A family snow trip to Thredbo in New South Wales Australia for $500? Yes we did!
No doubt about it, a winter holiday to the snow fields in Australia is expensive. The season is short, and the prices are high. When I first started researching a trip to the snow I was disappointed to find that most accommodation and hire packages for a family were around $500 – $600 per person for a short stay even if we had our own vehicle. Our housesit is so close to the snow, (about 3 hours drive away) so we really wanted to take the kids over, but the idea of spending over $2000 for 3 days away, just a month into Our Global Adventure seem ridiculous. But with a little bit of research, and some sacrifices, we had two full amazing days playing in the snow for around $500, and I’ll tell you how…
First of all, we thought about what kind of experience we were looking for in the snow. The last time the kids saw snow, Lucy was 7 and Oscar 2, so neither of them really had any expectations beyond playing and having fun. We don’t get snow in South Australia where we are from, so it was really just the novelty that they were interested in. Simon and I had never been on a ski trip before, we have some interest in learning to ski one day, but it’s not high on our bucket list, and not something we were prepared to pay a lot for at this early stage of our travels. I was fearful of broken bones hampering the remaining days of our housesitting in NSW, and Lucy was not at all interested in skiing. So, we made a decision NOT to ski. It was a gamble, but hear me out, for us, it paid off.
Next: accommodation. Obviously the most expensive place to stay is in the Thredbo Village, it’s the most convenient place to be to get to the lifts, restaurants and slopes without having to get in the car, but that convenience comes at a cost. Even on AirBnb most hosts requested a 2-3 night minimum, and prices started around $250 per night, so prices were much the same as staying in economy rooms at the resort. For us, ‘Self-Catering’ style accommodation was a must, that way we could prepare our own healthy meals and negate the need to be close to restaurants and cafés, which up at the village can get very pricey.
We turned our attention to Jindabyne. It’s a half hour drive from Thredbo village, and accommodation prices there seemed to be cheaper on the whole. Again, many self-catering apartments seemed to only be interested in 2-3 night minimum bookings. The cheapest I found online was in a hostel style motel that did family rooms for $125 per night (3 night minimum) and had shared kitchen facilities. I bookmarked the site, but continued to research, determined to bring our TOTAL costs in at under $500. Years ago, when we’d stayed at Jindabyne, we’d found a reasonably priced cabin at the Discovery Holiday Caravan Park. Their website told me that they were heavily booked for August (peak snow season) but there was some limited availability. One option was an economy family cabin without it’s own toilet and bathroom, but including a basic kitchen, available for only one night at $209. The other was an ensuite cabin with a 2 night minimum booking for $239 per night. We booked the economy cabin for the 1 night. Given that our toilet here at the house we are sitting is outside, it seemed silly to pay $30 for one, and if we were only staying for 1 night we figured that we may not even need a bathroom. When we arrived we were pleasantly surprised to discover that we’d been upgraded to the ensuite cabin anyway!
So, at this stage, we’d decided not to ski, and were only staying for one night. Some might say ‘Why bother?’ But if we keep our original expectations in mind, of giving the kids a fun experience in the snow, without spending a fortune, things were still looking good. Remember, the house that we are currently sitting is only 3 hours from Jindabyne, so we planned to pack the night before, and leave by 7am so that we could have 2 full days playing in the snow. One of Oscar’s favourite ‘Charlie and Lola’ (BBC cartoon) episodes is the Christmas episode where Charlie and Lola play on toboggans in the snow. This was what he really wanted to do, and since we’d decided not to ski, toboggans seemed a perfect way to have some fun, and give a purpose to our playing.
After a bit more Google searching, I found a place that would hire us a ‘Snowman Pack’, labelled as ‘for those wanting to head to the snow, but not ski or board’. Snow Valley Ski Hire at East Jindabyne hires out their Snowman Pack, including jacket, pants, boots and a toboggan for $45 for adults, and $28 for kids for 2 days. They also open early and don’t close until 8pm, which meant we wouldn’t need to rush the equipment back. All bookings made online, also received 10% off!
Thredbo Resort and the snow fields are within the New South Wales Kosciusko Park. To take your own vehicle into the park you will require a permit which cost us $27 per day. State forest officers were patrolling the area, (as well as a few speed cameras) so it is important to get the permit if you don’t want to incur a fine. The permits can be bought at the entrance to the park and the operator accepts cash and card payments.
