Despite a challenging economic climate, South Africans are still finding ways to travel, and if you’re undecided about taking a family trip during the June/July school holidays, a local destination can still prove your best bet for staying within budget.
When it comes to travel budgets, there are two seasons that matter most: peak, and off-peak. “Fortunately, we are now in the latter,” says Sharmila Ragunanan, Marketing Manager of Dream Hotels & Resorts.
“Traveling during the colder months of the year means that South Africans have the opportunity to budget with better rates, instead of forfeiting their holiday. There are a few things to consider during these times of the year, but all it takes is a bit of research and keeping an eye on those winter deals,” she maintains.
Here are tips from Ragunanan for families looking to spend less during the upcoming holidays:
Go on a staycation: Keeping it local means minimal travel time. That can be important for families travelling with little ones. In KwaZulu-Natal, families may want to consider staying at the Blue Marlin Hotel, an hour’s drive from Durban. This historic hotel has recently been renovated and offers budget-friendly family suites.
Nothing beats having the beach right on your doorstep, with the benefits of room service, an onsite pool, bar and restaurant. The annual Sardine Run takes place between June and July along the South Coast, which makes it an exciting place to be during winter.
“Although some of the beaches further down the coast close for bathing, the feeding frenzy of birds, marine life, and even crowds of local sardine-lovers, is a true highlight. If you’ve ever wanted to catch South Coast Fever, now is the time," she said.
Consider value-add activities and inclusions: One way to stick to a budget on a family holiday, is to choose accommodation that offers numerous onsite facilities and activities included in the price. For families from Pretoria or Johannesburg, Finfoot Lake Reserve is a stone’s throw from the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.
There is a swimming pool and a games room and two additional activities and breakfast included in the rate. Activities like Segway tours, guided bush walks, 4x4 game drives, barge cruises, and canoeing keep families busy.
Many hotels, lodges and resorts operate complimentary winter kids’ programmes that add value to any family holiday. "Most of our properties run the Dream Xplorers, a programme that includes activities like bush walks, scavenger hunts, cooking classes and movie nights,” she says.
Look for self-catering and family rooms: To minimise costs, Ragunanan also suggests self-catering accommodation.
“Food can be a big cost on holiday, and parents can bring the costs down by buying in bulk, and cooking, or braaing their family’s favourite meals, instead of eating out.”
Parents also won't need to scout for kiddies meals or pay extra for snacks at hotels when there is something in the cupboard or fridge.
At Avalon Springs Resort in the Western Cape, families can choose from self-catering chalets and apartments with fully-equipped kitchens. Families have access to the natural hot springs, water slides and children's play area,” adds Ragunanan.
Avalon is a two-hour drive from Cape Town.
Consider vacation ownership to save in the long run: If you holiday often, try vacation ownership.
Typically referred to as 'timeshare', vacation ownership is gaining momentum with holiday-seekers across the globe, particularly those with young families due to affordability.
“As a vacation owner you can easily include extended family and friends with children on your holiday, split extra costs, and not have to worry about availability,” says Ragunanan.