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Cheap family accommodation – how we travel far on a budget!

Cheap family accommodation – how we travel far on a budget!

cheap family accommodationCheap family accommodation is the cornerstone of budget family travel.  If you can find a reasonably priced place to lay your and your kids heads at night that is safe, clean and comfortable then you’re going to really increase your chances of having a great holiday.

Of course, budgets are relative and what is cheap for one family may be way out of budget for another.  My advice for you if you’re not sure what to do is to try lots of different ideas that are on this page and discover what works best for you family.

How to find cheap family accommodation

I’m afraid research has to come high on the to do list of anyone wanting to book a cheap family break or long term stint.  If you want to stretch your travel budget you’ll need to put in some leg room up front.  It can be frustrating, but well worth it if it gets you where you want to be.


Getting your budget accommodation also may well depend on not only the size of your family but also the ages of your children and also where you’re planning to stay.

Often you’ll find that you might get free child places but only if your children are under 12 – not so fun when travelling with teenagers!  If you’re in North America a single room will accommodate 4 people normally with two double beds.  Again, awesome if you’re a small family, but not a great choice of large family accommodation.  In the UK and Europe rooms are quite often just for two people and you’ll pay a premium for a family suite.


Before you think that it’s all too complicated though, take a look through the options available to you to find cheap accommodation.  Below you’ll find my ideas to get you some great, cheap family accommodation with some quirky ideas thrown in too.  If you’ve any other ideas I’ve missed give me a shout in the comments section.


Budget family accommodation – the main contenders

The first thing I check when planning a holiday is how much apartments cost.  I always check them first because I find that for our family (which consists of two teens, a boy and a girl) it works best for us.   After I get an idea of prices per night for our destination, I’ll check out some hotel sites and see what’s available there, and perhaps even take a look at some hostels too.


our apartment in italyApartment stays are getting more common with the rise of sites like AirBnB.  I think that they can be a great option for a kid friendly holiday as it’s really like having a home from home.  If you’re looking for large family accommodation apartments can be a much better than booking a couple of hotel rooms.

We’re quite slow travellers, often going out to explore for an hour or so and then coming back to base for a little while and then heading out again in the evening.  Having a place that we can relax in and that is large enough for our family is great for us.

We also love to self cater as not only does that help the budget, but I find it gives us a good insight to how locals live and what food they use on a daily basis.  It can also help with fussy eaters!  (not just the children in our family though – I’m quite fussy too!)

Sometimes you’ll find that your host provides a great insight in to the local culture as well which I find is an added bonus!


For finding budget apartments that are suitable for your break I recommend checking out the following sites:

AirBnB – great worldwide and has all sorts of quirky and different apartments.  I’ve used them lots and can recommend.  (you’ll also get £20 off your booking if you go through this link!)

HomeAway – I find this is certainly better to use in the UK, but also good for other destinations.

Turning up and looking – great if you’re intending to have a long term trip.  I know many people who swear by just finding somewhere to stay when they get there.  We’ve not been brave enough to do that on our longer term trips though!


Things to remember about booking apartments are:

  1. How far are you from amenities and where you want to be?  If you’re in a city, can you walk or will you need to take public transport.  If the latter, is that expensive?  No point in getting a cheap apartment if you’ll then need to spend lots on getting out and about.
  2. Are there any further costs – especially important if you’re renting for a month or so.  Will you be charged for utilities?
  3. Does it have good reviews.  This is a growing area of business and as such lots of people are jumping in to renting out their apartments, sometimes not with the customer’s experience forefront in their minds.  Going to somewhere with good reviews will help finding the right place.



Hotels and Motels

Hotels with family suites or extra beds that can be added are also a great idea for a cheap family holiday.  Hotels aren’t always so great for longer term travelling, or long stays in one area, mostly because you’ll not get a kitchen and food preparation areas.  If you’re in a cheaper part of the world like Asia, this might be fine, but if you like to self cater to keep food costs lower then perhaps not so much.

After I’ve searched apartments I’ll always look at hotels.  Sometimes it’s a much better idea and much better cost wise, but not always.  If they are situated in the centre and we are in the thick of where we want to be then we’ll forego the most budget options for that!

cheap quirky motels in usaIf you’re travelling quickly, as we did on our Route 66 road trip then hotels and motels are far superior to apartments in my mind.  It just depends on what you’re wanting to get out of your trip.  You can also find really quirky motels such as this wigwam motel!


When searching for hotels I recommend checking out the reviews and see if you can find any from families to gauge whether the hotel is family friendly or not.  Then check out the sleeping situation – will it work for your family?

I always use HotelsCombined which searches all of the big booking sites to get the best family rooms at the best prices.



I don’t always find that hostels provide good value accommodation for families, mostly because they charge per person and that can add up substantially, but they are definitely worth checking out as an option especially if they might be in an area that is good for you.

