Jul 25, 2013

How You Too Can Afford To Take Your Family On Holiday

To many people, going on holiday with their kids seems like an impossibility and don’t even mention going overseas.  Why?


The fact that we’ve managed to go on holiday with our kids, overseas, twice in the past 10 months may cause some people to conclude that we are rich.  This is simply NOT TRUE.

So what’s our secret?
1.  Keep an eye out for seat sales. 
Get yourself on the internet and check.  There are many airfare discount websites--skyscanner.net.search is one of the more popular ones, or  check the airline sites directly.

We are lucky that AirAsia fly directly out of Melbourne and they usually have 2 big seat sales per year.  Sure, this may mean that we have to get up at 4am in order to get online and try to snag these deals, but hey—it’s worth it. 

In January 2012 we booked return airfares to Bali for $372 AUD per person, including taxes and 1 piece of checked luggage, for travel during the school holidays in Sept 2012.  In Sept 2012, we also booked return flights to Bangkok for $436 AUD per person including taxes and 1 piece of checked luggage, for travel during school holidays June 2013.

2.  Travel during your destination’s off-peak season.
Although our trips to Bali and to Thailand were during our school holiday period, in the grand scheme of things, it was off-peak in those areas.   During off-season, you get better deals for airfares and accommodation, not to mention less crowds once you are there.

Be aware though that it’s often low-season for a reason.  In tropical areas, this often equates to rainy season.  However, rainy season in Thailand does vary from region to region.  Since it was the start of rainy season in late June, we chose the Gulf of Thailand side (versus the Andaman side, Phuket etc) as it often starts even a bit later there.  And our bet paid off.  We had lovely weather with daily temperatures of around 30 degrees celcius.  At times, a small storm would roll in during the late afternoon/early evening, but this would only last about 1hr, and not always bringing with it rain.  The sea level was much lower at this time of year though, which made it tricky for swimming in the sea.

Haad Yao Beach in July 2013--the sea level was very low so the water was too shallow to swim in for about 100m.  But lots of beach to enjoy as a result.
Haad Yao Beach--the beach was also a bit 'dirtier' at the water's edge at this time of year (June/July) due to slightly rougher seas, although the water itself was hot and beautiful.
The storm's coming!  This was what the sky would look like in the late afternoon/early evening, although sometimes it never even rained.

3.  Negotiate long-term accommodation rates or check on sites like Groupon, Agoda, Hotel.com, etc for deals.
On our recent trip to Koh Phangang, the resort that we intended to stay at had an advertised low-season rate of 800B/$26.60 USD for it’s most basic room.  We did not book this in advance because we suspected that the place would not be full.  Instead once we got there, we negotiated a better rate of 700B/$23.30 USD based on a 13night stay.  That saved us $43.29US.  (The resort had a lovely swimming pool and daily buffet breakfast for all of us included.)

Even if it had not worked out at this resort, we knew from previous visits that there are lots of hotels and accommodation to be had in the area, and again, since it was low season, we knew it wouldn’t be a problem securing something once we got there.
The resort at Haad Yao where we stayed--the cheaper rooms faced the back.
View from our 700B room, which included 1 King Bed, air conditioning, mini fridge and cable tv.

Daily buffet breakfast included

One of the many friendly staff at our resort.

The boys (Burmese actually) cooking up eggs how you like them at breakfast.

The pool where we spent most of our time!

So there you have it—our top 3 tips for affording travel as a family.  While our trip did end up costing us $3,800 AUD in total.  This included 22 nights of accommodation, eating out in restaurants for all meals, transport, entertainment and even a few gifts.  We had a lot of fun and were all quite spoilt.  We are pretty happy with that!
How much do you spend for a family holiday? Do you have any tips that you’d like to share?  Leave it in our Comments!


  1. Hello,
    Just wanted to say I have really enjoyed reading your blog. We are also an Australian family with 2 young girls, a little younger than yours, who are planning to travel to SE Asia.

    Just wondering, did you find that most of places you stayed were happy for your children to share your beds or sleep on the mats on the floor? I am finding that accommodation booking sites seem cheap when you search for 2 adults, but once you add kids in the prices seem to skyrocket.


    1. Hi Rachael
      In general, we usually prefer to not pre-book any accommodation and just arrive and sort it out. This way, not only can we see and assess the room for ourselves, but it gives the property a chance to see/hear us out. I don't think there was one time during our travels with the kids that having them sleep on the mats on the floor or in the bed with us was ever a problem. Usually we would have to do some furniture rearranging to make room, etc, but we always make sure to leave the room as we found it. In the beginning, we made sure we had sheets and blankets for the kids with us, but found that the hotels were happy to supply us extra bedding (sheets, pillows) upon our request at no extra charge so we ended up ditching the sheets (less to carry!)!

