Our boys are growing up so fast, so each adventure we have with them is precious. Usually, one adventure fuels creative ideas for the next awesome adventure. It gets very addicting.
When you have kids that are more than 2 years old already, you have to be creative in managing your budget for the trip because:
- You already have to pay full fare for flights;
- You usually need to have a bigger room or have options for extra bed/s; and
- They already have growing appetites.
Big Family Travel (with kids of 3 or more) continues to be a challenge in terms of costs and the logistics of organizing it. There are no travel packages, deals or incentives catering to the needs and wants of this travel segment.
I'm still learning how to do it efficiently, and I'm sure there are OAP readers out there who would have smart tips on how to go on a big family travel creatively.
I'll start first. Here are my Tips & Tricks for a Big Family Travel Adventure:
First, you have to know the holidays, school schedule, and peak seasons of the areas you are traveling to. I would have the 2013 Awesome Calendar of the Philippines and our personal calendar ready before making our airfare bookings.
The P1 airfare is ideal for Big Family Travel but getting them is an art form in itself. You still have to pay taxes, and you can usually only get it one way from Manila going to your destination but not on your return flight.
1 year advance? I tried booking 1 year in advance, and it didn't work for us because we didn't know the school schedule and sometimes work interfered with our original plans. We ended up wasting the advanced booking and just made the carrier happy and profitable.
TIP: The best way is to get it a couple of hours after it is offered (typically after 12 midnight), and get the deals with 6 months' horizon. I am subscribed to different newsletters, and if I find myself at the computer at 12 midnight, I normally check out the deals in all the major carriers.
It also helps to know the anniversaries of the carriers, or check their sites out during special occasions like Valentine's, Chinese New Year, Mother's Day and Father's Day, Summer and Christmas season.
Sometimes, if the deal is really good, I'm forced to break the trip planning by booking a one-way flight to the destination, and looking out for a cost-effective return trip later on.
Our favorite carrier locally is Cebu Pacific because you can do web check-in, it flies in NAIA3, and it offers fun games onboard. We don't mind waiting for the flight because we just play with the kids. For international trips, we are trying out AirAsia because their flight times are favorable for families traveling with children.
Warning: Avoid travel deals from Coupon or Daily Deal Sites.
How do you do it? Let me know your best tips to get the best-value airfare in the Comments section.
2) The Best Place to Stay with a Big Family
Room good for 5. I dislike it when hotels or resorts offer two rooms for our big family of 5. I understand that maybe most of their rooms are not suited for a large group, but what they don't understand is that the reason we are traveling is to be together.
Our vote for the Best Room for Big Family Travel goes to Le Monet's rooms in Baguio. I love how they have two queen beds in each of the rooms, sacrificing the aisles and walking space for bed space for the family. Our sleeping configuration is flexible -- either Mama, Syoti and Dhiya on one bed, with Papa and Ahiya on the other; or the boys on one bed while Mama and Papa get the other (preferred by dads).
In our travels, our vote for the Best Bathtub would be in Subic Yacht Club's Rooms. :) It's big, functional and feels luxurious.
On Room Rates. To get the best deal on rooms, we usually travel off-peak, when you can typically get 50% off the room rates. We also don't mind traveling in the rainy season (except during typhoons), which is sometimes better because it's cool and less crowded.
If we travel during the peak season, like when going to Kalibo's Ati-Atihan where the rates are typically 2-3x the normal rate, it is either we book one year in advance or just charge the premium to a learning experience for the kids.
One of the perks of being a travel blogger is getting invites to try out a particular resort or hotel. We accept them if they are deemed awesome by online and peer reviews, and if we have not been there or if there is something new. We try to sync the hotel or resort invite with our family travel schedule.
Your turn: Can you share your tips on how you choose the best hotel or resort for your family?
3) Where to Eat
We love to eat in places that are:
- Unique restaurants in the area that foodies usually rave about;
- Secret, not-too-commercialized places where the locals hang out; and
- Home-based or Bed & Breakfast restos.
