‘I have 2 kids under 10. Here are the money-saving hacks I swear by when planning a holiday.’

Carnival Cruise Line
Thanks to our brand partner, Carnival Cruise Line

Remember the honeymoon phase where you would travel somewhere exotic on a whim, and splash out on a fancy dinner or spa treatment with a glass of bubbles in hand?

Those were the days.

But those times, while heavenly, were not filled with the carefree giggles of your kids on holiday as they explore new surroundings. 

Seeing them enjoy a way of life different to what they’re accustomed and soaking in all the good vibes of a family trip is a treat reserved only for parents who choose to take their kids on holidays. It’s an experience they’ll never forget, and how lucky we are to help them experience such wonder.

But the purse strings are tighter these days (more mouths to feed and that pesky thing called inflation) so here are our tips and tricks on how to save money when planning a holiday. 

To work your money harder, look for inclusions.

Our youngest child had just celebrated his first birthday when we had our first cruise to the South Pacific, which to many might have been considered too hard to organise for a young family. It was the exact opposite and was a delight.

The best part of this type of holiday for us was that we didn’t have to spend time planning our itinerary or hours in the car or on a plane to be able to travel somewhere we hadn’t visited before. We didn’t have to pack and unpack when we travelled to a new destination (not fun, especially with little ones). 

When we booked our Carnival cruise, we knew exactly what we were paying for – no surprises. Our accommodation, travel, food, entertainment and the kids’ club was all included in the price. Budgeting for a cruising holiday was a cinch.


Much of your travelling is done overnight, allowing us passengers to make the most of a full day at each destination and then back on board for dinner.

With Carnival we had a choice of where we ate our meals – switching from fine dining to bistro fare, burgers, buffets and even a couple of after-dark pizzas – and the variety meant the kids were always happy with what was on their plate.

Interior staterooms are a budget-conscious choice and you’ll be too busy having fun to be bunkered down in your room anyway (pool deck movie nights anyone?).

Now the kids are a little older, hubby and I look forward to our next cruise and a visit to The Punchliner Comedy Club or enjoying a peaceful spa in the Serenity Adults-Only Retreat while the squids are living their best lives in Camp Ocean. All included!

Shorter cruises are an option not only from a budget point-of-view, but can be used to celebrate milestones, like a little girls' trip away (you can bet I’m messaging my mother’s group buddies as I type this) or birthdays.

My son during his first trip. Image: Supplied.


When it comes to timing, be flexible.

School holidays are when queues for check-ins are long, accommodation is at capacity and the cost of travel can be double what it is in the weeks before or after. While not everyone has the luxury of booking outside of peak holiday season (sorry teachers), if your kids are at an age where a week off school won’t be too disruptive to their learning, then take the opportunity to book!

Same goes for booking something out of season, like a tropical beach holiday outside of summer. Room rates can be lower, travel discounted and your holiday more enjoyable without the hustle and bustle of crowds. A staycation in your home state is always cheaper if you stay during the week instead of weekends.


Fly early morning or late at night, and you'll find that your fares are lower than they are during the civilised daytime hours. Yes, it takes a little planning around when the kids can eat and sleep, but the upside is by the time they’re on the plane they’ll be ready for a nap.

Set alerts so you know it's sale time.

Holiday planning is the fun part but can be the most exhausting. Still, if you are prepared and ready to do your research, you’ll be high-fiving your partner on day one of your trip for a job well done.

Sign up to all the alerts so you’re the first to know when it’s sale time. Discounts can mean you get to enjoy a longer holiday, a bigger room or earn a little wriggle room in the spending money budget.

Keep your eyes peeled on the social media accounts where there are often specials and promotions advertised first.

Carnival has made it pretty easy on this front. All you have to do is nominate yourself as a Very Important Fun Person by signing up on the Carnival website to receive exclusive offers and the chance to lock in the best price. (Yes, you should probably do that right now.)

To fill up the itinerary, holiday with friends.

There’s a lot to be said about travelling with friends. Non-stop laughs, company and entertainment, and the chance to share the cost of accommodation, tours and babysitters. And you’ll be less likely to have to go out to be social, instead content to eat and drink in. 

If there’s a group of families travelling together, the kids will love having children their age to play with and you have less reliance on expensive booked activities to stop the “mum, I’m boooored” whinge.


My daughter on our first Carnival Cruise. Image: Supplied.

Be strategic when it comes to food.

Eat like a local and buy from the neighbourhood supermarket or fresh food market to create a fresh, local menu for less than dining in a restaurant. If you’re in charge, you have a better chance of serving something the kids will want to eat, too. While it’s always nicer to have someone cook for you, it’s not the most cost-effective option, especially if you’re away for longer periods of time.


If you have kitchen facilities at your accommodation, make the most of it! 

It’s also smart to have the forethought to book a dining package that covers your stay, usually a lot less outlay than if you decided to book a hotel’s restaurant on arrival. Google is your friend, so pop online to look for nearby eateries where the kids eat free – ideal really when your child takes two bites of their dinner and proclaims they are not hungry.

Rethink the annual birthday party.

Kids’ party providers are making a mint because each year families are trying to outdo each other with bigger, brighter, better parties for their child’s birthdays. Balloon garlands, multi-tier cakes, full-to-the-brim lolly bags and the pressure to invite whole classes or extended family means a bill of more than $1,000 can be racked up by well-meaning parents in the blink of an eye. 

Every second year we like to treat our children (okay, and us) to a family holiday instead of a party, preferring to have a little celebration while on holiday and creating memories that last much longer than the time it takes to blow out the candles.

See what all the fun is about by checking out the Carnival cruise itineraries for 2023 and beyond.

Feature Image: Supplied.

Carnival Cruise Line
Carnival Cruise Line is the World’s Most Popular Cruise Line®. Carnival Splendor and Carnival Luminosa arrive in Australia later this year, sailing from Sydney and Brisbane. Designed with fun in mind and featuring over 45 activities to enjoy each day, Carnival offers families and couples fun, memorable holidays at great value.