The last thing for us to consider for our quick trip to the snow was food. With a self-catering cabin at the Discovery Holiday Park, I hoped to avoid expensive junk food in the area. On the first day we had breakfast in the car (home-baked muffins), and I’d packed sandwiches for our lunch. We carry our own drink bottles of water everywhere, and for dinner I’d pre-prepared some vegetarian pasties and a salad which would travel well in a cool bag with some ice-bricks, but would only require heating up in the cabin. For snacks we’d packed fruit and cookies. On the second day, we again had a muffin for breakfast with a cuppa, and I’d bought provisions to make sandwiches again for our lunch. This turned out to be a real blessing and I’ll explain more about this in a bit. We had a late dinner at about 8pm when we returned to our housesit. Our only ‘splurges’ on food whilst away were a stop at Gloria Jeans in Jindabyne for a coffee for us and hot chocolate for the kids both days. This cost us about $17 each time.
We left the house at 7am, then collected our Snowman Packs in East Jindabyne along the way. The friendly young assistant there told us that the best places to take the toboggans were the new play area at Thredbo village, and just a little beyond that, an area in the park with a car-park called ‘Dead Horse Gap’. By 11am we were up at Thredbo village and ready to play, but the car-park there was FULL of cars and coaches. There were people everywhere, it looked crowded, and to be honest, overwhelming! After a quick drive through, without spotting a car-park, we headed out of the village and up the road a bit. The trees opened up to reveal some great snow covered slopes, very few other people and an empty car-park. ‘Dead Horse Gap’ was a winner!
The kids loved the soft snow. We played for a couple of hours under a bright blue sky with barely any wind. We all got the hang of riding toboggans quickly, and worked up an appetite trudging up the slopes again and again. This is when having a packed lunch was a blessing! When we wanted to stop for lunch we just had a picnic in the snow. There was no need to get ourselves and the gear back into the car to drive back to Thredbo village for an overpriced hot-dog! After lunch we could just continue playing for hours, without much of an interruption. At about 4pm the sun began to get low, and the temperature dropped. We’d had a great day of fun, were pink cheeked and worn-out, so we decided to head into Jindabyne for a nice hot chocolate and coffee.
Our cabin at the Discovery Holiday Park was clean and the facilities were ample to heat up our dinner and hang up our wet clothes to dry overnight by the electric heater. Just across from our cabin there was also an amenities block with a large clean laundry, shared kitchen, bathrooms and a games room.
On our second day, we went back out to ‘Dead Horse Gap’ after breakfast. We were feeling braver from the day before, and climbed up higher on the slopes and picked up greater speeds on the way down. We had learnt how to get a bit more control of the toboggans, and how to pull up and stop where we wanted to. Oscar made jumps out of mounds of snow, and he and Lucy raced each other then, Simon and I, down the mountain. They had an absolute ball! No one minded a picnic lunch again, in fact, we were all grateful not to have to pack-up and leave our fabulous spot. Some cross-country skiers came down to where we were and the kids loved watching them moving over the snow gracefully, but without any envy. I don’t think that they were the slightest bit bothered that we had chosen not to learn to ski on this trip to the snow, our gamble had paid off.
After spending the rest of the afternoon either playing in the snow, riding our toboggans or just sitting back admiring the beauty of our quiet surroundings, we felt thoroughly exhausted. Our muscles were aching and our fingers and toes were freezing, but we all agreed that it had been a fabulous couple of days. Our short trip to the snow had met all our expectations and more. We’d had more fun than we could have imagined with the toboggans, and we were grateful not to have been surrounded by the crowds at Thredbo. If like us, you’d like to have a family trip to the snow, but you’re not wanting to spend thousands of dollars, consider hiring toboggans and staying in a self-catering cabin to keep costs down. Our children (and us!) had a really magical time, and two days did not feel too short at all because we didn’t have too far to travel to get there, and our days were full. Now that we’ve had a lovely experience playing in the snow here in Australia, I think that we would consider learning to ski one day, but we might just leave that for the cheaper ski resorts in Europe 🙂
Our total cost breakdown is not quite under $500, but we are very pleased with the experience that we had for what we spent…
Suit and Toboggan Hire $147
Park Entrance Fee $54
Coffee / Hot Chocolate $34
Fuel for the car $84