Let’s not beat around the bush here, family holidays are expensive. As soon as children are two years old you need to pay full price for their airfare and, unless you all want to squish into a tiny hotel room together, you’ll be forking out extra for accommodation too. And then there’s eating out and activities. Yes, it all adds up!
We prefer villa holidays to hotel holidays as you have so much more space and freedom. You’ll usually get a private swimming pool, multiple bedrooms, living areas, a kitchen, a laundry and, best of all, you won’t need to share a tiny bedroom with the whole family!
I know some people don’t like self-catered villa holidays because you need to cook your own meals or always eat out, but this is one of the reasons we LOVE a villa holiday. We prefer to go out during the day and eat out for lunch, and then we like to have big BBQs for dinner. Breakfasts are always easy as we’ll hunt down the nearest bakery and have fresh pastries and fresh bread with loads of delicious fruit. It works out much cheaper than a hotel and you don’t need to stress about finding food for any fussy eaters or keeping kids entertained in restaurants (our kids are aged 4, 3 and 3 months so eating in restaurants isn’t always a relaxing experience!)
But is it possible to get a cheap family villa holiday? And if so…how do you do it?
Last summer we had a family holiday to Menorca with two adults and two children and we paid £1,639.76 for everything. EVERYTHING.
This included flights with luggage for us all, a four bed villa that sept 8 people and had a private pool, big gardens, a gorgeous outdoor BBQ area, a laundry, a large living room, three bathrooms and a massive kitchen. We had a Vauxhall Mokka for the week, we ate like kings and we had a day out everyday.
Yes, all for £1,639.76. I know!
Here’s a breakdown of the costs:
Flights + villa = £1,119.76 – This was the exact villa we had through VillaPlus (opens in new tab)
Car hire = £170
Petrol = £40
Parking = £10 (ish)
Food and drink = £250 (ish)
Activities = £50
So how did we get everything so cheaply?
Here are my top tips to get a cheap family villa holiday
1. Always be on the lookout for holidays so you know a bargain when you see one
Seeing all these January Sales adverts for holidays is really annoying me right now because lots of holiday companies are selling ‘sales’ but they’re actually regular prices. Sales for Disneyland, for example, are saying you can get two weeks for the price of one for park entry. Park entry is always around the same price whether you’re paying for a 14 day pass or a 7 day pass. That’s not a sale, it’s just rewording the normal price.
So it really pays to know how much holidays usually cost so you know if it’s a genuinely great price or you’re just being sold a sales package that isn’t any better value than the regular price.
Sam is ALWAYS on his phone looking for holidays and special offers and flight deals. It was actually Sam who spotted this deal to Menorca and he booked it within 20 minutes of finding it because he knew that was a deal we couldn’t miss!
2. Book your flights and villa together
We booked our flights and villa together through VillaPlus. I 100% recommend VillaPlus and can’t fault them. Everything was perfect and the communication and directions were all great. We’re definitely going to be looking at VillaPlus again this year for our villa holiday!
We found that if we tried to book our flights independently they would have cost over £250 per person, so our flights alone would have come to £1,000. With VillaPlus we got the flights and villa for just under £1,200.
^ Together is better!
3. Book last-minute
We booked this holiday 4 weeks in advance. This was enough time for us to get time off work and get organised but was also last-minute enough to get a good deal.
4. Be flexible with your location
Our villa in Menorca was gorgeous but it was in a rural location and wasn’t the kind of place where you could walk into town or walk to the beach. This was fine for us but might not appeal to everyone. Of course, Menorca is a tiny island so as long as you have a car you can easily get to wherever you’d like to be. We did look at villas within walking distance of the beach but it was over £1,000 extra to stay in one of those and we figured a daily 10-minute drive was worth it to save £1,000!
5. Go just before or after the peak season
We went to Menorca from June 10th – June 17th which is just before the peak season begins. The weather was lovely but it was a bit quieter and a lot cheaper!
I know this isn’t an option for some families who are restricted by school holidays but many schools are flexible and understanding.
^ Reading all the trashy books left in your villa is another perk of a villa holiday!
6. Eat out at lunch time
You’ll notice our food and drink didn’t cost a lot and this is because we only ate out at lunch time. This wasn’t really a choice but it did help us save a lot of money! Our kids were aged 2 and 4 and go to bed early. In Spain they eat dinner pretty late so going out for a late dinner wasn’t really an option for us.
^ I was pregnant during this holiday so my lack of wine probably brought our costs down a little!
7. Go self catered
I know all-inclusive hotels seem like a bargain but you really don’t need to spend a lot of money to have great food when you’re self catered.
^ I actually don’t have any photos of said ‘great food’ but here’s a basic fruit salad!
8. Use the local supermarkets
Avoid the tourist supermarkets which are usually double the price of a local market!
We shopped at Lidl while we were in Menorca and visited a local butcher for our BBQ meat and seafood.
Which leads me on to my next point…
9. Pick a villa with a gorgeous BBQ area
Making your own dinners doesn’t feel like such a hardship when you’ve got a gorgeous BBQ area. Sam and I would put the kids to bed each night and then sit outside near the BBQ all evening. The BBQ kept us warm and we could keep cooking more delicious food. It was lovely to overlook the pool and the garden and enjoy a glass of wine as the sunset.
And, for us, it was even better because we weren’t trying to keep two tired kids entertained like we would at a restaurant!
10. Use a comparison site for car hire…but be aware if you book a cheap deal
I’ll admit that I almost always book the cheapest car hire I can find. I make sure I’ve got adequate insurance but other than that I just book something cheap. But cheap car hire does come with a few drawbacks. One of the main things is that the car hire office will probably be off-site and you’ll need to catch a shuttle from the airport to the office.
No big deal, this isn’t a problem….right? Well it’s only a problem if 6-7 other families on your flight are using the same car hire company. Then it’s a problem because it can take hours to get your car. When we were in Menorca we were aware of this so we rushed through the airport as quickly as possible. But another family weren’t lucky and it tuck them three hours to get their car and they ended up having to pay extra because the car they booked wasn’t available and the company wouldn’t upgrade them for free!
My main tip here is to get one person from your party to get off the plane as quickly as possible and run through security and arrivals. They can then jump on the first shuttle bus to the car hire office, be first to get the car and then drive back to the airport to pick up the rest of the family (who should be just about getting through arrivals with the luggage at this point!)
Just make sure the person who does this is the person who booked the car so they have all the necessary documents to get the car!
11. Research free activities
We did something every day while we were in Menorca but the only activity we paid for was visiting a waterpark, everything else was free. We visited lots of little towns, the capital city and also went to lots of different beaches. I know this can be harder as your kids get older and they want to do things like boat trips and scuba diving and mini golf and things like that, but, if you can, enjoy the free stuff too!
Those are my tips to find a cheap villa holiday! This post was in no way sponsored by VillaPlus but I do highly recommend them!