It's totally possible.Even with YOUR kids.
Saving money, even for travel, is hard.
This is my best advice:
You need to have a budget during your non-travel time (I mean, when you are not spending money travelling).
Like, written down, and maintained, and stuck to most of the time, budget.
I really believe that anyone can have money to travel.
IF they make it a priority.
It’s not sexy, or fun, or even easy.
It’s gross really.
But it will get your ass on a plane to somewhere amazing.
The cold hard truth its that the money is not going to magically appear in your hands.
Unless you have the money to travel right now, you’ll need to make changes to what you are spending on right now.
And free up some money that you can save for travel.
Since travelling the world is your number 1 priority, everything else has to become less of one.
Luckily, it IS achievable.
Here’s how we do it:
This isn’t a future plan, or optimistic take, or your goal state.
It is an exercise in getting data, and recording it.
Just black and white.
The goal is to account for every cent you earn and spend in a month.
There are a lot of ‘budgeting’ apps out there that connect directly to your accounts so that you don’t have to do this manually (and can’t lie to yourself).
I like mvelopes because I can easily see where I’m spending, in real time, compared to where I want to be spending.
This process is actually super enlightening.
I was so surprised.
Turns out I’m terrible at estimating how much of my earnings I’m spending.
Okay, step two:
So, if you are spending more than you are earning every month, you need to get that sorted first.
But the method is the same.
You simply find categories where you can stop spending, or stop spending as much, make a plan of how much you CAN spend, and commit to doing that.
Some places you might be able to cut:
-Books (use the library y’all)
-Eating out, including coffee (this saves us about $500/month. I know. Crazy!)
-So many damn kids toys
-Keeping up with the Jones’
-Recurring payments (i.e. cancel your gym, Plenty of Fish, whatever else you’re into subscriptions)
-Essentially, just stop buying shit
Oh, and start meal planning.
Your future self will thank you.
This is easier on paper than it is in real life.
And it’s really hard on paper.
You need to get to shake up the balance, look at hard numbers, and decide how important travel is to you.
A strategy I use is:
Is this thing (whatever it is), more important to me then this travel thing?
For example, is this new couch more important to me than like a week somewhere cool?
Usually the answer is no.
It’s still sad (I’ve been wanting that couch for a long time), but I truly do want to travel more.
(Also, I would feel really stupid cancelling a trip, while sitting on a new couch)
Anyway, whatever money you don’t spend, you save in your travel jar (or whatever).
How much travel money do you need to plan to save?
It depends what your travel budget is.
Now the super hard part:
Your lifestyle likely has to change.
(But that’s okay, you are a world traveller now. You have different priorities than most other people.)
There will need to be sacrifices.
Sometimes, your day to day comfort, your weekly routines, and even your traditions, will need to be sacrificed…or changed.
And you need to be okay with that.
We take it right off the top of our earnings every month, and have learned to live with what is leftover.
I can’t lie.
At first, it was fucking hard.
But living with a little less gets normal fast.
And honestly, I don’t even really remember all the things we have sacrificed.
I do remember epic trips though…
Our family loved travelling in Greece.
I have to warn you now though, we didn’t do ALL the things.
Greece is just packed with super famous historical sites, beaches, churches, food…you name it.
As usual, we prioritized having a great family adventure over sightseeing.
And getting a little deeper into the places we stayed.
And just soaking up as much ‘Greece’, but not necessarily sights, as we could.
That being said, you can plan your travel in Greece with your family however you like!
The strategy for planning family travel in Greece is not that much different from planning a trip in general.
But there are a few specifics things to know about planning family travel in Greece.
Here are some of our experiences, and tips:
Outside of Athens, the big historical sites are far apart.
Think Mount Olympus, Sparta, Delphi, etc.
There will be some significant travel to see those things.
There are also hundreds of islands in Greece.
That you need to travel to get to.
Figure out what type of trip you want, and aim for that.
I know I’m always preaching it, but prioritize.
Each island does something well.
Luckily, there is tons of information out there about each of them.
Lonely Planet never lets me down.
(Although I really prefer the paper guides better than the digital ones).
And I like Frommer’s Favorite/Best Experiences and Itinerary sections too.
Really try to remember here that less is usually more.
It’s so hard not to get excited about EVERYTHING.
But moving home bases, or hotels is expensive in terms of time, and your kids’ attention.
And trying to see all the things will just set you up for disappointment when you can’t get somewhere because your kids refuse to go to another church/museum/set of stairs, etc.
Here were our bases:
Again, our goal was mainly to enjoy our family, eat beautiful, fresh Greek food, and get a good feeling for Greece outside the main attractions.
These things may bore you and your most important destinations might be many, or fewer, or just different.
Figure out what is most important for you.
But honestly, when you are mapping out a rough plan of what you want to do in each of your bases, don’t forget to schedule in down time.
It will make your trip in Greece so, so, so much more enjoyable.
Greece is hot.
And the sights involve a lot of history and corresponding ruins, museums, churches etc. , that will not likely be interesting for your kids after the first time (if that).
Make sure there is time to recoup.
There are NOT a lot of super stimulating attractions for kids (i.e. theme parks etc.)
However, there is a whole bunch of stunning nature and outdoor stuff they’ll likely be into.
Think walking, hiking, biking, beaching, watersports…
We spent 6 days in Athens which is insane for most people.
(Some advice says you can see everything in 2).
We were definitely not rushed.
It was great. And relaxing. And felt a little like normal life (but cooler).
We also spent like 10 days on Naxos.
Not ‘seeing’ all that much to be honest.
But it was our favourite part of the trip.
