Travel child
Pre-download games and movies so that the lack of Wi-Fi won't be an issue on a ride. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Travelling with kids is both an art and a science; it needs the perfect– or as close as you can get to perfect – blend of excitement, flexibility and strategy. There may be moments with tantrums and frustrations and budget blow-ups, but there will also be fond memories for a lifetime. There are some tips that’ll make your holiday easier – and more budget friendly – though; it all begins with planning:

When booking:

1. Choose a travel destination where your money will stretch further

Every dirham counts, especially if you are going to be travelling with kids. Save some on the destination by picking a spot where your bills translate into more petty cash.

2. Book off-season to get good rates

If you and yours are set on a particular location, consider going off-season – this will not only mean a lack of crowds and greater attention from those serving you, but also easier-on-the-wallet payments.

3. Use a comparison site to book your tickets

Once you’ve decided on where you want to go, it’s time to do some research. Your best bet for competitive fares is a flight aggregator – some, like SkyScanner, even offer the option of setting alerts for when ticket prices wane so you can get the best deal. For tips on how making flights with kids easier, click here.

4. Book hotels ahead or at the last-minute for the best deals

Try to book months ahead for a good deal. Or, go in the opposite direction and look for last-minute ones (this is a bit of a hit-or-miss). In both cases, hotels will want to fill up their rooms as soon as possible and these scenarios will work in your favour. Also bear in mind that when you book longer stays, per night costs may be cheaper and the site you are using – Booking.com, Hotels.com, etc. – may also give you rewards for being a loyal user.

5. Book an apartment or a home

Have a picky eater? Travelling with many kids? Wish you could carry the convenience of your home and kitchen with you? Check out the Airbnb options in the city. There are luxury pads and budget-friendly ones, houses with pools and great views listed. If you are a sociable bunch, pick a super host who will be happy to offer you tips to get around in the city.

6. Tour versus do-it-yourself trips

Tours are best booked in advance when travelling with family, so when you get there your day’s already mapped out. However, for some spots – such as museums or local markets - it may be a better bet to use Google as your guide.

7. Public transport/Rental Car

In the same vein, do some research about the arterial network of the city – you may find that public transport is easier – and cheaper – to use intercity. Check for passes – daily or weekly - should you opt for public transit. In case you are going intra city, renting a car so you can take the long and winding road, passing through the countryside and stopping for a picnic may actually turn out less stressful than, say, taking the bus. Weigh the pros and cons before taking a call.

Travel budget
Don't allow your budget to be too flexible while you travel.

Cash considerations

1. Currency conversion

To get the most dough for your dirham, do not stop at the airport teller – use an ATM when you are in the city to get the best rates.

2. Check out your cash back options

Travel cards and credit cards that offer cash back can really help stretch your budget. Read the terms and conditions and set a limit to your spend so you don’t go overboard.

3. Give kids a budget for the day

New place, new ways to spend. Teach your kids about not only the value of money but also how to budget by giving them a set amount to spend on souvenirs or treats.

4. Go for experiences not material reminders

While having a small memento of your trip may be a good idea, it’s best to travel light and carry memories in your heart and in photographs. Plus, you can use the money you save on a cool adventure of a lifetime.

5. Download an app that tracks your spends

It is so easy to go off script when travelling – one buy leads to another and another, and soon the budget seems like a distant dream; download a travel app such as TravelSpend or Spent to help you track your spends and keep cash outgoings in check.

6. Buy a local Sim

Will you be making loads of calls? Do you need data along the way? Buy a local mobile sim at the airport, if available, to make things a bit more wallet friendly. They usually come loaded with minutes, national and international, and data.

7. Negotiate

Always ask for a discount – especially if you are buying more than one thing at a time. And when you are travelling with kiddos, you will be. Also be aware of the haggling culture of the land, in some places such as Egypt, you are expected to, while in countries such as Japan, it may cause offense – observe the cultural trends.

Travel with family
Games such as 'count the cars passing by' are a great way to keep the kids occupied on a road trip.

While in transit

1. Books/games

Kids can be notoriously fussy travellers, easily distracted and lashing out. Whether you are headed on a flight or just for a long drive, ensure you’ve got the entertainment options sorted – preload games and download movies at home so that there’s no data lagging leading to blank screens and bored children. Also remember to carry a charger and a full battery so you don’t run out of power.

2. Ear popping

Change in air pressure can be distressing for a young ear; use rolled up balls of cotton to keep pain at bay. Or keep chewy treats – such as fruit snacks, hard candy, apple sauce or even Sippy cups with you; the sucking motion will give them relief.

3. Surprise them

Keep small, cheap toys from the discount store on hand and only give it to them on the journey – this is sure to keep them amused and engaged as you go from point A to point B.

4. Road trip? Play a game

If you are on the road – consider playing road games such as ‘how many cars did you see?’ or ‘I spy with my little eye’ for an edutaining experience for the whole family.

5. Carry snacks in Ziploc bags

This is the easiest way to save cash and to keep your sanity when confronted by sudden bouts of hunger. You won’t be forced to buy things on the fly that are super expensive plus, you can keep healthy favourites that the kids – and you – will enjoy.

When you reach your destination

1. Head to a tourist office

You’ll get a free map of the city and officers who can tell you about the free – or cheap – spots to visit and things to try.

2. Carry snacks and water bottles while moving around

We can’t stress this enough – especially if your child has allergies. This way you’ll know exactly what you are giving him/her. If you buy a large bottle of water at a supermarket and pour it into your small bottles and carry it around during day trips, you’ll end up saving a lot of cash; restaurants are fond of overcharging.

3. Have a only one can of ‘soda/chips/cookie’ a day

This rule for the kids is better for their teeth and better for their budget. Allow them one treat of their choosing and no more.

4. Eat like a local

Local dishes in local spots are cheaper – and often more delicious – than nosh at a tourist-proposed spot. Check out Trip Advisor or a similar reviewing site to find out the best place to grab a bite.


Do you have a parenting hack for travelling with kids? Let us know at parenting@gulfnews.com