Budget Family Holiday Tips: How to travel abroad cheaply with kids

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Need some ideas to help you travel with the kids on a budget? Then take a look at my 25 tips and hints for saving money on your family summer holiday! Travelling abroad is one of the most expensive things that we splash our cash on but it’s just so worth it! Going on holiday is such good fun, and the memories and quality family time are irreplaceable – it’s certainly something we all wish we could do more often.

From cheap accommodation options, to budget flights, self-catering, discount codes, free child places, NHS staff deals, and even organising bargain excursions – there are loads of ways to cut back. Think about it – the more you save, the more you can travel! Here’s how to save money on your summer holiday, and travel abroad cheaply with kids, without spoiling all the fun…

1. Lower your accommodation costs

If you want to travel frequently, then your accommodation choices need to play a big part in keeping costs to a minimum. By ditching luxury hotels for campsites, caravans and hostels you’ll be able to enjoy a longer trip. Be pragmatic – your accommodation is a place to sleep in between fun excursions and adventures.

La Chapelle, Argeles, South of France, swimming pool, slides, flumes, Eurocamp holiday, frugal mum children, review, photo

If you’re travelling in Europe, Eurocamp is a brilliant place to start – we’ve had some fantastic road trips hopping between their campsites to make things affordable, spending as little as £25 per night. And, they have such good pools, flumes and facilities for the kids that you can entertain them on a budget while you’re there as well!

travelling on a budget tips, venice, people on a gondola, frugal mum family holiday photo, eurocamp, cisano san vito

Loads of the Eurocamp campsites are so well located too – we’ve used them to visit cities like Rome, Venice and Amsterdam, Swiss mountains, waterfalls, beautiful beaches and theme parks. They also have great sales and run offers like free ferry travel or loyalty discounts – so it’s certainly worth a look if you’re looking for a budget European getaway! We’ve visited campsites across Italy, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland – you can check out my reviews here: Frugal Mum Eurocamp Reviews.

Switzerland, Jungfraujoch, snow, glacier, mountain, frugal mum family photo, travelling on a budget tips, europe

Travelling abroad on a small budget with your family can be hard work with ‘per person’ costs, but companies like Eurocamp that offer ‘per accommodation’ costs instead can be a lifesaver!  For everything that you need to know about Eurocamp holidays, and money saving tips, check out my article:  The Ultimate Eurocamp Holiday Guide – and money saving tips!

eurocamp review, complete holiday guide, FAQs, frugal mum


2. Pack lightly

Decant your normal toiletries into smaller pots instead of paying over the odds for ‘mini’ versions of your favourite products. You can wash the pots out when you get home and re-use them year after year – better for your wallet and the planet. Toiletries can be heavy too, so decanting is also useful for luggage allowances and it might help you to avoid extra baggage costs.

Be smart with things like washing up liquid and laundry detergent too – decant a little into small bottles so that you don’t need to purchase larger amounts that would get wasted. When it comes to keeping costs down on self-catering holidays, being prepared can save you a fortune!

Packing lightly is always going to be a money-saver too, whether it be from lessening your petrol costs by not overloading the car, or keeping airline luggage costs as low as possible. Check-in bags are rarely included these days, so the fewer you take the cheaper your flights will be. Though, TUI do include luggage with their own flights – so that can make things more affordable if you’re looking for a package holiday deal.


3. Be flexible with dates

If possible, be flexible with your travel dates – sometimes even just changing your trip by a day or two can alter the cost drastically. TUI have added a calendar section to their bookings – when you see a holiday you like the look of, and click through for more info, scroll down to compare prices. The green £ shows the cheapest date for travel for each month – you can flick between the months or just compare dates around when you were looking to travel.

The calendar below, for a family holiday in April 2024 to Turkey, shows that one particular date is considerably cheaper, and if you’re taking kids and multiplying the per person cost several times, then opting for a cheaper date to travel could save you hundreds. (With long haul trips, this could even save you thousands!)

tui money saving tips article, frugal mum, calendar selection image to compare prices


4. Save on your family holiday with Tesco Clubcard

We often use our Tesco Clubcard points towards meals and UK days out – but did you know that they work with travel companies too? If you’re a Tesco shopper, you can benefit from using your Tesco Clubcard points towards your family holidays.

These points can be collected through Tesco services as well (such as Tesco Mobile or through a Tesco Credit Card) so you can collect them even if you do your weekly shop elsewhere. Currently, you can use points towards holiday providers like Hotels.com, Intrepid Travel, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Virgin Atlantic, P&O Cruises and Eurocamp.

