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Whoever said that vacations have to be expensive? 

By Kel Tan 

Planning a long-awaited getaway with the brood? Going overseas doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to break the bank. Learn how to enjoy an affordable family vacation with these ten helpful tips.

1. Choose a regional destination…


You don’t have to travel halfway around the world to experience exotic locales. Besides, closer destinations almost always translate into cheaper airfares. “We prefer to travel to places near home. Besides reducing costs, this also minimises the flight duration, which is really helpful when your kids are unsettled on board,” explains Noeline Teo. Planning a beach getaway? There’s Bali or Bintan. Looking for mountain views? There’s Java or Kota Kinabalu. How about some snow? There’s Japan or China. And the list goes on!

2. …Or even a staycation.


If all your family is craving for is a change of scenery, consider a staycation on Sentosa instead. With its beaches, myriad family-friendly attractions and a slew of F&B offerings, the island can feel like a whole other world altogether! This means that you’ll get to save on airfares, while still enjoying a fun and rejuvenating family break. 

3. Buy your tickets in advance.
Plan ahead and buy your plane tickets as early as possible, as fares typically rise significantly closer to your planned travel dates. Do also look out for promotions from airlines, travel agents and even banks. Sign up for their newsletters to stay in the loop about flash sales. 

You can also monitor airfares with price comparison websites like Skyscanner.com and Kayak.com. These sites enable you to compare fares across several airlines to find the cheapest deals. Plus, you can have price alerts sent to your email; this way, you’ll be informed whenever fares drop. 

4. Choose the right dates.
Airfares are more expensive during peak seasons, such as June and December. Unfortunately, these periods also usually coincide with the school holidays. If you do plan to travel with the kids when school is out, go for the latest possible dates – airfares tend to be slightly cheaper then.  

5. Draw up a budget sheet.
Then, update it throughout your holiday. It doesn’t have to be extremely detailed, but you should set aside an approximate sum for each meal and even each day of the trip. By keeping regular tabs on your expenditure throughout the holiday, you’re less likely to overspend.  

6. Book an apartment or villa.
“When I travel with my family, I’d rather book an apartment or villa with several rooms, instead of individual hotel rooms. Not only is this cheaper; it also enables us to bond more as we share the same living space,” shares Rosemary Richard Sam. “Also, we get to prepare meals in the comfort of the apartment. This helps us to save more money on food.” 

Additionally, accommodation portals like Booking.com and Airbnb offer extra discounts or credits if you sign up for their free membership schemes or refer a friend. 

7. Check out affordable attractions. 


Sure, theme parks promise plenty of entertainment, but admission fees can be expensive, especially if you’re travelling in a big group. On the other hand, tickets for attractions like museums and exhibitions are usually more affordable. A visit to the park or the beach can be equally fun, too – plus, these places are entirely free!

8. Walk whenever possible. 
If the kids are old enough, try exploring your destination on foot whenever possible. You’ll get to save money on transport and keep fit, while truly immersing yourselves in the sights and sounds of the city. To make this easier, plan your itinerary wisely – try to cover attractions within the same vicinity on the same day. 

9. Pack smart. 


Prepare beforehand and bring essentials like refillable water bottles and snacks. This way, you won’t spend unnecessarily on things like drinks, especially on board – airplane food can be rather overpriced. Every dollar goes a long way! 

10. Manage everyone’s expectations.
Of course, everyone in the family has work as a team when it comes to travelling on a budget. Make it clear that certain things – such as shopping sprees, five-star hotels, fancy restaurants, unnecessary taxi rides and expensive attractions – will not be attainable during the holiday. However, do also set aside some cash for the occasional indulgence, such as a celebratory meal at the end of the trip. 

“Sometimes, our kids will ask if they can travel further to destinations that their friends have been. When this happens, we take the opportunity to teach them to be contented with what they have. They usually take this quite well, and for this, we are thankful,” adds Noeline. “Ultimately, travelling is a privilege, not a necessity. That said, we still try to do it at least once a year to let our hair down!” 

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