For the recommendations provided below, you must have a model of family that works. Every family is different. You have to sit down with your spouse, discuss your matrix of happiness and self-fulfillment and set priorities. We do not believe in both partners working 100% at the same time while raising kids. Taxes heavily slash the higher combined family income, someone else gets to raise your kids and there is constant stress in the family. It is also impossible for the family travel model provided below to work with a stressful job such as at most financial firms. My wife works at Roche with very good working conditions (e.g., pay, working 2 days from home, etc.). I am currently completing my doctoral studies, run my organization, have time to write books and partly raise our kids. I have turned down lucrative job offers in the past because family and my spouse come first and, Self-actualization and self-fulfillment should always be at the center of a happy life. With my wife working, we get to see each other every single day and have beautiful moments together. On the other hand, with me working at a financial firm means I would have to travel frequently, and this will negatively impact our family life and miss on my dream to work in academia at a higher level. Harmonize your dreams and follow them together no matter how long it takes — It doesn't matter how fast you go, what matters is how deep you go. Be a team! Finally, please note that our travel advice is primarily focused on travel destinations in Europe!
1. LUXURY ON A BUDGET
1.1. Definition of "luxury on a budget"
We define luxury on the budget as outstanding deals at 4-Star or 5-star resorts with a score of "Excellent" or "Very Good" in TripAdvisor reviews, especially with regards to food and cleanliness. Take for instance our trip to the Miramare Queen Hotel in Kumköy, Side, Antalya. We paid approximately 1100 Euro for six nights (2 adults, 1 kid, 1 infant) for a package deal that included flights, hotel transfer and "All Inclusive." Visitors of the Miramare Queen Hotel are also allowed to use all the amenities of the Miramare Beach Hotel including the fabulous beach restaurant.
1.2. Book early, but not too early
Book early to catch the most lucrative package deals (better flight times, sea view rooms, etc.). Study the algorithm of the booking system and look for ways to beat the algorithm (understand the mechanism behind price changes). For instance, there is a general rule not to book on weekends because most people are free and have time to plan (book) their vacation. That is, with increased online traffic on weekends, prices go up. This is a thing of the past. We realized that they was a minimal difference between "booking on the weekend" and "booking on weekdays" prices, especially when booking early. There is no rule, so best is to monitor the behavior of prices of booking systems. Most of our booking is done through holidaycheck.ch. Holidaycheck.ch displays the travel packages of nearly all travel agencies in Europe. One advantage/disadvantage with their system is that the prices displayed are most often not the end prices, so one will always have to click on a particular offer to see if the price has gone up or gone down. Our recommendation is to book between between the 7th month and 8th month in advance (this is the best time to beat the systems).
1.3. Package deals, flexibility
So why are package deals inexpensive, especially when you book early? Travel agencies reserve airline seats a year in advance. By so doing, they benefit from huge discounts on flights. These discounts are then transferred to buyers of package holidays that combine these airline seats. The exact flight times of some of the reserved airline seats are unknown in advance! Only the most relevant information such as "direct flight" is provided in this case. Many people are however inflexible with regards to flight times and therefore will not book early because flight times are not known. So here is the paradox: Booking agencies want to sell those early seats as fast as possible to secure their business and ensure liquidity to finance the massive number of airline seats reserved for their packages. Many buyers, on the other hand, do not want to or cannot book early because they don't know the flight times or for job-related reasons. Therefore the airline is forced to discount the price for early package bookers. After consultation, we were informed that "unknown flight times" is the main reason for heavily discounted early booking!
1.4. Avoid Last minute deals: They are a thing of the past
Avoid last minute deals as they are almost nonexistent nowadays for package beach holidays. People travel more, and with social unrest in famous destinations such as Egypt, Tunisia and many African and Asian countries, most people are going to European cities and islands. The travel agencies are aware of this fact, and their behavior is reflected in their pricing and the disappearance of last minute offers! There is, however, an exception for package holidays. Package deals render both the buyer and seller inflexible. This can be of advantage to the holiday buyer in case of cancellation (say for instance two week's before the planned journey). The seller is forced to sell the whole package at a heavily discounted price (not making losses since there are substantial cancellation fees to be paid by the previous buyer on package deals). The new buyer will basically buy the nearly "last-minute-deal at a price that is discounted by an amount equal to the cancellation fee paid by the previous buyer (likely 50%). This means that if you find no offers in your price range at the desired resort (hotel or location), check again and again and again. Someone might cancel their booking, and the offer would be sold heavily discounted. This is how we landed our deal to the 5-star resort Filion Suites in Bali in Greece in 2018.
1.5. Booking Cancellation/Changes
Before booking any package deal, please read the conditions of the offer, the so-called AGBs. Also, check the terms of cancellation. With families everything is possible. A kid might fall sick, or the wife might get pregnant. After booking our trip to Crete, Greece (Albatross hotel) for September 2019, we found out that my wife was pregnant just after her first period following the previous birth. We were lucky because the flight times had changed significantly, which gave us the right to costlessly cancel the booked trip. We eventually cancelled and received the 20% downpayment back. Most of the time, if you cancel 30 days before the trip is due, you pay a 20% penalty. Any cancellation after this period becomes very expensive (between 30-90 %) depending on the agency.
You can add an insurance policy up to 30 days before your planned vacation. We recommend adding this package if you travel with babies and to areas where your home health insurance is not covered. The insurance fees are usually reasonable and also include a refund of cancellation fees (please read their criteria first before signing the insurance contract).
2. TIME AVAILABLE FOR HOLIDAYS
2.1. Public Holidays, weekends with standard employee vacation
You can maximize the number days available to travel in a year by combining public holidays with weekends and standard employee vacation days. Example: Friday 19, April 2019 is Good Friday (Public Holiday), Monday 22, April 2019 is Easter Monday (Public Holiday). Saturday 20. April — Sunday 21. April 2019 = Weekend. At my wife's company, for instance, Thursday 18, April is also given as a free day in combination with Good Friday. Using the combination strategy, we traveled from Tuesday 16, April to Monday 22, April (7 days) to Antalya. The number of employee holidays spent = 1 out of 24 days (we traveled on Tuesday 16. after work). Alternative you can take Monday 15, April and Tuesday 16, April free and then extend the travel period to 11 days. In this case you spend 3 days out of the 24 standard employee holidays available! Repeat this strategy for all months and every time you have public holidays, and you will see yourself traveling frequently and still have many days of holidays left at year end. Using this strategy, we intend to travel for more than 60 to 70 days annually.