CONTRIBUTED // how my family of SIX can afford to travel around the world
I always get asked this question: how can you afford to travel with the entire family as often as you do?
The answer: we make traveling together a priority.
Traveling together is more important to us than driving a new car every few years or living in a big house. Those are two of the biggest sacrifices that we've made in order to be able to take our kids with us when we see the world. But, there are lots of little things we do day-to-day that also allow us to save our pennies. It's not magic and there is no perfect solution for all but for us, it's choosing our 'rather factors' over more frivolous items that can add up.
Here are just a few of the ways we save our money to afford travel:
Skip the little things. Believe it or not, stuff like going to the movies, going out for coffee, getting the car washed, eating out, etc are not expensive individually, but can definitely add up over the course of a month. With a family of six, going to the movies can easily cost us over $100, and although it’s a luxury to drop your car off and pick it up a few hours later all clean and shiny, we usually wash it at home on Sundays and save at least $20 - $25 per week. It’s also a rare thing for us to get coffee on the go (except when we are on vacation). Instead, we splurged for a nice espresso machine a few years ago and it was worth every penny. You can save hundreds each year by skipping that daily coffee run.
Barter, Barter, Barter. Bartering might seem like a thing of the past but lots of people are still willing to do it, especially when both parties can benefit. I own a small boutique shop and bartering gift cards for my shop in lieu of other items I would ordinarily spend money on like getting my hair cut and coloured, going to fancy dinners at neighbourhood restaurants; these have all saved us a ton of money. Ask yourself what skills you can offer as barter and don’t be afraid to ask!
Skip the Professional Photographs! I’m always shocked to hear how much my friends pay every single year (and sometimes multiple times a year) for professional photographs. If you can barter for this, great! If not, ask a friend who has a good eye and loves to take photos to take them instead. You would be amazed at how often this has happened for us, which has saves us thousands of dollars over the years.
Meal Planning and Weekly Meal Prep. It’s crazy to me how much we can save in a week simply by planning out our meals each week and doing all of the prep on my day off. We eat healthier and it saves a ton of time and money. I highly recommend this as well as prepackaging snacks for the week (I buy in bulk). It saves SO much money and it is also better for the environment if you use reusable containers.
BYOB. When you do go out to dinner pick places that allow you to BYOB. Drinks are always what kill us on the bill when we go out, so we try to go to neighbourhood restaurants that allow us to bring our own bottle of wine. We almost always Pa'u Hana (Hawaiian for happy hour) at home or at a friends house before going out as well (see this previous post for some of my fave appies and drinks!). We fill up on these items before heading out to any restaurant because then we are likely only ordering the main course. We even do this when we travel.
Check Online for Deals. I don’t buy a lot of things that we don’t need and I always try to have a running list of things that we do need. I check ads and buy things when they're on sale or when we can get extra airline miles (more on that later below). I also check Craigslist for most things before I go to the store to buy them. We have bought everything from furniture to beach gear and more on Craigslist and have saved hundreds! We also try to sell our old stuff on there as well before donating it to Goodwill. It’s easy to do and you would be surprised how many people would be interested in your old goods. One mans trash is another mans treasure….
Stash away those airline miles. We use our airline cards for EVERYTHING and try to eat at restaurants that offer double or triple points. Our local mall has days where they offer 6X the points, so we try to do all of our birthday gift shopping, stock up on groceries, buy work supplies, etc. during those events. We have never gone on a trip where at least one of our flights wasn’t paid for using our miles.
At-Home Mani & Pedi. I tend to do my manis/pedis at home or you can find a friend that is really good at it (or in my case your daughter). I used to go get a mani/pedi every few weeks and I was shocked one day when I added up how much I was spending in a year (upward of $1,500 a year!). I now treat myself to one PER year on my birthday and that’s it!
Walk to Work. It's very expensive to pay for parking where I live, so walking to work (or getting dropped off) saves me more than $50 a week. The bonus is that I'm also getting exercise while doing it. Public transit in most cities is far more affordable if its accessible to you. When you take out the cost of fuel, parking and those long hours sitting in traffic, it's amazing how much you will save...and how much LESS time you spend in your car.
Skip the Luxuries. Small little luxuries like having a cleaning lady or a yard cleaning service adds up quickly over time. We used to have a cleaning lady once a month but shut that down very fast after I realized every time we paid her, it equalled a dinner out while on vacation. Instead I made a daily chore chart which the entire family participates in. Everyone shares the housekeeping and laundry duties and we reward ourselves with a fancy dinner out somewhere while on vacation together. Bonus: your kids learn responsibility and how to do things around the house and the yard!
Connect our Trips. We also try to link work trips with pleasure trips whenever possible. If my husband or I can get reimbursed for a trip somewhere, we usually try to add on a family trip to save the fare on one of our flights. Flying from Hawai’i can get expensive and we have saved thousands doing this.
How do we save money while on holiday? Here are a few tricks we do:
Watch for flights months in advance if possible. Booking mid-week is usually cheaper than booking on a weekend and we often use Expedia, Hopper, Kayak and other sites where you can compare airlines and get the cheapest available. But note that smaller airlines are not usually listed on these sites, so it's worth checking just to see how their air fares compare.
Be flexible on dates. Fares can fluctuate by hundreds of dollars day by day, so being flexible can save you quite a bit. Also look at different times of year for different destinations. Flying to certain countries in Spring vs Summer can be a huge difference in price. We also look at cities close tp the city/country that we are wanting to see. We once scored cheap flights to Amsterdam when we were wanting to go to Paris. We saved over $500 per ticket by flying into Copenhagen instead of Paris – spent a few days seeing a new city and then flew to Paris for under $100 each. Win Win!
We now almost use Airbnb exclusively when travelling as a family. We need at least two rooms so this way has proven to be much cheaper for us than booking at a hotel. Plus, we have a kitchen, washer/dryer and other amenities that always saves us even more. Something to note, we do all of your laundry at the Airbnb on the last day so they are clean when you get home.
We rarely rent a car unless we are traveling to an area where it an absolute must. We walk a lot to work off those extra calories we're eating and do our research ahead of time on their public transit routes. We do use Uber occasionally if need be as well.
While on vacation, our usual plan is to eat breakfast in our house/apartment, make a picnic lunch to eat somewhere at a park or another pretty spot during the day and we splurge on dinner out most nights. It is a family favourite to go grocery shopping in different countries because foreign grocery stores are fun to explore and have different ingredients we don't have at home.
We don’t buy a lot of souvenirs while travelling. We don’t want to pay extra baggage fees (which add up fast) and have realized over the years that we don’t need or use most of the tchotchkes that we have lugged home in the past. We always look for a Christmas ornament for our tree which is more than enough for us!
If you are smart about accumulating those airline miles they can also save you when traveling with perks such as free checked bags, use of their premier lounge, free drinks and access to the First Class line at TSA!
As I write this list, I've come to realize that we are probably a stronger family unit because of some of these financial sacrifices we've made and the experiences we've been able to have as a family unit. I also know my kids have a greater appreciation for the important things in life - like how they view money, different cultures and how important family is.