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Family Travel A to Z: Budgeting

Holidays can be expensive. Particularly when you have more than two people involved. In our case, we have three kids so it’s 5 x airfares, 5 x meals, 5 x admissions – you get the picture. It all adds up very quickly to a very scary total.

What I have found in the past when it comes to holiday planning is just how much money all the ‘extras’ come out to be. You pay for the actual holiday itself (which typically includes accommodation, flights, admission to venues, etc) but then you need to also set aside money for meals, transport, activities and the cost of everyday life.

We spent a lot of money on our big holiday to the US, back in 2015. It was our dream holiday and it was only possible due to my redundancy payout from the year before. The core expenses were bad enough but we also had to budget for everything else, which included some surprising expenses that you don’t want to be caught out by.

To have a great family holiday you need to look closely at your budget, manage it well and make sure you can cover all the costs that seem to crop up wherever you look…


Family travel A to Z: Budgeting (featured) -




Develop a savings plan as early as you can

I’m lucky enough that we had the money there for us to use for our US holiday but in the past we have developed a savings plan to ensure that the funds were available so we could afford our holiday. To do this effectively, you need to understand your household budget to identify the amount that can be regularly saved each pay. Set up a dedicated account and send money there before it hits your everyday account. If you receive holiday loading or are lucky enough to receive a tax refund or other financial windfall, send it to this account too. If you can, continue this savings regime on your return so you can get stuck into saving for your next holiday (because you always want a holiday after having a holiday!)

Work out what sort of holiday you can afford

This sounds obvious but once you identify how much you can save you need to work out what you can actually afford. There’s no point reaching for the moon if there is no chance you can get there. You want to save for something that will be realistic to keep you accountable and committed, so ensure your holiday goal is achievable. Initially, we would have loved to have gone to the US but we didn’t have the funds and we hadn’t ever flown with the kids before. So we compromised and travelled to New Zealand instead and had a fantastic time. After that, we were in a better position to have that dream holiday with more money and more experience under our belts. So don’t be afraid to work up to your goal, if you can’t afford it the first time around.


It’s easy to come up with all the obvious expenses that come with a holiday – how to get there, where to stay and what to do. But there are other expenses that will need to be addressed, even while you are relaxing on golden sands on the other side of the world. Here are some expenses we had to pay for that we did not initially think of when we first contemplated our holiday:

  • pet kenneling
  • airport car parking
  • car seat hire overseas
  • holding of our mail
  • regular childcare costs even though we are not utilising them while we are away
  • SIM cards and a dongle for our phones and laptop while we are away
  • power adaptors for overseas
  • additional luggage
  • normal household expenses (mortgage, utilities, rates, etc)

This is by no means an exhaustive list but ensure you map out EVERY expense you need to make beforehand and those that need to be covered while you are on holidays. Otherwise you will be caught out and find yourself in a very difficult and stressful position.

Decide whether there is value in using a travel agent

I have to admit we really wanted to plan our big US holiday ourselves and save money. However, we were not confident enough to do it ourselves, so we ended up working with a travel agent. She was able to get us some good deals but we also did a lot of research and were able to tell her exactly where we wanted to stay, what cruise we wanted to take and the flights we wanted to book. In the end it was a good compromise for us but this is a very individual decision. If you really want to save money you can do it all yourself – you just need to be well organised, be brave and do your research to make sure you are getting the best deal and the best value for your money.

Look out for low cost travel options, specials and last minute deals

The internet is a wondrous thing and there are many sites out there that specialise in last minute deals. If you are looking for a holiday closer to home or on a whim, the usual suspects like Wotif, Stayz, Lastminute and Expedia can really bring up some awesome deals. You can find sites on pretty much every destination online so make sure you do your research – you could potentially get a lot more holiday than you originally thought you could! Also check out any free or low cost outings for the kids – sometimes the best experiences we have had as a family have come from the most unexpected and inauspicious of places.

Make sure you have contingency funds set aside

Don’t push your funds to the limit when planning your next family holiday. Set aside some funds to provide a contingency should any unexpected expenses crop up and threaten your holiday. The size of the contingency fund will depend on the total cost of your trip but a good guide is to set aside 10% of the cost towards any unexpected costs. Hopefully you will not need to use it but, if you do, having the funds already there and available to you will help reduce stress and strain in an already tense situation.

Do you have any suggestions for managing and maximising the family holiday budget?


A to Z Guide to Family Travel -


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  1. Heather Erickson

    We have a vacation jar. Anything we earn that’s extra goes in there. It’s usually just enough to cover our annual vacation.

  2. Jess

    I don’t know why, but planning the savings of expenses for a big trip may be my favorite part of the vacation all together. 🙂 It’s like a puzzle.


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