The cheapest way to book a family holiday

The family summer holiday – the two weeks of sunny bliss so many of us live for. Unfortunately, it often feels like we have to spend the other 50 weeks of the year working to pay for them as well.

When you have a young family in tow, holidays are usually expensive affairs. It is a frustrating but unavoidable fact that tour operators, travel agents and airlines all hike up prices come the school holidays, especially during the summer.

And with schools clamping down on parents taking children away during term time, it can feel like you are being penalised for having children.

However, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Even at a time when most families are having to tighten their belts financially, there is no need to forego that precious holiday. With a little extra effort and a lot of cunning, it is still perfectly possible to book a fantastic vacation on a shoestring – and the children will never know the difference.

Whether you prefer to book your holidays as a package through an agent, or like to control costs by going DIY with the organising, here are some top tips for saving money on this year’s family vacation.

Package holidays

Ok, so a package holiday is nice and convenient – but what exactly are you paying for, and is it exactly what you and your family want?

The big benefits of DIY holidays are flexibility and transparency. Want to be away for something other than the standard 7, 10 or 14 nights package holidays are based on? Not a problem. Want to be absolutely sure you are getting the best possible prices for flights, accommodation and transport? Then stay in control by researching and booking each separately.

Although it takes a little more work, DIY holidays can often only be bested by the most ludicrous package deals that only the most fortunate (or savvy) stumble across.

How to book

When you start to look into package holidays carefully, you start to notice a lot of repetition. Tour operators buy up packages well in advance, and then offer them to as many agents and brokers as possible.

Use this to your advantage. Use a comparison site to find the holiday you want and set a benchmark price. Then get on the phone to brokers, agents and operators directly and haggle the prices down, using the variation in prices to play one off against the other. It takes a little effort but it works.

That said, it’s always worth bearing in mind that cashback is available at a host of top tour operators. Thomas Cook, Thomson, First Choice and Olympic Holidays all have great deals for those who book online via Quidco.

When to book

Getting value from package holidays is all about extremes. For the super organised, booking well in advance – i.e. the previous year – offers great early bird deals. At the other end of the scale, if you don’t mind leaving it to the last minute (and are flexible about where you go), you can get some stunning knockdown holidays as operators try desperately to flog their last remaining packages. The last two weeks of the summer holidays are always the cheapest. Check out flash sale specialists like Travel Zoo.

Where to go

Package holidays are usually concentrated around the most popular resorts, with Spain and the Greek islands topping the European lists. However, great deals can often be found at up and coming destinations like Bulgaria or the Balkans. And, as said above, if you really want to keep it cheap, pick a ‘late deal lottery’ and don’t overthink where you end up!

Food and accommodation

All inclusives used to be the reserve of fancy hotels in far flung corners of the world. Nowadays, they are hugely popular in the main holiday destinations around Europe and are priced to cater for all budgets. An average family can save up to a third on food and drink bills by going all inclusive, compared to eating every meal in cafes and restaurants. Alternatively, self-catering apartments give you the option to save by preparing your own food. They also offer huge savings compared to hotels when booked for larger groups, so see if your friends or neighbours fancy tagging along, too.

Do it yourself

Ok, so a package holiday is nice and convenient – but what exactly are you paying for, and is it exactly what you and your family want?

The big benefits of DIY holidays are flexibility and transparency. Want to be away for something other than the standard 7, 10 or 14 nights package holidays are based on? Not a problem. Want to be absolutely sure you are getting the best possible prices for flights, accommodation and transport? Then stay in control by researching and booking each separately.

Although it takes a little more work, DIY holidays can often only be bested by the most ludicrous package deals that only the most fortunate (or savvy) stumble across.

How to book

With DIY holidays, the internet is your window to the world. Skyscanner is an essential tool for researching your flights online, while the likes of Expedia, Booking.com, Hotels.com, Lastminute.com and LateRooms.com provide enormous choices in accommodation for destinations all over the world (and they offer cashback!) Bear in mind that the best flight deals often involve travel at the most antisocial times, and you have to arrange your own transport to your hotel.

When to book

Airline prices do vary day to day, with research showing that Tuesday is the cheapest day to book a flight on. The trick is to set a budget, and monitor both flights and accommodation carefully until they fall into your price range. It’s often a case of waiting until special offers coincide.

Where to go

Whereas package holidays tend to be focused on traditional resort destinations, with a DIY vacation you can head anywhere you like. So if you fancy a city break or a trek through the mountains instead of the typical beach retreat, going DIY will give you much better options and value. Looking for inspiration, check out these family holiday destinations you probably won’t have visited.

Food and accommodation

Booking your own hotel gives you full flexibility regarding board, from self catering right through to all inclusive. But the big benefit of DIY holidays is the flexibility in the type of accommodation you can find. If hotels, apartments and villas are out of your price range, how about a low cost camping holiday? Or check out Hostelworld – most hostels cater for families as much as for backpacking students, and often provide the friendliest, most down to earth and unique accommodation in any given town.

Get to work!

If you want a bargain family holiday, you’re going to have to put some work in – but as they say, you don’t get anything in this life for nothing. Sit down with your family, decide what you want and get researching.

If it is the traditional two weeks in the sun at a resort you are looking for, check out a comparison website for package holiday deals, get a benchmark priced, then start phoning the agents and brokers to haggle for a better deal. If you are looking for something a bit more off the beaten path, or really want to control those prices, get browsing those booking sites and think creatively about piecing together your own trip.

Bon voyage!

More on Quidco Discover

Not yet a Quidco member?

Join for free and start earning cashback at over 4,500 amazing brands! 

Paul Newham

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *