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We often get asked “how do you afford to travel?”, or told we are “so lucky” to be able to travel with our kids as often as we do! However it is not a case of simply being lucky. We aren’t super-rich with high-income jobs, we haven’t received a large inheritance, and I don’t receive offers of free trips as a blogger (I wish!). In fact, we are a single-income family of 5, living in a modest house in a typical Australian country town. We’ve worked hard over the years, and continue to do so, to ensure we can enjoy travelling as much as we can while we are fit and healthy.
So, how do we do it? Travelling isn’t about being rich, it’s about working out your priorities, and being smart with planning and budgeting. Some people like to spend their money on the latest gadget, clothing or shoes, we spend on travel. Here are all my hints and tips for saving money for travel.
We are very intentional with how we spend our money. We have a monthly budget that ensures we live well within our means, and a set amount is saved for travel in it’s own high-interest savings account. Before kids, we worked hard to pay down our mortgage, and only own one second-hand car which will stay with us for a few more years yet. We spend very little on toys for the kids, limit takeaway or meals out at the pub to once a month, and only buy clothing and any other luxuries as needed.
2. Save on the everyday stuff
Finding ways to save on our everyday household expenses allows us to save more towards travel. I shop the weekly catalogues, meal plan and write a shopping list from it, and have a small herb and vegetable garden growing to help save money on our weekly groceries. We limit our use of electricity and water as much as possible, and also shop around for cheaper quotes when yearly insurances are due. Don’t forget about your bank accounts either – we use ING for their fee-free transaction account and online savings account.
3. Find a side-hustle
As a stay-at-home parent, so I am constantly finding ways to hustle up a little extra money to boost the travel fund. From participating in online surveys and market research, mystery shopping, or cashing in empty cans and bottles for the 10 cent container refund, every cent adds up to extra holiday spending money! You can find all the ways I earn extra money here.
4. Travel off-peak
While it’s not always possible to travel outside of the school calendar with kids, travelling during off-peak times can work out a lot cheaper. If you can only travel during school holidays, look for mid-week specials for accommodation, or research what destinations are in their off-peak period at that time.
5. Look for specials and deals
Sign up to airline and travel websites to receive notifications of special deals and prices, such as Jetstar, Skyscanner, I Know The Pilot and Travelzoo. Use accommodation websites such as Booking.com to search for rooms with free cancellation, so if you find a better deal you can cancel and rebook. Deal sites like Scoopon, Cudo and the like often have deals on experiences and travel. We saved over $600 on our Disneyland Park-Hopper tickets when Expedia had a special available on them for our recent US trip.
6. Take advantage of cashbacks and reward programs
Before booking anything, check if the retailer is listed on Cashrewards or ShopBack. These are cashback sites with hundreds of companies, and allows you to receive a percentage of money spent back on each purchase, including airlines, travel insurance, rental car and accommodation providers.
Join free loyalty programs for hotels like IHG, Accor, and Hilton Honors to earn reward points for your stay. Hotels.com offers 1 night free for every 10 nights you book through their platform, while Expedia allows you to earn reward points for every travel booking made with them.
7. Make your credit card work for you
This one really only works if you are disciplined and in control of your money. We use credit cards to earn frequent flyer points to pay for flights. We have a frequent flyer credit card we keep for earning points, which is used to pay for absolutely everything, from groceries to council rates, and in return we receive a large amount of frequent flyer points each month to use for travel. Sometimes we will take advantage of a big sign-up bonus on a new credit card, which is cancelled once we receive the sign-up points.
8. Save while you travel
It pays to be smart about how you use your spending money while travelling too. We buy snacks and groceries from the supermarket for picnics or to self-cater in hotel rooms as much as possible, so that we can enjoy a few special meals while on our trip. I often book hotels that include breakfast in the room rate, so we can fill up at the start of the day, and usually take some fruit and yoghurt with us for later. We also limit souvenirs and other shopping, opting for something small and cheap like a fridge magnet, pressed penny, bookmark or hat.
9. Experiences rather than gifts
For birthdays and Christmas, we ask family members to consider gifting a voucher for an experience rather than more toys. If the kids have an upcoming trip booked, they often receive money as well to save towards their spending money for the trip.
10. Enter competitions
No joke, you can win a holiday! I won a $10,000 travel voucher a few years ago, which we used to take the kids on a snow holiday. Over the years I’ve also won entry passes to museums and events, travel items, movie tickets, and even cash to put towards the holiday fund.
So in summary, for us to afford to travel often is a combination of hard work, smart saving strategies, and taking advantage of special deals and freebies. Our motto is that we can always make more money, but we can’t make more time. The memories we make on our family adventures is more precious than any amount of money in the world.
Here are a few travel savings for you to take advantage of:
Uber – use the code vsp0ez when you download the app, and get a free ride.
You can find more of my money-saving and budget tips over on The Thrifty Life.