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How to Travel for Free or Super Cheap as a Family

How to Travel for Free or Super Cheap as a Family

How you can have a Family Holiday on any Budget!

Think you can’t have a family holiday?

Think again! In the last post, we shared ways to make money from travel as a family.

Here are 10 tips and tricks to help you keep the cost down!

Disclosure – this post may contain affiliate links. 

1. Decide On Your Budget

Work out where you want to go and set a budget to make that happen.

Having a budget in mind means you know what you have to spend for the holiday and can help prevent you from overspending.

Say you decide on $2,500 for flights, accommodation and attractions for a holiday in 12 months.

Divide $2,500 by 52 for the weeks of the year and you need to save $48 a week to have the $2,500.

While you save, you can watch for discounts and bargains for your holiday to help you keep it under budget.

Remember, when creating your travel budget, account for all costs.

Accommodation, flights/petrol if you’re driving, food, attractions, parking and travel insurance etc.

Too often people budget for only the flights and accommodation then come undone with all the extra expenses.

Or they get sick, injured, flights delayed or something else which could be covered by adequate travel insurance.

Plan thoroughly to ensure you don’t get caught out and end up in debt for your trip.

We partnered with Freely to get you 10% off travel insurance. Use the code Thrifty10 at checkout to get it.*

2. Use Incognito Mode and Clear your History

Every site you go to is tracked.

Once you start researching, if you look at flights or accommodation, the site knows it.

By going back to the same site or checking the same flights, you are telling the site you’re really interested which sometimes can result in higher prices because they know you are likely to book either way.

If you use incognito mode on Google you can hide this.

Clearing your history before you book removes the cookies and makes you look like a new customer to the site so you get the best deal.

3. Enter Competitions

If you know where you want to travel, look for competitions and giveaways relating to the area.

Sometimes bloggers have free tickets to local attractions or the tourism board is offering various giveaways.

Enter them all because you never know your luck! Recently, I won accommodation, a day spa experience and some restaurant meals in competitions.

At other times, I won passes to attractions, clothing I wanted for trips, toys and things for the kids plus so much more.

While it’s not strictly a money maker, it does save you money.

Read where are the best Aussie competitions and giveaways.

4. Travel in the Off-Peak Season

Peak season is when everything costs more, usually, because it’s either school holidays so people can travel or something specific happens in the place at that time.

Travelling during school time is often frowned upon at schools, but it can be so much cheaper.

My personal view and the view of many teachers and principals we’ve been involved with over the years is that kids learn so much from travel.

We travel when the opportunity arises, it’s not budget based.

But if you are sticking to a budget, going to Queensland in February when the school holidays have finished can see you score some deep discounts (plus no lines for the theme parks)!

Check the off-peak season times for wherever you want to travel and see if you will miss out on anything major.

The exception to this sort of thing is if you are going to a particular place for a specific purpose e.g. Cherry blossoms in Japan.

You won’t see them in the offseason!

5. Groupon and Other Discounts

Check Groupon for wherever you want to travel as well as attractions and restaurants at that location.

It is incredible the deals you can pick up. Make sure you read the fine print though!

Theme parks, restaurants and spa treatments are the main things I have used, but I have considered the all-inclusive travel packages they have at times.

For other discounts, check out this post.

6. Travel Longer

Longer stays at places have better rates if you can manage it.

Deals such as staying 3 nights, paying for 2 or staying for 7 pay for 5 aren’t uncommon.

Usually, a week or a month-long stay will get a much better rate per night than one night on its own.

Personally, we prefer longer stays as we have more time to see everything and don’t feel rushed.

7. Split Costs

Do you know anyone else you can travel with to split the costs?

This is something I have done with a few single mums, we either travelled together or for local attractions, we got family passes and split it instead of paying individually.

These savings can add up quickly and not all of them require you to actually do these things together.

Sometimes you just need to sign up as a group or family to get the discount and you can use it separately.

8. Travel Hack

Use points, credit cards, reward systems and any other loyalty programs to get your travel for free.

I do not recommend applying for various credit cards to collect points if you plan on getting a home loan, refinancing or anything like that.

The reason being all those applications on your credit report can hurt your credit score.

However, if that isn’t something you’re planning, getting credit cards and accruing the points can be a great way to get free travel IF (and it’s a big IF), you are disciplined.

Most people get credit cards with reward programs like this and end up spending more than they would if they didn’t have it.

Credit cards aren’t the only way to get loyalty points though.

