Tips and secrets to increase your family travel budget

How to have budget to travel so much? is one of the questions we get the most. This and what do the children eat during traveling! But that’s another story!

If you’ve taken a look at our story (if you haven’t, go check it out here! 😊 ) you already know that from a time point of view, our availability and schedule flexibility are largely due to our professional choices.

But then there’s the financial side, right? Which is sometimes (or almost always) more limiting even than the vacation time we can have.

Here I will tell you, as detailed as I can, everything we do to get the budget to travel 5 months a year!

I know that not all solutions apply to all families. These are 8 distinct points that can be combined and adapted to your own reality and lifestyle. Some ideas that can help you make some budget optimizations.

So let’s do it!

1. Set priorities

We don’t have an unlimited monthly budget. Let alone a luxury travel budget! So we have to make choices and set priorities clearly and objectively.

For us, travel has always been a priority, right after food, health. It is a substantial part of the education we want to our kids. And that’s why we chose to reduce all the other expenses.

For example, we don’t change car often. We don’t buy clothes every month (neither for ourselves nor for the kids). We don’t have habits like smoking or drinking coffee every day. Our house is exactly the size we need (not a room more). We take public transportation or walk most of the time. We only go to shopping malls if we have a specific purchase to make or an order to pick up. And I still fix old clothes at home like my grandmother or my mother used to do. Mostly because I hate waste!

These are some points where its rather easy to make economies in our daily life.

We still enjoy the small things in life on a daily basis and we do go out and enjoy Paris. We go to restaurants when we feel like it, we take the kids to activities close to home, we order food when we don’t feel like cooking.

But we don’t forget our main goal! So when we need to make choices, we have our priorities well defined, and we save money accordingly.

2. Plan

We always have the dates of holidays and long weekends very well marked on the calendar and we consult very often (almost daily) the prices of plane tickets around those dates. This is a very effective way to optimize our travel budget as the flights are a big part of our travel expanses.

When we find flights at a good price, we buy them immediately, sometimes more than 6 months in advance. That changed a little bit with the pandemic because of travel restrictions, but we are quickly getting back to our good old habits.

The vast majority of airlines start selling tickets one year before the flight date (300 days before). Or sometimes at the end of the season for the same period of the following year. For example, at the end of September for the summer of next year.

We used to plan our summer holydays in Greece around October or November of the previous year. It allowed us to secure the most interesting price and having that trip organized in advance did wanders to our soul through out the winter time.

The habit of following the evolution of prices allows us to buy when prices are lower or, if it is not possible to buy immediately, at least choose the most affordable destinations.

3. Be flexible

Despite having a list of trips that we really want to do and being conditioned by the school calendar; we always keep an open mind about the destination and the dates.

When we search for flights, we often start by looking for the purpose of the trip. And that instead of looking for a specific destination. For example, if we want a tropical place with beach and warm and nice weather, we don’t necessarily look for the Maldives. We make a list of countries that match our base criteria and compare prices for all those countries on the same dates in order to find the cheapest destination.

That’s actually how we discovered Panama. We had never considered visiting this country and you just loved it!

We always consider leaving or returning a few days earlier or later. Mainly because we travel during school holidays when prices tend to be higher. Usually leaving a few days before the holidays or arriving a few days after classes have started has no impact on learning for the kids and helps a lot to reduce costs.

4. Think “outside the box”

Sometimes changing airports or considering making stopovers (see point 7) makes a big difference in the total price of the trip.

We will often take flights from Nantes or even Brussels or Luxembourg instead of leaving directly from Paris where flights are very expensive. Sometimes the difference is so big that it makes up for the car or train trip and even a hotel night.

Looking for alternative solutions can make the difference between being able to pay for the trip or not being able to buy it at all.

5. Offset expenses by generating revenue

When we travel, by definition, we are not at home or in our workspace.

Our house is rented so we can only exchange with friends. However I have my workspace in our old apartment that we can rent as a studio while we’re not there.

Of course, this is not possible everywhere due to local laws regulating short-term tourist rentals. But without breaking the rules and within the limits it is a great way to offset some of the travel expenses.

You can also consider exchange houses (House Swap). It works especially well between families. Although we’ve never tried it, we know some people who has done it several times and it always works well.

6. Join several loyalty programs

The loyalty programs of airlines or hotel chains are not just for those who travel a lot or for businesspeople and companies.

Contrary to what one might think, it is not traveling that you can accumulate miles and points.

In fact, in order to travel more, we have to be able to convert into miles and points a good part of day-to-day expenses or all expenses that we would otherwise have (fuel, food, renovation or repair works…) or even travel expenses.

Loyalty programs allow us to convert all these expenses into miles and points that later translate into more travel or reduced spending.

That’s how we have travelled to French Polynesia for about 160€ each !

7. Optimize Everything

One way to see / live more while spending less or at least equal amount of money is to optimize as much as possible. Being able to increase the experiences without going over the initial budget is always our main goal.

We see stop overs as great opportunities to get to know another city and whenever possible we even try to increase the stopover time as much as possible. This seems to be the opposite of optimizing but it actually allows us to add one more destination to our trip, do everything more calmly and often considerably reduce the total price of the flight.

For example, each time we visit Bali we choose to spend at least a couple of days in Singapore. We could do a smaller scale but we would miss the opportunity to visit another destination.

We optimize local travel too, that is, once the travel destination has been chosen, we research what we want to visit and group everything in order of distances. This allows us to save time and money whether in transportation, fuel or even parking. It can even allow the purchase of joint tickets for more than one point of interest at reduced rates.

8. Never stop working or generating revenue

We are not digital nomads, but that doesn’t mean we can’t work remotely sometimes.

We could never travel so much if every time we do so, we went on a vacation. On average, we travel 5 months a year, spread over several trips, not counting some long weekends. Of course, we cannot completely interrupt our professional activity al this time.

What allows us to travel is precisely the fact that we continue to generate income while we travel.

But how? I will give you my personal example. My main activity is the design and handmade production of ecological lighting. Something very concrete and for which I need raw materials, specific tools, and a specific workspace. That part of course I can’t do it remotely. But I can do everything else: accounting, promotion, ordering from suppliers, preparing content, signing contracts, contacting new customers and much more.

In other words, the fact of continuing to work on the road allows me to optimize my working time in the studio to produce more and have more stock for when I’m travelling.

Before, I worked in Architecture. I can’t do site visits while traveling, but I could do all the development and design part of the project.

In reality this is a half way between traditional work and digital nomad life.

You can also have a digital side hustle on what you can work while traveling.

There are always a solution!

For those who really want to travel, there is always a dynamic that can be found to organize the agenda according to the trips we intend to do.

And this brings me back to the first point of this article: setting priorities!

The question you have to ask yourself is this one: “Is long term travel a priority for you and your family?” Or do you “only” want to improve your holiday time?

In the next articles on Budget and Miles and Points I will give more precise information and address some of these topics in more detail.

If you really want to travel the world for long periods or more often then you need to shift your mindset and reorganize your life around your priority.

Let me know in the comments if you already put some of these points into practice!

Or what subjects would you like to address in more depth in future articles?

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by Le Voyage de Zoé. A family of 5 exploring the world !

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