We were recently asked to do an interview for A Current Affair on Channel 9 – talking about how to travel on a budget in Australia. With the cost of basic necessities such as groceries and electricity rising, interest rates climbing and talk of recession in the news, people all over Australia are feeling the pinch. And have you seen the price of lettuce recently??
A family holiday could be way down on the list of priorities, but there are ways to make it happen if you are willing to be flexible and do a bit of research in advance.
Our Top 5 Tips for Budget Family Travel in Australia
1. Budget your Holiday
How much should we budget? Family travel in Australia can be expensive – but having a clear idea of how much you have to spend is crucial in making sure your family holiday doesn’t break the bank. This will also relieve the stress and worry of wondering what you can afford, leaving more time to enjoy while you are away. If you’re feeling super organised you can break your budget down into categories – decide how much you want to spend on accommodation, takeaway food, eating out in restaurants, souvenirs, trips and tours. This way you will have a better idea of what you can manage on holiday and how far your budget will stretch – you can also decide your priorities. If you’re a family of foodies you can allow more of your budget for eating out and spend days doing free activities, whilst if you’re a family of picnic lovers the money you will save on food can be used for a family adventure. Making a budget can be fun and you can include the kids in the process for a great learning opportunity – have a family meeting and find out what everyone feels is important for your trip and then base your family holiday budget on that. If you’re looking to travel for a bit longer we wrote a big post on a budget for a lap of Australia here.
The times we’ve been disorganised while travelling have been the times that we’ve blown our budget out of the water. Turning up somewhere with no idea what to do, where to stay or eat is a recipe for overspending – with hungry and tired kids the quickest option is the easiest but never the best value! Planning ahead will save you loads of money and with all the travel blogs and Facebook groups out there it has never been easier to find out everything you need to know in advance. You can search for the best places to eat, free things to do in the area and the best value trips and tours. Many of the tourism bodies in Australia have hundreds of articles on their websites to help families travel on a budget in Australia – like this article on the Tropical North Queensland site for free things to do in Cairns. Planning ahead can also get you great deals on accommodation and early-bird specials. Last minute deals aren’t as popular as they were and prices seem to go up the closer it gets to the travel date, especially during peak times and school holidays, so locking your plans in early can help you get a great deal – as well as helping the budget knowing exactly what it is going to cost you. Waiting until the last minute and then potentially paying double what you were expecting can hit the family budget hard.
3. Be Flexible for Budget Family Travel in Australia
One thing the last few years has taught us is that flexibility is the way forward! You may have been dreaming of an all-inclusive holiday or a five star resort, but if the budget won’t allow for these things the ability to be flexible and make the most of the situation will make your holiday better for everyone. Don’t deny yourselves the holiday as you think too many things will be out of reach – quite often it’s the little things that you will end up remembering as the big moments anyway. Kids love nothing more than seeing their grown-ups having fun and being relaxed – if you can take the stress out of the holiday everyone will have a great time regardless of what you do. Some of our favourite moments have been doing the simpler things – a game of cricket on the beach, exploring rock pools, playing hide and seek in a new playground – and it’s always days like this that the kids talk about later on. You could even think about a ‘staycation’ travelling not too far from where you live. The amount of times we hear locals tell us that they haven’t visited one of the main tourist attractions in their area! I’m sure you can think of a handful of places locally that you’ve always wanted to visit but have never got round to it – make this part of your holiday too and the beauty is you’ll have your own transport. Hiring a car at the moment is very difficult – they are in short supply in many of the tourist destinations so you may end up paying way over the odds. If you have your car with you there are many self-drive adventures you can do, saving lots on transfers, tours or taxis. If you are travelling close to home and thinking of doing a day trip then contact the tour companies directly as they frequently offer locals discounts of up to 50% off the normal price.
4. Food on a Budget
Eating out can destroy the best intentions of any good budget! Food bills can soon skyrocket – and sometimes you can spend a lot in a new restaurant and find the meal wasn’t really that great. Also, especially if you have younger kids, the restaurant experience itself can be quite stressful – particularly at busy times like school holidays when there might be longer waits for meals and the kids are full of energy and adventure! We have found the best meals we’ve had have been takeaway – this obviously works better when travelling in the warmer months – but we’ve found some incredible picnic spots all over Australia. You can buy the staples – bread rolls and soft drinks – from the supermarket and then order a few different hot takeaway items to enjoy at a picnic table on the beach or at the playground. The kids get to run around before and after dinner and you get to relax with beautiful surroundings – saving a few dollars in the process.
5. Balance on a Budget
Finding balance is the key to budget family travel in Australia. It’s about choosing your activities wisely and making sure whatever you choose has value for you and your family. We also need to support local tour operators and restaurants where we can – a lot of travel businesses are Aussie families just like us who have done it so tough over the last few years and are also feeling the strain of the new costs of living. So don’t rule out all paid activities – there are some absolutely exceptional tour operators in all corners of Australia offering once-in-a-lifetime experiences. This is where it comes back to research – have a look at some of the trips and tours you want to do and then read reviews, ask advice from Facebook groups and make the decision on whether the tour has value for you – sometimes the cheapest isn’t the best option as you’ll have lots of added extras on the day. Many day trips include lunch and refreshments which also help with the day’s food budget. If you are new to an area then go and visit a Tourist Information Centre – the staff will be long term locals who can give you advice on what they do on weekends – you’ll be sure to find out the best secret swimming holes, amazing eateries or best beach spots – and they’ll be able to give you advice on any local tour specials too. Also pick anyone’s brains who you know have visited before – you may have a distant cousin or a friend of a friend who lives in the area you’re visiting and who will be a wealth of info on local activities.
Whichever way you choose to travel Australia we know you’ll have an amazing time – we have an abundance of natural wonders and adventures right here on our doorstep – it’s time to explore our own backyards!