Whether you would like to expose your children to other cultures, perspectives and experiences, or simply kick back and relax while the kids indulge in supervised water sports, an overseas family holiday can offer many rewards. It can also break the bank.
But it doesn’t have to. It is possible to have a family holiday overseas and keep costs within a reasonable budget – all it takes is some planning ahead, a little flexibility and savvy financial decisions.
Travelling at peak seasons can be up to 30 percent more expensive than at other times of the year, as flights, accommodation, car hire, and even restaurant costs rise accordingly. Leah Squire, owner of online travel agency byokids.com.au, encourages families with children not yet in school, or with kids in kindergarten, to travel outside the school holiday season to avoid paying a premium.
Or simply opt for destinations where the low season coincides with school holidays here. Squire suggests travelling to Europe or the US during the Christmas break rather the more expensive northern hemisphere summer months of July and August. If you would prefer a warmer holiday, she recommends Florida and Los Angeles in the US, and the Caribbean.
Unless money is no object, don’t leave it to the last minute to book your family holiday, Squire advises. “The earlier you can possibly book, the cheaper it will be,” she says.
“The old myth that if you book flights at the last minute you will get a standby rate is simply not true. There is no such thing as standby rates. The closer you leave it to your departure, the dearer it will be.”
An additional benefit of booking your holiday early is having a time goal in which you can concentrate on saving your spending money.
Opt for an all-inclusive package
The epitome of hassle-free holidays, all-inclusive packages at multinational resorts – such as Club Med – can save you a lot of money by including flights, accommodation, all meals and endless free activities for active youngsters, all in the one price.
“It can seem a bit more expensive upfront but you can save thousands,” says Squire. “At the end of the day, your flights and accommodation aren’t the only costs to worry about – you end up spending a lot once you arrive at your destination, but all-inclusive holidays eliminate that problem.”
Speak to a travel agent or expert to uncover the best packages, bonus-nights deals, kids-eat-free specials and activities.
Choose money options wisely
These days you can arrive in any country in the world with just your regular debit card and credit card and have instant access to cash or credit. However, the cost of such a convenience comes in the form of currency exchange fees and ATM fees. Using a debit card to withdraw money from an ATM overseas can cost you around $5 per transaction.
A travel money card, a popular option now offered by all banks, is a cost-effective alternative. You pay a small fee for the card (Commonwealth Bank, for example, charges $15) but you avoid currency conversion fees and there are no transaction fees on purchases. You can also lock in the exchange rate to avoid any nasty surprises.
“You can load the card with your spending money and have peace of mind because it’s not linked to your bank account, so there is no safety issue,” Squire says.
If you use up all the money on your card, you can easily reload it online from your overseas destination.