Tips for Family Holiday Travel
As a mum-of-six and a travel agent specialising in family travel, I’m an expert at booking family holidays.
There are many things to consider when booking a getaway for your brood including where to go, when to go, how best to get there and where to stay.
If you are travelling during public or school holidays, the costs will be higher and there may be bigger crowds but on the flip side, more attractions will be open.
When the children were younger, we were content with domestic road trips and flights. We had amazing family holidays all over Australia from Adelaide to Airlie Beach and the Sunshine Coast to Sydney.
Jetstar would often have sales, and I watched these sales with intense interest, eventually mastering sales patterns and finding low-cost flying days.
If budget is your ultimate consideration, plan around the cheaper travel days, which are usually on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, and the low season which is typically February and May worldwide.
Now that low-cost carriers fly internationally, more overseas destinations are within reach such as Asia. Our first overseas holiday was Hong Kong because flights were cheap and it has a Disneyland.
And we made it to Hawaii when Jetstar released airfares from Melbourne to Honolulu for less than $200 per person each way. We just had to be flexible on the return date which meant we ended up staying there for five weeks!
How to Holiday as a Large Family
My large family of eight consists of my hubby Ian and our six children aged between 12- 22. At one stage we had six children under the age of 10.
Having a large family has not stopped us from travelling and embracing life but there are a few extra challenges that come with coordinating each trip.
For many years we stayed in self-contained accommodation, but then we purchased a complete site camper trailer with three rooms, which was a game changer! Now the kids are bigger we have upgraded to a bigger caravan and the older children often sleep in swags.
During our extended holiday to Hawaii, we stayed in holiday homes, which was very cost-effective for our big group.
To make packing more fun and less of a chore, I devised “The Packing Game” which empowers the kids to pack their own bags as I go through the packing list. Just remember to double check everything before zipping the bag shut. Many years ago, we bought six small, cabin-sized bags in different colours and colour-coded the kids to keep their things separate.
With eight people in the family doing an average of three activities per week plus school and jobs, there’s almost never a ‘right time’ to travel. Life always gets in the way.
So, to find a time to holiday, we devised a spreadsheet to factor in everyone’s school, social and work commitments, sport schedules and other life stuff.
Once you’ve blocked out all the non-negotiables, there will always be a few windows that open up.
How to Holiday on a Budget
One of the best ways to save money on holiday is to DIY it.
As soon as you arrive, pop to the local grocery store and stock up on cereal, milk, bread, butter, fruit, and your favourite toast spreads so you can have cheap breakfasts and snacks.
For easy lunches and dinners try wraps, macaroni and cheese, and instant noodles. Remember, the Costco card is reciprocal and can be used anywhere in the world.
On our five-week trip to Hawaii, we survived on wraps and dips at lunchtime. We would team this up with a cheap local delicacy such as shave ice or an ice-cream.
Bakeries are an excellent source of variety for the family. In Hong Kong, near a train station, we discovered an affordable and delicious bakery that fed our entire family for $10!
We often walk to save money on public transport and tours.
Over dozens of trips we have learned that the best things in life are free. Lakes, rivers, beaches, gardens, nature walks and certain museums offer endless hours of fun.
How to Reduce Travel Squabbles
If we’re being real, family holidays usually include as many tears and tantrums as laughs and lifelong memories. But there are some tips and tricks you can try to minimise the angst and up the adventure.
To avoid fights over food, and save some pennies at the same time, consider sharing meals between family members who have similar tastes, particularly in places where the servings are large. Our favourite dishes to share are hot chips, nachos, pasta, chicken dishes, and salads.
‘Hangry’ children are only ever a moment away from a meltdown so don’t feel guilty about fast food or takeaway after a big day of sightseeing. Our favourite “go-to” is pizza or the local McDonald’s for something quick and easy.
If you are road tripping, the bigger the car the better. Change seating at each roadside stop to avoid conflict amongst the siblings who think they have a better or worse seat.
The idea of a technology-free holiday is good in theory, but for the sake of sanity, sometimes it’s best to give in to the lure of little screens.
I’m all for family singalongs and road trip games, but let’s face it – after 32 times of guessing “something starting with T”, even I Spy gets tiresome! Using the Google Maps app allows children to follow the trip along in the car and limit annoying “Are we there yet?” questions.
And don’t forget to involve the children in the planning process. Ask them where they would like to go and why. They might even suggest somewhere amazing that wasn’t on your radar.
The Benefits of Holidaying Together
In all my years planning holidays for my own family and other families, I’ve seen first-hand the magic of a family holiday.
My favourite memories with my family are from holidays so we go to great lengths to keep the holiday dreaming alive.
Whether it’s a staycation, a weekend away, or a five-week jaunt in Hawaii, there is no better way to make lifelong memories, connect, recharge and spend time together than on a family holiday.
Holiday Dreaming is available to order online at travel.mrchocolate.com.au/book
Go in the draw to WIN a copy of Rebecca’s Book Holiday Dreaming!
Through sheer determination and research, Rebecca and her family have travelled to many destinations worldwide, creating their ‘forever memories’. It all started with the dream. In this must-read book, Rebecca shares her family’s holiday stories and many tips and tricks she has learned along the way, including: how to choose your holiday location, find the best deals and accommodation, navigate airports, road trip hacks, how to pack light and maximise your experiences.