My husband, nine-month old daughter and I have been travelling around for nine weeks all told this summer. We have camped, stayed in hotels just like the hotels in Flagstaff and cabins and for one week, with family. Here are some of the top things we have done to stretch our budget as far as possible:

  • Pack your own food

Accommodation and food are generally your greatest daily expenses when travelling. When you’re camping, it’s easy for food to take over as your biggest outgoing. Fortunately, with a bit of planning and initial outlay, you can curtail your food budget and have a cheap holiday without living off finger food.

  • Pack a basket that never gets unpacked

A quick way to spend unnecessary money on holiday is by forgetting things at home. A new toothbrush, a bottle opener, salt and pepper and converter plugs will all quickly empty your wallet. By having a ‘holiday box’ where you can keep everything together until you need it, you’ll save yourself a fortune, and be ready to go at a moment’s notice too.

We have a large trunk that holds all our outdoor equipment, packed and ready for the next trip. The picnic basket has dried herbs and salt and pepper, all our cutlery/crockery and the rest of our camping kitchen.

We also have a toiletry bag that holds all our travel sized toiletries as well as dedicated toothbrushes. Of course, after each trip these items need to be replenished, but that is simple enough to do. (This is also a great use for all those samples and mini sized beauty products.)

  • Five litre water

Buying one 5l bottle of water for each day you will be away will work out much cheaper than buying individual bottles of water. We use reusable water bottles and fill them from our 5l. Whereas the big bottle will cost you around £1, a one-litre might cost more than half of that, and a 500ml could cost more, so investing in a good reusable bottle is a great idea. On a hot day for a family of two to five people that could easily amount to £20 or more on water or soft drinks.

  • Markets

Fresh produce markets, farm shops, and farm houses are great places to buy fresh, local, and cheap food. Be aware though – if it’s the Realto Market in Venice or Borough Market in London it’s a tourist attraction all on its own and the supermarket will be cheaper.

  • Community rooms

Many camp sites and guest houses have a communal room where you can find information on the local area, watch TV, play pool or darts or games and other free activities for children.

  • Bring a book or two

Also, most sites have a bring-and-share book library. You bring your book, read it and swap it for a different one. You can leave with the different one, and leave it at the next site, and so on. That way you can read to your heart’s content, and not spend any money on books.

  • Travel out of season

Everyone knows this one, really, but it’s not always possible with children. Even so, a two day getaway can be as refreshing as a six week cruise. Make sure you know some things about cruise ship law before your trip. Heading to unusual destinations could save you a pretty penny and being away from the masses is certainly much more relaxing too.

  • Book in advance or last minute

Another well known fact, but often missed. We’ve spent nine weeks travelling this summer, and have often not actually known where we would end up in the evening. Upon deciding we were stopping where we are, we’d check or for available hotels. As a result we’ve spent our non-camping days in four and five star hotels at around a third of their regular prices.

If you do have a bit more time on your hands though, and don’t have specific requirements such as Wi-Fi in the room or an ocean view, it’s often cheaper to walk around and see what’s available. As an example, we booked a 4* hotel in Austria for £80 as we had specific requirements for those dates. Upon arrival we found that the 3* hotel next door had rooms for €40 a night – a more than half price saving if we had been able to be flexible.

  • Leave your mobile off/at home (if travelling abroad)

This is where I fall flat. I am an addict and if I can’t get online, I’ll use my phone. I love sending little bloggy updates, and I love sending tweets, and often send picture messages to my family – and return home to 3-figure phone bills. Unless your phone has Wi-Fi, leave it at home or put it off and in the bottom of your bag. Truth be told, you’ll have a more relaxing time with the screen break, your family will feel you’ve been more present than usual and you’ll save yourself a lot of money in roaming data charges.

  • Coffee and free Wi-Fi

On that note though, there’s always an alternative. Although internet cafés are nowhere near as popular as they were in years gone by, there are still a few around. However, many coffee shops and bars offer free Wi-Fi if you’re sitting there. So rather than buying drinks and using your phone or an internet cafe, you can use your Wi-Fi enable phone or laptop. Most places don’t mind how long you stay, as long as you buy something.

Do you have any favourite budget saving ideas for your travels? Please leave them as a comment below!

Categories: Travel Tips


10 Ways to Stretch Your Holiday Money

  1. I was just thinking about the home swap thing yesterday and trying to decide if I would like it or not. I think probably not!
    Thanks for all the good tips above, you might also want to check for accommodation. We don’t do any many destinations or hotels as these big guys you mentioned but we are nice & friendly!

  2. I especially like the “travel basket”idea, I keep meaning to do that but for now I just put anything travel sized (like the shampoos you get at any hotel you stay at) in one place so it’s easy to grab and go. I’ve heard that it can be much cheaper to swap houses with someone or rent an apartment while traveling, have you ever done that? I doubt anyone would want to house swap with me (since I’m not in a terribly desirable locale) but it sounds fun/cheap!

    1. @Yuliya, I have heard of that, but I must admit that I am way too suspicious a person, having been robbed a number of times in my life, so I’m not certain I’d relax with someone else in my house!

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