How families can afford to travel
You don’t need to be rich to travel but you do need to be smart. Smart about what you spend your money on, and smart about prioritising what’s important in your life right now.
All throughout our lives, our financial priorities change constantly. We start by saving pocket money for the latest gadget, sporting good or piece of clothing. Then we move on to saving for college, saving for fun and holidays, for our first car, and if we’re lucky for our first house.
Once we have kids, there are so many more bills to pay, and often less money coming in, which means usually it’s the stuff that makes our lives amazing such as vacations, is what disappears first.
So how do we afford to travel?
For our family, every year is different, but no matter what, we have learned the benefits of making travel a priority. All the essentials in life come first like food, water, and shelter, but we know from experience that when things are really tough financially, this is the time you most need to get away.
Some years when money was seriously tight in our house, I became very good at cooking cheap cuts of meat and being creative in the kitchen to significantly reduce our food costs. We used less electricity, didn’t eat out, and made do with what we had. When it came to holidays, we visited friends and family around Australia, and if we saved enough we could rent a cheap apartment at the beach during the off-season. It wasn’t grand but it gave us the break we needed without putting us further into debt.
Over the years we have learned to save on everyday things like groceries, fuel, and electricity. I make good plunger coffee, so I won’t be as tempted to buy takeaway coffee. I make dinner in bulk, so I can freeze it for all those times when I just can’t be bothered cooking.
I say no a lot to the kids requests for new electronics, toys, treats etc and I love that they now understand and accept my saying no because they get how awesome travelling as a family really is.
How other parents afford travel
Every family is different which you can tell from the experiences of these 10 parents from around the world who travel A LOT with their kids.
Sally saves around $5000 a year by changing where she buys groceries, while Kellie’s family saves a lot of time and money by not doing middle school competitive sports. Some parents use free flights from travel hacking, while others are great at seeking out amazing deals.
What ideas will you use to save for your next trip?
“Our love of travel has found me finding ways to save money on daily expenses to free up funds for more travel. The most expensive cost for our family of 5 has always been groceries. I had traditionally always shopped at Coles, as it is located closest to our home. I started to get upset when our weekly budget for groceries was pushing the $250-$280 mark.
I decided enough was enough, I had to find some cost-effective shopping options. Instead of cutting back on the things we like, I decided to give Aldi a try. I am now an Aldi convert and do my weekly shop on a Sunday and the grocery bill averages $140-$180 per week. I have found that we don’t go without anything we had before, it’s just packaged differently. That’s a cost saving of approximately $100 per week that can then go towards extra special family experiences such as zip lining in Cambodia or a snorkeling day trip in Thailand.” Sally from Our 3 Kids v the World – check out more tips and stories from their travels
“One of the main reasons that we’ve been able to travel as much as we have, is because we are very intentional about how we spend our time and money. As our children moved from elementary school to middle school, we noticed that many families were getting sucked into the competition sports/dance/cheer teams. We watched as other families spent all of their free time and money on sports. Many times these families weren’t even together because they had multiple kids involved in different sports in different cities. This lifestyle did not appeal to us at all. So we decided that instead of collecting trophies, we would collect passports stamps. We spent our breaks exploring the world, instead of soccer fields or dance studios. As a family, we have now traveled to over 30 countries across six continents – all because we chose to (literally) take a different path.” Kellie from Four Worn Passports – check out more tips and stories from their travels
“For us, it comes down to priorities. We don’t drive expensive cars or live in a big house. We live well within our means so that we have the spare money to travel. We would rather put our money towards travel experiences, than new clothes, a meal out, or more toys for our kids. Admittedly we are fortunate to be in a position to decide where we spend our money. For many families, if you want to travel, it’s a case of adjusting your priorities.” Jenny from TraveLynn Family – check out more tips and stories from their travels
“Putting the funds together to be able to afford to travel is no easy task. Start by creating a travel budget plan and write down EVERY single thing you buy. You may be quite surprised that you can easily swap some of your “luxury essentials” for low-cost options. For example, do you need that café coffee at $4.50/cup per day (that’s $1642.50 a year)? Instead, buy a $150 Nespresso and make it yourself. What about your gym membership at $60/month (that’s $720 a year)? Instead, buy hand weights ($50) and walk or run at the local park. By assessing your current spending habits and finding alternatives, you can cut costs to start enjoying more getaways and trips.”