Plus, they’ve also partnered with other companies for ferry travel, airport parking and the Channel Tunnel – so you can save money on the extras too.

frugal mum photo, la chapelle, argeles sur mur, eurocamp campsite mobile home, travelling on a budget tips


5. Book everything yourself

Be brave and consider ditching the travel agent altogether if it can save you money. Cutting out the middle man and shopping around yourself to book things separately can be much more cost effective.

If you’re planning a multi-centre trip, or lots of excursions, usually a bit of extra research and planning will pay off – and every penny saved can go towards another trip. It will take more time, but doing the legwork yourself can be a great way to make your trip of a lifetime more budget friendly.


6. Avoid buying new holiday clothes

Ditch the pre-holiday spending by packing clothes that you already own. If you’re travelling somewhere warm this summer, the chances are that you’ll live in shorts or swimwear for most of it, so don’t splurge hundreds of pounds on a whole new holiday wardrobe.

If you’re going somewhere cold, hiring winter/snow gear can be a more affordable option for kitting out the family than buying it all – especially if you’re unlikely to need it again. Children grow so fast so chances are it would be unlikely to fit them for any future trips anyway.

If you do need to buy some new bits, or the kids have grown, I find places like Facebook Marketplace, Vinted and Preworn brilliant for second-hand clothing.

ice palace, jungfraujoch, switzerland, travelling on a budget tips, frugal mum family photo, eurocamp review


7. Book slightly (or completely!) out of season

Prices can vary significantly depending on the time of year, so consider travelling during the off-peak season to find cheaper deals. If you’re able to avoid the school holidays and peak dates, you can save a ridiculous amount of money. September can be a great time to travel – quiet, affordable and still lovely and warm. But if you do need to book around the school holidays, Easter or May half-term is often a lot more affordable than the summer holidays!

Eurocamp do some brilliant May half-term deals every year – making it possible to book your accommodation for less than £300! I recently found 78 Eurocamp breaks for a family of four under £250 for May half-term week. And, you might find perks like free kids places from package holiday companies like TUI too – check out the TUI ‘Free Kids Place Finder’ to see what’s available.

If you need to book your getaway during the school summer holidays, over July and August, and you’d like to find something affordable in Europe check out my article: Budget Family Summer Getaways: July & August school holiday deals under £1000!


8. Self-cater to save on food costs

Food can be a huge expense when you’re travelling abroad, particularly if you eat out regularly, so if you don’t have food included within your holiday then make sure that you’ll have decent self-catering facilities keep things budget friendly.

To keep costs down: load up the car, stock up at cheap supermarkets along your route, pack up picnics and cook at your accommodation when you can. When the scenery is so beautiful nothing beats a picnic anyway, we’ve had lunch in some of the most amazing locations – a picnic at the water’s edge in Venice? Yes please! 😍

venice, photo of frugal mum and children enjoying picnic by the water, travelling on a budget tips, italy

If you need to eat out when you’re exploring then fast-food or eating like a local, from street food and markets, will be your best bet. We usually limit proper restaurant meals to one per holiday, as it can quickly add up with four of us, and it makes it more of a treat then too.


9. Compare hotel rates and providers

If you’re staying in a hotel, use hotel comparison websites to secure the best price. Why pay more for exactly the same room? It’s often worth a visit to the hotel’s own website too – without affiliate costs it may be cheaper to book directly.

Often mid-week prices are considerably less than weekends, and be sure to check for local events as peak dates can also make prices soar. Do your research, and plan your stay around the cheapest rates.

If you shop at Sainsbury’s, you can get free hotel stays through their Nectar reward programme too – a tip from follower Laura who uses her points to book a hotel near Disneyland every few years! Great idea!


10.  Plan your stay around cheap flights

Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest days, times and airlines for your flights. Travelling just one day earlier, or during the night, could save you hundreds of pounds! The budget airlines are often the best bet for cheap short-haul flights.

If you’re not fixed to certain dates, it’s definitely worth planning your trip around the cheapest dates to travel. Or use Skyscanner’s ‘any destination’ option and have an adventure wherever the cheapest flights take you! Make sure you read my Skyscanner guide to find out how to hunt out the best prices!

skyscanner screen showing flight prices, frugal mum travel guide, save money on your family holiday abroad

If you’re wondering where would be best to travel on a small budget usually the further away you go the more the flights will cost, so if you have a limited budget then travelling within Europe will probably be your best bet for short haul, affordable flights.


11. Get cashback on your holiday and the extras

Before you book anything, always check cashback websites (such as Quidco and Top Cashback) to see what they could save you. Holidays can be expensive, so even a 5% cashback offer can be pretty significant – and small amounts soon add up too!

