I was recently asked by MaybeBaby to contribute an article on some of the financial aspects that parents should take note of when it comes to planning a holiday with the family, especially with young children. And here is my article, reproduced in full.
What financial tips can you offer when planning a holiday with a newborn? Would a packaged tour or free and easy trip be more economical?
The fantastic thing about travelling with a newborn, or toddlers who have not started formal schooling for that matter, is that you can go on a holiday during non-peak periods! Say goodbye to joining in the holiday rush during the school holidays break. Even better, airlines tend to roll out more promotions during the off-peak months. So act fast whenever an airline sale rolls along!
Compared to just traveling as a couple, it is not so straightforward when it comes to picking either a packaged or free & easy trip with a newborn in tow. No doubt a packaged tour might seem to offer more bang for your buck, but a packaged tour usually means changing hotels almost every night, waking up early to catch the tour bus and being rushed from attraction to attraction. All these, at the risk of lugging along a cranky newborn and ruining the holiday? No thanks.
I have a one-year-old baby and a 6-year-old pre-school child. What should be taken into consideration when purchasing air tickets for a family holiday?
Admittedly, airfares often take up a large chunk of the travel budget and there is no way around this except to pay close attention to the various airlines for periodic sales.
Infants under two years old are charged a percentage of an adult airfare (it varies from airline to airline). So parents can request a bulkhead seat onboard so that a bassinet can be attached to the bulkhead wall, thereby allowing your baby to more easily nap. Unfortunately, bulkhead seats are not guaranteed even though you have paid for your infant’s air ticket as they can be assigned not only to families, but also to people with disabilities and priority customers.
So if you do really wish to secure that bulkhead seat in advance, it may be worth calling the airline to plead your case. Else, you may try checking in at the airport early and request your seating preference.
What type of accommodation should parents consider when travelling with newborn? Are budget hotels or caravans suitable?
Standard, or even budget, hotel rooms might be okay for a night or two, but if you're vacationing for a week, it makes the most sense to go with an apartment instead of a regular hotel. You will have a full kitchen for preparing your baby’s food and storing snacks and drinks, a proper dining table for mealtimes, and a washer/dryer for the inevitable baby laundry you will have to do. Do check out some of the gorgeous apartments that are available from Airbnb and Roomorama and you will find that some of the 2-bedroom options can be even cheaper than standard hotel rooms!
Caravans offer a different level of experience to one’s holiday and while I totally recommend every family to give it a try at some point, I do feel that this form of accommodation is more suited to families with older children.
I have a one-year-old baby and a 6-year-old pre-school child. How do I keep my children entertained throughout the trip without splurging?
Planning ahead is always key to any holiday with children. Ever since I became a parent, the first step in choosing any holiday destination is whether there are adequate children-friendly attractions and activities to keep my children occupied. And by that, it does not necessarily have to be the usual high-priced theme parks, museums or attractions.
What I usually do before a trip is to research on the various free playgrounds and parks around our accommodation so that we can let the kids run wild there. Also, keep a lookout for events and festivals that may coincide with your time there, suss out the weekend markets, find a park and have a picnic – there is so much free stuff to be done.
Or if you still plan on doing the more touristy stuff, countries usually have travel discount cards for tourists which offer bulk discount rates on various attraction entrance fees. And the savings do add up a fair bit.
How much travel coverage/insurance is considered sufficient for a holiday with a newborn? Would a basic family plan from most insurance companies suffice?
You may think that travel insurance is just another unnecessary cost, but the truth is no one should ever travel without it. Especially when travelling with young children.
When it comes to evaluating a sufficient travel insurance coverage, one important factor is your holiday destination. Countries in Europe and North America have notoriously high medical costs, especially since foreigners are not privy to any medical cost subsidies. Not to mention that should an emergency evacuation back to Singapore be required, the costs will be astronomical. So it makes more financial sense to go with a plan that offers a higher coverage for the entire family if you are travelling to faraway countries.
For nearby countries (less than a 4-hour flight away), a basic family plan should suffice. As always, it is a good idea to compare travel insurance policies among different companies to make sure you're getting the best cover for the entire family. Different companies offer varying levels of cover and may also have varying rules and restrictions when it comes to covering dependents.