Curious George playground at Universal studios

How to budget for seeing the world with kids

“Paul found tickets for 350 euro a piece. And life in Cambodia being cheaper than here, I’ll think it’ll cost us a 1000 euros in total.”

Said no parent ever. It wasn’t a parent, obviously, but a twenty-something girl discussing her holiday plans with a colleague in the train. Envy hit me. The luxury to travel where you want and when you want. For a 1000 euros. It’s something I never experienced. Some countries aren’t for young children (Peru for height sickness, other countries for malaria) and some countries are best visited outside school holidays. And honestly – a short break can cost us a 1000 euros, or a New Years Eve weekend at Disneyland for that matter. Still we manage to see world with our kids, and we think of ourselves as fairly mainstream family. Let me tell you how we do it!

Every other year

We don’t go on an intercontinental holiday every year. One year, we stay in Europe and travel by car. We went to Norway, to Croatia and Slovenia and France is always an option. The other year we splurge on an holiday by plane. The master plan behind is that the money we save by going some place in Europe, we can splurge the next year on plane tickets. Because, man, those tickets! They’re the biggest bite out of our holiday budget. We save 1000 euros per person per ticket, and being a family of four….. I think you can do the math.

Bye bye ski trips

Happy Mini Ski Break!
Short, sweet and mucho expensive: ski holiday.

Our 1 year off, 1 year on also means that our ski break ambitions are on ice. Ski trips are just too expensive for a short break. We’d rather take that helicopter tour over the Grand Canyon instead.

Go during shoulder seasonCurious George playground at Universal studios

Less expensive, same amount of fun – Universal studios in shoulder season

I know. With kids, your stuck with school holidays and with high season prices. Avoid them if you can. We experienced that Dutch spring break, being the first two weeks of May are great for traveling with kids: rain season just starting, no extreme heat of cold en most of all no extreme prices. We went to California in May and that saved us 20% on tickets, hotels and even attractions. Even summer has some options. When traveling in August, you may make use of 1 week of shoulder season. August feels less crowded, and the sting is out of rain season too.

Home cooking

A cabin, a RV or an apartment with kitchen will work wonders for you seeing-world-with-kids budget. We saved 20 euros on our daily budget by making our own breakfast. Making diner saves money too, especially with picky kids with tiny appetites. As a Dutch traveler however, this saved less than I actually hoped. In the Netherlands groceries are crazy cheap compared to other countries. So during our camping trip in Canada a half week on groceries costed as much as a full week of groceries back home. But doing groceries at Whole Foods may be the cause of that too.

Choices at Whole Foods vegetable stand
Whole Foods equals fresh veggie heaven.

Breakfast includedFamily breakfast in Costa Rica hotel

No kid gets hangry with fried bananas and pineapple salad for breakfast

When we stay in hotels, I look for breakfast included options. Not only does it save money, it saves time and prevent the kids (and myself) from getting hangry. Slow service and hungry kids are a BAD combination, let me tell you that! We also often make lunch the main meal of the day. And let them have some street food snacks as a light diner. Because, slow service and exhausted kids are a BAD combination.

It’s all about the experience

Traveling with kids isn’t a budget choice for vacationing. You travel with more, so you pay more. You’re bound to high season, so you pay more. You want to stay in safer, cleaner and more comfortable places so you pay more. You need a bigger or more rooms, so you pay more. Still, traveling with kids is a great experience. Just not one for 1000 euros in total. And for us, not every year.

Seeing the world with kids will set you back money wise, but I feel it enriches both my kids as ourselves as parents. You get to experience a country and culture through child’s eyes and that will surprise you more than any off-the-beaten-track suggestion ever will. Your kids get to see there is more than the world they know back home. And that is very important to us, to be able to give them that experience. It makes it all worth it.

How do you budget for your family holidays? 

xoxo – Irene.

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4 thoughts on “How to budget for seeing the world with kids

  1. One thing we used to do was drive instead of fly. That cut down costs quite a bit. Also, we visited places where there was family, cutting down housing costs.

    1. We drive one year, fly the other. That saves a lot for sure! This year we stayed with friends for a weekend in Geneva, but only with the 2 of us. I think we’d be overstaying our welcome if we would stay with the whole family.

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