You could get cashback on holidays, travel insurance and hotels – as well as things like holiday clothes shopping or suncream! So, you can make a saving simply by clicking through the link before you book!


12. Take the car – road trip!

Flights can be one of the most expensive parts of any holiday abroad, so to save money think about driving there instead. When you add in waiting times, and travelling to and from the airport, you might actually find it doesn’t take that much longer to get there by road. Plus, you might get to see some new places on your travels too, and you’ll avoid car hire costs and airport parking charges.

Read my article: Family road trip essentials: 13 things to pack on a road trip with kids to make sure that you have everything you need for a stress free family road trip before you set off. If you’re thinking of crossing into Europe through France, think about crossing the channel via ferry – it can often work out cheaper than using the Channel Tunnel. Travelling to other European destinations from the UK is actually really straightforward, and the roads are often better than ours too!

For budget family road trip ideas and money saving tips, check out my articles:

Our Italian Eurocamp Family Road Trip: What we spent, tips & how to explore Italy with kids on a budget!

how to explore italy on a budget, our eurocamp road trip, family holiday, europe, frugal mum guide, what we spent, tips

Our Eurocamp Interlaken Family Holiday: What we spent, tips & how to visit Switzerland on a budget from the UK

how to explore switzerland on a budget, interlaken guide, frugal mum review, tips, holiday with kids, eurocamp, manor farm campsite

How to road trip on a budget around Europe – the ultimate family guide!

How to road trip on a budget around Europe, the ultimate family guide, frugal mum tips


13. Housesit for free accommodation

Reduce your accommodation costs to just £99 per year by using a housesitting service like Trusted Housesitters. In exchange for looking after someone’s pet, you can stay in their home for free anywhere in the world – making travelling to your favourite places so much more affordable.

A bonus of using Trusted Housesitters is that lots of people will want school holiday dates, to fit around their own trips away, so it can be a good way to travel the country (or beyond!) during peak dates – it’ll save you a small fortune!

For the yearly membership fee of £99, you can book a stay through their website as many times as you like. Plus, you’ll be able to enjoy home comforts on your travels, and incur very few expenses other than travelling costs. Join Trusted Housesitters today to get access to accommodation in the UK and abroad – once you’ve joined you’ll essentially be able to travel for free.


14. Book with the Sun Newspaper Holidays

The Sun Newspaper Holidays are the ultimate frugal getaway, helping you to have a brilliant family break even on the tightest of budgets. We booked two UK trips in 2022 – one Norfolk break which was £66 for Mon-Fri in May (including a caravan upgrade) and another for £78 to the Isle of Wight in June. It cost us a fraction of the price it would have to book directly – we had two holidays for less than the price of one!

Did you know that you can travel in Europe with the Sun Newspaper Holidays too? They have great deals on campsites across countries like France, Spain, Italy, Croatia, The Netherlands and Austria. For more info on how it works, and the codes you’ll need, check out my post on the Sun Newspaper Holidays.

frugal mum family photo, travelling abroad on a budget tips, the sun newspaper discount holidays


15. Take your supplies with you

Whichever way you decide to travel, make sure that you take your own food. Airport and on-board prices are severely over-inflated, so pack your own sarnies and snacks to keep costs down and the kids quiet!

If you’re road tripping, packing food that will keep such as cereal, pasta and tinned goods is also really useful and will be a lifesaver if you’re visiting somewhere with a higher cost of living or expensive resort prices. When you book campsites with mobile home accommodation, like Eurocamp, just little things like taking your own bedding will save you a bit of money too.

Make sure that you pack things like anti-histamine tablets, antiseptic cream, bite cream, bug spray, paracetamol and plasters too – these items can be really expensive from pharmacies abroad (compared to our UK budget store and supermarket prices) so it pays to be well prepared for every eventuality! Check out my Ultimate Family Holiday Packing Guide – with free printable checklist to help you to get organised.


16. Make the most of discount codes

Keep an eye out for discount codes or vouchers that can be applied to your holiday booking – companies like TUI and Eurocamp usually advertise these directly on their own websites: things like £100 off when you book before a certain date, free ferry crossing, or deals on specific locations or types of stay. You can see all of the current TUI reductions on the TUI ‘Discount Codes’ page, or check out Eurocamp’s ‘Special Offers’ tab.