Sally-Ann from Tips 4 Trips – check out more tips and stories from their travels
“We are always asked how we manage to travel for the amount of time that we do. For us, it is very simple, but many people are confused by it. We make a constant choice…do we want it or do we need it. It was something that I struggled with for a long time, as most of my friends were constantly picking on our old house or our old cars. They didn’t understand that those choices worked for us, and helped us save to travel. We had a roof over our heads and we got from a to b. We also got holidays with our kids.
So it was easy to extend that to all parts of our life. Do you want that really expensive dinner out or do you want to put it aside for a trip? For us, it is a choice we make that our holidays and nights away with our daughters are much more important than constantly upgrading and being in debt.” Bec from Travels in Gippsland – check out more tips and stories from their travels
“As expats, we are fortunate to receive a “fly home” allowance as part of hubby’s salary package. Rather than taking the offered business class flights, we cash it in for the equivalent at the IATA rate and make the money last for all our travel needs for the year – flights and hotels! I will sacrifice a little leg room and luxury on our long hauls home (let’s be honest with 3 small kids the business class experience is kind of wasted anyway!) to get an extra couple of holidays a year around the world.” Keri from Our Globetrotters – check out more tips and stories from their travels
“To budget for travel, our family of four scrutinizes every purchase. Do we need it? If so, how badly? What do we have to sacrifice in order to get it? And does it leave us enough room in the rest of our budget for travel and adventure? We don’t stay in luxury accommodations when we travel. We live in housing that is less expensive than we can afford. We don’t eat out a lot. We don’t have cable or satellite television. Our cars are paid off, and mine is old.” Kristie from World is Wide – check out more tips and stories from their travels
“We save money for travel by buying most of our things second hand. Most things that get cast out these days can easily go another round, and buying second hand is generally much cheaper. Not to mention that pre-loved products are more sustainable and eco-friendly.
Apart from our bed, not one piece of furniture in our house was new when we bought it. We buy second-hand clothes when we can, especially for our son who grows like crazy and isn’t so very careful at times. Also, lots of his toys come from thrift shops. And did you know that you can find lots of good quality travel products second hand at a much lower price?” Lisa from Flip Flop Globetrotters – check out more tips and stories from their travels
“Before kids, we both worked in fairly high paying corporate roles, which made travel a pretty easy expense to fit in, however, once the kids came along I chose to stay home with them which meant a big change to our household income. These days I run my own network marketing business as well as blogging, which we consider to be our ‘fun’ money that goes towards travel and the other things we don’t use hubby’s work income on. Best of all, sometimes we get free trips because of it too, which is a nice bonus and allows us to travel even more than we might otherwise.” Holly from Four Around the World – check out more tips and stories from their travels
This next one is for our North American readers, but others can adapt it to the loyalty programs in their country.
“We have credit cards associated to rewards programs: one for an airline and another for hotels. You can pay your property taxes with a credit card, that midnight call to the plumber, and when you need 35 stays or flights to maintain Elite Status, reaching a certain cash value on your credit card helps maintain your position. But…this strategy must be managed.
Check monthly to see which of your cards pays more for certain items. One month might be triple points for gas on your airline rewards. The next month could be double hotel rewards for spending on groceries. Finally, don’t forget to pay your balance off monthly. Letting a payment slide defeats the purpose.” Brandy from Kid Allergy Travel – check out more tips and stories from their travels
Next steps to get you travelling
Keep an eye out for our upcoming money saving challenge, where we will show you some quick and easy ways you can save money in your daily life, to go towards a family trip.