Everyone loves – and needs! – a holiday every now and then. But when cash is tight – whether it be because you’re unemployed, a student, on benefits or earning a low income – it can be really hard to afford a family holiday. With a little ‘out of the box’ thinking, together with some careful planning, you’ll be amazed at the wonderful holidays you can have, at a cost of next to nothing!
First things first – what’s your holiday goal?
Do you just need a brief break from the everyday – or a complete change of scene? Sun and relaxation, or adventure filled thrills?
- If it’s a family holiday you’re planning, don’t forget that it’s often just us adults who think we need to go to fancy resorts, expensive theme parks and attractions – many kids just want to hang out and have fun with you.
- Kids will just as happy with a picnic in a park or a bike ride around a lake, and would have loads more fun toasting marshmallows around a campfire and sleeping in a tent than they would in a fancy hotel.
- Don’t think you have to travel far and wide or spend a load of cash to have a great time!
The ultimate cheap and easy holiday – you’ll have a ball getting out and enjoying the great outdoors and all nature has to offer, with almost not a cent to spend.
- You don’t have to have a heap of expensive camping gear – put the word out to family and friends and you should be able to arrange a loan of all the basics – a tent, some sleeping mats and bags, a camp stove and esky – and you’re set!
- Here’s a handy guide to some great camping spots in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and Western Australia.
Holiday at home
Sure, it’s nice to travel and see places a little further afield, but remember that generally, the further you go the more it’ll cost. So why not explore close to home instead?
- It can be so much fun to ‘play tourist’ in your own hometown and explore the local sights through fresh, relaxed, holidaying eyes! And you’ll save a small fortune on travel and accommodation, as you’re already there!
- Let family and friends know you’re ‘signing out’ for a few days and have a great time getting out and about and doing things differently.
- Think like a tourist and visit your local visitor information centre or Google your neighborhood for ideas and activities you wouldn’t normally do.
- If you live in a big city, get out and about on the buses, trains or ferries. Explore nearby National Parks, try hiking or even abseiling, and if you’re near the water give kayaking or paddle boarding a go.
- As long as you’re trying something new and seeing your everyday surrounds though fresh eyes, you’ll get that relaxed holiday feel – for free!
If you don’t fancy holidaying at home, why not holiday at someone else’s home, and let them holiday at yours – and you both holiday for free!
If a house swap doesn’t sound like your thing, you could always try a short term housesitting stint instead, and holiday at someone else’s home for free!
Still want a resort or hotel stay? Book early!
While you can occasionally get a fabulously cheap last minute deal, accommodation and travel are usually cheapest the earlier you buy.
- If you can, plan ahead as far as possible, and do your online research.
- If you book a year ahead you can often book an amazing holiday at a fraction of the price.
Time it to perfection
Save a load of time, stress and cash by avoiding peak holiday times.
- Check the school holidays calendar to find the best time to travel – the cheapest periods are usually those times well outside the school holiday periods. You can reap big savings on flights and accommodation by travelling in off-peak periods or the shoulder season.
- Bear in mind that popular destinations and those on the coast are at premium prices during school holidays and in the weeks covering Christmas through to Australia Day – unless you get in really early.
- If you want to travel a little further afield and can stretch your budget to include flights, then be sure to browse deals and book online rather than using a travel agent. Try sites like Webjet, Expedia and Zuji.
- Book as far in advance as you can to get the cheapest departure dates and times.
- You’ll usually save loads by flying mid-week (on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday), and on flights that depart early in the morning or late at night.
Online accommodation deals
There are loads of websites specialising in discounted hotels and holiday apartments.
- Try Wotif, Last Minute, Expedia and Trivago.
- Remember to do your homework with online deals – some can entice you by advertising special last-minute promotions, but while the price might look good and hook you in, the availability is generally very limited. That’s not to say you shouldn’t try – there are some great deals to be had if you’re lucky!
- Beware of fees and charges when booking online. Most sites charge booking fees so remember to factor these in when comparing deals.
- Or look for an option to pay by direct deposit as this can help avoid hefty credit card surcharges – and it also avoids future debt, as you know your holiday is all paid for before you go.
Save by going self contained
If you’re booking accommodation, look for something that has a kitchen so they can prepare at least some of their meals to cut down on the added costs of eating out.
- Suss out where the nearest supermarket is to buy your groceries. You could even order online before you arrive and have your order delivered on the day you get there – stress and hassle-free, as holidays should be!
- If you really don’t want to do any cooking, then look for deals where kids can stay or eat for free.
Cheap activities and entertainment
Theme parks may look like an easy way to entertain kids but remember, there are plenty of cheaper ways have fun – with no long queues and hefty price tag attached!
- Beach nearby? Bliss out with a book, spend hours splashing, swimming, surfing and making sandcastles – all awesome, free fun!
- Family picnics can take on a sense of adventure of their own if you go somewhere new. Find a spot with a playground to keep the littlies busy for hours, and take some friends or another family along for added fun and socialising for everyone.
- Check out the local council, museums and art galleries. All usually offer fun, free programs and activities for the kids (and big kids!)
- Get cooking! Make a special pizza or cake, and let the kids choose the toppings and do the decorating.
- Don’t forget trusty favourites like classic board and card games, or charades. We often overlook these simple and free activities – you’ll find the kids love them, and you’ll have forgotten how much fun they can be!