Counting the cost of your family holiday? Follow our top tips and get much more for your money and enjoy cheap family holidays but still have a quality time.
1Use out-of-school days wisely
We all know it’s far cheaper taking the kids on holiday during term time, but understandably schools are clamping down on this as it can have a detrimental effect on their education. It’s worthwhile having a chat with the Head Teacher, as there may be times during the term which are less likely to impact on your child’s learning, such as the end of a term when things begin to wind down.
If your children’s school will allow you to take them away for just a couple of days during term, try to tack these days onto a long weekend and check out cheap family holidays in the UK. It’s probably best to avoid bank holidays as prices can rise at peak times.
On the plus side, even a short, three-night break can pep up the whole family and without overseas travel to worry about, you can pack a lot into those precious few days.
2Get the cheapest deal on flights
According to research from Which?, on average flying on a Tuesday works out 35% cheaper than flying on a Friday and flying back on a Sunday also tends to cost up to 45% more!
When booking flights, it’s worth taking time to research your options.
Book two or three months in advance with budget airlines to get the best price. Studies have shown that if you can book your flight 59-plus days in advice, you’re likely to get a much better deal (see why here). Also, don’t be scared to mix and match outbound and inbound flights to different airlines. There’s no reason you can’t fly out with Virgin and come back with easyJet.
Check out our 10 clever ways to bag cheap flights before you jet off – it could save you a packet!
3Visit the best value holiday destinations
Some travel destinations are definitely cheaper than others, but prices fluctuate for all sorts of reasons. Here are some great value travel destination ideas for this year:
- Spain – prices are down by 20% to Spain (you can also pay a visit to the country’s famed Siam Park and Portaventura theme parks!)
- Portugal – prices are down by 15% to Portugal’s Algarve
- Morocco continues to be great value for money
- Bulgaria is an excellent place to grab a deal at the moment
Alternatively, there are some great value holiday destinations right here in the UK which can save you a fortune compared to overseas travel! Holidaying at home can cut costs enormously with reduced travel charges. Check out cheap holiday park deals for a budget family 2016 holiday.
There are some amazing good-value package deals which let you relax while your kids are taken care of and tired out by the all-inclusive activity programmes!
All-inclusive deals usually include flights, accommodation, breakfast, dinner, snacks, drinks and sports equipment hire for all the family, so they can work out cheaper than equivalent breaks in the UK.
There are now several companies that help families in different countries ‘swap homes’ for a holiday.
You post details of your location, the size of your property and how many people your home accommodates. Families overseas do the same, you come to swapping agreements between you and no money changes hands. Another plus is that home owners often leave details of the best local restaurants and places of interest.
6Save up to 60% on train fares
You pay £30 for a card lasting one year and then save one-third on adult train fares and an impressive 60% on children’s fares. Up to four adults and four kids can travel on a single card, so it can prove fantastic value for money.
7Go on a National Trust Working Holiday
National Trust Working Holidays offer really affordable UK breaks the whole family can get involved in. In return for doing some work (anything from planting trees to helping build dry stone walls) in a beautiful part of the country, you get incredibly cheap accommodation, activities and meals. There are plenty of holidays to choose from including short breaks from two to four days long.
The ‘family’ option is perfect for parents with children aged between six and 16. Find out more here.
8Try youth hostelling as a family
UK youth hostels are no longer the preserve of students and school parties.
Many Youth Hostel Association (YHA) hostels have clean, good-value family rooms in some of the most beautiful parts of the UK. For the largest selection of affordable hostels, Hostelbookers.com offers great deals throughout the year.
It’s also worthwhile checking out family-friendly youth hostels abroad.
9Always remember to haggle
One of the most important travel tips for getting best value family holidays is to haggle. Many travel agents are struggling to compete with online firms, so use this to your advantage.
Once you’ve found a family holiday you like, get two or three quotes for the same package. Speak to both travel agents and online providers, and haggle to get the best price.
10Avoid changing your travel money at the airport
Rates are notoriously poor at airports. You could find yourself paying £50 or more extra at the airport bureau de change than if you’d organised your money in advance!
Consider buying your currency online as this option can often get you the best rate.
Check out our guide on how to get cheap travel money so you don’t lose out.
11Check out free travel for kids
Many holiday operators offer free travel to kids below a certain age. Before you book, check what these age brackets are as they can vary quite a lot.
It’s always worth haggling to see if you can get them to up the ‘free travel’ age limit to include slightly older children. It may be well worth their while if it means they can secure your whole family’s custom.
12Swap your loyalty points for a holiday!
With loyalty schemes such as Nectar and Tesco Clubcard, you can usually get far more for your points if you don’t spend them at the supermarket.
For example, your points can be worth up to four times their regular value if you swap them for days out at UK theme parks, or for flights or ferry tickets abroad.
It’s well worth storing up your points and visiting your loyalty scheme’s website to spend them on a family break.
13Escape hefty charges when paying on plastic abroad
Annoyingly, the majority of debit and credit cards hit you with charges when you use them abroad. Find out how to avoid paying card charges on your holiday so you can spend without the sting. It’s best to avoid withdrawing cash with your credit card as there’s an immediate charge.
14Find the best time to book
There’s no hard and fast rule, but according to travel agent Trailfinders 11 months before you travel is a good time to book up. At that point flights have just been released and the cheap seats are still available. But, for last minute bargains, it’s best to book eight weeks in advance. Take a look at last minute holiday deals.
15Book your airport parking in advance
On-the-day airport parking for one or two weeks can result in stomach-churning prices. Booking in advance can be much cheaper and doing it online can save you an extra 10%. Investigate pre-booking a cab and offers from nearby hotels that provide one-night, pre-flight stays with long-term parking.
Some car insurance companies promote special membership deals with inclusive airport parking. Better still, work out an arrangement with a friend/family member to take you and pick you up!
16Watch out for mobile roaming charges
Remember to switch off your phone’s data roaming when you go abroad. Mobile phone calls could charge you up to £1.49 a minute, so check your contract. Free wifi is available in many hotels, cafes and restaurants, and with smartphones you can now connect for free over the internet with apps such as Skype and Viber.
17Avoid hefty airport train fares
Travelling by train to the airport? Beware the big prices attached to the Heathrow Express and Gatwick Express trains.
You could fork out £130 for a family ticket to Heathrow on the Heathrow Express! Catch the tube instead and get there for around £20.
It’s a similar story with the Gatwick Express – add another five minutes to your journey with the Southern Service and pay just £9 instead of £24.
Do your homework and you could make huge savings. For instance, children up to 10 can travel free at any time by tube, DLR and the London Overground as long as they’re accompanied by an adult with a valid ticket. Check out the Transport for London website for great offers.
18Find low-cost travel insurance online
Before you buy a travel insurance policy, go online. You’ll find many single-trip European policies for less than a tenner per person. An annual policy tends to be better value if you’re planning on going on more than one trip during the year. Have a look at ways to save on travel insurance. Never travel without insurance – this is an extremely important part of your holiday planning.
19Beware of tourist scams
It’s all too common to be overcharged by unlicensed taxi drivers, especially at airports, so make sure you get an official metered taxi. They will have their official ID/cab number prominently displayed. You can often get a recommended firm from your booking agent, or your hotel may offer an airport pickup service.
Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to be cautious when booking events and days out when you’re abroad. Make sure you’re not being overcharged by shopping around and stick to licensed ticket vendors. Beware of these common scams.
20Share the cost
If you believe in the saying the more the merrier, look into cheap family holidays with your extended family and friends? A holiday villa that sleeps 12 isn’t usually six times the expense of a place that sleeps two. Get saving by sharing the cost!