I mean, rush through if you must, but Greece is definitely a place to savour.
So, now that you know what you want to do, it’s time to figure out what your ultimate itinerary will roughy cost.
I really hope that you get to ‘see’ everything you want to, while staying within your time or money budget.
Likely though, you will have to strike some bases (or at least days in each base) from your itinerary once you get to this step.
It will be okay.
As far as accommodations, there are a lot of great Airbnbs in Greece.
And tons of hotels if that is your thing.
At really, all price ranges.
Food is not inexpensive in Greece.
It is comparable to food here in Canada.
We ate all breakfasts at our Airbnbs and bought groceries for snacks, lunches and dinners as much as we could.
There were lots of grocery stores and it was easy to shop and find what we needed, inexpensively.
Entrance to sights are pretty standard (Canadian standard), so again, not inexpensive.
The beach can be free though:)
This killed us in Greece.
We moved bases only 4 times (using planes, trains, ferries, taxis, foot) and it was killer for my kids (and us really).
Essentially it took all day, each time.
So 4 days not enjoying our vacay.
Try to remember that in Greece, all islands are different, but they are also very much the same.
It’s also expensive to physically move bases in Greece.
I’m convinced that visiting more ‘different’ islands, does not pay off (unless you are after something specific).
Not to say we wouldn’t do the same again, but consider this carefully and be realistic when planning for it.
Greece is just so packed with history and man made wonders, and also natural beauty and culture.
There is no way you can do everything.
And that’s okay.
Figure out what is important to you, what makes a good or memorable trip for you (and your family).
Make sure it fits within your timelines and costs and then don’t spend another second second guessing yourself.
Greece will be amazing whatever you choose; it is just that kind of place.
What is the most important thing for your family to do/see while travelling in Greece?
What was your biggest payoff while travelling with your family in Greece?
This is the million dollar question isn’t it?
I mean, cheap travel in general is a skill.
But then you throw in a family, and picky kids, and more beds and seats and meals everywhere.
It’s a lot.
But it doesn’t have to be too much.
Here are some strategies to help make travel with your kids cheap(er) and still awesome:
I’m not sure I’m very good at this.
Every trip, it takes me a couple iterations of planning to get it right.
I do a lot of research into travel destinations, but I still get caught up in having ‘the best’.
The best location, the best swimming pool, the best tour, every tour, the cutest Airbnb, the list goes on and on…
You can have anything, but you can’t have everything.
That’s really it.
So you need to figure out what is most important to you, and be okay with the rest being just…okay.
You’ll still have a wicked time.
In fact, you’ll likely feel lighter, and your experience better because you maximized for what was important.
(and didn’t waste your hard earned (and saved) money spending on what wasn’t).
Ugh. I know.
Being spontaneous is so sexy and carefree and wanderlusty.
I get it.
It also has the potential to be expensive.
And, struggling to find a place to sleep and ending up sleeping on the beach, is much worse when you are with your cranky, hot, tired, kids, than it was when you were 20.
But, by plan, I don’t mean overplan.
I more mean…approximate.
I wrote an entire post about the simple way to do this, here.
Do a little research and figure out approximately where you want to go, and for how long.
I typically have a rough idea of all we want to accomplish from one ‘base’, then I add some in for chillin’, and then book travel and accommodation in advance.
By booking in advance there are more options available at more price ranges.
Which will help you stay within your travel budget.
You do have a travel budget right?!
If you can find some good deals, for god’s sake, book them!
If you think things are going to go up in price, or not be available for long, book them.
Figure out where is expensive when, and don’t do that.
Figure out where is just plain expensive, and shorten your trip, or forgo some luxuries to fit your budget.
Or hostels, or sometimes guest houses.
Anything you can do to save money on accommodations will add up big time.
I may be biased because I’ve only ever had really good experiences with Airbnb.
But here are some things we love about staying in homes:
a. saving money
b. having our own kitchen so that we can cook our own food (saving more money)
c. have the space to live like a real family does, and
d. be local (as opposed to in the tourist quarters), or anywhere in the city/town that we like
Airbnb is pretty established now.
There are usually quite a few reviews so that you can get a good idea of what you are getting into.
Here’s a secret:
Eat like you would at home.
If I ate like I was on ‘vacation’ when I travelled:
We try to buy groceries for almost all meals.
At the very least, as soon as we hit a place, we make it a priority to buy breakfast supplies for the next day.
For god’s sake, do not pay for a sit down breakfast.
That being said, eating out is a big part of culture and a major reason for travel.
Eat meals in local restaurants, and markets, and street vendors.
It would be tragic to miss the culinary side of your destination.
Just don’t spend money when it’s not worth it.
So, travel doesn’t have to be about spending a bunch of money on sites, and restaurants, and excursions.
It’s okay to let yourself ignore the pressure to see every single attraction in a city.
We try to limit ourselves to 2-3 historical sites/museums etc. per trip, and definitely not more than one a day (even in Greece!)
The point is, it can be an experience to just be.
Soak in the culture, people watch, linger over lunch, find a good coffee shop or fruit stand and go there every morning.
It will make your experience of a city deeper, and fuller.
And with young kids, you just can’t keep up a frantic pace anyway.
They aren’t built for it.
People always say, “I travelled halfway around the world, I can’t waste it sitting around a pool, or having a super long coffee, or just lounging in a park, or playing Lego on a balcony with my kids, or reading a book in a hammock“.
But you totally can.
You don’t need to see all the things (honestly).
Just see the ones that are important to you, and focus on the experience.
Give in, save some cash, keep your sanity, and enjoy your downtime.
How do you make things cheaper when travelling with kids?