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Back when I published our travel plans, one of the questions I was asked was ‘How can you afford so many holidays?’
Make no mistakes, 2017 was a BIG year for travel, for our family at least. We had a 10 day stay in Belgium, a short break to Hampshire, a two week summer holiday in Sweden, and an 8 day holiday in Morocco. We also had weekend breaks to Alton Towers, Brownsea Island and Cardiff – and I even managed to squeeze in a sneaky solo weekend break to Malaga. Sheesh, that’s eight holidays I had in one year alone!
And nope – we haven’t had a lottery win (unless you count that €3), remortgaged the house, sold the kids, or even needed credit to fund our little holiday spree. The whole year’s worth of travel for the five of us has cost us around £4,000 – more than we’ve EVER spent on holidays on a year but not much more than one fly and flop holiday costs in peak season.
So in this post I thought I would give the top 6 ways we saved money on our family holidays – almost a whopping £5,000! I hope it gives you some ideas to help you get more break for your buck.
6. Renting stranger’s houses
Estimated savings: £300
We used Air BnB for the first time in 2017 and were really impressed with the places we’ve had, as well as the prices. For my solo holiday to Malaga I had a beautiful one bedroom apartment, just a short stroll from the centre. It cost no more than a room in a cheap hotel but it was spotless, quiet and I had it all to myself – complete bliss! As a family we rented a beautiful modern riad in Marrakech for three nights. Having a whole place to yourself with young, sometimes boisterous children made a huge difference as we didn’t have to worry about them disturbing other guests. And the place was stunning – from the plunge pool on the ground floor to the rooftop terrace, it was beautifully decorated and spotlessly clean throughout. Compared to hiring the two rooms we would need as a family of 5 in a hotel, it also worked out good value.
*Not tried Air BnB yet? Sign up via this link and you’ll get £25 in travel credit (and I’ll get £15 in travel credit once you complete a trip). Double win!
5. Getting all we can out of our employers
Estimated savings: £350
Nope, we’ve not swindled our bosses or negotiated staggering pay rises. Instead we’ve made the most of my partner’s work perks – access to subsidised days out and exclusive hotels. John Lewis Partnership hires theme parks for cheaper days out and runs hotels which only staff can book. Thanks to them this year we had a weekend break in Alton Towers, a two bedroom lodge in Hampshire and a stay in an ACTUAL CASTLE on Brownsea Island. Your main meals are usually included in the price – at Brownsea Castle all 4 (yes, four!!) meals a day are included – so whilst the prices aren’t rock bottom, once you take into account the savings on eating out it definitely works out good value. As you would expect the John Lewis hotels are well managed and staff are really friendly so it makes for a very relaxing break. Now I know you don’t all work for John Lewis, but many larger organisations will have holiday companies offering discounts to their staff, so it’s well worth checking your intranet pages or asking your HR team to see what you might be able to save.
4. Booking directly
Estimated savings: £500
A LOT of research was needed to find places in Morocco which would work for our family of five, without busting the bank. I used websites such as Air BnB and booking.com to research places, but often needed to contact them directly via their website to ask for more information, such as which rooms were closest to each other. In a number of cases, they replied with better deals than those available online – such as free dinner, or a cheaper room rate. We had no issues with booking directly, and it definitely made our money stretch further.
3. Taking our wheels with us
Estimated savings vs fly drive: £700
Most of our holidays are fly/drive holidays, so we have the cost of airport parking, five airplane seats, as well as car hire and car seat hire when we arrive.This year we chose to spend our Easter break in Belgium, and by taking our own car our only travel costs were the Eurotunnel passage and a tank of petrol. This made our 10 day trip to Belgium our cheapest holiday of the year at a bargainous £240!
2. Being a winner
Estimated savings: £1440
For the first time in 3 years, I didn’t win a holiday in 2017. I know, #firstworldproblems. However I did have two wins from 2016 which helped reduce costs considerably: return flights to Malaga for me thanks to jet2, and the return flights to Morocco for all five of us, courtesy of National Express. The hotel stay in Cardiff was also free thanks to a win from hotels.com EU. Once you twig that genuine bonafide companies want to give away things like holidays FOR FREE, it will change you into a crazed woman who tweets selfies with people dressed up as giant pigeons. Or maybe that’s just me.
And finally, our top holiday money saving tip:
1. House swapping
Estimated savings: £1700
Yep, hands down the way we saved the most money on our holidays last year was to swap our, erm, humble abode with complete strangers. Just for a week or two, at least. Of course, by the time you’ve chatted back and forth via email, explained the oddities of the boiler and slept in each other’s beds you probably know them a lot better than some of your friends! House-swapping has encouraged us to try places we might never have chosen otherwise, given insight into everyday life in those places, and even made us some lovely friends. The fact that it has saved us such a huge sum makes it even more of a no brainer for us.
So, there we have it – the six ways we saved on our 2017 family holidays. Check your work perks, use Air BnB, contact hotels directly, get busy comping, keep your car but swap your house, and hopefully you too can afford to holiday more than you imagined.
Let me know in the comments below how much these tips save you, or your best tips for saving on the cost of family holidays.