is really easy with search engines like Booking.com, Expedia and Agoda.

You can also look into staying at a vacation rental as well. While vacation rentals may not suit everyone they can be great for the entire family if you are on a multi-generational trip.

You can search with Vrbo to find apartment accommodation worldwide for any budget. If you want something a bit special for a few nights, the Plum Guide is the place to look.

Accommodation in hostels

One great way to conserve money is to stay in hostels. While many parents believe that staying in a hostel is all party, party, party they have come a long way and are now very family-friendly.

Oriental courtyard
An amazing hostel in Beijing, China

You do have to do your research into hostels and what they offer your family, but they can be a great way to save on accommodation.

Many will have kitchen facilities, laundries and discounted experiences that they can help you with, which will also help with budget travel for families.

Hostelworld is the best place to find a wide range of properties all over the world.

Book with free cancellation

One thing we love to do when we are planning a trip with teenagers is to book accommodation that has a free cancellation option. Booking.com is one of the best sites for this.

This helps us find reasonably priced hotels to stay in, budget roughly on what a night will cost and then we can monitor the prices in that place and possibly secure a better and cheaper accommodation option down the track.

This helps us reduce our accommodation cost and at times gets us a better place to stay cheaper! This is absolutely our top-budget travel for families hack!

*You do have to make sure you cancel the first place though otherwise you are billed for it and you haven’t saved any money!

We also try to have this at about $100AUD per night for the 4 of us and have the money allocated towards it before we leave for our trip.

Set a daily budget

This is one of the biggest ones that helps us budget for a trip the most. We have a daily budget that does not include accommodation. This is just for food, entries and other items including souvenirs.

Having a daily travel budget helps you achieve a family holiday within your means but still allows you to enjoy what you want.

Use cash when we can – budget travel tips for families

Having cold hard cash you can see in your hand is a great way to limit your spending when you budget travel with kids. We usually visit an ATM where we are and take out a couple of days’ budget money at once.

This helps us see what we are spending and where we are at with our budget on a basic day. We separate the money into daily lots and at the end of the day see how much we have left over. This really helps us understand how much we are using and what we are using it on.

Don’t use credit cards

One thing I see a lot of is people using a credit card or card payment method and having no idea how much they are actually spending on holidays when they are on vacation with family.

This is one of the easiest ways to blow your travel budget and one of the biggest ways to go into debt while on holidays with family.

Once you get home and the bills start rolling in for things you did not budget for on your holiday is when the guilt, worry and stress come in making the memories of your holiday with teens overshadowed.

Try and use cash

Using a credit card also makes it harder to know exactly what you spent on the current trip to help you plan for the next one. It is a skewed budget and at some stage will make you unable to make a realistic travel budget with family work.

Get a travel money card

Travel money cards like Wise and Revolut offer competitive exchange rates, no foreign transaction fees, security features, multiple currency support, easy-to-use interfaces, and budgeting tools, making them a convenient and cost-effective way to manage money while travelling.

Save for big-ticket items before you go

Everyone loves to research a new trip or you can be watching something and see a place you would like to go.

A great way to make sure you have the money to visit the must-see sites, museums, a local theme park or an amusement park on your holidays with family is to see how much entry is to this place. Amusement and water parks are especially easy to go over your budget with due to all the extra costs involved.

Big ticket attractions like theme parks

You can check the official website and get the amount it will cost to enter and save for that. You can have a spreadsheet or a note on your phone to let you know when you have reached the amount you need.

Once you have saved for that you can then start on the next site if you have more than one. This is one of our best budget travel for families tips that absolutely works and is a real money saver.

Ideas on places to save for:

  • Museums
  • Wildlife Park
  • Sites
  • Amusement Parks (with added extras)
  • Landmarks
  • Aquariums
  • Waterparks (do you need a cabana?)

*A great way to do this also is to add a little more to the entry price just in case it goes up or you need a little bit more so you are able to get there. It can also include added experiences if they are offered at the venue and you can save for them too.

