For our first family trip, we picked Hong Kong as our destination as it has almost all modes of public transportation.
Mati is crazy about buses, trains, and airplanes, so we had our itinerary planned all around vehicles. (Disney can wait, when Hannah is a bit bigger!). We also invited our yaya and our stay-out helper to join us as a thank you for their service. Having four adults and two kids in one trip, everything adds up. Here are some smart money tips when planning your family vacation:
Disclaimer: this is NOT a budget/backpacker post. If I were to categorize this post, it would fall more under the “I like nice things but enjoy paying less than retail price” category hehe.
1. Book Early
It’s an overstated piece of advice because it’s true! The best deals for flights, accommodations and activities are often available months before your planned trip. We booked our family’s plane tickets to Hong Kong seven months in advance at a travel fair. We travelled during the Undas (All Saint’s Day) long weekend, and our Philippine Airlines tickets were 60% cheaper than booking close to the travel date.
Tip: Politely ask the stewardess if the kids can visit the cockpit after the flight! We were so blessed that the pilots were super accommodating.
2. Get Travel Insurance
When traveling with kids, there are a lot of things that can happen. Since we bought non-refundable, non-rebookable plane tickets, we purchased travel insurance to offset the risk of paying for everything in full and in advance. When you do the math, travel insurance is a bargain compared to the peace of mind it brings.
Travel insurance covers you not only during your travel, but also for unforseen events that may occur before your trip. There was a time a family member got hospitalized two days before a trip, and we were able to redeem the cost of our prepaid hotel and airline bookings through travel insurance.
3. Use Your Miles
Ate and Yaya had a great time. It was an emotional experience for one of them.
It was a last-minute decision to invite our two household helpers to join us, and by that time the airline ticket prices had already skyrocketed. We converted our credit card points to airline miles, only paying for taxes.
It’s also worth checking your existing airline loyalty program for unused, expiring miles. We were able to redeem vouchers for the Ngong Ping 360 cable car for our entire group using Asia Miles’ travel redemption service. It was easily $400+ HKD in savings! Asia Miles has a a lot of travel experiences available for redemption, and the process was so quick and easy!
4. Research, Cashback, and Price Match
One of the rooms we booked – racing theme room! No need to shuffle around, as there was plenty of space!
Cash-back sites such as Shopback coupled with hotel booking website’s price match offers are a great combination. Shopback gave us a 7% rebate on our Agoda booking. Agoda will also re-discount your booking if you find another deal lower than their offer. Long story short, we were able to save $170usd on their “best price guarantee” offer. Do your research and you’ll be surprised to see the difference and savings.
5. Hong Kong Hotels… So Far, Yet So Near
Sometimes, it’s wise to go outside the city center, especially in a city as compact as Hong Kong. We purposely chose to book the Royal View Hotel in the New Territories because of four main criteria – room size, air quality, crowd density, and proximity to our chosen activities. It was a great bonus that we got upgraded to two huge, themed rooms. Two rooms split between four adults and kids means more space, more privacy, and no lining up for the bathroom in the morning!
It was a relief not to stress about space, as the kids just ran/crawled around freely. We enjoyed the clear air and scenic views of New Territories while still being one train line away from Kowloon and Hong Kong Island.
Reading the reviews online, I had a mixed sense of – was it that far? Answer: no and yes. Most of our itinerary was around the New Territories area- Inspiration Lake, Ngong Ping 360, and Noah’s Ark, everything was 20 minutes away. Even the airport. Don’t stay there if all your planned activities are in Hong Kong Island, because your time still counts too!
6. KKday Saves The Day!
A non-negotiable for our trip was the Big Bus Tour! Cue: The wheels on the bus go round and round…
We used KKday to book our Peak Tram tour and Big Bus tickets. It was a hands down great decision, not only from the cost aspect, but also because of the time saved. I love companies like KKday because they give you the best of both worlds. Ordinarily, you’d have to pay extra for VIP/no queuing access, but they offered this together with a cheaper price tag! Double win! Not lining up is a great perk for parents with sleepy, cranky toddlers! We got to ride Peak Tram up to the Sky Terrace almost as soon as we arrived at the peak terminal.
I also like how KKday also offers many choices for all preferences – their tours are bundled conveniently for those who want a quick bite-sized experience or those who can spend the whole day exploring. Multiplying the savings by four adults, it was also a great way to be money smart. KKday also offers great deals on airport transfers, wifi rentals and show tickets. They even have discounts for Disneyland!
$10 off vouchers — 5 available
For anyone looking to book a KKDay tour soon, I have 5 vouchers for $10 off (minimum purchase of $50… for tours only, not valid for tickets). Please comment below if you need the code!
7. The best things in life are (almost!) free
A new discovery, the AIA Vitality Park opened this year, and charges only 20HKD/adult for a fun, ferris wheel ride. We saw the ferris wheel when we were riding the Star Ferry from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central, which is also a cool thing to do for 2.7 HKD/adult.
In Hong Kong, kids aged 3 under get free admission on everything – MTR rides, bus fare, attraction tickets, etc. Cabs are often strict in accommodating a maximum of 5 passengers, but are more flexible when kids included.
8. Select Your Splurge
I think one of the best things about being on vacation is being able to splurge on a unique experience (like Sweet Escape!) In Albert’s case, it’s good food. A visit to Hong Kong wouldn’t be complete without a signature meal!
We were treated to yummy dinners at Michelin-starred Chuen Kee Seafood, Peking Garden at Alexandra House, and Dragon King at the World Trade Center, that we didn’t have enough time (and tummy space!) to go to our originally planned date night dinners! There’s always a next time!
Everyone has their own definition of a perfect vacation. For us, we work hard during the rest of the year so when we travel, we don’t mind spending extra for convenience and comfort. However, if it just takes a small effort to get some big savings, then why not?