If you follow my blog then you’ll know I’m all about getting the best possible value for money for all our family days out. Well that doesn’t stop when we go on holiday!! Here are my top tips for saving a lot of money on your family holiday.
Tip 1 – Don’t discount a stay-cation
When I say that the kids have never been overseas, and that we always go on holiday in the UK, I can get some funny looks. One woman positively recoiled when I said we were going to Cornwall for a week. Yes, I want the kids to see the world but 1) The idea of getting on a plane with 3 kids terrifies me. 2) We just about get all our crap in our large car, I have no idea how we’d cope with a baggage allowance 3) It’s very expensive by comparison. The kids will get to travel overseas with us, just not yet.
We live in such a beautiful and varied country that there is plenty to explore right on our doorsteps. Plus not getting on a plane is better for the environment.
Tip 2 – Book Direct
Over the years we have booked through a holiday company and it’s been an epic disaster (never using Hoseasons again), other times we’ve booked with the holiday company and it’s been great. By far my preference will always be for a private let. We’ve stayed in holiday parks, chalets, cottages, bungalows and upside down houses, all arranged directly with the owners. Most of the time these are places that the owners use themselves so usually you’ll get all the little extras that make a huge difference on holiday; a better equiped kitchen, towels/linens, games and books etc. It’s quite common to get a welcome basket as well – how good these are can vary massively though. You also tend to get a much better price and you find places that no holiday company could ever find for you. It can take a while to find the right place, but we’ve never had a private let that disappointed us, even on a tight budget.
My favourite sites are www.holidaylettings.co.uk and www.homeaway.co.uk. It’s also worth doing a google search in the area you’re interested in visiting – that’s how I found the cottage we stayed at in South West Wales. I do recommend paying on a credit card if you’re booking through a less well-known site as it gives you a bit more protection.
Tip 3 – Take a packed lunch and your own drinks
This applies for day trips as well as holidays. Buying a family lunch can easily cost £30-£40 each day. Over the course of the week that massively adds up! We have a trusty, but now very well-loved, Trespass picnic backpack and it has saved us a fortune over the years. Case in point, we forgot to take it with us when we went to Cornwall for the Easter weekend and we spent at least £100 more on food in just a couple of days than we normally do.
Don’t forget your own drinks too. You can pay a small fortune for bottled water, or you could bring your own bottle! Another top tip; if you are going to be self-catering, take some bags for life with you. It won’t save you loads, but having to pay for a carrier bag for all of those little trips to the supermarket will add up.
Tip 4 – Research your days out before you go
I love having something to look forward to and researching our days out is now all part of the holiday planning process. As soon as we book something I start thinking about where we’re going to visit! It’s a really good idea to have a list of more places than you could possibly visit so you always have something in reserve. Quite often the most expensive places have the biggest marketing budgets and so are easier to find quickly. The cheaper little gems could be hiding much further down the Google page. Make sure you also check out the reviews of places before you go to make sure they’re suitable for you in terms of facilties and if they’re any good! I found an awesome zoo in Devon I wanted to visit, but when I looked at the reviews it turned out that it’s all steep slopes, tiny enclosures and a hideous car park so we gave it a miss.
Find out what places you can visit for free as well. It could be countryside walks, places where you only have to pay for parking, parks or any of a whole range of family days out.
Saving money on days out during your holiday can be easy, but it can also take a bit of time.
Tip 5 – Have a rainy day back-up
As I’m sitting here writing this it is raining. It’s June and apparently we’re having a month’s worth of rain in the next 4 hours. It seems like it’s going to rain for the next few weeks. Fun! It’s always seemed to me that anywhere that is mainly indoors is also really expensive. Looking around before you go gives you chance to find a cheaper option should you need it. And if you’re staying in the UK there is a strong chance you will. Most museums are free to visit; even if they’re small they might have events on that can bulk out a day trip.
