From Flash to Trash. Will Kids Enjoy Budget Travel and Cheap Hotels?

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Chef and I have always enjoyed budget travel. We’ve always wanted to get maximum travel for our dollar and to us, fancy hotels aren’t (usually) part of that. We make exceptions for the odd splurge but usually we travel to see the world and to learn from our experiences. We need somewhere to sleep and food to eat and that’s as far as it goes. We don’t care about fancy trimmings.

Budget travel is not torturing kids

Our children, on the other hand, have been spoilt rotten for most of their tiny lives. One of our big worries, before we set off, was, would they adjust to a lower standard of accommodation?

Because of Chef’s work, my kids have been staying in a fancy 5-star resorts, several times a year, for the last few years. The sort of resort we couldn’t possibly afford. Well, we could, but we’d see it as a total waste of money. Some of the richest people in the world have stayed there, along with a good few celebrities. We’ve rubbed shoulders with them.

When we weren’t staying there we’d be eating there. These kids know good food, and a good hotel, when they see one.

If you want to peek, it was this hotel in Port Douglas that was our second home for several years. We highly recommend it!

I was seriously worried that they just wouldn’t cope with the budget end of the spectrum ( extreme budget travel, actually, we’re incredibly tight with the cash, click the link to see how we do it).

Budget Travel With Kids – Realities

The kids generally don’t care about fancy hotels. What they do care about is having their parents with them and their parents engaged in their lives. Kids care about fun and love and feeling wanted and appreciated by their family. Don’t get me wrong, they also want theme parks, ice cream, huge junk food buffets and water slides.

The beauty of budget travel is that what you save on cheap hotels, you can splurge on theme parks. The other beauty of budget travel lies in no adult expectations. Nothing is worse than sharing a hotel with entitled adults who have spent a fortune to be there and don’t want their peace disturbed by children. You’re better off away from that bunch for sure!

There’s a perception in modern society that kids should be outside in the fresh air, camping, playing with sticks, and building dams. I actually don’t agree, I have very computer savvy kids – but that attitude is there and it fully supports the budget travel ethic. Do you see the double standard? Budget travel is exactly that, a simpler life, a simpler way of being, childhood as it was in “the good old days.”

Sea Temple Port Douglas
Sea Temple Port Douglas, our second home and a sensational hotel! That’s Chef in the middle shooting something for a TV show. The pool was incredible, the rooms were luxurious, with plunge pools, two bedrooms, jacuzzis, fluffy towels and bathrobes.

Were these kids ever going to adjust to rooms at $6/night?

Budget travel was on our agenda it wouldn’t be on theirs. We are happy to sacrifice, but did we have any right to make that call for our kids?

They totally surprised us.

Cheap Hotels With Kids

We found that the kids don’t give a flying monkey’s what the accommodation is like. They see charm and novelty in the strangest things, their world is so different from ours and it’s a joy to see.

They loved sleeping on a river barge in Kanchanaburi. They adored the hostel in Kuala Lumpur because it had little cubby holes for their toys. Bunk beds make their hearts sing. An included breakfast of toast and jam rocks their world. A hammock is the best thing ever. Sleeping on a train is an incredible adventure. They are simple creatures, not jaded, as we can be.

Budget travel with kids

Budget Travel is Torturing Kids

I was sad and disappointed that another nomadic travelling family was criticised for ” torturing their kids”. They were having a wonderful time out exploring the world as a family. Kids enjoy the outdoors, being free, a bit of improvisation, so long as mum and dad are there. Their critics came from the press and from family who just didn’t ” get” it. It’s very common for family not to get it. Parents love their kids and want what’s best for them and if those parents decide that travel would be brilliant for their precious family – leave them be. Maybe those accusers need to see life through a child’s eyes before they make judgements based on adult values.

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

15 thoughts on “From Flash to Trash. Will Kids Enjoy Budget Travel and Cheap Hotels?”