Make sure that you combine deals and discounts too! For our TUI trip last May, to Salou on the Costa Dorada in Spain, we took advantage of a free child place, AND a TUI offer of £100 off which was running at the time of the booking. Free child places can be a great way to save money on package holidays! For more tips on how to save money on your TUI family holiday, check out my article: TUI Holidays Review and Tips: Are TUI good? How can I save money on my TUI family holiday?

frugal mum photo, travelling abroad on a budget tips, tui holiday, ohtels villa romana spain photo of pool


17. Join Kids Pass

Kids Pass is a fantastic way to save on the cost of your family holiday in the UK and abroad – and the best bit is that you can trial it for 30 days for just a quid! They work with companies like Jet 2, Hotelopia and Eurocamp – so it’s certainly worth checking out their offers before you book your trip – a £1 trial could save you hundreds of pounds!


18. Include your travel plans

Lots of holiday providers offer significant savings if you book your travel through them when organising your accommodation. For instance, booking the Channel Tunnel Crossing through Eurocamp is usually cheaper than booking directly – so make sure that you book it as a package if you’re driving. The Sun Newspaper Holidays also offer this, as do other campsite providers, so check when you book to save on your travel.

If you’re looking for a cheap holiday with flights, you might find that a package holiday deal could work out cheaper too. TUI include baggage and transfers with lots of their packages, so make sure that you shop around.


19. Plan your holiday excursions

Set a budget for days out and work from there. Before you go on your trip, do some research to pre-plan the things you’ll want to see and do in the local area to get the most from your money. For instance – if you’re in Rome you can visit The Colosseum on the first Sunday of the month for free. So if you were planning that excursion, why not make sure your visit is that Sunday?

frugal mum family photo, rome, colosseum, italy, travelling on a budget tips, eurocamp, village fabulous

Another example – lots of zoos, theme parks and children’s activities will have peak and off-peak prices. If it’s cheaper to visit on a Tuesday than a Saturday, a little bit of pre-planning will ensure that your visit coincides with the cheaper prices. (Avoiding the weekends will reduce the crowds too!)

Further still – say you wanted to visit Harder Kulm and Jungfraujoch whilst in Switzerland, with a little prior research you’d see that if you buy tickets to Jungfraujoch you can visit Harder Kulm for free. So, you could make sure that you visit there first to avoid paying out twice.

Making a rough itinerary for your trip is a great way to ensure that you can do all of the things you’d love to do while you’re away without breaking the bank. It’ll also help you to balance out pricier excursions with cheap or free activities for some frugal days out too. So, do your research before you go – and make the most of nature – some of the best sights (like Giessbach Falls below) are often free!

frugal mum photo, giessbach falls in brienz, switzerland, view across lake, travelling on a budget tips

You might also discover things like free walking tours or museums with free admission days, and most religious buildings across Italy offer free entry too – so city breaks can actually be a really affordable option. For city break money saving tips, check out my article: How to have a European city break with kids on a budget!

You can also explore parks, hike the countryside and visit some beautiful beaches without spending a penny – so find out what’s in the surrounding area before you go and take advantage of opportunities to explore without spending a lot of money.


20. Compare the extras

Use comparison websites to compare travel insurance, airport parking, transfers and car hire – don’t blindly book through your travel agent or holiday provider without checking out costs elsewhere. If you’re planning an extended trip, or more than one trip within a year, then it’s usually most cost effective to get annual cover for travel insurance, roadside assistance etc.

Last year, we used Gatwick Airport Parking and were really impressed – it was the same cost as lengthier transfers but instead we could go directly to and from the airport without any extra fuss. Make sure that you check out all of your options before booking, and hunt out voucher codes too!


21. Limit transportation costs

Particularly if you’re travelling within Europe, local public transport is usually considerably cheaper than it is here in the UK so try to rely on buses and trains over expensive taxis and transfers. But, when you’re travelling a lot and with children, even small amounts still quickly add up so we also try to explore on foot wherever possible.

Our children are fantastic walkers, and we certainly wouldn’t have had some of the amazing experiences we’ve had on our travels without wandering down cobbled streets in Italy, hiking to waterfalls in Switzerland and exploring beautiful European cities on foot.

frugal mum family photo, piazelle michelangelo, florence, italy, travelling on a budget tips, tuscany


22. Travel with others

Another great way to cut accommodation costs is to travel with friends or family. Villas and house rentals can be a really affordable option for larger groups when the cost is shared. Not only that, but you can split the cost of transport, food and other extras while you’re away too.

The big companies like Villa Plus do deals throughout the year and last minute discounts, but websites like VRBO and Air Bnb can give good savings by helping you to connect directly with the owners. TUI also have a section for villa holidays (offering 1-6 beds) and this might work out more affordable than a hotel for those with a large family, or for families wanting to travel together. If you do have to travel abroad during peak times, sharing accommodation costs might be the best way to make the trip more affordable.


