Budget family travel
Traveling with a family and sticking to a budget don't always go hand in hand. Follow the tips below to find your perfect family vacation without breaking the bank.
Surf the net
Whether your children are new-born, toddlers or teenagers there are simply hundreds of deals and packages to suit your family and its needs. Large Internet search engines such as www.google.com or www.askjeeves.com are the ideal starting places. Quite often pages will link to travel companies, some of which do offer genuine low-cost breaks. Last minute deals
If your child is still a babe-in-arms, or not yet of school age, this is fantastic news because it means you can jet away without having to worry about scheduling your vacation during school breaks. Sites such as www.lastminute.com are invaluable when it comes to finding a vacation at short notice, and the site is international so breaks to long-haul destinations can be booked from the comfort of your own home.
Booking for your trip online can also save you money because Internet booking companies often have no administration fees, especially if they issue "e-tickets." Basically an e-ticket is the confirmation of booking page printed from your own computer seconds after the transaction is confirmed, traditional tickets are done away with completely.
When searching online there are several options to choose from -- do either a single search for a vacation package (which in this case means both flights and accommodation) or book them separately from different websites. If you find amazingly "cheap" flights to your destination, it is a good idea to do a separate search for inexpensive accommodation in the city. If you do decide to do this don't limit your choices as to type of accommodation because while two- and three-star hotels are fairly reasonably priced in most cities, you might be able to find accommodation closer to 4-star standards if you are prepared to book a self-catering apartment or house.
Self-catering apartments are ideal if you have children who are fussy eaters and you want to prepare their meals yourself or don't want to be restricted by the set restaurant timetable at your hotel.
Another "trick" is to find reasonably priced accommodation online then phone or fax the hotel/ rental company direct and find out how much accommodation is on its own -- you might be surprised at the difference in prices. Also, it is a good idea to ask the hotel about any children's activities/places of interest in the area and have them send you a corresponding list.
This immediately involves your child in the whole holiday booking process and helps them feel excited about the holiday. It also helps you to plan your itinerary, which can be a good idea if you want to stick to your budget: you will then have set plans to stick to and not land up wandering around your holiday destination spending money in an effort to keep your children entertained.
Off peak flying times
Another mainstay of budget travel is that you should be prepared to travel at off-peak times, ie. mid-week. Airlines often offer cheaper tickets (incentives) for flights leaving/arriving mid-week and traveling during peak times can actually add hidden costs to your ticket price.
Special deals / Airline miles
Many newspapers and travel magazines regularly offer special deals on flights. Don't be afraid to use them -- I have flown to both New York and to Spain on such deals. I also collect airline miles, which will be worth using in the not too distant future, and thereby saving me a lot on the cost of a future airfare.
Other ways of saving money
Visiting friends or family in a different city/ country is not only a perfect excuse for a holiday but it can help save on the cost of accommodation. Similarly, going on vacation with another family to share the cost of accommodation can also be a good idea -- providing you know these people very well and are not likely to fall out with them halfway around the world and land up having to pay for alternative accommodation as a result (and at a huge, unforeseen cost!).
Emily Gordon, senior travel consultant at CWT Global says "travel is an immensely rewarding experience, made even more so if you have planned it all yourself. Combining the resources of the Internet, word of mouth and travel agent, the world really is your oyster."
Never before has finding and booking your perfect holiday been so easy. With literally hundred of holiday deals to be had, and with the introduction of so many no-frills (ie. budget) airlines, especially in Europe, there is no reason why you shouldn't jump on board and take advantage of what used to seem like an impossible venture.