You do get family friendly hostels though and sometimes they have entire rooms that you could book out with 4 or maybe even 6 beds.  If you’re a large family then this could be a great option.

Bear in mind the location of the hostels – are they close to party areas or nightclubs (believe me, one time we stayed in a hostel in Edinburgh and I wish I’d thought to check this one out!) and do they have a party reputation in general.

HostelWorld is the place to find out what hostels for families are available in your destination.



Camper Van / RV travel

Our 2013 gap year adventure consisted of us travelling around Europe in a camper van.  We loved it and it’s a great idea for keeping costs down for longer term travel.

Similar to apartments, you have your own space, your own kitchen and you can come and go as you please.  It’s a lovely way to see some smaller, lesser known areas of a country and really do a deep dive in to the culture.

camper van in franceWhen we were in Europe and France in particular, we often had free nights camping as they have motorhome stops set up to encourage visitors.  In our whole time around France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands I think the most we paid for a nights stop was €15.

Campsites were often a little extra than that, but have the advantage of amenities like washing machines and swimming pools.

RV travel in North America is also something that can keep costs down – especially for larger families.  I’d love to give it a try there.


Of course there are set up costs for this kind of travelling – if you want to have a look at our pre trip costs for our 5 month camper van trip then look here.



Being even more basic than life with a motorhome is perhaps travelling with a tent.

Tents have evolved so much recently with great family size options – if you’re looking for a budget trip then camping might well suit you down to the ground.  It’s perfect for seeing the great outdoors, nature and less populated parts of a country.

I’d probably recommend car camping if you have a family, if only to make sure you can bring all that you’ll need for a good trip.  You can extend your trip as long as you need to like this.  Go for a weekend, go for a week, or even for longer by travelling between places.

We camped lots in the UK and you can find campsites for as little as £10 per night.  If you’re a big family, look for places that charge by the tent and not per person.

This is a great place to check out campsites in Europe and you can also pick up a camping card which gives cheaper nights out of high season.


Other options for bargain family holidays

Looking outside of the box is often where you’ll come across unique ideas for travel and often they fit really well with budget trips!



Housesitting is something we have done a lot of in the past and it has helped us spend time in areas that we’d not have been able to afford otherwise.  We did a month stay in London and also another month in New York City at Christmas.

Housesitting is where you look after pets or a home in exchange for accommodation.  Some people get paid, but there is a growing trend of it being a skill exchange.

You CAN do it with kids, although it can be a little harder to land a house sitting job.  You also have opportunities for not just long term travel, but also short term travel.  It’s actually a great place to look if you’re confined to travelling in school holidays as you might find other families travelling at that time too and looking for sitters.  If they’re families themselves you might have a better chance at getting the gig!

Check out my post here if you want to know more about it.



Couchsurfing is the ultimate in budget accommodation!  It’s a network of people that are willing to host you for free in their house.  Sounds great doesn’t it?

However it’s worth noting that you’ll want to be gracious to the hosts, perhaps offering to cook or bringing a food contribution, so might not be totally free, but may well be a great experience for you and your family.

We’ve never done this ourselves, but have heard that some families have done it.  Obviously it’s not a long term solution to travel, but is a useful one to think about.


House Swapping

If you own your own home and it’s in an area that might be nice for others to visit then house swapping could be a great option.

Basically you’d find a person who would like to swap for a similar time in an area that you want to visit.  It’s a fantastic way to make friends and live a bit more like a local!  Who knows, you might make it a regular thing.

This is a new site, but one to check out if you’re interested in swapping with other families.


Working Holidays 

Have you ever fancied working on a farm, or helping out in a hotel to pay for your accommodation costs?  It will help you see a part of countries that you’d never see any other way and can be a great experience.

Friends of ours did a whole year working around the UK on organic farms using WWOOF, with their kids, and we’ve considered it ourselves (but decided we’re not quite cut out for it!).  It can be family friendly and as long as you’re up front with hosts about what you can and can’t do then it should be a brilliant opportunity.

Some organisations to check out are:






I hope this will get you started on finding cheap child friendly holidays and longer term travel.  It really can be done and doesn’t need to be second rate.  Researching, much as it takes time, can turn this large holiday cost in to something much more reasonable!


Feel free to share this with others who might find it useful in planning their or

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House sitting long term – how we saved thousands on accommodation

House sitting long term – how we saved thousands on accommodation

House sitting long termHouse and pet sitting is something we had tried and enjoyed on previous trips and we knew that house sitting long term was something we really wanted to do more of on this trip.


Our first long term house sitting job came at a great time – we’d just finished up our Route 66 trip in America which was quite intense and we were back in the UK travelling long term and with no end date in sight.

This was the first of three house sits that we did on this trip, each for around a month and each time offering us some significant savings based on how much it would cost us to be in those locations as a ‘tourist’.  It saved us so much money and also gave us experiences we just would never have had before.