Book in advance if you can

Start planning as soon as you can, tourism seasons and peak season times are best booked as far out as possible. Many hotels and airlines like to get bums in seats and bodies in beds early to help predict occupancy rates.

Somewhere around the 8 months out will help you to get the best prices we have found.

Check out deals on discount sites and cashback

Many overseas countries have sites like Groupon, Scoupon and cashback sites that have bargains waiting to be taken. You can often pick up discount activities, meals and attractions at a good discount. And remember, anything you book well in advance does not have to come out of your daily budget when you arrive.

Some places will offer loyalty cards to regular shoppers or coupons. It is worth looking into these if you are travelling in an area for an extended period of time and even a little saving is still a good one.

In Australia, you can use sites like Scoupon and Cashrewards, In the USA, Dosh is popular. In the UK, Topcashback and Living Social are the places to look.

Schedule some downtime

Downtime can be anything from lying on the beach to watching TV or just going for a walk exploring your destination. Relaxing is a big part of any holiday and often comes free of charge.

Downtime and using the local free facilities are great ways to help your budget if you have overspent on one day or if you are wanting to do something that you may not have completely planned for in your budget.

Ideas for cheap or free activities:

  • Walking tours
  • Visit a National Park
  • Kid-friendly outdoor spaces
  • Sandy beach days
  • Find some hiking trails
  • Scavenger Hunt

Eat locally

Finding affordable eats is one of the hardest things to plan for. This is a huge one for travelling cheaply. Travellers are often put off eating locally because prices are cheap. Somehow we have this idea that cheap local places can increase the chance of food poisoning or that they serve poor-quality food.

Your best bet is to look around and see where the locals are eating, especially in Asian cities and pull up a seat. Local eateries can easily save you 50-70% on what you would normally pay if you can get away from the tourist centres.

Breakfast included – the magic words

A free breakfast option is fantastic even if it is just a basic breakfast. Breakfast included in big brand hotels can cost a little more on the overall overnight stay, but you need to weigh up if that’s worth saving money on breakfast and sometimes lunch.

Hotel breakfast in Zurich Switzerland

A lot of hotels will have a buffet breakfast where you can have a good-sized meal that may see you through most of the day and save you money on food during the day.

Know the money – budget travel for families tips

Knowing the currency of the country you are in is invaluable. Some countries have dollars in the 1000’s so it is always a good idea to familiarise yourself with the currency before you go out and about.

If you don’t know the money it is easy for you to overpay or get the incorrect change from a knowledgeable local. While some mistakes happen you can also be an easy target and this will definitely add to your budget.

Take some things from home

There are some items that are worth taking from home. If you have a certain product that you use on a regular basis (for us it is a certain shampoo) we take one with us. Trying to find it can be a time suck and it can also cost a lot if you have to visit a foreign supermarket to get it.

Also taking things like sunscreen and feminine hygiene products is a good idea as well if you will need them. These items can be extremely expensive when you travel overseas.

Download the local Uber, GRAB or rideshare app

Some countries are notorious for taxi drivers ripping you off or overcharging you. Countries such as Vietnam and Mexico are well known for this, hence the ride-share apps will give you a good indication of the exact price that you pay for a trip upfront.

It’s easy to get confused after a long flight and jump into a cab and get fleeced. It happened to us in Ho Chi Minh City.

Transportation costs

These are ones that get people all the time and usually because they are trying to pack so much into their holiday with kids that they are taking the most expensive routes.

Waiting for the train in Lisbon Portugal

Sometimes less is more and if you are travelling with older kids it may be easier to take overnight trains or buses than constantly taking domestic flights.

You also need to factor in that even in a bustling city like Melbourne there is no free shuttle to and from the airport so if you are arriving late at night or early in the morning with small children you may need an airport pick-up service which adds costs to your family vacations.