We love to get our information from first-hand sources, and the best ones to ask are:
- Local Foodies or Chefs. I usually ask where they normally eat around town, or if they have just returned from out-of-town trips, I ask what food they crave and where do they go to find it. (For our Baguio series, we compiled the recommendations from local foodies and chefs on their favorite food places in Baguio.)
- Multinational Sales Agents. The sales agents who frequent the place for sales calls are often the best people to ask for recommendations on where to eat unique yummy treats. It's part of their job to know where to take their clients to the best places in town. (Like Taddy of Unilab above who gave us the best foodie tips on where to eat in Kalibo.)
- Food and Travel Bloggers. I consider blogs as second-hand sources. Typically, it's best used to cross-reference information from friends, peers and other media sources.
We've actually developed a list of places to eat, based on location and country. :)
(Note: Trip Advisor is not a reliable tool as a reference for where to eat with a big family with kids because it is biased towards expats, backpackers, travelers or restaurants that have figured out how to increase reviews in the platform. Case in point: a Vegetarian Resto is the #1 Restaurant in Baguio in Tripadvisor).
Can I ask you, where do you get the best information on where to eat in a destination?
I'm not really sure yet as to what would be the best Travel Insurance Strategy.
We usually don't purchase the travel insurance from the airlines, and we only get them for international trips where it is required for visa applications.
We have a general health and life insurance from Prulife, so we are not sure if we still need to have travel insurance when we go on local or international trips together.
Any advice on what's the best Travel Insurance to buy? Or would you recommend not bothering with it?
5). Funding your next Big Family Adventure!
One of the best ways to fund your travel is to save up for it over time. When we first started traveling with friends in El Nido, we contributed to a common travel fund on a monthly basis. Once the target budget was reached, we were able to travel together.
For example: If your target travel budget is P80,000 for a Hongkong Disneyland trip for the family, you can save P5,000 per month. In 16 months, you can already travel with the family.
One of the keys to making this force-save strategy effective is to do it automatically, like you're paying an amortization, making it difficult to use the fund for other purposes.
Savings Tip: If you are a BPI Online user already, you can set up a BPI Direct Save-Up account online to automate this process for you.
You can choose the source account (which is typically your payroll acount) and specify how much you have to force-save. Then, you can decide on the frequency. I would recommend every after payroll so that you save first before spending your remaining money.
BPI Save-Up Suggestion: I asked BPI if we can have a common BPI Save-Up account among friends so that you can have a common fund that only one person has access to. It's like automating a transfer to an account without you knowing it until it is time to go on that well-deserved vacation.
Also, it would be great if the Save-Up account can have the option of being invested on equities during the time period you want it saved (ex. duration of 6-12 months).
For other savings and investment options, the BPI Bankers are accessible via the BPI Banker's Online Tool, which you can access in BPI's Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/bpi
It's not a chat service but a personalized way to connect with your choice of cool BPI bankers whom you would like to talk to. So far, I've spoken with Kenneth who is the "Smart Adventurer", and he gave me the tip on the BPI Save-Up tool.
The service is available 24/7, accepting inquiries anywhere around the world, but the bankers usually respond within 24 hours during their work hours, usually 9.00am - 5.00pm Manila time.
TIP: You have to check the notifications and the BPI Online Banker's tool from time to time to check if the banker replied already.
So, how will you fund your next Family Adventure? Any savings or investment tips?
Thank you for taking the time to read this article. Please share your own tips and tricks in the Comments section whether you are traveling with a big barkada or your own big family travel. Salamat!
Live an Awesome Life,
If you have tips on awesome food and travel destinations, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Full Disclosure: This post is co-sponsored by BPI Banking, which is our choice for our personal accounts and our business accounts in Mercato Centrale.
I wrote this blog post myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I have no business relationships with any other company mentioned in this post or any organization promoting it. As a policy, I don't accept advertising from food and travel places we feature in the blog.
P.S. For a more fun family trip planning, check out this article on the 7 Travel Tools for Planning Your Family Adventure: