Tag Archives: budget

5 helpful hints to cut the cost of your family holiday

Going on a family holiday can be quite an experience, and a world apart from trips you might have made before you had kids. There’ll be a whole lot of laughs, a whole lot of checking up on the little one(s), perhaps a complication or two along the way, and plenty of joy too.

Of course, the added bodies among the travelling party will have one other important impact – the cost of your family holiday will be a good deal higher. It obviously depends how young your children are, and costs for toddlers will be a whole lot less than those for older children. But with things inevitably becoming more expensive, it is all the more important to find ways to get the most bang for your buck, without negatively impacting on the levels of fun and enjoyment.

Here are 5 helpful hints to cut the cost of your family holiday…

Give tours a miss
They’re convenient, they’re all organised for you, and they’re often trumpeted as the ‘only way to see (insert name of destination)’. However, tours like these also tend to have a hefty mark-up on them too, and with an entire family to pay for, it really can get expensive. So rather plan your own trips and excursions. There are even peer-to-peer websites around whereby you can get locals to show you around for a fraction of the price. Chances are, the experience will be more authentic that way too.

Be a proper local
Doing as the locals do is an excellent way to save money, and avoid being caught out by tourist traps. This way you can avoid overpriced eateries, activities and tours, and immerse yourself in local markets and culture too. The best thing to do is to mingle with the locals, make some friends, and find out what the best things to do are. Just put yourself out there – and chances are the whole family will make some great friends along the way too.

Get clever with accommodation
It isn’t a universal truth, but hotels really aren’t likely to be the best way to go as a family. True, there are some good package and all-inclusive deals out there, but booking through Airbnb, or similar websites can save you a truck load compared to booking two hotel rooms. It also tends to be more conducive for family activities and eating too. With a kitchen facility of your own, you can eat what you want and when you want; and you’ll probably get some great inside information about the city or town from your host too.

Get familiar with your destination
The last thing you want is to regularly end up lost in a destination city with no idea where you are, and where to go. The kids will get restless, the stress levels will rise, and invariably an expensive taxi ride will be the default method of getting you from A to B. So put in a bit of time beforehand to familiarise yourself with where you’re going, and download some navigational apps like Pocket Earth to your phone. Getting around by public transport and/or walking really can save a chunk of budget.

Budget carefully
Again, you don’t want to scrutinise every penny to the point that you no longer even enjoy your family holiday. It’s a break you all no doubt need, and it’s important to make the most of it. But plan ahead with a daily budget, taking into account all planned an unplanned excursions, and try stick to it.

5 helpful hints to cut the cost of your family holiday

= This is a guest post =

How we celebrate Valentine’s Day on a budget

Having been with my lovely husband for more years than I care to remember (19 ok, it’s 19 years) we’ve celebrated a Valentine’s Day or two over the years. In the early days it was all massive bouquets of flowers and fancy pants meals in swanky restaurants. Then as time wore on we set a budget for gifts and nights out we’re replaced by takeaways.

How we celebrate Valentine's Day on a budget

Then when baby (now lively toddler) arrived, we sort of gave up on Valentine’s Day entirely. We were too busy and too tired to make an effort. But when you’re too busy and too tired to make an effort, that’s the time you really should be making an effort.

This year will be different. I’m now self-employed and all my disposable income has been disposed of elsewhere. But being a bit of a thrifty type I’m determined to make this one a little bit special even on my tiny, virtally non-existent budget.

Valentine’s Day this year is on a Friday which is obviously a work day. Hubs will have been at work and I’ll have spent the day with a riotous toddler. We’ll both be tired and maybe a bit frazzled, so what we plan needs to be not only budget friendly but incredibly simple, so this is what’s on the agenda.

7.30pm – Put riotous toddler to bed.
7.35pm – Breathe.
7.45pm – Husband (who never cooks but when he does it’s brilliant) makes his signature spaghetti dish.
8.00pm – Open leftover bottle of prosecco from Christmas (yes, such a thing as leftover booze does exist in our house, it’s rare but it does happen), consume spaghetti vongole.
8.30pm – I make a sexy pudding, which in this case will be some heart shaped biscuits the toddler and I will have made that afternoon. (Baking activity turned into slave labour, parenting at its best) served with nice Aldi ice cream and some raspberries.
9.30pm – Curl up on the sofa with the rest of the prosecco; exchange homemade cards and cuddles then watch a DVD.
11.30pm – Bedtime with extra snuggles.

Simple but lovely and what’s more, very, very cheap.

Will you be enjoying a budget Valentine’s Day? What are your penny-wise tips for passionate Valentines? I’d love to hear them.

Travel: Winter Wonderland Center Parcs Whinfell

We’ve just got back from Center Parcs and I can confirm an excellent time was had by all. Since the small boy appeared on the scene three years ago we’ve been eagerly anticipating the time when he was old enough to appreciate Winter Wonderland Center Parcs. The lights in the trees; Christmassy activities; meeting and chatting with Father Christmas. This year was our chance, so in August we booked it. Four magical nights in the Winter Wonderland at Whinfell village, we couldn’t wait.

