30% of us can’t afford to go on a one-week holiday, according to a UK report from the Office for National Statistics.
This makes me sad, especially for families with school-age children. The travel industry’s school holiday price hikes combined with the economic downturn and the clampdown on parents taking kids out of school during term time mean that a trip away is out of the question for many. But there are ways to have a holiday without paying out for expensive accommodation – although you still have to get there, obviously. Some of the most enjoyable family travel experiences we’ve had over the years have been some of the cheapest – camping by the beach is the youngest’s all-time favourite trip, closely followed by the time he helped build a campfire on a working holiday in Wales. Here are some money-saving ideas for family holidays.
You need a decent sized car for this, but if you have your own tent and equipment (which you can use again and again) all you have to pay for is pitch rental and the cost of getting there. Our favourite site when the kids were younger was Aloha Serignan Plage which is right next to a sandy beach on France’s Mediterranean coast. The site has swimming pools, water slides, tennis, bike hire and even fridge hire when we went.
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities On Organic Farms) offers volunteers the chance to work at farms and smallholdings in exchange for food and accommodation. The charity says that some places will take families with children. There’s a joining fee (£20 at the time of writing) which gives you access to details of the host farms involved. We loved taking part in a National Trust family working holiday at the Stackpole Estate in Wales – you can read more about it here.
There are various house swap websites to help with this, including guardianhomeexchange.co.uk which costs from £35 a year to join. We haven’t tried this, but it sounds like a good way of staying somewhere for free while ensuring your own home isn’t standing empty while you’re away. You can find out more about home swapping in my interview with Kelly Innes of Domestic Goddesque here.
Stay with relatives or friends
There’s truth in the saying that ‘a change is as good as a rest’. Staying with friends or relatives abroad or in a different part of the country can be great for you and the kids. The local parks, swimming pool and walks will be different to yours and you can return the favour for your hosts when they fancy a change of scene.
Many UK youth hostels offer private family rooms, and some even have en-suite bathrooms. Some hostels have restaurants or you can cook your own food in the hostel kitchen, which is great if your kids are fussy eaters.
How do you save money on family holidays?