Know your exchange

Know how much you are paying for food, drinks and attractions. There are many options available online to figure this out such as Google, XE, or OANDA. You can also use a currency conversion app on your smartphone.

Simply enter the amount you want to convert and the two currencies you are converting between, and the tool will provide you with the current exchange rate. If you think you’re paying too much you probably are.

Know how to barter

Plenty of people will tell you to collect experiences not things but sometimes some things from your trip help remind you of the experiences you have! It’s ok to absolutely collect some of your favourite things from your adventures with kids.

Shopping at Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City

Bartering is king in some countries and you must know how to do it and when to do it. In many Asian countries, it is nearly an Olympic sport. Try your best to find the local market not the most popular market in town. Ask the seller when that price is and they will tell you.

From here is where it starts. As a rule, we usually halve it and go from there. Know the exchange rate and that will also tell you how much it is worth in your own currency.

If bartering is the way of the local system it is good for you to know it or go to a fixed-price shop if you want to buy souvenirs.

If you do have to barter then we always save halve the price that is being asked and then go from there. Again if you know the currency you should also know the conversion rate and what that item is in your currency. This will help you decide if you really need it or if it is worth what you are paying for it.

Get travel insurance

Travel insurance can be a considerable cost early on, but is nothing compared to what it may cost you to get good medical care if something happens.

We all think nothing will happen to us, but in reality, if you’re in a country that you are unfamiliar with, anything could happen. If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.

Travel Insurance Masters is a great place to start, They offer affordable coverage with options to fit different budgets, and the cost of travel insurance is a small percentage of the overall trip cost.

The company has a team of professionals available 24/7 to assist travellers with any issues or emergencies they may encounter while travelling.

Buy a set of travel scales and use them for luggage

Budget airlines love to charge for extra weight, even if you are just a little over the weight allowance. Buy a set of luggage scales and take them with you. I attach mine to the strap on my backpack, so I can weigh all our luggage.

Often it’s cheaper to buy some extra luggage online prior to your flight than to run the risk of getting caught at the airport. There is nothing worse than being able to find cheap flights only to get stung with excess baggage charges. Buy a set of travel scales before you leave.

Never use hotel laundries

If you’re staying in a brand-name hotel such as Ibis, Ramada, or Holiday Inn you can expect to pay a fortune for laundry to be done. If you find a laundry service out on the street, you will save lots of money.

In Vietnam, we were getting 5kg of laundry done for around $6 Australian. If you’re staying in a mum-and-pop hotel, they will often do cheap laundry for you, don’t be afraid to ask.

In many countries, you will also find a small local laundry or a laundromat where you can wash your own clothes. The problem with this though is that you have to pay for laundry detergent and other products so it may be easier to pay a small fee at a laundry.

Organise your phone before you leave home

If you are travelling internationally with teenagers one thing that people forget is their mobile or cell phone plans. It is a great idea to call your provider and see what they offer you for your international trip with teens.

There is nothing worse than not having any idea about what your plan allows and then you having a huge bill when you get home for roaming calls or message services.

Sites such as Viator and Klook sell lots of sim cards for international travel.

Do you need the internet?

For families travelling these days staying in touch is a great idea especially if you travel with young adults. Some countries have an abundance of places where you can easily access the wifi network to keep you going but it is also a great idea to have a backup plan for when you are out and about with your teens.

Organising the internet you need for your holiday with teenagers is a great way to save you money and make sure you are not met with a huge surprise bill for roaming services when you return home.

Get a room with a fridge

If you have a room with a fridge you can buy some drinks and even some food that you can enjoy back in your room.

For people who like to have an alcoholic beverage at night, you can have them in the fridge cooling while you are out during the day and have them when you return at night. Also buying them hot from a shop is usually cheaper than cold from a convenience store.

Shop at a supermarket

You can find a small supermarket in most places and you will definitely find foreign supermarkets in the bigger cities. If you can use a smaller local supermarket the prices can be less usually in Asia.