The benefits of house sitting long term


One of the major benefits that house sitting immediately presents is the savings on accommodation.

We house sat in two major cities on this trip – New York City and London.  Finding somewhere to stay, even for a shorter period could run in to thousands of pounds.  Some cities are so expensive that we just don’t think about visiting – house sitting opens up these areas to us.


walking a dog

walking our NYC pooch!

We really like house sits of around a month or slightly more.  Why?  It really gives us time to get used to an area, to explore at a pace that works for us and to have time to work as well.

Even on short trips we aren’t fast paced, going to attractions every moment, so having a house sit that allows us to slow down and enjoy the area at a slower pace really appeals to us.

We really get to enjoy and experience a locale, at a level you’d never get if you were in a hotel.  To be honest, that’s a priceless experience!


The other benefit, especially to us as we’ve not been able to have pets in the past due to rented houses, is that we can have temporary pets.  There’s nothing better than sat with your feet up and getting a cuddle from your new best friend!


The skills that you learn while house sitting can’t be discounted either – and let’s face it, house sitting is a job, a serious job that requires many skills.  You can take those anywhere!


And it also brings together many potential friendships – we’re in contact with many of our past sits and have even done repeat sits for them.


Can you be a house sitter with kids?


girl with bedlington terrierOne of the first questions that is asked of us is ‘Can you really get house sitting jobs with kids?’.  The answer is that yes of course you can – after all, we have been successful on a number of occasions – but that it can also be quite tricky.

I don’t want to sugar coat it, it can be hard to get house sitting jobs even as a singleton or a couple – the competition can be tremendous.  So joining in that competition with an added ‘unknown’ of having kids doesn’t always help.

But I do think that sometimes it helps us stand out when we apply and of course some pets love the extra attention that having kids around can afford.  So in actual fact some home owners may well give preference to families.  If they have kids themselves then they’ll potentially have the space for us and be open to the possibility of families looking after their pets.

So YES, you absolutely can be a house sitter with kids.  And yes you can even get the ‘high ticket’ sits in amazing places – we scored a NYC house sit over Xmas and New Years!


How to get started house sitting?


house sitting long termIf you’ve ever been interested in housesitting long term then here’s the low down on how to get started in this and find international house sitting jobs.

As I said before, finding long term house sitting jobs can be tricky – the internet has opened up this world of opportunity for many, many people and often there is a lot of competition.


I’d recommend starting off by looking at some of the more popular house sitting platforms:  Trusted Housesitters and House Carers are two of the main sites out there.  Take some time and get to know what is there and what kind of opportunities are available.


I’d also recommend getting as much experience as possible as soon as you make the decision.  You’ll want references and to be able to show potential home owners that you can do the job!


And if you’re really set on this path and want to make a real impression, stand out from the crowd and be a professional then I’d really recommend the online course that Nat and Jodie created which is called House Sitters Academy.

I’ve taken the course myself and can really vouch for it – it will help you to create amazing profiles on the many house sitting sites out there, help you when you email owners and when you’re on your sit it provides information and advice on having the best experience possible.  Click here to find out about the course.



If you’d like to find out more about us and the potential for us house sitting for you at any point in the future do take a look at this page to find out more about us.


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Housesitting long term



Europe in a campervan – our pre trip costs

Europe in a campervan – our pre trip costs

europe in a camper vanWhen we decided that we’d travel around Europe in a campervan for our big trip, we felt it would be quite a budget way of doing it.

Of course, travel budgets are bandied about quite a lot and I’ve said before that we intend this trip to be at the very budget end of the scale.  We’ll try to detail our costs as the trip progresses so anyone else wanting to try to do this kind of trip has some idea of how we did it (edit – we weren’t very good at this, sorry!).  It must be said though that how we do it will probably not be ideal for everyone!

Europe in a campervan

So this post will detail our pre trip costs as when you are in a campervan that is a big part of the budget!  Some costs have been guesstimates as to be honest I’ve been a bit rubbish at keeping track of it all.

Again, what we’re travelling in won’t suit everyone, so if you’d like a spanking new campervan take our figures with a pinch of salt!  But if you’re happy with an older van and are looking to buy in the UK read on…

Campervan £4000

europe in a campervan - our pre trip costsCampervans can be expensive depending on what you want and you can spend way more than what we did.  We really wanted at least a 5 berth camper so both kids could have their own space and we found a 25 year old van that looks kind of tired inside, but which James assures me isn’t too bad mechanically.

Gloria is the name of our van and she was amazing!  She was an old Fiat Dethleffs Globetrotter.  If you want to see more about her and have a nosy inside click here.


Campervan Insurance – £450

we went with Adrian Flux and it includes breakdown assistance.  Not great cover for longer trips as only covers 2 months at a time in europe (although I guess I could increase it for a further premium) but was fine for our needs as we want to explore the UK more too.  Having the breakdown cover was great for peace of mind!


