Frugal Family Money & Travel Tips
A lot of places in Europe, especially smaller places will only take cash. Some businesses only take their own countries cards, we found this a lot in Portugal where garages, supermarkets etc would only accept Portuguese cards so it’s always wise to keep some cash to hand. Stash some in your car and on your person for emergencies.
Travellers cheques seem to be resigned to the dark and distant past when you have a smart phone, there is an app for everything. We use Revolut. I can’t recommend it enough, when you are travelling long-term it is a fantastic and really simple way to move your money from the UK so you can spend it fee free. Load the card up using your app (wifi/data connection needed) and then use the mastercard in cashpoints, ATM’s, multibancos, cajero automáticos,to withdraw cash at the latest, best, exchange rates without having to pay any fees (unless you withdraw over £500 p/m). Revolut’s website link.
Halifax Clarity Mastercard:
Pay it off in full each month and again obtain a months grace on your payments and fee free Mastercard transactions at the current exchange rate. We use the clarity card for supermarkets, fuel, restaurants and any bigger than normal purchases. Halifax’s website link.
Nationwide FlexPlus Account:
Before leaving the UK we opened a joint Nationwide FlexPlus Account. The account costs £10 a month but gives you a raft of benefits. Benefits that we have already utilised and more than recouped the monthly cost of the account. These include free European Breakdown cover (for 6months in a 12 month period), which we had to use when the Bongo bust a coolant pipe and broke down in the middle of nowhere! Family Mobile phone insurance, which we have nearly had to use twice as I managed to drop my phone down the toilet and smash the screen to bits whilst trying to dry it out. I nearly had to pay the £25 excess and claim again as I managed to put my mobile in the washing machine. Miraculously it survived a 15 minute wash and a 10 minute spin cycle and was non the worse for it!! You also get family travel insurance and commission free cash withdrawals abroad (beware you still get charged a non-sterling transaction fee so the Revolut works out cheaper)as well as a few more extras. Nationwide’s website link.
Buy an unlocked mobile phone up front. Don’t be hooked to a contract or service provider. This is always by far the cheaper option. Contracts will in the end charge you a lot more than the upfront cost of the phone. We saved over £200 buying my Samsung Galaxy Note 3 upfront and using a £10p/m Giffgaff sim in the UK. Whilst overseas, if you are in the same country for a long time, it generally always works out to buy that country’s own PAYG sim, look for the best deal. If you want to leave phone calls behind and go off-grid for a little while, keep your UK phone number as a PAYG sim and only use in emergencies.
Take advantage of free wifi, which let’s face it getting to be everywhere, if you need to use the internet or connect with people. We also use Skype loads to keep in touch with friends and family and for those who are still not Skype savvy, we have Skype credit and make phone calls via that when needed for a really cheap international call rate.
Here Sat Nav App:
Using data on your mobile is really easy to do if you use it for Sat Nav. Here is a Sat Nav app that is totally free and works by GPS. Download the countries’ maps whilst you are connected to free wifi then set the app to work offline. It is best to double check your routes before you leave just in case the place where you want to go isn’t on the map, but as of yet we haven’t had any issues with it, works a treat and is free! Link for Here.
Google Translate App:
A fantastic translation app that allows you to download the dictionaries on wifi and use offline. There is even the option to use your phone’s camera so you can point the camera at what you want to translate and the app simply translates your camera image text into your chosen language. Amazing piece of tech to help you on your travels. Link for android app & apple app.
Traveling with Toddlers
I can pretty much guarantee that your kids have too many clothes. I know mine did. When travelling light, it’s best to try to have as few clothes as necessary. 3 vests, 4 t-shirts, 4 long sleeved tops (thin), one jumper, 5 jeans, 2 joggers, 3 long johns/tights, 5 shorts and one zipped hoody top. Our kids also have a thin fleece lined waterproof jacket and trousers each. In Autumn, they can wear their jeans and long sleeved tops. In winter, they wear layers, the summer vests double up as warm winter vests underneath t-shirts and long sleeved tops and they also wear long-johns/tights if it’s really cold. They don’t have specific pyjamas, and just wear what they have done for the day with either just a nappy or long joggers/long johns if it is colder. This makes their all-year-round wardrobe much more versatile. We also have a size bigger than needed in some of their clothes so that they can grow into them. Most trousers have adjustable waists and legs and sleeves can be slightly rolled or tacked up if needed. Adjustable sun hats are also a great idea for growing heads!
