We have four kids. I’m a stay at home mom.
I realize I am not a budget traveler.
We like to take as many opportunities as we can to travel and explore, tying it into our homeschool studies whenever we can.
We cut our household budget in order to feed our travel bug.
- We seldom eat out. We eat at home for almost every single meal. It sometimes gets boring and isn’t always convenient, but we realize it affords us the ability to dine out when we travel.
- We purchase less clothing. We try to make do with hand-me-downs or secondhand items, mixing and matching with new ideas.
- We have fewer entertainment items. When we feel the itch to purchase a new toy or electronic, we think about whether we want to spend that money or save it for our next trip.
- Holidays are travel experiences. Birthdays and Christmas and other special days are more interesting when we travel rather than just receiving toys or other presents. We’re making memories rather than collecting junk we won’t use very long.
- Our goal is to be debt-free. We have no car payments. We have paid off one credit card this year. Two more to go! We have a separate banking account for household bills. All bills and investments are on autopay so I never even see that money to reallocate it. We have $1000 in savings. I have a separate bank account for my business. Being debt-free will mean financial independence and more freedom to travel!
How Can We Afford Large Family Travel?
How We Get There:
I often plan trips months in advance and use incognito windows to do my research for airfare, accommodations, etc.
I have to be somewhat flexible with dates and times to get the best deals. When searching, I sometimes know when I want to travel, but not necessarily where. I’m also a member of many local travel groups where deals and tips are generously shared.
Sometimes, I just have to bite the cost, like flying to Rome for Christmas. I didn’t get the greatest deal, but it’s offset by the amazing deals I got to Portugal for Thanksgiving and the good deals I got for Greece and London.
Traveling in autumn is cheaper than summer and the weather is usually much nicer. Winter and spring are a bit chilly for us and we have to pack more layered clothing, but the prices are better then too. Summer is usually too hot!
Where We Stay:
I almost exclusively use Booking.com for hotels and apartments.
We like to rent apartments with kitchens so we can cook meals, or at least breakfasts, ourselves.
We sometimes stay in two hotel rooms in larger cities we’ve traveled. I like the hotels that include breakfast. The girls love having their own room and Alex stays with us on a sofa bed or rollaway.
We tend to rent places farther away from the main attractions or the downtown areas. It’s often cheaper and quieter. We walk or occasionally take public transportation to get around.
What We Eat:
We try to limit eating out to save money.
It’s healthier, cheaper, and familiar to prepare our own food. Having a picky child or husband can be a damper on eating out anyway!
We often cook breakfast in our apartments or eat at the hotel. We encourage the kids to stuff themselves to last until a late lunch! Often, apples are provided for guests and we grab a few of those to hold us over.
We don’t do snacks at home and we seldom do snacks when we travel. It’s amazing how distracted kids aren’t nearly as hungry as bored kids!
If we have a car, we often have coolers and bags of food for the ride.
Like I mentioned above, we will get or buy fresh fruit to hold us over during the day since we use so much energy walking.
We bring our own water bottles to refill or purchase snacks at stores, which is way cheaper than at vending machines or restaurants or inside tourist places.
I sometimes reward the kids (and me!) with yummy treats after especially grueling sites – like, we spent almost €25 on five delicious cold granitas after touring the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.
We often dine out at lunchtime, which is cheaper than dinnertime.
We usually get several dishes to share which is cheaper and easier than everyone ordering six adult dishes and nowhere to put leftovers!
This encourages the kids to try new tastes and textures.
If kids get hungry before bedtime, we buy them street food or snacks at a grocery store.
My husband and I have made it a fun tradition to walk out for date nights for drinks and a light dinner after settling the kids in our hotel room or in their beds in the apartment.
It’s worth every penny to be alone after walking all over a city with four kids.
What We Do:
We focus on history, culture, and art rather than entertainment.
You will never see us at a Disney park. I know many others like that, but it’s not for us.
Most museums and many sites in Europe are free for kids under 18! And remember, they’re almost all closed on Sundays and Mondays.
I like to order tickets online in advance to save time (even if there are surcharges, it’s just worth it not to stand in line for hours!). We like combo tickets that allow us to see more than one attraction at a discounted price.
We really adore museums. The kids get so excited when they see something on a museum wall or platform that they’ve only seen in books or on a show.
I don’t understand people who don’t like art or science or history.
What do they talk about? What do they do?
I guess some people have different priorities and do different stuff. That’s cool.
What We Buy:
We don’t go shopping.
We don’t travel to go shopping. We even avoid the shopping districts if we can.
We buy few souvenirs. We never buy clothing. We don’t travel for shopping excursions. We’re not interested. We step quickly through the touristy areas where booths, shops, street vendors call out, hawking their wares.
It’s fun to see, but usually not worth the money. We often don’t have space to carry much home.
We prefer to carry memories.
We do buy food that we fall in love with – usually at an airport if we fly home, or at a local grocery store if we drive.
We like to buy local beer and wine that we can’t find here.
We brought home lots of olive products from Greece.