family holiday tips
Everyday Money

How to Take Cheap Family Holidays

May 14, 2024 - Daniel Dreier

Is taking family holidays with your kids hard on your wallet? Following these simple tips will help you enjoy the same family vacations for much less money.

Many families struggle to afford regular vacations. But by following these simple tips, you can cut the cost of family holidays by hundreds or even thousands of francs.

1. Plan ahead

The best way to save money on family vacations is to plan your holidays far in advance. Knowing exactly when you will take your holidays and for how long before the year starts gives you time to find the best deals and book early. Booking holiday packages at least six months in advance can easily reduce the weekly price of holiday packages by 100-300 francs per person. The savings can be much higher than that if you travel to other continents or stay at expensive resorts.

2. Use spring and autumn holidays

Summer may be the longest school holiday, but it is also one of the most expensive times of year for travel. Using the spring and autumn school holidays for travel can cut the costs of holiday packages for a family of four by 100-300 francs per person and week (more for expensive packages). Many popular beach destinations are still warm at those times of year, but you avoid the scorching summer sun. 

3. Take less vacations, but better ones

In most cases there is a direct correlation between the length of holidays and their cost, so a simple way to save is to cut the length of your getaways. Consider focusing more on the quality of holidays instead. For example, paying 3000 francs to take a one-week vacation in a full-service family resort may seem expensive. But compared to spending 5000 francs on four weeks of holidaying on a shoestring budget, you are actually saving 2000 francs.

4. Look for resorts with in-house activities

If you tend to fill your family holidays with visits to attractions and other experiences, then it can be worth looking for hotels and resorts with their own facilities. For example, staying at a resort with its own pools and slides cuts out the added cost of visiting water parks.

5. Find all-inclusive deals

Some resorts include breakfast, lunch, and dinner in their standard prices, while others let you add meals for a surcharge. The difference in price between regular packages and all-inclusive packages (typically 10-20 francs more per person and day) is generally much lower than what you would spend on eating out three times a day.

6. Book flights, hotels, and rental cars separately

Many travel platforms let you find and compare offers for flights, hotels, and rental cars in a single search. This may be convenient, but for a family of four, it typically adds a markup of around 100 francs to the cost, compared to making the same bookings individually with the same travel website or agency. Handling bookings individually also lets you find the cheapest offers across multiple booking platforms, which can save you money as well.

7. Slash your car rental costs

Most rental car companies charge a markup for each children’s car seat rented with a car. The price is typically at least 10 francs per day and seat, and is normally capped at 60 or 70 francs. If you need two children’s car seats, you can expect to pay up to 140 francs extra for a week’s car rental. You can easily cut out this cost by bringing your own car seats and/or boosters.

It is also worth looking at sharing economy platforms which let you rent cars directly from private people. Examples include Turo in France, Auting in Italy, Amovens in Spain, and Gomore in Austria and Scandinavia. The prices are often much lower than those charged by car rental companies, especially for large family cars and vans with more than five seats. You can find more tips for saving on rental cars here.

8. Consider home swaps

If you are not comfortable with the idea of staying in someone else’s home or having another family use your house, skip this point altogether. But if you like sharing economy platforms, then home swaps are a low-cost alternative to holiday home rentals. In this arrangement, you make your family’s home available to families vacationing in Switzerland while you are on holiday. In exchange, you can borrow homes from families at your holiday destinations. In addition to major home exchange platforms like Home Exchange and Homelink, which have high annual membership fees, there are also smaller, cheaper platforms like Family Home Swaps.

9. Trim the travel insurance premiums

When you buy the single-trip travel insurance offered by travel booking platforms and airlines, you generally pay per person. For a family, this can add up to several hundred francs to the cost of your holiday.

Firstly, consider whether you need travel insurance. If, for example, you already get trip cancellation insurance from your credit card and your supplementary health insurance covers search and rescue and medical emergencies, then you might not need extra travel insurance.

If you do need travel insurance, getting annual travel insurance is often cheaper. One reason for this is that you pay just one premium for your whole family, instead of per person. The other reason is that you pay the same amount no matter how many trips you take in the year. You can compare annual travel insurance offers for families here.

10. Try out staycations

Most families cannot afford to spend all of their holidays at full-service resorts, and even doing this once a year is not a realistic budget proposal for some Swiss households. But with sufficient planning, spending holidays in Switzerland and nearby border regions can also be good fun. Take a look at these guides to camping and free activities for kids in Switzerland for ideas on how to have fun at minimal expense.

11. Avoid payment and mobile roaming ripoffs

Things like mobile roaming charges and credit card foreign transaction fees are easy to overlook because you only get the bills later. The more mobile devices and cashless payment tools your family has, the higher the costs can potentially be. You can easily cut these side costs by 100 francs or more by using local SIM cards or the cheapest mobile roaming solutions, and the most favorable neobank payment cards or credit cards.

12. Make use of holiday grants

If you have a low income that does not allow for any kind of family vacations, the family holiday grants offered by some Swiss associations may be just the solution. 

For example, every year Reka (which also issues Reka money) offers 1000 one-week package deals (including public transportation) for its Swiss holiday resorts to low-income families. You pay a token price of 200 francs. You can apply if you are Swiss or a permanent resident, and your annual household income is lower than 65,000 francs (couples) or 52,000 francs (single parents). Higher thresholds apply if you have more than one child. 

If your income sits at the poverty line, you can apply at Pro Juventute to be considered for a one-week holiday in St. Moritz. There are similar offers from many other Swiss charities, and there is no reason not to take advantage of them so that you and your kids can enjoy real family vacations.

More on this topic:
Useful tips for getting cheaper flights
How to save on hotels in Switzerland
How to travel the world for free
Free activities for families and kids in Switzerland
Financial tips for families in Switzerland
Simple tips for cheaper skiing in Switzerland
Health insurance family discounts explained

Editor Daniel Dreier
Daniel Dreier is editor and personal finance expert at moneyland.ch.
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