Hack your way to a cheaper holiday

Expert tips for the school break

September 23 2018

School holidays. They tend to fill me with a sense of dread. Either it’s packing the kids off to vacation care or spending your entire life’s savings on a family holiday.

Whether it’s car rentals, accommodation or airfare, service providers use the two-week break as an excuse to jack up their prices considerably, making it difficult for the average family to afford an interstate or overseas getaway.

But according to Anna-Louise MacLulich, a teacher and mother of two based in Watson's Bay in Sydney there is a way to beat the system and enjoy a ‘staycation’ instead using various providers that can help you save a few extra pennies.

“This October, my son and I are going on a road trip to North Queensland to spend the school holiday with my father on his land,” she says.

“With so many everyday expenses skyrocketing, it’s tough to justify the cost of flights and a hotel in far-flung places. But I also want to recharge and make the most of our holidays. Doing a ‘staycation’ just makes sense.

“We’re lucky to have no shortage of incredible landscapes to wake up to and renting a car or a caravan--I’ve done both in the past--makes it accessible while not having to worry about the wear and tear on my own vehicle.

“Holidaying during peak seasons is accessible as long as I get a little creative.”

Here are five money-saving hacks you can use that will keep more money in your bank account while still ensuring the family has a fantastic holiday.

Bail on Bali and have a staycation
The plummeting value of the Aussie dollar is a good reason to stay local these holidays. The other is that we have some of the most beautiful locations in the world right in our own backyard, so why spend hundreds of dollars on airfare? No matter where you are in Australia, there are stunning spots you can visit for a day trip that are as little as a half an hour’s drive away. If you’re in Sydney, consider Collins Beach (30-minute drive), Kangaroo Valley (two-hour drive) and Jervis Bay (three-hour drive). From Melbourne, there’s the Yarra Valley (one-hour drive), the Dandenong Ranges (one-hour drive) and Philip Island (two-hour drive).

No car? No problem
Skip the traditional car rental companies – which always jack up the prices during school holidays and Christmas – and use DriveMyCar. This service rents cars out from private owners or direct from the manufacturers, which is why it can be up to 50 per cent cheaper than traditional car rental companies, but you still get insurance cover in case of an accident, along with bonus roadside assistance.

Combine transport and accommodation
If you want to journey a little further afield, travelling by caravan can be lot of fun for the youngsters and a great way to cut costs. You can save even more money – about 20 per cent off the rental cost – by hiring a caravan through MyCaravan. Consider the Sydney to Brisbane trail if you’re coming from Sydney, which stretches 900km along the Pacific Coast corridor, passing through the Hunter Valley, Byron Bay and the Gold Coast. From Melbourne, you can take a leisurely trip over to Adelaide, checking out the beautiful beaches along the Great Ocean Road, the spectacular coast along Apollo Bay, and the abundant birdlife in Coorong National Park. Customers also have the option of getting the caravan towed to and from the camping site, making it a great option for busy families and first-timers.

Sleep under the stars
The warmer climate at this time of the year mean it’s never been a better time to dust off your camping equipment. FindACamp is a website that shows you the nearest bush camping and caravan parks within a certain kilometre radius of your location, with details on the location, fees, and on-site facilities (toilets, shower, BBQ, etc).

Try something new
Great holidays often revolve around having new and fun experiences, but there’s no reason why you can only have those when you’re away from home. Websites like Groupon, Spreets and Cudo offer fun activities for the kids that are deeply discounted off the regular price, including a two-hour trampoline park and ninja warrior course, a snorkelling tour along the coastline, a deep sea fishing experience, and whale watching.

Faye James is a regular contributor at New Idea, WHO and Practical Parenting and works across health, beauty, celebrity and royal content. She has over 20 years of experience spanning across the UK, Middle East and Australia.