Museum Mum Travels: 2018 plans (on a budget!)

How things change! This time last year, I was working full time and as detailed in my 2017 travel plans, we had a number of BIG holidays in the pipeline. This all came at a price, albeit a reduced one – I shared more details in our post on six ways we saved thousands on our family travels last year.

Twelve months on, I’m now working part time  – a completely necessary decision, based on the inability to cram everything me and the kids need to stay happy and healthy into the usual measly 48 hour weekend.

With part time hours unfortunately comes a pay cut, and to make the new work setup, well, work, we’ve had to scrutinise all our incomings and outgoings. And £4,500 of holidays were unfortunately the first thing to face the chop.

DON’T FEAR: we’re still going on holiday this year! But we’ve had to set ourselves a much smaller budget – this year we’ve allocated a much more stringent £1,000 to our holiday pot. That’s for all five of us, to include flights, car hire, hotels, camping fees… no small order! Here’s our holiday plans for 2018, along with costs.




This Easter we had a wonderful, if unseasonably snowy, 11 night break to Finland. We house-swapped with a lovely family who lived in a small town called Hyvinkää, 45 minutes outside Helsinki. The house was spotlessly clean, had three bedrooms and its own sauna – all for free! The only related accommodation cost was the membership of the house-swapping site, at £55 for a year with no additional charges. With six months notice the Norwegian Air flights came to £450 for five of us. The family very kindly lent us their car, so our only transport costs was £20 on airport parking and using a key return service. We also spent an additional £90 on parking our own car in the UK with a Meet & Greet service.
Total cost: £615


Amsterdam by Michelle Milla

Photo credit: Michelle Milla

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

In a complete departure from our last few summer holidays, where we’ve opted for rural, this year we’re swapping our capital city for another one – Amsterdam! I’m excited about getting beyond the stereotypes of canals and windmills, and visiting Rotterdam, Delft and the wonderful North Sea beaches. And there are plenty of museums to keep us busy – the teen definitely wants to visit Anne Frank’s House, whilst the Miffy Museum in Utrecht will be a treat for the younger ones. I’m beginning to think two weeks won’t be long enough! We’re house swapping with a lovely family who live in the vibrant Amsterdam East area, so our accommodation is free. We’ll drive our own car there, saving on car hire. And we’ve got enough Tesco Clubcard points stashed to mean we only needed to pay £9 to cover the Eurotunnel crossing – I knew they’d come in handy one day!
Total cost: £9 + street parking


Rouen, Normandy

Photo credit: isamiga76

Rouen, Normandy

Normandy has been on my wishlist for a while now, as it is so close to the UK but with a rich heritage. This October half term we’ll be right in the heart of the historic city of Rouen, exploring its beautiful medieval streets and seeing some of the Normandy landing beaches, weather permitting. As we’re houseswapping and using up our remaining Tesco Clubcard vouchers to cover the Eurotunnel, our week away should come to another £9.

Total cost: £9



Cardiff, Wales

I was born and raised in Cardiff, and still have many friends and family there. However with so many big sporting, music or industry events taking place in the Welsh capital, finding a family room at a reasonable price is nigh on impossible. So I’m delighted that we have reached agreement to house-swap with a really nice family who live just on the outskirts of the city. Neither of us have done a weekend house swap before, so hopefully it will be easier than preparing for a longer one. We’re having our first exchange the second bank holiday in May, so will get a chance to see some friends and family, at least. Who knows, this could be a regular arrangement!
Total cost: £0

Camping in West Sussex

Last year is the first in many that we didn’t go camping and we really missed it. This year, we’ve booked a two night camping trip in June to Hooks Farm in West Sussex. What it lacks in shower facilities it more than makes up for in natural beauty – it has twenty acres of secluded meadows and small copses of woodland. It’s also only a short drive from London – I can’t wait!
Total cost: £35

Spaldwick, Cambridgeshire

We’ve been invited to stay with friends, in their barn which they have newly converted into an AirBnB property. They have a beautiful historic home which they have been tirelessly renovating, fantastic taste and are great hosts so I’m really looking forward to getting a date in to catch with them and their lovely children.
Total cost: £0



Museum Boy and Girl hug on the iron balcony of the Palm House, Kew Gardens

It’s not all about getting away – after all, we live in on of the greatest cities in the world! So this year we are trying to make the most of what’s on our doorstep, especially as we get free access to quite a few attractions with our work passes. Any other costs are covered by our ‘family days out’ budget, rather than our travel one. Here’s just some off the (rather long) wishlist:

  • We were very kindly gifted a ticket for the Warner Bros Studio Tour by the Swedish house swappers we hosted last summer (see, I told you house swapping was great!) I’m planning to taking the teen, just me and her. Whilst we’re not huge Harry Potter fans, everyone has told me its such an amazing experience you don’t need to be a Potterhead to enjoy.
  • The Tower Bridge experience – Museum Boy’s pick of where to go this coming May half term!
  • The new Temperate House at Kew Gardens (we LOVE the Palm House, pictured above!)
  • The Museum of Brands and Packaging invited us to visit them, and I realise I haven’t done since they moved a few years ago. I’m hoping to take one of the Nannas, as it great for reminiscing and sharing stories of the past.
  • We still have to ride the Mail Rail, which wasn’t open when I reviewed the rest of the Postal Museum.

And further afield, I’m hoping to do the following:

  • We have a family ticket to Hamerton Zoo Park which I won last year, and is close to our friend’s AirBnB
  • I’m really looking forward to taking the kids to St Fagans National Museum of History, it’s one of my favourite museums I remember visiting as a child and hope my children love it as much as I did!


So there we have it, three foreign holidays and three weekend breaks for a family of five, all for just £670. Even if I decide to take into account any petrol, tolls, it looks as if we definitely are well within our £1,000 annual holiday budget. Which is good, as 2019 might be a more extravagant year… let’s wait and see!

What are your travel plans for the year, and have you had to cut back at all? Comment below, or come chat on social media, I’d love to hear from you.


Written by Vyki Sparkes AKA Museum Mum. Award-winning culture blogger, content creator, museum curator, podcaster, and mum to three. I’ve worked in museums for 18+ years, have a masters in museum studies, but more importantly, have been letting my kids loose in museums for decades. This blog shares all my hard-earned knowledge and experience.

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  1. May 26, 2018 / 10:13 pm

    After going from full-time to part-time just over a year ago I can definitely identify with this post. We’ve gone from spending thousands on luxury long haul holidays to having less than £1000 per year to spend. Last year we had a short break to Iceland which was incredible, now we are saving for another long haul but as it will take far longer we’re doing a lot more day trips and may do some short breaks in Europe. I’m really interested in the whole house swap idea. My house isn’t that amazing though so I’d be worried noone would want to stay in it ?

    • museummum
      July 15, 2018 / 11:06 am

      Sounds like we’re both in the same (budget) boat! Look forward to hearing about your day trips and short breaks. I bet Iceland was amazing! I’m sure you’d find plenty of people from around the world willing to house swap with you – I have, and our house is nothing grand.

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