We also try to reuse old clothing that the children no longer fit into, see my upcycling clothes post: Make Do & Mend. Most places have charity shops where you can pick up a few odds and ends, we have also made friends with people who have either exchanged or given us clothes that their children no longer fit into. In Portugal there are Loja Social (Social Shop) where, if you are in need, you can pick up clothes for very little, if any money. One of our local markets also hosted a clothes exchange, where you could drop off or pick up any clothing you needed for all age groups, a great way to reuse!
Cloth Nappies & Wipes:
If you are contemplating longer term travel and have access to a washing machine consider using Cloth wipes, for both faces and bums and Cloth nappies (see more on my post here on reusable nappies and here on wipes). Cloth nappies can be bulky, we store ours in a wet/dry bag when travelling and they don’t really take up too much room and squish down well. Although you obviously need to wash a little bit more, in the long run, you save. There are no ongoing costs once you have forked out the initial outlay, great for budgeting and it’s better for the environment.
Wet Bags & Wet/Dry Bags:
We use wet bags (a waterproof inner and patterned cotton outer) and wet/dry bags (a dry compartment and a waterproof compartment) for everything! They are sold by places that also sell cloth nappies as they’re great for keeping clean and dirty nappies in but they’re also fantastic for kids. I love Planetwise, really well made and durable, you can buy cheapie alternatives from Ebay but the zips tend to break. Wet bags are great for keeping clean and then wet swimmers in, to keep snacks and toys contained, any important documents like passports that you don’t want to get wet, to keep your tech in so it’s waterproof and they are much more durable and stylish than a plastic bag!
Always have plenty of snacks handy, we are travelling by road and to be honest, it seems like the only way to keep our two occupied is to feed them…pretty much constantly. Our snacks range from healthy bananas, apples, grapes and other easy to eat fruit (that doesn’t make too much mess), to nuts and raisins, to junk food; crisps, biscuits and even a rare sweet or two. Have snacks to hand, pre-prepare snack pots and dish them out, especially when driving through cities, so that you can concentrate on the driving not the kerfuffle in the back seat!
We don’t have room for big toys. Lego is fantastic, small, portable and keeps Chaos occupied for hours but the small pieces can get lost easily, so it only gets used as an inside toy. Mayhem also loves Lego, but unfortunately his idea of playing with Lego is to pull the heads off Lego men, or to destroy the intricate construction that Chaos has spent hours constructing (whoops!!). We have a small zipped bag full of toys that ‘do things’, wind up, open and close, have a function, connecting parts and aim to keep the boys occupied. We also have an old beat up suitcase full of the slightly larger toys. Not only is it a great toy box, but it also doubles up as a toy itself as the kids love to climb on it! Most importantly, we try and rotate toys, keep a few hidden so that they have ‘new’ toys to play with every couple of weeks or so. It really does surprise me how interested they are in the toys that come out of hibernation when they reappear again. Magic! Also it seems like the world is a toy, everything is fascinating and as we are in different places they have loads to explore!
We download kid friendly films and series when connected to wifi as a treat for Chaos. He’s dropped his nap now,so when Mayhem is sleeping and we are in, he gets to watch something on the laptop and has some quiet time. Watching a film or cartoon in the car is also the BEST way to distract Chaos, he is mesmerised!
Mobile phones also come in handy as distraction for Chaos the threenager. He loves the free Lego apps and anything nursery rhyme related. Mayhem can take our leave the phone or the laptop but sometimes joins in…It’s not a daily occurrence and a treat to have screen time…a great distraction and source of bribery,especially whilst waiting for food in restaurants!
We carry the kids, so that we can literally take them anywhere with us. We love hiking and walking and keeping the kids close so babywearing is a must for us! Chaos used to a have a pram in the UK but we left it in storage, no room to take it with us and we figured that prams just aren’t as versatile as carriers. Mayhem has never been in a pram (except to play in it whilst it wasnt moving of course), as he is a total and utter velcro baby; demands to be breastfed everywhere and and would not be put down! Mayhem has a Boba carrier, Chaos at 16kg and 3.5 years old still fits into his well worn and very well used Ergo carrier.