      Having said that, we did know of a friend who booked a room in Bali on his own but when he went to check in, the proprietor accused him of being 'sneaky' as he had 2 young kids (aged 1 & 2.5) who he hadn't mentioned as they were going to all share the bed. In the end, he was charged a bit extra for the 'extra water that the kids would use showering, etc'! that was a very extreme case, especially as most SE Asians commonly share a family bed with their kids anyway and as such, especially for younger kids, don't really take any notice as long as you aren't requiring extra mattresses, etc. I guess you'll always get the odd case where they are targeting you as a Westerner.

      On 3 occasions we have used Agoda to book rooms and each time it caused me worry as websites are so black and white. They usually have a 'tab' at the bottom of the site re room occupancy requirements; we avoid the ones that say no children or children over 3 are counted as an adult, etc. There are many that state if the children are under 6 they can stay no extra charge if using existing bedding, etc. To be sure, I've also tracked down the hotel's phone number (which can be very difficult to do) and skyped them to clarify their policy on children. As such we didn't have any problems once we arrived. In the case of included breakfasts--expect that the kids won't be fed, but you never know. on our recent trip to Koh Phangan, the hotel even fed the kids a buffet breakfast daily for 13 days, even though it was only meant to be for 2ppl per room :)

      On the other hand, I know of a single mother who recently booked a place via the internet in Bangkok (khao San Rd Area) with her 2 young children. She was under the impression that there would be no extra charge for them, but once she arrived, they insisted on charging her over $10 (350B) per child and they wouldn't refund her booking if she declined. Again, another rare case i think.

      hope this helps--feel free to email me directly if you have any other questions. Thanks for your comment and for stopping by :)

  2. I too am running into the same problem with adding 2 kids into the mix, most real charges are double what Agoda claims when you go to sites which allow you to put in childrens ages, I sure would hate to arrive and have to pay so much more or loose my deposit. So there comes the dilema of peice of mind versus risk. I am scared to wing it by going there with at least not having our first days in Bangkok (such a huge city) taking care of, but I know nothing beats some ground work to see what is really out there.

    My strategy although time consuming has been this, and I think it is bearing fruit. I start in Agoda, and put in my parameters. Though I must admit that they are getting more and more vague, as in "okay forget walking distance and pool, can we just keep the cockroaches to a minimum for under 40 usd?" Then I run through the list they give me by first pressing the map, then satellite view and seeing how far a walk to the nearest train. Dont trust the birds eye estimation as many hotels are on dead end streets and the distance is much greater. I then enter the hotels that look good and I head down to customer reviews from couples with young children. If it looks right then I punch the name into Sawadee dot com and this site allows you to ask the real costs with kids and your need for extra beds by sending a message to the hotel. It is a tedious process. My search has moved from several hundred meters away from ground zero to distances where public transport will always be required. I have found that I am batting around 1 in 5 of hotels which will allow bed sharing. It is very disheartening as I am seeing that the hotels in the area I want, Siam, are approaching the 50 usd mark per night for a 7 day stay, and some of these have very mixed reviews, as in cockroaches included. I have only found one option for 33 usd for the 4 of us, which is quite modern, pool, great reviews, but about 30 minutes by train east of my target area. Very stressful as I think 30 to 40 usd, and a muchlower commute or long walk to some locations is what I would be happy with, and 1 hour there and back seems like alot for planning activities with a 5 year old.

    As for Phang Gan, I will try to find your hotel on Haad Yao by the pictures and see what they say but for the islands I think I will take your advice of arriving first and asking later. Love your site.

    1. Hi
      In KPN, the place was called Haad Yao Bayview Resort--highly recommend it, great value and they're ok with kids sharing a bed although you can pay for an extra mattress on the floor too. Basically, thoughout Asia, I find that hoteliers who are trying to capitalise on Western Tourists (with the exception of Haad Yao Bayview Resort) via the internet especially, try to squeeze every extra cent out of you as possible. ( I would highly recommend contacting these places directly to be sure of their policy.) I say this because for most SE Asian domestic tourists who travel with their kids, sharing a bed is the norm so places that cater to them (which generally tend not to have an internet presence) won't even bat an eyelash if you do. Finding these places is another story though--much easier done if you are actually there.

      As for BKK, finding a place with a pool for under $40USD will be a challenge! Inbox me at with2kidsintow AT gmail DOT com and i may have a few suggestions for you. Good luck!