>  Advice   >  Affording a holiday during school holidays

As the major school holiday break gets closer, my thoughts tend to turn to whether we can afford a holiday during the school holidays this year. Travelling during the holidays can be incredibly expensive but there are ways to beat the system. If your love of family holidays is bigger than your wallet, here are ten ways to afford a family holiday during the school holidays without breaking the bank.

Have a fancy CBD stay

Don’t rule out the fun of a staycation in a capital city that’s within driving distance or even in your home town. Most fancy CBD hotels are empty in the weeks before and after Christmas when business travellers are nowhere to be seen. Rates often drop by more than 50% and there are plenty of special deals to be found. Why not pick up a bargain and treat the family to some five star luxury?

Sign-up for savings

Sign up for e-newsletters or ‘Like’ your favourite airlines, hotels and resorts on Facebook to receive advance notice of upcoming specials and deals. Spam can be tasty when you are after a holiday bargain. You might be surprised how many deals are available, even during the holiday season.

Holiday somewhere different

If you travel to a destination where the local kids aren’t on holidays, airfares and accommodation will generally be cheaper. Keep a look out for when the school holidays fall at different times in various states. One week’s difference is often all you need to bag a bargain. If you would like to venture further afield, it is low season in Europe when Australian children get their longest holiday break. You won’t have to take your kids out of school either as six weeks is more than enough time to see Europe.

Stay longer in one spot

Consider staying longer in one spot. Eight nights at the same resort or hotel is usually cheaper than four nights at two different properties. Longer stays also tend to qualify for benefits such as complimentary breakfast or free nights.

Staying longer can save you plenty

Kids stay free deals

Many hotels have a ‘kids stay and eat free’ policy throughout the year. When you are travelling at peak times, the savings from these kinds of deals can quickly add up. Some hotel groups like the family-friendly Novotel chain offer extra benefits such as late check out on Sunday for families at select properties (dependent on availability).

Look out for ‘kids stay and eat free’ deals

Split the cost

Renting a beach house and splitting the cost with another family can make a holiday affordable on even the tightest budget. Just be sure to set some ground rules about chores, groceries, cooking etc before you arrive so everyone has a happy, stress free holiday.

Early birds get the best deals

Whether you need airfares, accommodation or both, booking early tends to get you the cheapest deal.  Last minute specials over peak season are few and far between. In fact, prices tend to rise alarmingly the closer you get to the school holidays.

Stay at a family friendly hostel

Don’t rule out staying at a ‘flashpackers’ just because you’re travelling with kids. Families are welcome at most hostels and some websites even have a dedicated family section. Large broods can commandeer an entire 6 or 8 share dorm and give the communal kitchen a workout. Being able to cook your own meals offers huge savings when you’re travelling during the school holidays.

Stay at a family-friendly hostel

Use frequent flyer points

If you would like to get away somewhere exotic and have Frequent Flyer points, use them to cover one or more airfares and/or your accommodation. Frequent Flyer seats are usually released around 12 months in advance so put a reminder in your diary and get in early. We almost always use frequent flyer points when we go on holiday during the school holidays as airfares tend to be really expensive during this time.

Buy an Entertainment Book

If you are spending Christmas in an Australian capital city (either with or without the relatives), buy an Entertainment Book for that destination. These books are packed with discount coupons and deals for restaurants, hotels and attractions. Almost all of them are still valid over the school holidays.

Buy an Entertainment Book for your destination

Miss out on ‘muck up week’

Many parents are against taking their kids out of school for holidays which I won’t go into here as it’s a personal choice. Others face the prospect of being hit with financial or legal penalties if their kids miss a few days for a family holiday (my heart goes out to parents in the USA). However, they don’t call the five days before the major school holidays ‘muck up week’ for nothing when kids are in primary school. All of the students’ assignments and tests have been completed and this time is generally spent playing games, tidying up and having fun.

If you are concerned about your kids missing out on important school work if you take them out of school, this is one time you don’t need to worry. However, it’s is a different story in high school as this is when a lot of testing is done. We learned this the hard way during our son’s first year of high school. We had pre-booked an overseas trip departing the week before school holidays, the same as we did when he was in primary school, only to discover he had loads of tests at this time in high school. Lesson learned!

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.