Family Travel: Winter Wonderland Center Parcs Whinfell

When we first started going to Center Parcs around 8 years ago, we had stacks of disposable income. We were young(ish) with decent(ish) jobs, earning ok(ish) money. Since then we’ve added the small boy to our ranks; my husband’s business has taken a knock during the economic downturn and I’ve quit my old, miserable, but fairly well paid job in search of self-employed happiness.

This means that from now on our holidays and leisure activities need to be more budget than barnstorming. With this in mind we set to work figuring out how to have an amazing time without spending an awful lot. I confess there were somewhat mixed results with this, but if you’re going, you might learn from our mistakes.

The secret to saving money or not spending it in the first place is planning. We formulated a two-pronged attack. I was responsible for meal planning and catering. Together we chose which would be the most fun activities with the best fun-to-cost ratio. Husband was responsible for paying for it and remembering to put all the holiday food in the car before we left. Remember that.

Food at Center Parcs

Center Parcs does indeed have its own little supermarket, most of the products are reasonably priced and in line with maybe Tesco, but in this house we run on an Aldi budget. The plan was to stock up on staples at home and buy fresh fruit and veg etc there.

The night before we left I sent Hodge to Aldi with a perfectly detailed list of essentials which he dutifully bought. These essential essentials were neatly packed in a bag ready for popping in the car before we left. I was to pack up a few fresh things that were floating around our home kitchen, such as bread and milk before we left that morning, which I did do. Jobs-a-good’un.

The flaw to this plan, and I suspect you’ve already picked up on it, was that the large bag of essential foodstuffs bought especially for our holiday was left beautifully packed at home. Meaning that on arrival we had to re-purchase said foodstuffs at the ok-but-slightly-more-than-we’d-normally-pay prices. Ouch.

Activities at Whinfell

If you’ve got kids then the secret to a budget-friendly break at Center Parcs is the exotically named “Subtropical Paradise” or “swimming pool” as we call it. If you can tear yourselves away from the pool-side cafes and state of the art cabanas, then you can while away a few hours each day enjoying the waves, rapids, canyon rides and water slides. This was the key to our master plan and by jingo it worked!

The small boy loved it, we all loved it. There was a little something for each of us. I got to swim properly in a small roped off area. Husband, the ageing adrenaline junkie loved the rides and slides and the small boy liked bobbing up and down in the waves and pouring buckets of water over my head. You could really easily spend the day here.

In terms of forking out for fun we booked two things which we thought he’d love. The first was “Woodland Tails” which was brilliant; we had a walk through the woods with a ranger who then took us back to the Rangers Lodge to meet a polecat, a hedgehog and a very tame and beautiful tawny owl. The small boy loved it and it was worth every penny.

Family Travel: Winter Wonderland Center Parcs Whinfell

Ok, so we did massively push the boat out on an absolutely non-negotiable part of the break. Husband and I wanted, needed, insisted upon having a spa session together. This meant the small boy needed to be put in the crèche (or go to a brilliant party, which is how I sold it to him). Together our three hours of spa-bliss and a crèche place cost almost £100, but by-heck it was worth it. We really needed that afternoon of relaxation.

Center Parcs is littered with playgrounds and is incredibly bike friendly. You could easily get away with not booking and paying extra for any activities at all. There are a few free things around the village, trim-trails and so forth to keep you occupied. Or you could just spend your time bouncing from one Starbucks to another.

Winter Wonderland What’s On

During the “winter wonderland” season at Center Parcs they have a twice weekly firework display. I’m not a massive fireworks fan, but it was free. It was the small boy’s first display and it was absolutely lovely. There were lots of oohs and aahs from the watching crowds and the look on his little face just about says it all. Totally worth the £3.95 each for a mulled wine and mince pie while we waited at the pub.

Family Travel: Winter Wonderland Center Parcs Whinfell

Our second Winter Wonderland toddler activity was a visit to meet Father Christmas. Priced at £10 we thought this was actually really good value for money. You could explore Santa’s Workshop before going in to meet the man himself. You had a nice chat with him, got a pretty decent present and your picture taken, all included in the price. His workshop was located in a beautiful winter wonderland which we spent a few hours exploring.

After this we all felt incredibly festive and it was worth going to Center Parcs for just for that experience alone.

Family Travel: Winter Wonderland Center Parcs Whinfell

We do really love Center Parcs. I think as the small boy gets older we’ll start giving him a small activity budget so he can decide what he wants to try or do. We can’t wait to go back. We’re going to book a return visit for the spring. Hopefully this time my husband will remember to pack the food.

I’ll admit, it wasn’t the bargain-basement break we were after; but it was the slightly more expensive but brilliant holiday we needed, and that’s what counts. 

I’ve also had a separate article about our winter wonderland Center Parcs break published in Mums & Dads Magazine, you can read it here.

Read about our September visit to Center Parcs