How To Travel With Kids On A Budget

Budget friendly travel tips to help you start planning your next family adventure.

Everyone would love to travel, right? Well maybe not everyone, but it’s certainly a desire for many.

But when you have a family, the cost of travelling can often feel restrictive and unachievable. I mean if 2 week holidays cost a fortune, then travelling for extended periods of times must be expensive?

Actually, it doesn’t have to be that way and there are several ways you can keep costs low and travel on a budget. Keep reading if you are eager to find out and make those travel dreams come true.

1. Find Free or Cheap Places to Stay

A huge factor of keeping costs low on our tour around Europe was to find cheap or free places to stay in our motorhome. At first, we didn’t even know that these places existed and in our initial planning stages we were focussing entirely on staying at campsites (so glad we didn’t do this!) We soon discovered that in Europe, many countries have free or low cost dedicated parking areas for motorhomes. In France these are called Aire’s and in Germany they are often referred to as Stellplatz. They vary in terms of quality and facilities, and whilst some may come with more facilities, others will give you much more in terms of views and location!

So our overall tactic on our travels was to avoid campsites, unless we were in need of certain facilities, usually laundry or Wi-Fi, or the luxury of a long, warm shower. So how did we find places to stay? For us, we relied on an app called Campercontact, which is essentially a huge directory of places to stay, including campsites, aire’s and wild camping spots. You can filter your search results by price to find places for free or set your budget. It then gives you the option to narrow your search further with more filters to find exactly what you need, for example, places that cost less than 10 euros, with a kids playground and Wi-Fi access. You can download the basic version of the app for FREE but to access the more extensive filters and the offline version, you will need to buy Campercontact PRO which costs 5.99 Euros. It’s definitely worth going for the PRO account though as you’ll really be able to pin down exactly what you are looking for, whilst sticking to your budget.

And don’t think that just because you aren’t paying for a campsite you are going to have to make do with a noisy layby on the side of the road. That is truly not the case. We found ourselves spending the night in some amazing spots all across Europe. Sometimes we were parked up next to a lake, in the middle of a forest or even overlooking the ocean. Those are the best places to find! In Norway in particular, you will find some parking spots with amazing views over the fjords, one of which we were lucky enough to spot some dolphins swimming in. But remember, you take the good with the bad and sometimes your parking place for the night may be somewhere not quite as glamourous as that. We have found ourselves parking in an IKEA car park on occasion. But who doesn’t love a trip to IKEA?

2. Spend time exploring nature

If like us, your intentions of travelling are to have an adventure and experience a bit of an escape, then spending time exploring nature will be high up on your wish list. So this is another fantastic, easy way to spend less and save a bit of money. We spent a lot of time adventuring outdoors and some of our best memories are from those simple days we spent in the middle of nowhere, enjoying our newfound surroundings and each others company. Those days were usually completely free! Finland is amazing for this and you’ll find yourself surrounded by forest with plenty to explore. One of our best days here was when we were parked up right next to a beautiful Lake with a gorgeous sandy beach. Of course, it didn’t take long before we were all in the water. It just so happened that we were having a bit of a heatwave at that point in time too, so the water was nice and warm, a far cry from the cold Arctic waters we experienced in Norway.

3. Seek out free attractions

Paid attractions are great but if we had spent our whole 2019 tour going to paid places, it would have bled us dry. Sure, we did a few, but we really prioritised what we wanted to see, so that we didn’t overspend. Instead, we kept busy by seeking out free attractions. Germany is great as you can find free tierparks, which are basically like mini wildlife parks where the entry is usually free. I think we went to 3 of these on our trip and they made for lovely days out.

A really cool resource which will help you to find some interesting and unusual places to visit is Atlas Obscura. You can search by country or use the map view, and it will pinpoint what is nearby. It’s not an infinite guide to free places, but its worth diving in and having a look when planning your trip.

It’s also pretty fun finding unusual things to see, away from the usual touristy things. The men at Sea in Denmark were a cool sight and we also stumbled across a huge steel robot tower in Germany.

A bonus tip is to become a bit of a ‘google maps’ explorer before you go on your travels. It will help you to find some interesting places. Richard can spend hours looking at different places on Google maps and manages to find some cool places which we wouldn’t necessarily have known about. Sometimes I joke that he doesn’t need to travel anywhere, as he has already seen it all on Google Maps!

4. Resist temptations

It is so easy to get carried away with holiday vibes. Walk past a cafe, buy some cake or ice creams, maybe some drinks. The next day, you do the same and you’ll soon be spending all your money on treats, which aren’t treats anymore because you are buying them every day. So resist the temptation, and limit your spending on goodies.

We rarely ate out with proper meals in restaurants, but occasionally we did indulge in a little takeaway. We tried to be smart with our food shop and did our food shopping at the cheaper supermarkets. Like in the UK, Aldi and Lidl are good ones to lookout for, but we also did our fair share of food shopping in Germany at Netto, which is a great budget supermarket.

There was this one time in France where we started our food shop at a different supermarket to our usual. About halfway through we realised the price of the produce was ALOT higher than we were used to paying, Probably the equivalent of waitrose prices rather than Aldi. Instead of carrying on, we abandoned our shopping cart in the middle of the shop and made a stealth exit, leaving our 1 euro in the trolley. Not our proudest move, but you gotta do what you gotta do!

If you are planning on visiting the Scandinavian countries, especially Norway, you may just want to think about changing your eating habits if you want to keep on budget, as the cost of groceries is exceptionally high. We had to get back to basics and forget about buying any luxury food items or treats. Wine and beer was also off the menu and alot of our meals revolved around pasta and tomato sauce!

To put the cost into perspective, when we were in Norway, we nipped into a shop to purchase a pack of baby wipes, a bottle of orange juice and some Maom sweets. It cost us 11 euros! Madness!

5. Track your spending

Eurghhh, so this one sounds a bit boring huh? But it is a super effective way of ensuring you keep the costs of your travel low. Write it all down and set up a spreadsheet to track your spending each week. Richard is the ultimate king of spreadsheets (he pretty much has one for everything), so this was his job whilst we were travelling, but it made us accountable and kept us in check.

In the middle of planning your own adventure? We would love to hear about it. Tell us in the comments section!

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