Along with transport, accommodation will be one of your biggest expenses, taking up a big chunk of your budget and ultimately determining how long you can travel.
Travelling with or without children can get tiring, so try to mix up hotel accommodation with apartments/house rentals. These are typically longer and you will have far more space and facilities such as a kitchen (and maybe even a washing machine).
Family rooms that will accommodate four can be expensive, so it's worth checking the price for two double rooms.
Hotel comparison sites (these also have longer term stays)
Hotel comparison sites are a great place to start. You can get a good feel for the availability and prices for a particular area and date range. We always start here but then also check the booking sites and sometimes go directly to the hotel if we have specific requests or want to check on pricing.
They are sometimes a bit clunky when it comes to fitting more than two people in a room or booking a family in more than one room.
We found that the best ones for families are:
Our favourite booking site is booking.com. We find that it usually offers the best prices and the customer service has been excellent whenver we've had a problem (which, fortunately, wasn't often and was usually our fault, not theirs!).
We also like hotels.com, which offers a free night after every ten bookings. However, we've found that it's prices are usually about ten percent more expensive, so we tend to only use the site if it offers a hotel that we like but can't find elsewhere.
We haven't used this much, but it's undeniably popular and has plenty of options for longer term stays in apartments or houses. Contact the host and explain that you're travelling with children and describe your mode of transport to ensure that the place is suitable. And make sure to agree a clear cost for the rental - many families have complained that additional charges are later made.
Renting apartments or houses
Talk to local estate agents if you're seeking a rental for weeks or months. You can also check on the booking sites mentioned above or use the following:
If you're able to let others stay in your current house while you're away, a houseswap can potentially save you a lot of money, although it can limit your destination options. We haven't done it, but we know several people who have and swear by it.
Sites that you can review include:
We've absolutely loved our experiences with housesitting. It can be tricky but not impossible to get a housesitting assignment when you're travelling with a family as many prefer retirees or single travellers. However, if you can make it work, it can be an amazing way of experiencing a place on a local scale, with the comforts of home (often including pets to love). One thing to consider is that if you do have to look after pets, it can limit your options for exploration, as it can rule out overnight stays away from the house.
You do need to pay to join the sites below, but if you get even one housesit, you will have more than paid off your joining fee.
There are plenty of opportunities to work for your board. This could be on a farm, for a lodge or on an environmental project. It's potentially a great way to save on accommodation and immerse yourself in the local area, but you may need a plan a little way in advance as there are fewer opportunities for families than there are for singles of couples.
We haven't done this yet and have heard mixed reviews from families who have. Some have loved the experiences, but others have experienced hosts who expected a great deal of work and provided very little time off.
Have a look at:
help exchange: an online listing of host organic farms, non-organic farms, farmstays, homestays, ranches, lodges, B&Bs, backpackers hostels and even sailing boats who invite volunteer helpers to stay with them short-term in exchange for food and accommodation.
world wide opportunities on organic farms (wwoof): Linking volunteers with organic farms and growers.
workaway: Workawayers are typically interested in cultural exchange and learning and will help out for a few hours a day in exchange for food and accommodation, with visits lasting anywhere from a few days to a few months.
helpstay: another contact platform between hosts and helpers with farms, householders, art retreat centres, eco-villages, backpacker hostels, surf lodges, vineyards, ranches and schools who are looking for a few hours of honest help and offering accommodation and food in exchange