How we afford to travel with kids

  • July 16, 2019

No we don’t earn megabucks, no we haven’t received a massive inheritance, and no we haven’t won the lottery (reminder to self: must buy lottery ticket this week)… yet.

I receive lots of emails and messages from parents who want to travel with their little ones. I love receiving them and I’m always more that happy to reply and offer advice; whether it’s asking about booking trains in India, vaccination questions (although I encourage that this one is better answered by a medical expert), safety of tuk-tuks in Sri Lanka, or what to do if you need a no.2 on the road in Africa (I’ve had this more than once). But the most common question I receive is – “How do you afford to travel so much?”

I always smile a little when I receive this one. It’s so very un-British to ask someone about money, and I know it’s taken some balls to ask.

Doha stopover with kids - dune bashing
Visiting the deserts of Doha, October 2017

I admit that we travel more than your average family (check out our travel highlights of 2019), but there are lots of families like us. In fact, there are families who travel even MORE than us; digital nomad parents who homeschool their children, or families on year-long sabbaticals. If you’re looking for ways to travel more as a family, 5 Lost Together has a great series interviewing families and finding out how they find ways to travel; from using maternity leave, using home exchanges, renting your home, and just saving bloody hard for a gap year.

But this post is about how we, TraveLynn Family, have so far managed to afford to travel.

If you’re looking for some destination inspiration, check out our top destinations for adventure family travel.

We prioritise travel

We do feel lucky and appreciate that we’re in a privileged position to decide how we spend our money. However, we don’t drive a fancy car, we have never stretched ourselves on a mortgage (although we do have one), we don’t go out for fancy dinners, and you’ll never find me clothes shopping unless it’s absolutely necessary. We watch the pennies, use some of these money saving ideas for families, and the majority of our disposable income goes to travel.

We travelled as much as possible before our eldest started school

Up until very recently, we weren’t tied down to school holidays. We could travel as and when we wanted, as much as money and time off work would allow, meaning we could get off-peak airfares and accommodation. From long weekends, fortnight holidays, to our epic 101 days in Africa, these trips were all done during school term. Now that both our kids are in school, we’re having to work a lot harder in finding ways to fund our travel and maximise annual leave for holidays, although it’s still very possible! So if your kids aren’t yet in school, NOW is the time to travel with them.

Read: Why pre-school is the best age to travel with kids

overlanding Africa with kids
On the road in Mozambique, April 2018

We moved to India

In 2017, through an opportunity at with husband’s work, we moved to Bangalore, India. This was an incredible year, full of highs and lows, but A LOT of travel adventures. We had a new base to explore a new corner of the world, and used EVERY available opportunity to travel; popping on a sleeper train of a weekend to explore Hampi, Pondicherry or Kochi, and cheap AirAsia flights took us to Northern India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Thailand. And on the occasions we flew back to the UK to see family, we would always ensure a stopover in Doha or Abu Dhabi. Living as expats was a fantastic way for us to travel more.

Northern India itinerary with kids
Living in India, 2017-2018

We took voluntary redundancy

This was a bold move. My husband was in a good job in India and he loved the company he worked for. But, when an opportunity for voluntary redundancy arose seven months before our eldest started school, we jumped at it. This gave us the pot of money we needed for long-term travel, and the timing was perfect. So off to Africa we went – 101 days in a Land Rover with roof tents, the boys were aged 2 and 4 at the time. And for those of you worried about whether he found work again on our return. Yes, he did 🙂

Read: FAQ: Self drive Africa overland with kids

Slow travel

When we have a pot of money to go travelling, we don’t race around trying to fit in as many places as possible. Actual travel between places costs money. So if we travel to fewer places, closer together, our money goes further. A round the world airfare sounds tempting, but perhaps look at return flights to the one destination and embracing slow travel from that start and end point.

Travel to cheap destinations

As a family, we haven’t been to the States, we’ve only dipped our toe in to Scandinavia, and we’ve never been on a package holiday. We generally travel to cheap destinations, so that when we are there, we know our money will go further. Yes, this may mean more expensive flights. But an all-inclusive two week holiday at a Spanish holiday resort can sometimes cost more than two weeks of budget travel in Thailand or Sri Lanka, including flights.

Bangkok with kids
Bangkok, Thailand, has long been our favourite Asian city. December, 2017.

We’re also yet to take the boys skiing. Although this is a pricey holiday, it’s something that I think is worth paying for, especially when they’re young. So we’re hoping to take the boys next season and have started to put some money aside for it. I particularly love the sounds of this Chamonix Ski Resort recommended by Mags at The Family Freestylers. Sounds perfect for kids!

