Mellow Mummy: Summer Holidays With Babies & Toddlers Don't Have to Break the Bank : Taking life as it comes...

Thursday 28 April 2011

Summer Holidays With Babies & Toddlers Don't Have to Break the Bank

I’m trying to win an iPad 2 in the iSave, iWrite, iPad competition from!

When I became a parent, nearly two years ago, I was determined not to let parenthood stand in the way of me and holidays – it's of the ways I remain mellow. In the UK or abroad, I like to travel, explore, chill out and take photos. With a third person in the family, it became important to us not to overspend on holiday and, as our family grows, our concerns about money (I'm sure) will become greater but I'm determined not to let cash flow ruin our enjoyment.

This year we have one overseas trip and one UK holiday planned. The costs, I'll admit, do add up so I wanted to share a few money-saving tips that I've tried and tested along the way – the arrival of an extra little person doesn't have to make a holiday prohibitively expensive.

We took our first transatlantic trip when Lara was 12 months old – for the 7.5 hour flight we invested in a separate seat for Lara but, in all honesty, she spent over 70% of each journey on one or other of our knees. In May Lara will fly with us to the Mediterranean, less than a month before her 2nd birthday and this time we've decided to save the cash. Experience has told us that the stress of sitting with a wriggly toddler on your knees is bearable given the cost savings and, as most airlines enforce that your child sits in their own seat after 2 years old, this will be the last chance for Lara to fly without having to pay a full child fare.

While I'll admit that these days, a self-catering holiday in the UK, or abroad can often cost more than a good all-in package holiday, the important thing about a self-catering holiday is that YOU are in control of your finances (and your waistline). If you're holidaying in the UK you can quite reasonably fill your car up with all of your food and supplies from home – a week away need not be any more expensive than a week at home. Abroad, you can choose to eat in your accommodation every night of your holiday, should you wish. You can spend as much or as little as you like on food. And, if you're feeling flush, you can head out for a restaurant meal as a special holiday treat for the family. Some of my most vivid, and treasured memories of my own childhood holidays revolve around meals sourced, cooked and enjoyed with my parents while self-catering in the UK.

When we travel abroad, we almost always hire a car. The first two times that we took Lara with us, we paid the extra money to hire an infant or child car seat at our destination – thus saving us the hassle of lugging a heavy seat half way across the globe. On both occasions, the car seat we hired was dirtier than we would have wished, harder to use than our own and caused long delays at the point of collection. Since then, we've saved money and stress by taking our own car seat. I've been surprised to find that most airlines will carry these for free and that airports actually make check-in and collection of oversized luggage quite easy!

Whether I'm travelling at home or abroad, I like to research my location thoroughly. Maybe it's in my genes but trust me, a little homework can really help you save your pennies. I start at the library. It can be tempting to rush into buying guide books and maps but your local library may well have both of these already... for FREE. I've found that Rough Guide travel books are the most thorough at documenting places to see or events to attend that you would often never know about otherwise – many of them costing little or nothing. If a guide book can't help you find these secret places then the local tourist office probably can. In the UK and abroad I've found the leaflets and posters inside tourist offices to advertise local events that no travel agent, tour rep or guide book could ever tell you existed. In the south of France where everything costs the earth, we've found free private beaches, art exhibitions, family fun days and nature walks this way.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember about a holiday is that, even with a toddler who needs entertaining, you don't need to pack every day full of attractions and activities. It's OK to chill out on holiday and to do nothing in particular. Take a couple of family games or a few favourite books to read and RELAX.
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