Check out the frequent flyer programs (such as Qantas and Velocity for Virgin) to see other ways you can collect points.

Groceries (e.g Everyday Rewards vs Flybuys), online shopping, hotels and petrol are just a few options.

It isn’t as fast as a credit card sign-up bonus, but it isn’t putting you in debt either.

9. Use Free Accommodation

Accommodation doesn’t have to be expensive.

Free options include couchsurfing, camping (find free camping sites here), house swapping or staying with friends and family.

I often have friends and family stay here when we travel. Other times I rent it out.

Since accommodation can be one of the biggest expenses with a holiday, if you can get it for free, how much more could you travel?

Most of our trips are around family and they want us to stay with them e.g. when we go to Vanuatu.

Otherwise work trips so accommodation is paid for or we go camping or housesitting.

10. Try Different Types of Travel

A big overseas holiday isn’t the only type of travel.

As mentioned, there’s free camping, housesitting, working holidays, road trips and more.

We have done a variety of travel and my kids enjoyed each one.

The important thing for it was knowing my budget, setting a plan and having a backup in case things didn’t work out.

For camping, while the setup costs might seem high to get a tent, sleeping bags etc. If you camp a lot, it’s worth it.

Check Facebook Marketplace and similar for what you want as there is often free or cheap gear there.

Do free campsites and you can travel a lot more than you might have thought.

How We Travel Regularly on a Budget

My kids are known as the kids who travel.

Their friends are amazed at the places we’ve been and the fact that every school holidays as well as sometimes during school, we take trips.

They are ahead academically, so the travel has not detracted from their education or academic achievements either.

In fact, after we repatriated in 2020 and they returned to school, they were 3 years ahead of their peers.

So I have no issues removing them from school to travel.

They maintain their schoolwork as we travel and are self-motivated so have always educated themselves further on topics they are interested in.

This means we have more options around the time we travel.

1. Get Paid To Travel

I knew I always wanted to travel with my family so I created ways to get paid to do that (read how to get paid to travel even as a family).

Freelance writing and tourism marketing enabled us to have some amazing opportunities.

Since we have family overseas, this means we can arrange our trips to see them, get paid for it through writing, photography and other marketing so it balances out.

Speaking internationally provided ample travel opportunities too.

2. Know Where to get Discounts

I know where to get discounts, shop around, compare prices and use cashback apps to secure the best deals.

People have been shocked at the prices I have gotten for us when it wasn’t a work trip.

This goes for anything from discount sites and all the ways to get discounts through to researching where we will be, the best markets and frugal tips for any location.

Doing a little research can save thousands.

Be aware of how much time you spend doing it all though because if you’re only saving a few dollars but spending an hour to do it, that might not be worth it.

3. International Family

We have family in other countries (I share more on that here) which is both a pro and a con.

A pro is obviously having free accommodation since we stay with our family in Vanuatu when we go.

However, it means the grandparents, aunties and uncles don’t get to see my kids as much and my kids don’t get to see them as much.

They cannot afford to travel here (meagre wages in Vanuatu) so we travel to them.

It does give us a reason to travel often but it’s not the ‘lay on a tropical beach in a resort’ style holiday most assume when they hear we go to Vanuatu.

4. Road Trips

Weekends away, weeks to see family, visits to friends interstate etc mean a lot of road trips as it is significantly cheaper than flying 4 kids wherever we need to go.

It is easier with a baby and toddler to do a car trip than a flight most of the time too.

Packing food, eating picnics wherever, using BBQ’s, camping, staying with friends and family or housesitting has saved us a small fortune and enabled a lot more travel than we would have done otherwise.

5. Manage Money and Avoid Fees

Aside from regular budgeting to ensure we can afford the travel, there are a few other financial elements we consider.

Checking exchange rates and fees for each option we have is crucial as it can vary so it pays to do your research.

Depending on where we are travelling, we will use either Wise or Up Bank (get $8 when you join for free).

Occasionally ING when overseas as their exchange rates are usually good and we can avoid extra fees.

Alternatively, there are some credit cards which are great for travel.

Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands need cash only for most of the things we do, transport, the markets etc.

Anything that can be prepaid we do and we avoid using cards with fees.

When planning our travels, we add it to the budget early and have a regular amount we set aside for travel in general.

We do weekly abundance meetings about our budget, add images of where we are going to our motivation wall and plan thoroughly.

Insurance is a must for us as well since you never know what will happen.

There are different companies, so do your research to find the right one for your circumstances.

For more options to save money on travel and everything else, check out our freebies section.

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