Campervan repairs, MOT, Tax, additions, extras – £640

Solar panels, fabric for curtains, bits and bobs that you *need* for a camper trip all comes here.

MOT was £120 (phew!), car tax for the year was £220.  We probably spent another £300 on extras for the van.


Travel Insurance – £100

I bought multi trip cover for the periods we’re out of the UK (make sure the policy covers your trip length, ours covers up to 90 days out of the country.  You might find that as EU citizens you don’t need it (make sure you have the EHIC though), but we felt like it was important for us.

World Nomads has often been quoted as a good travel insurance for longer term trips so if you’re not an EU citizen it might be worth getting a quote from them.


Clothes and shoes –  £200

I guess we’d buy this stuff anyway, but we spent more on shoes than we would normally I think, so I’ll add that which is about £200


Campervan Guide Books and planning materials, site subscriptions. – £170

We have invested in some books with sites we can park up in while we’re in Europe.  There are many Aires and motorhome parking areas, but knowing where they are is another thing and these books will hopefully save some diesel while we drive round looking for them!  They include the grid references of the stops so really useful   We got a couple, we have the French Aire book and the european CamperStop book.  We also recently have bought the France Passion book which for £25 gives us access to farms in France where we can stay overnight for free – another idea that we’re excited to try out.


There is also a good site we signed up to called WildCamping which has a database of UK sites that are possible to wild camp in.  The UK is not like the rest of mainland europe where campervans and motorhomes are encouraged, so I think this will be a good resource for us.  There’s also a good forum with lots of helpful members too 🙂  £10


Guidebooks (I picked up second hand Lonely Planet guides for a couple of quid each) and maps too – £15

Memberships to housesitting and workaway sites – £60

Overall spent – £170

Tech – £90

We bought a new sat nav for £90 but other than that, the tech is stuff we have already and we’ve not bought anything else specifically for this trip.

Days out memberships – £170

We renewed our English Heritage and National Trust memberships which cost £170.   I think we’ll get our moneys worth here though.


TOTAL – £5820

Not as bad as I was expecting!!  But certainly interesting when you think that you could spend that money on flights to a cheap part of the world to live for a bit.  That may be another adventure for another time though 😉


If you’d like to see more about our family gap year (ok 5 month trip!) travelling around Europe in a campervan then click here for all of the posts.


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What’s your travel budget?

What’s your travel budget?

I’ve hinted before that we’ll be on a *very* budget trip this year but I haven’t quite said much about it all.  There’s a couple of reasons for that, firstly I didn’t know if we’d be able to save enough (we may still be short – we’ll see!) and also, I don’t know if it’s completely unrealistic.

There are a lots of posts around the internet which spout numbers and ideas for how much it costs to travel and what everyone’s travel budget is.  It’s all relative though and what would be a perfect amount to live on for one person would be far too much for another and a crazy amount for someone else!  So please bear in mind that my numbers may be laughable, they may be completely unrealistic and they may also be for a style of travel that would not suit everyone.  We’re prepared to go for an extremely budget style because if we didn’t, we wouldn’t be going.  Gotta be worth a try huh?

Pre trip costs. 

I’m compiling a post that will detail our costs that we’ve had so far, but I think it will be fair to say that including the camper, insuarance, repairs and bits and bobs we’ve needed we’re looking at around £6 – 7000  we’ve spent so far (maybe I’ll get a shock when I actually tot it up!).  Once I know the costs completely, the van needs an MOT which may throw up some problems we need to fix to make the van legal, I’ll post about it.

Monthly travel budget.

This is where I have no idea and I’m guessing completely.  We’re budgeting £1000 (just over $1500) per month.  This sounded ok until you work out that it equates to around £33 ($50 ish) a day.  Yikes!  We have our roof over our heads already so this is for camping/parking costs, fuel, food and things to do.  We’re aiming to travel slowly and not go far between stops, we want to shop and eat local, be out and about in nature.  Free stuff.  We’re not big on eating out anyway, so that wouldn’t likely be a daily thing even if we could budget it in.  While we’re in the UK we’ll utilise free days out, and our National Trust and English Heritage membership, but in France and the rest of europe we might find it’s not as cheap.  Museum entries add up!

I am hopefully going to keep records of what we spend, and also going to get the kids to help out with the budget and the planning of our days too so they are involved with it all.  I’ll also try and post some updates as to how we’re doing.  If anything, we’ll see if it’s too crazy a budget or not.  What a public service huh?

So there we are.  I’m a little nervous posting this, as I just have a feeling we’ll spend way more, and I don’t want people to laugh at me!  But we’re determined to try and try we will.  I’m always interested in how much these dreams and adventures cost people, so it feels only fair I should share our costs too.