Left it too late to get away this school holiday break? Here's how to plan ahead and save money on your next family holiday.
What's the best way to save money on holiday? Is it:
(a) leave the kids at home
(b) cut fuel costs by camping in the backyard
(c) a road trip that includes bunking down in the car
(d) reading this article
(e) all of the above
Technically, (e) could be correct, but the fact you've got this far means you have chosen the best answer which is, of course, (d).
Travelling with kids can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be. There are loads of ways to cut the cost of a family holiday and still keep everyone happy.
Travelling by car to your destination is a good option provided you are immune to "Are we there yet?" (of course, on a long trip it might be you saying this rather than the kids).
Car travel is generally cheaper than flying, especially for larger families, plus there are no airline baggage restrictions and you can stop whenever and wherever you like. Audio books help the kilometres fly by and can be played on the car stereo for everyone to enjoy if you're travelling with older kids.
If you're hiring a car at your destination, bringing your own car seat avoids the additional expense of hiring one. The same goes for a satnav or you can use your phone to navigate either via Google Maps or an app while you're away.
If you would prefer to fly, consider leaving a day or two earlier or later, especially around the school holidays, as being flexible with dates can save hundreds on airfares.
Higher-tier frequent flyer members can often check an additional bag at no charge. If this applies to you, book cheaper carry-on only fares for the kids and check their bag yourself. Kids aged under 2 fly free on domestic flights (and pay only 10 per cent on international flights) so make the most of this while you can.
Staying in an apartment may be slightly more expensive per night than a hotel room but it is easier and more convenient, especially for larger families. Add the convenience and cost savings of self-catering and having your own laundry and it can be a real money saver.
This aside, staying in a hotel room isn't out of the question, particularly for those with only one child. Keep an eye out for studio-style accommodation with a sliding partition between the bedroom and living area as this allows flexibility and saves the cost of an adjoining room.
It also means you won't have to hide out in the bathroom or sit in the dark waiting for your little one to go to sleep (been there, done that – not recommended).
Look for hotels and resorts that are family friendly and provide things for free. Novotel for example offers free accommodation (using existing bedding) and breakfast for up to two children aged under 16, a gift on arrival, and free children's entertainment on the TV. Even better, the whole family gets to enjoy a 5pm late checkout on Sundays.
For higher budgets, Cordis in Auckland offers a family package that includes valet parking, kids' activities, breakfast and an in-room movie.
There are plenty of ways to make your entertainment budget go further on holidays. Start by checking the child discount cut-off age for tours, especially if you're tossing up between a few activities and have to pay for several kids. Some tours offer discounts for children aged up to 16, for example, whereas others stop at 12.
Have a chat about the family holiday budget before you leave home so everyone keeps their expectations reasonable while you're away. Encouraging your kids to buy useful souvenirs is another way to avoid wasting money. A school drink bottle or lunch box will get more use than a jumbo pencil with a kiwi on top.
Wet weather eats into a holiday budget faster than you can say "tropical low", so pack a few board games or consider buying a new one while you're away. They're much cheaper than tourist attraction entry fees, plus you can take them home.