Having been ‘on the road’, as they say, with my three children since 2010, I know a thing or two about doing it cheaply. And no matter how experienced a traveler you become, there’s always more you can learn. So, without further ado, here are my top 10 budget-friendly essential tips when traveling with children:
1. Plan sensibly
When planning a trip to multiple destinations, always start from the cheapest one.This allows you to manage your budget, spend as much as you need in the cheap places and know exactly how much you have left to spend on the expensive ones. Include in your budget planning the ‘invisible’ extras, such as renting a safety car seat for your little ones or an extra bed at the hotel. If you plan for those in advance they cease to be ‘additional costs’, instead becoming a budgeted expense.
2. Limit luggage
If the kids are old enough, you should limit them to a bag and/or suitcase each, and tell them that’s all they’re allowed to bring back. Not only will this help save money on the holiday itself, as it will mean you can’t shop for unnecessary items, it will also prevent confusion at the airport and on every other form of transportation.
3. Embrace the flight
Contrary to popular belief, there’s actually no need to bring special games for the kidsas most planes have a ‘children’s kit’ which includes things like a coloring book and some other games that can keep them entertained for hours.
4. Location, location, location
Book a hotel that is close to public transportation, grocery shops and small restaurants. Many big hotels and resorts are very isolated, so you have no choice but to eat in their overpriced restaurant and take an expensive taxi if you ever want to go somewhere else in the area. A few months ago, when we went to Bangkok, which is considered to be one of the more expensive destinations in Southeast Asia, we found a homestay in a local neighborhood. With easy access to all the local restaurants, market, grocery stores, sky train station and even a laundromat (not to mention the cheap traditional Thai massage!), we managed to spend $50 a day for all four of us.
5. Handy hotel essentials
We always carry some basic kitchen equipment with us, such as a knife, peeler and chopping board so we can buy our own fruits and vegetables in the market and not pay the ridiculous restaurant prices for a fruit salad.
6. Sim city
Always buy local sim cards – it saves a fortune on communications as you can always call each other cheaply. It is also advisable to get the local data pack to save on internet, too.
7. Attractions: Use your head, not heart
Always go to the ‘tourist information center’ before deciding which attraction you’re going to do,, as they’re always well informed and can tell you which ones, are worth the visit and which are not. The free maps are always a plus, and you might even get lucky with a discount ticket or package deal! Let each family member choose one attraction that they really want to go to, and after that see if you have the budget for more. Anything left after that is a bonus.
8. Fun with food
Ignite the kids’ curiosity about the local cuisine and snacks as it will always be cheaper and, in most cases, much healthier and tastier. It is, after all, what the locals know how to make best. Mix and match between eating at cheap, local places most of the time and treating yourself to more expensive ‘fun’ restaurants every couple of days. You could even take the main course to go from the more expensive restaurant, and all the drinks and side dishes from much cheaper places, and eat it all in your room. A top-notch meal for half the cost and in your pyjamas? What could be better!
9. Save with souvenirs
It’s always nice to bring gifts of local products back home, but never buy them at the tourist gift shops as they are extremely overpriced. Instead, go to the local market for gifts and, if at all possible, take a local friend with you to help barter down the price!
10. Say cheese
Ok, now for the cheesy bit. In my personal experience, the best budget essential for family travel is just having the kids – full stop. You’ll find that everyone is much friendlier, more welcoming and will even let your kids try a bit of everything. Teach your kids a few words in the local language (hello, thank you, goodbye) – you’ll be amazed at the doors they open which both lower the cost of your trip and enrich it tenfold.
This article originally appeared on Skyscanner