In Australia where no phrase goes unabbreviated, it’s known as VFM. Value for money.  And when it comes to family vacations on a budget, we’re all looking for it.

It’s easy for some people to think a holiday with a baby or young kids might be a waste of money. Of course it won’t. But the majority of us do our family vacations on a budget. Given that’s the case, it’s good to realise if you have a baby or even a toddler along you’ll have less flexibility and free time than when the child is older (and it goes without saying, than when travelling sans kids).

6 tips for family vacations on a budget: how to ensure you get the best value for money when holidaying with your baby.

1. Be selective about what you book in advance and when.

Here’s what we would/wouldn’t book in advance:

  • Accommodation: YES. (Because you want to get the right accommodation for your needs – see our post on this here.)
  • Planes: YES, particularly if a long haul flight. (The earlier the better, as on many airlines this increases your chance of getting assigned a bassinette.)
  • Transfers: YES. (Just have them locked in pre arrival, not months in advance.  (We talk a lot about transport in our “T” tips, as well as our post on cabs.)
  • Activities: NO. Only book these if they are one offs, bucket list items, or going to sell out fast.  Otherwise, roll with the punches in terms of activities, because the only thing more frustrating than heading back to the hotel with a whinging baby is abandoning a pre-purchased activity due to said whinging baby.

2. Prioritise convenience over cash.

We know, easy to say, hard to do. Yes, do your family vacations on a budget by all means, but let’s face it, you’ve paid a lot of money to be here, is it really going to break the bank if you spend an extra $20 on lunch because it’s the perfect location and set up for your family? Or that your massage costs $30 more in your room (which means you’re actually able to have one), versus at the local markets (where you can’t, because your 10 month old is tugging at your leg the whole time).

3. Consider passes for things like jump on/jump off buses within a city.

These may be more expensive, but they can be easier than public transport in some cases (Cape Town in South Africa is one good example). Although be selective: in places like London where public transport is extensive (not pram friendly, but extensive) and the traffic is horrific you’d be crazy to spend half the day sitting on a jump on/jump off bus.

4. What about museum passes?

If you have a baby under six months of age (when you’re more likely to still be doing museums and ‘adult’ activities than in the second six months of their life), consider museum passes. Museums are great on a cold day, a rainy day or even a super hot day, as there is usually plenty of space for your baby to crawl around or a toddler to play. Plus there’s typically a cafe where you can grab a coffee, sometimes with a lovely view.

5. Long lines are the enemy: avoid them at all costs.

Buy online tickets if these allow you to skip lines, particularly if these tickets are non time-specific (again, Table Mountain in Cape Town is a good example). This is not so smart if you then worry you’ll have to change your timing to suit the baby’s schedule or your toddler’s day sleeps.  But if you’ve got your heart set on a world famous attraction and you can buy tickets in advance, typically, do, just to avoid the line.

6. Always ask if there’s a priority line for those with babies or young kids.

You never know: it’s really worth asking.  For example, France is big on this – at least the Parisian taxi ranks are. Here, men with high visibility vests shepherd parents with bubs to the front of the queue. This is so helpful, because you’ll have far less time to be exploring, so you want to make the time when you are out and about as productive as possible. (In the sense of holidays needing to be productive, of course!)

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Aussie journalist, travel writer and founder of Sue White has always been a traveller. When her son was born, Sue knew her travel itch would still need regular scratching. But how do you travel with a baby under one and still have a good time? Is it even possible? Where do busy new parents discover practical tips to support those first few trips? To find out, Sue and her baby son travelled both Australia and Europe doing house sits and house swaps; cat sitting and car journeys; took on 24 hours flights and short domestic jaunts; travelled with friends, solo and family members; and cycled, drove, flew and train-ed around seven countries, all before his first birthday. Learn more about Sue.