Generally when we think of holidays, we think of months of planning and cash, cash, cash. But that’s not always true, at least not any more – last-minute deals and packages tailored to your family’s needs can all help keep your pennies good and pinched. It pays to put in the research – or rather, it saves. Here are a few tips and tricks for saving cash with a last-minute holiday.
Option one – Package holidays
Package holidays aren’t always right for everyone, but can be pocket-friendly life savers if they fit your family’s bill. They’re incredibly convenient, as everything is essentially booked for you, with much of the price all rolled into one.
What’s more, package holidays aren’t completely one size fits all – at the top are all-inclusive holidays, where your flight, hotel, transport to and from the airport, food and sometimes drinks (yes, including alcoholic ones) are included. This can be an especially huge money saver if you’re travelling with little ones whose appetites more or less rule the holiday schedule, as snacks are often included in these packages. Outside of activities not held at the hotel, you’re basically covered.
Opting for bed & breakfasts and self-catering facilities generally offers an even smaller bill. Here, you’ll have all the same amenities – generally including pools and entertainment – but with less or none of the meals. With self-catering, this’ll allow you to make your own meal plan under your own budget, with the help of your room’s kitchenette. Especially for families with picky eaters, this is a godsend.
Though it might seem counter-intuitive, booking package holidays at the last minute can also offer up some incredible money-saving deals. By last minute, I don’t mean the night before, but rather, around eight weeks or less before you’d ideally like to head off. These deals crop up because travel companies will have reserved rooms and flights, and need to fill them up in order to avoid losing cash. Your plans will need to be a little more flexible, but to make matters easier there are websites that lay their last-minute deals bare so you can see exactly what’s on offer.
Option two – Camping trips
Okay, so camping trips aren’t exactly for everybody, but hear me out – camping holidays are not only a more frugal way to get a much-needed break, but they can also be a lot simpler to organise than you think. They were basically made for last-minute holiday lovers.
And just because you aren’t necessarily using 5* facilities doesn’t mean you have to pitch up your tent in the middle of nowhere. Camping holidays mean you can pick and choose what natural sites you’ve got at your fingertips, from scenic hiking trails to lakes and beaches.
Another bonus of camping trips is that, if you remain in the UK or head elsewhere in Europe, you can drive to your site. That means you don’t have to worry about limited suitcase space or too-big bottles of liquid. This also means that bulkier items aren’t off limits. Instead of buying all new sleeping bags, you can bring an old duvet. And nobody needs camping-specific utensils when your household spatula and cutlery will work just fine. That said, if you do want special camping gear, you don’t even really need to purchase all new stuff in general, not when sites like Gumtree and eBay are flogging used camping bits like tents and coolboxes.
Option three – Going DIY
Finally, there’s the option of going totally DIY, which is perhaps the most flexible way to plan a pocket-friendly family holiday. While with package holidays you’re forced to fly with whoever the tour operator is partnered with, here, you can choose the airline offering the lowest prices or the best deals. Budget airlines like Ryanair and easyJet might only let you bring a carry-on bag for free, but the reduced flight rates can make it well worth the sacrifice.
The same mentality goes for booking your hotel – you’ve got the freedom to choose a hotel within your budget and at your destination of choice, or even ones just slightly outside a specific city that are a little less expensive, but still on a good bus route into town. Renting out an entire house on sites like Airbnb will also generally offer reduced rates, but feature the same facilities as a self-catering apartment.
Holiday with another family and rent out an entire villa, and you’ll reduce rates even further – you’ll also have a built-in babysitter for when it comes high time for you and your other half to have a much-needed break. While returning the favour at a later date, of course.