Shopping at a supermarket in Sanur Bali

In some European countries, you will have to watch the prices, as they can differ significantly between stores.

Other things to consider but may not be possible

There are plenty of other things you can do to save money. Once we see often is the miles and points system that is loved by many. Unfortunately, our country does not have these promotions so we are unable to use them to help with our travel.

boarding an air asia flight
Flying on Budget Airlines

They do look so good and if you are able to get them in your country go for it!

Late night early morning flights

At times that seem to be the worse time to fly is when you will usually get a good deal but obviously, the times are something you have to factor in. Check Skyscanner to plan your early morning flights.

We have a 4-hour drive to the airport so late-night flights work well for us.

Travel out of school holidays

Even leaving a couple of days before the holidays start can save you so much money. If you can return a couple of days later too this can also save you a huge amount of money.

Unfortunately, again this system is not easy to use in some countries due to the fines or rules that have to be followed for attendance.

Travel out for the perfect season

Everyone wants perfect weather and the perfect pictures to remember their time on holidays with teens but there are some times that you can travel that are slightly out of the perfect season that is still stunning and can save you money.

Again this is not always possible due to school restrictions or work restrictions but may help you plan something a little off the radar or a place you had not thought about.

Extra tips to help budget family vacations

There are always small things to do that can save you money and they are simple things that seem to slip our minds when we are trying to settle into holidays.

Some of these will help you save some money and some will just help you know your area.

Take a walk around the block

Taking a quick walk around the block where your apartment, hotel or hostel is will instantly tell you what you have easily within walking distance.

It may just be a little shop, bakery, cafe or laundry that you have not had to search too hard for. It helps with time-saving and you always end up making friends with the locals that you see on a regular basis.

This is also great if you are there for a longer period or a short one. People are more likely to help a familiar face too if they get into trouble and need a helping hand.

Read blogs

Well, you are reading this one now so obviously you read some but expand what you usually read and add some things in that you wouldn’t usually have a look at. This is a great way to see what else you may need to know and add some other activities to your itinerary.

Watch Youtube

Some people find reading blog posts not as helpful as a visual presentation of where they are going. Having the opportunity to see the area you are staying in or even the hotel room you have booked will help you think about what is possible there.

Many of the videos you can watch will give you an idea of what is available and if you can in any way save some extra money or time. Watching someone who has had personal experience in a place is invaluable when you are trying to budget for a vacation with kids.

We hope this post from us here at Wyld Family Travel has you thinking about all the ways you can plan cheap family vacations while still being able to have the family vacation you want. Our budget travel tips for families have evolved over decades of travelling with kids and will continue to do so as we continue to travel and vacation with teens. Budget travel is possible anywhere, you even do Galapagos on a budget with a little planning.

Whether you are planning a beach vacation, a visit to a national park, an ocean city stay or a quick city break you can always have the family vacation you want by following our top travel tips.

You don’t need to miss out on anything you want to do you just have to budget for it and you can still have the best cheap family vacations that have all the best kid-friendly attractions, free things to do, top beach entertainment, national parks for nature lovers and any other attractions that make your family vacations epic.

Let us know when you use our top travel tips on your next vacation with family in the comments below.

Travel with teenagers and tweens. Travelling with older kids has just as many issues as travelling with younger kids. Choosing the best teenage vacation destinations can be so time-consuming. 

Use our travel with teenagers destination guides from all over the world for your next family vacation inspiration to make your family vacations with teens epic


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Rebecca Wyld

bec.wyld@wyldfamilytravel.com

Content Creator/SEO Editor

Co-founder and SEO editor here at Wyld Family Travel. Bec has travelled to over 45 countries across 3 continents and is a journey with kids advocate. When Bec is not planning travel, she creates content for our family travel blog or does local community service work. You can find all of Bec’s detailed travel guides here on Wyld Family Travel and on other popular websites such as Lonely Planet.