  1. do you know how much i love you dear one? your kids are great and either way with or without the perks of the ‘extras’ they want a happy mom and dad who want to spend time with them, right? all the rest is just details. you rock. gabi

  2. So true. My 11 year old son and I took the coach from Berlin to London in January this year. It’s not cheaper than flying of course but we booked with a “youth” group travel company and it included a 2 * en-Suite hotel too that was just fine and made the whole trip extremely cheap.

    I couldn’t believe how well he coped on a 23 hour coach that also did a loop picking people up in various cities too. I was so worried that he would whine or get bored, but he loved having his blanket, pillow and all his things that I took from home, to make him more comfortable!

    • I know Victoria! People stress about taking kids on long car trips, even. They go out and buy them tablets and DVD players and stuff to keep them busy. It’s TOTALLY unnecessary and I don’t think it helps the kids at all

  3. The key is that they are still at ages where they think you know what you’re doing. As long as they’re with you, they’re happy. (This is not to say you don’t know what you’re doing!) At some point they will think you are the lamest beings on the planet (typically between ages 15 and 25—for boys anyway—other than Nancy (bike)’s twins.) Later, you’ll all enjoy reminiscing together about “…..Remember the time our Crocs were washed away in the flood and then Mum ate that worm she discovered because half of it was missing in her mango.”

    • To true Suzanne. Our son started backpacking around SE Asia before he was one, at least one trip a year if not more. In 2001 we travelled for most of the year and not one complaint. 20 hours on a train? No problem. Wading through floods in the middle of the night in Northern Thailand? An adventure! Around 14 he lost interest and didn’t want to come anymore. I stupidly convinced him to travel to Sumatra last year and the photos of the looks on his face….hated it. I’m hoping he’ll come back to travel later on. Meanwhile I have my 2 daughters 5 and 11 to drag around and luckily they love it as much as me…for now 🙂

  4. Spot on, Alyson. Recently we spent a week at a luxury 5-star place here in Mexico (was free) and even though the room was a little slice of heaven, it was a sterile, boring experience. “Travel in the bubble” we call that.

  5. Love this post. Kids definitely adjust just fine! Since we camp in tents for many of our travels, our kiddos have had to learn to tolerate a different level of comfort. Honestly, this is one of my favorite aspects of camping and travel in general! The typical kid in our area of the world lives a pretty pampered day to day life and getting outside of that comfort zone is what makes our adventures that much more meaningful.

  6. During our round the world trip last year, our accommodations ran the gamut, from night trains, to hostels, to 5-star resorts. Before the trip, I wondered the same thing: how will our 12-year-olds adjust? But they were troopers! Most times, we were out all day anyway, and only sleeping in the place. My kids only really cared whether there was a good wi-fi connection, which was often better in the cheapest places!

  7. Love this Alyson! Agree that kids are much more adaptable than I would think. Without our “filters” they would do just fine! We found this on our Spring UK trip. My boys’ favorite accommodation was the hostel in Wales. They loved the “home cooked meal” we had of pasta and sauce that we cooked (incidentally, the cheapest meal we ate also). They loved the open space outside of the hostel to run around. And, they loved that all four of us had bunkbeds. They still talk and talk about that great hostel.

  8. Kids are very adaptable little creatures. Will absolutley adored, and still does, our ancient caravan. Many happy memories and we still use it to go to ‘events’ but now he sleeps in the awning with his best pal who also loves it!

  9. Love it!!! We worry…but kids always have a way of adapting! My 15 year old worried before we started but even she quickly adapted. There was nothing better than watch her quickly shed the clothing she originally packed to “look good in” for the clothes that suited travel life.

  10. I completely agree. I think we adults are far more likely to have issues with accommodation quality than the kids. We stayed at a variety of different places on our trip in Asia, and the kids didn’t care about the differences, although I did at times!! They are just happy if they are with us and having fun.


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