Tip 6 – Never pay full price for a day out
If you are a member of the National Trust, English Heritage, CSSC, have kids with a Blue Peter Badge or any other schemes then always have a look around to see where you can get into for free or at a discount. We’ve always found that our NH and EH memberships really do come into their own on holiday. Your employers might run discount schemes such as Perkbox and some places offer discounts for NHS/military staff etc.
Have a look at supermarket loyalty schemes as well, you might be able to trade points for admission. Don’t forget to keep an eye Groupon as well – they might have some deals near where you are staying. Search for discount codes or discounts on the attraction’s website. You’ll often be able to get a discount on tickets booked in advance. If you’re shopping in a supermarket, have a look at the leaflet stands as well. There’s usually some really good local attractions to be found and quite often the leaflets have discounts.
When I was 32 weeks pregnant with smallest child we went away for a week to Cornwall (why I thought driving all the way down to Penzance at that stage of my pregnancy was I good idea I don’t know). We knew I was about to go on maternity pay so every penny counted. We had such a busy week but we only paid for one day out, and we had discounts for that anyway. Check out my post about Wales; we paid just £106 in admission fees for 4 of us and did sooooo much. We also did four day trips for £40 for a family of 4 – it is absolutely possible to have an incredible but very cheap holiday.
Tip 7 – Have a beach day
Almost every kid (and adult) loves a trip to the beach. Aylesbury is a zillion miles from the beach so I genuinely crave the seaside. It doesn’t even have to be sunny to enjoy it; just not raining. We’ve been to the beach in howling gales (maybe not my most sensible move), fog that didn’t clear up for over an hour, glorious sunshine and I’ve even been sat on the beach huddled in a blanket whilst the kids run around in swim suits! As long as you don’t get carried away with the ice creams, a beach day is a really cheap day out.
Tip 8 – Check out the local councils
All across the UK local and district councils organise regular free events, particularly during school holidays. Before you go away have a quick look at the local events and facebook pages to see what’s going on. Don’t forget to search for town and county councils for all the towns near your holiday that you can easily get to. Do a facebook search as well for events.
Tip 9 – Be clever about when you book
We all know the summer holidays are the most expensive time to go on holiday, and of course it’s also when all the attractions are at their busiest. If you don’t have school aged children then try to go on holiday during term time. We tend to have our main family holiday in the May half term as it’s considerably cheaper. Yes, it’s usually not glorious sunshine the whole time, but as long as it’s dry that doesn’t really matter. If I wanted guaranteed sunshine I’d go overseas.
Have a look at term dates – can you sneak a break in at the end of the hoildays? What about using inset days? Last year we went to Croyde Bay for 3 nights in September because school was going back late. In comparison to the week before we saved over £300!
Have a great family holiday
There are so many ways you can save lots of money on a cheap family holiday but the most important thing is that you have a good time, relax and make those memories. Except of course you have the kids with you so it’s unlikely to be relaxing and it’s more than likely that there are going to be several memories that are less than Facebook worthy! Enjoy your holiday.
Pssst, if you’ve taken lots of photos on holiday make sure you check out the current offers on Snapfish. They regularly offer discounts or free prints (affiliate link)
I’m Vicky and I am a mum of three living in Aylesbury. I set up Free Time with the Kids to review free and cheap family days out in Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Oxfordshire, mainly because I kept forgetting all the fabulous places that were recommended to me!! I love getting out and about with the kids (and hubby of course) and we have adventures all over the place. My reviews tell you all the things you need to know about the family days out and activites we’ve done such as how much it costs, if there’s parking, toilets and if there’s a cafe or if picnics are allowed. I really hope you find the reviews helpful. If there’s anywhere that you’d recommend please get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via Facebook
I sometimes use affiliate links if there is something that I genuinely think will be of interest and that I think is relevant to the post. I will always indiciate if a link is an affiliate link. I do earn a small commission for these, and that goes towards the running costs of the site. Any discounts mentioned may only be available for a short time so please double check prices before booking.