“When you look at your life, the greatest happinesses are family happinesses” – Joyce Brothers.
So you’re thinking of going on a family holiday – what a great way of bonding, and enjoying enriching experiences together. As I mulled over in my mind what titbits of advice I could impart to you for my first Kiwi Families blog, I thought how timely! My husband and I are in the throes of planning an overseas family holiday for next year and I thought maybe the best way to cover this theme would be to talk about what types of things we have been working through in planning for our own family getaway.
Like any parenting task, taking a family holiday requires a degree of organisation in order to run as smoothly as possible. As a mum of three, holidaying with children always means a multitude of things to think about and potentially more things to forget. So my thoughts as to the best approach are to plan, plan, and plan.
For us, the first thing we needed to decide was where were we going to go, how long for, and when would we like to go? It was important for us to pick a date as soon as possible, so that we could figure out how long and how much we could save.
Once we established answers to the above, we developed a spreadsheet which worked really well to help articulate our plan. We included things like what to pack, activities we wished to do with the kids, and included as much information as we could think of on all relevant costs for our holiday. Examples of other items include things like flights, accommodation, car hire, gear hire, food, activities, and theme parks (this is not an exhaustive list). We tried to be as thorough as possible to minimise the risk of having any unwelcome “surprise” expenses.
From our own experiences, I have listed below what I consider some key things that you can mull over in the overall planning of your own holiday that may save you some money:
- Consider travelling off-peak – prices are always cheaper (we are going after summer is over so prices should be a lot cheaper, than if we travelled over the summer holiday period).
- Consider going away during term time – of course, if you have children at high school, you may need to obtain the school’s permission.
- Consider doing a house swap – there are a number of websites on the internet and the one in particular that I checked out, requires a registration fee of $79 for the year to register your home with a 95% success rate for exchanging your home in the first year or the second year is free. This may be a good option if you have a few kids – I have always found finding hotel/motel accommodation for five of us a bit of a challenge and it gets rather expensive if you have to rent two rooms.
- Use loyalty points to help pay towards some of your costs such as accommodation, car hire or flights. We have hot points and fly buys that we have been transferring across to air points to help pay towards flights.
- If going overseas, consider the security of your cash and transaction costs. Before you leave, it’s a good idea to work out approximately how much you will need each day – this will help you with how much you need to save, as well as help you keep to your budget when you go away. Think about organising your travel money. It’s a good idea to have different ways of paying for things – for example foreign cash is very useful from the moment you arrive at your holiday destination. A credit card and debit card are also great for bigger purchases. There are different types of credit cards/debit cards/prepaid cards on offer with different banks. For example, using a Westpac credit card at an overseas ATM to take out money will avoid a cash advance charge so long as the ATM used is within the Global Alliance Group. This is useful to know, otherwise there can be transaction fees for every transaction you make. Foreign purchases using the credit card may also be charged a foreign currency transaction charge when converted to NZ$. The same applies for the Westpac prepaid travel card and debit visa cards. I suggest you check what is on offer with your own bank who should be able to offer you some useful tips on saving money when shopping overseas.
Before going overseas, be sure you know what the exchange rate is in the country you are visiting. By knowing this you will have a better idea of how much you’re spending in NZ$. Exchange rates are constantly changing so keep this in mind when making bigger purchases.
- If you are going to rent a car – bear in mind that overseas car rentals may require you to pay a very high excess. You need to factor that into your budget as a precautionary cost. Also note that personal accident insurance is not usually included in the rental rate. When you take out travel insurance, make sure automobile liability and property damage is included as part of that insurance.
- If your kids are old enough, suggest they get a job to save their own spending money. This gets them involved in the process and gives them an appreciation for just how much things can cost.
Once you have an idea on what your family holiday is going to cost you, you need to break that overall figure down into how much you need to set aside say, every week, fortnight or month (whichever is appropriate for you) to achieve your target amount right up to the point when you are ready to go on holiday. Bear in mind that you don’t want to overcommit yourself – that is, saving for a holiday would suggest you have discretionary money to save. So, always ensure your normal living costs are accounted for first and whatever is left over is what you can use towards saving for your holiday.
A holiday is not complete without putting in place travel insurance to minimise any travelling risks (if travelling overseas). You will need this for things like lost baggage, disruption of travel, health cover (for example) whilst overseas.
Of course, if your travel is within New Zealand you would not normally take out travel insurance. We already have available to us in New Zealand access to good Emergency Health Care and ACC. However, one very important point I would like to make is this: if you lost your income tomorrow due to an illness would you still be able to afford to save for a family holiday? As odd as it may seem, part of your holiday planning process should include ensuring your family have the right personal insurances in place. If anything were to happen to the main bread winner or one of you suffered a stroke or was diagnosed with cancer, and you have no cover, what are your chances of being able to afford to go away? I know that sounds rather dramatic but unfortunately, the reality of it is true. When you plan your holiday, add to your spread sheet (if it’s appropriate), the need to review your personal insurance.
Lastly, you will find that if you invest your time in planning your family holiday like I have suggested above, everything will fall in to place and all you have to do is go away and have fun!
Ideas on Holiday packing checklists: http://www.mumsnet.com/travel/packing-checklists
Make a budget for your holiday, the Sorted website have an event planner – another useful tool to help you list all the things you’ll need to pay for and work out how much you’ll need to save – https://www.sorted.org.nz/calculators/event-money-planner
Check out foreign currency rates: www.xe.com
House Swap websites: http://www.lovehomeswap.com/properties/by-country
Consumer Magazine ran a review on a number of companies who sell travel insurance and have published their results in their March 2012 magazine.