We are budget travellers

When we travel to cheaper destinations, we travel on a budget. Accommodation is going to be your largest outgoing when travelling, and we keep this to a minimum. We love camping, and are always happy to stay in cheaper accommodation if it means saving money. We almost never use tours or travel agents, as we prefer to travel independently and be accountable for our own time and money.

Budgeting spreadsheet

More used for long term travel, but ever since hubby and I travelled from the UK to Sydney without any planes back in 2007 (pre-kids), we’ve used a budgeting spreadsheet. We enter in EVERY expenditure into the spreadsheet (from tuk-tuk rides and overnight bus journeys, to purchasing toilet paper and restaurant tips) and from this work out our average daily spend. This then calculates how long we can travel on the pot of money we have. This is a fantastic way to keep our spending in check.

Always checking for flight deals

A few times a week, if I have a spare moment, I hop onto Skyscanner and check for the cheapest airfares on days I know we’re available to travel. I type in an airport close to us (I can chose from a few) into the ‘From’ box, and then select ‘Everywhere’ in the ‘To’ box. This then brings us the cheapest flights available across the world from my airport on those given dates; you can then play around with dates accordingly. There’s always a city that pops up to surprise me. This is how we ended up travelling to Nuremberg at the end of last year, spotting cheap Ryanair flights from Manchester.

I became a travel blogger

One of the perks of being a travel blogger is that we are frequently offered free accommodation, transport and activities, in return for featuring on this website and/or social media coverage. I started this blog initially as a creative outlet and to connect to like-minded people, but I’ve just had my 3-year blogiversary and really had no idea that it could grow into being my ‘job’.

Recent trips to Nuremberg, Lisbon and Iceland have all been hosted by tourism agencies, and we’ve stayed at lots of wonderful accommodation for ‘free’ around the globe. This certainly makes travel more affordable for us and has meant that we have recently travelled to destinations that we previous avoided due to their cost (e.g. Iceland). Although I’m very reluctant to call these opportunities ‘free’.

Read: 5-day Iceland itinerary with kids

Iceland itinerary with kids
Iceland, October 2018

In all these instances I am working. I’m making notes, taking photos, posting to social media and even writing the blog post(s) whilst I’m there. Don’t get me wrong, I love it. But I just want to portray the full picture for anyone believing us bloggers get ‘free’ trips. There’s a lot of work that goes behind the scenes. I therefore don’t say ‘yes’ to everyone, as I put a lot of care and thought into the content I produce for companies, and need to ensure the return of ‘free’ stuff is worthy of my time.

Plus, with all blog and social media posts, whether I am paid, hosted (complimentary accommodation) or gifted (I’m sent a product for free), I will always disclose this to my readers (you may sometimes see #ad #hosted or [AD] in my social media posts), and I will ALWAYS say EXACTLY what I think and be honest with you.

Anyways, I hope that gives you some ideas for enabling your family to travel more. If you have any more tips, then let me know!

How we afford to travel with kids
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You may also like to read:
Family adventure travel ideas for 2020
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How to maximise your annual leave allowance in 2020

Blog Comments

Such a useful insight, thanks so much! I’m amazed by how much travel you’ve down with the children already. A guide on making the most of travels with school age children would be a great follow up. My money saving tip for travel would be to consider house swapping. We’re about to take our 10th exchange and absolutely love it. We’ve saved thousands doing this, and discovered a lot of new to us places. I’ve written a little about it on my blog but feel free to contact me with any questions about it.

I love this post Jenny and your honesty. We are going on a three week trip to the USA this year, the initial outlay is going to be £8,000 and that’s before spends etc (ridiculous eh!) so I can completely see where you are coming from re: being able to stretch your budget if you travel to the cheaper destinations. I’m sure we could travel for 6 months on what will spend on this one trip. (We’ve talked about taking this holiday though since we returned from the states 7 years ago so we are long overdue a catch up with friends). Next year though I would like to take a leaf out of your book and see how much further we could travel with the same budget!

This is a very helpful post for anyone interested in independent travel. Having been on a couple of package holidays, purely for reducing the hassle of booking, I have been unfailingly disappointed in the locations, always spoiled by over-developed bucket and spade tourism (I live near Margate, so why travel abroad to experience this). The insights into how you go about planning your trips is very useful for anyone who wants to experience something different to this.

This is such a fab post with so much useful information thank you

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