Wondering how we have been travelling the world with our kids for less than $100 per day? In this guide about family travel on a budget, we give you all of our tips and tricks for affordable family vacations!
Although we travel with our kids on a budget, sometimes we just like to do something wild as well! So not all of our trips are on a budget of $100 a day. Cheap family travel, however, is the only way we are able to travel a lot and see the world. As a family, the costs add up quickly! That’s why we wrote this article. For everybody who wants to travel more and longer with their kids.
Whether you travel in your own backyard or far away, for a short break or a long-term vacation, this guide will provide you with all the tricks and tips to travel with kids on a budget.
HOW DO WE AFFORD TO TRAVEL?
I can’t travel with my kids, I don’t have enough money for that! That’s one of the main reasons people don’t book a trip with their family, they simply (think they) can’t afford it. We believe, more often than not, that’s not true! People pay way too much for travel! Simply because they don’t know how to travel with kids on a budget.
It is actually the question we get most: ‘How do you fund your travels?‘. A few people even accused us of secretly winning the lottery. And although that would be fantastic, we haven’t ?, I promise you! So how can we afford to travel the world, even though we are not rich? We minimize our travel expenses and costs as much as possible. Besides rich people, who are probably not reading this article, we all want to get travel costs as low as possible without giving in on the experience!
The only reason we could afford to travel full-time is that we travel the world on a budget, as a family. So being experts in turning every coin, we’d love to give you all our tips!
GENERAL TIPS FOR FAMILY TRAVEL ON A BUDGET
Choose your destinations wisely
One of the easiest ways to save on money is to choose a destination where the cost of living is very low. We know how tempting it is… You just want to go for the easy option, which is fine too of course. Take the car for a trip to France or discover another state in the US, maybe drive down the coast of Australia when that’s your home country.
You would think a trip to your own continent is much cheaper than taking a plane to an exotic destination. That’s often not true! Although your flight over there can be rather costly, you will easily even that out once you are there. A lot of countries in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and even some in Europe are perfect for family travel on a budget.
In the end, you might be spending less than on your normal vacation. Or at least you’ll have some amazing new experiences for the same budget.
While choosing your destination, also check the exchange rate. Pick a destination with favorable exchange rates. It will save you a lot of money!
Another thing to consider when choosing your travel destination is the cost of visas. When we were planning our long-term family trip, we first wanted to go to China. As Belgian citizens, the visa would cost us €164,5/$183 per person. That would be €658/$735 for the whole family, just to enter the country!
We needed an affordable family destination, so we decided to choose a country with a low visa cost or even a free entry. We did, however, go to China on a transit visa. It allowed us to enter China and visit Shanghai for 5 days, without any visa fees.
Probably you all know that Australia and New Zealand are rather expensive, as are many countries in Europe and North America. Here is a list of countries with low cost of living, where you can easily travel around as a family for a budget of less than €100 per day. For example in Malaysia, we spent less than $70 per day.
This list is not exhaustive, but we chose these destinations that are also known for their exquisite travel experiences.
Cheapest countries in:
- Asia: Nepal, India, Vietnam, Laos, Northern Thailand, Cambodia, The Philippines, Malaysia and Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
- North- and South-America: Mexico, Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
- Europe (or near Europe): Romania, Hungary, Poland, Greece, The Baltic States, Turkey, Czech Republic, Bulgary, Georgia, Ukraine, and Croatia
Travel off-peak times
Most of us want to have sunshine and as less rain as possible. Oh yes, and maybe not too hot either. We are still travelling with our kids which is an adventure in itself without them being overheated the entire trip. This means you’ll catch the best weather if you travel during the peak season to the most popular destinations. There popular during those months for a reason of course… And you’ll pay loads of money for being there at the right time of the year.
But if you want to travel with kids on a budget, you better consider travelling when the weather is less than ideal. That does not mean it will rain the entire time or has to be freezing cold. If you’re only able to travel during school holidays, you could consider going to the tropics. In a lot of countries in South-East Asia, Middle-America, … it is shoulder season then because of the monsoon.
Those countries are still perfect for travelling then, you’ll just have to deal with a shower every day for an hour or more. The good thing is it doesn’t get cold, so you’ll still feel like being on a vacation.
CHEAP FAMILY ACCOMMODATION
Accommodation can easily soak up most of your budget if you don’t watch out! Especially with children, as you need more beds and bigger or multiple rooms.
To travel with kids on a budget does not necessarily mean, however, you only get to sleep in dodgy guesthouses with 4 in one bed. Although that might have happened to us ?. But we also had beautiful apartments, with a swimming pool, fitness and sauna for only €30/$35 per night.
Getting a cheap flight
There are tons of articles on how to find cheap flights. One article we love a lot on finding cheap flights is this one by The Flashpacking Family.
Family travel on a budget isn’t possible if you can’t find cheap flights. Try to be flexible when you’ll fly and where to. Especially if you are travelling long term, don’t decide where you’ll go just yet. Let the price of the plane tickets make the decision for you. We do that all the time during our full-time travels. One of our favorite sites to achieve that is Skyscanner. On Skyscanner, you can put ‘Everywhere’ as your destination. That way the cheapest destinations will show up.
We always use different flight comparison sites such as Skyscanner, Momondo, or Google flights. They also check budget airlines and smaller companies. Subscribe for flight deals and ask them to notify you when prices on a flight drop. And last but not least, a lot of people fly cheaper through the use of miles collected from earlier flights or with purchases through a credit card (travel hacking).
Check this amazing article by Nomadic Matt to learn all about travel hacking and collecting miles. Flying with budget airlines saves you a lot of money if you only have carry-on luggage and bring your own food. Travelling with kids and too much luggage? Try to check only one bag for every two people.
During our time in Asia and Oceania, we flew a lot with Air Asia, a low-cost airline with excellent service!
Use local transport
Finding transport will never be a problem, but pay attention to what you book or you will pay way too much. If you want to go really cheap, always take local transport. A local bus or train will bring you to your destination for a lot less than a taxi or private minibus. The downside is this kind of transport is often slow, busy and doesn’t always have air conditioning.
Transport apps such as Grab or Uber are another great way to find cheap local transport. You install the app, ask for a driver and they come and pick you up. Some countries even have their own local versions, such as Go Jek in Indonesia Be sure to install the app before you leave, and buy a SIM card at the airport. That way you can already book one of these on your arrival, instead of the very expensive airport taxis.
We found these apps to be very handy and cheap, especially with family. Four bus tickets were often more expensive or equal to using Grab or Uber, and these cars drop us off at our location. The only downside is it isn’t allowed in some places or even in some countries. Again, do your research before you leave.