23. Consider alternative destinations

Think about exploring lesser-known or emerging destinations that may offer lower prices compared to more popular tourist spots. This might be a slightly cheaper resort, or another destination entirely! If you’re just looking for some sunshine, and you’re open to exploring some different options, then do an ‘any destination’ search to find a holiday based on your dates and budget rather than a particular place.

tui money saving tips, villa romana hotel, ohtels, salou, costa dorada, spain, waterslides, frugal mum children, photo


24. Check out TUI NHS / Holidays for Heroes

TUI have a whole section of their website (https://nhs.tui.co.uk/) dedicated to offering discounted travel to those who work in the NHS. So if you are one of the fabulous people keeping our NHS afloat, and you’re in need of a well-deserved break, then you might want to start your holiday search with TUI.

The exclusive NHS discounts run on top of any current deals / savings already available on the selected holiday. Just browsing this morning I’ve seen an extra £30 off, to an additional £100 off – and their ‘Top Deals’ area of the NHS web page might be a good place to start if you’re looking for a bargain!


25. Prepare in advance

Work out your average annual travel costs and divide it by twelve, then set up a monthly direct debit into a savings account to collect the money year round. That way you’ll have a good chunk of money to work with when you need it, and won’t need to borrow to book your family adventures.

With compounding interest, relying on credit cards can make your trip so much more expensive and stressful, so try to save, save, save instead! If you do need to use a credit card, shop around for 0% interest and make sure you clear it or transfer it in time. Lots of holiday companies also allow you to pay in instalments, so that could be an option too if you’re booking far enough in advance.

tui money saving tips, villa romana hotel, ohtels, salou, costa dorada, spain, pool, frugal mum photo


Getting ready for your family holiday?

Check out my Ultimate Family Holiday Packing Guide – with free printable checklist!

frugal mum free printable family holiday travel checklist


Not sure where to go? Check out my European holiday reviews…

Eurocamp Holiday Review: Camping Cisano San Vito, Lake Garda, Italy

Camping Cisano San Vito, Eurocamp holiday, swimming pool, flume, slides, Italy, Lake Garda, frugal mum review photo


Eurocamp Holiday Review: Camping Village Fabulous, Lazio, Rome, Italy

Camping Village Fabulous, Eurocamp holiday, swimming pool, flume, slides, Italy, Rome, frugal mum children, review photo


Eurocamp Holiday Review: Camping Village Valle Gaia, Tuscany, Italy

Camping Valle Gaia, Eurocamp Holiday, Tuscany, Italy, swimming pool, flume, slide, frugal mum review photo


Eurocamp Holiday Review: Camping La Chapelle, Argelès-sur-Mer, Roussillon, South of France

La Chapelle, Argeles, South of France, swimming pool, slides, flumes, Eurocamp holiday, frugal mum children, review, photo


Eurocamp Holiday Review: Les Lacs du Verdon Campsite, Regusse, Provence, South of France

Les Lacs Verdon, Regusse, South of France, boat, lake, Eurocamp holiday, frugal mum children, review photo


Eurocamp Holiday Review: Manor Farm Campsite, Interlaken, Bernese Oberland, Switzerland

Manor Farm Campsite, Interlaken, Switzerland, lake, Eurocamp holiday, sunset, frugal mum review photo


Eurocamp Holiday Review: Beekse Bergen Lake Resort, Hilvarenbeek, North Brabant, The Netherlands

Lake Resort Beekse Bergen, Eurocamp holiday, the Netherlands, lake beach, frugal mum with children, photo, frugal mum review, lake resort, hilvarenbeek, north brabant


Eurocamp Holiday Review: Duinrell Theme Park Resort, Wassenaar, South Holland, The Netherlands

duinrell theme park resort, Eurocamp holiday, the Netherlands, rides frugal mum with children, photo, frugal mum review, south holland


TUI Holiday Review: Villa Romana, Salou, Costa Dorada, Spain

frugal mum review, title image, villa romana hotel, ohtels, salou, costa dorada, spain, photos


Exploring Europe? You might be interested in these articles too:

Our Italian Eurocamp Family Road Trip: What we spent, tips & how to explore Italy with kids on a budget!

how to explore italy on a budget, our eurocamp road trip, family holiday, europe, frugal mum guide, what we spent, tips


Disneyland Paris Guide / Review: Can it be done in one day? What we spent, money saving tips & is it worth it?

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Cheap family travel: How to explore Rome on a budget – in just one day – with kids!

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Our Eurocamp Interlaken Family Holiday: What we spent, tips & how to visit Switzerland on a budget from the UK

how to explore switzerland on a budget, interlaken guide, frugal mum review, tips, holiday with kids, eurocamp, manor farm campsite


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