Norway with children – is it really that expensive? Our 5 most important saving tips, weltwunderer

* Post updated on: 15. August 2017

New Zealand is always at the top of our list of countries, but Norway does not follow far behind. The country in the far north competes with the country in the deep south with its wild and untouched nature. Nevertheless, we hesitated for a long time to go there – it is said to be so incredibly expensive. With a few tricks our budget for almost four weeks roadtrip was enough.

Norway Spartipp Number One: Travel Time

We started our trip to Norway with children on July 25th, in midsummer. The campsites on the Swedish Baltic Sea coast were accordingly packed (with the exception of Tanum Camping – sigh…). So we were very surprised when we came across almost deserted campsites in Norway – the season would be over here, we were told.

Travelling in the low season is of course a hit for the budget – we often paid less and were able to choose the most beautiful pitches.

The fact that at home in Germany it was still summer vacation time and high season, had a further advantage for us: We could rent out our apartment without any problems and thus saved a considerable part of our fixed costs.

Almost alone fishing at the Eidfjord

Norway Spartipp number two: own means of transport, own way to us

Fortunately, Norway is not too far away from Germany, if it were not for crossing the Baltic Sea or the North Sea. With one’s own car, one nevertheless gets around more budget-friendly than for instance with a flight to Oslo and a rental car – the prices for the latter are astronomical in Norway. For the same reason it is forbidden to rent a motorhome locally (bringing your own from home is a great trick to save money!).

But how to get there? By ferry, of course. Which route is the best for you depends on the starting point – we tested the very cheap, about three hours long crossing from Sassnitz to Trelleborg with Stena Line (109 Euro for all of us for an afternoon trip in Flexi-Tarif) as well as the rather expensive overnight trip from Oslo to Kiel with the luxurious Colorline (380 Euro for all of us with inside cabin, food costs extra).

Depending on the route, crossing date and time, prices fluctuate enormously. If you want to save costs here, you have to research early and either drive in the low season or choose the shorter crossing and invest more self-drive time.

To drive through a piece of Sweden or Denmark is not really bad. The approximately 360 km from Hirtshals to Kiel or 600 km from Trelleborg to Oslo can theoretically be done in one or two days. But then you miss the beautiful Swedish Baltic coast (and the Viking village Foteviken) – so take a few more days.

…and the gas? This costs about as much in Norway as in good old Germany, BUT: Because the top speed on most roads is 70 km/h (iiik!), you automatically drive very economically. Our average fuel consumption dropped below 5 litres over time – madness!

In the end, the toll costs were also considerably lower than we had feared. Before entering Norway, you have to register with an automatic system that collects the tolls for used roads from your credit card via photo evaluation. The invoice that we received in November (!) showed that we had only driven a few toll roads; most of the costs had been incurred in and around Oslo (where, for example, we had driven several times through a completely superfluous tunnel, aaahh…).

Norway Spartipp number three: Camping!

The advantage of your own motorhome is clear: you can also sleep in it. We couldn’t do that in our station wagon, but we had our tent with us – and we put it up almost every day on a different campsite. Norwegian campsites are astonishingly similar to New Zealand’s “holiday parks”: Most of them are privately owned, not too big and often quite familiar.

The costs for our overnight stays were mostly around 200 NOK, with some nice exceptions like Morustranda, where we only paid 120 NOK. Showers usually cost an extra fee of 5 to 8 NOK, but the sanitary facilities were always picobello clean and often there was a communal kitchen with cooking facilities, a playground, etc.

Camping is of course not a walk in the park: If it rains (which luckily it rarely did) or is cold, it’s no fun with children. The further north we went, the colder the summer nights became, which of course none of us were happy about in the cotton sleeping bag in the tent. When we packed up all our stuff plus sleeping bags plus blankets and still jibbered through the night and only sank into a comforting warm sleep with the warmth of the first rays of sunshine, we had to turn our route south again. Oh, how we would have liked to have had a (heatable) motorhome! We were too stingy for a firm hut, which there were on most camping sites.

Dream view from the tent to the Hardangerfjord

Norway Number four savings tip: Food supply

Food prices, especially for fresh produce such as fruit, vegetables, dairy products and meat, are indeed very high in Norway. This is especially true for imported goods, which do not grow up here, and of course for smaller shops in smaller towns.

We met this circumstance, which naturally affected us as a family particularly hard, with three strategies:

Strategic shopping: The cheapest prices can be found in almost every country in wholesale markets on the outskirts of the city, on Saturdays shortly before closing time. At these times, we were therefore taking a critical look at the markets, looking for special offers and buying only our own brands. A meal plan, on which we had roughly noted which dishes should be served in the next few days, helped against spontaneous purchases. And Quengelware of course failed completely. So shopping was no fun at all, but it didn’t ruin us either.

We had our car stuffed with groceries from the discount store up to the roof in Germany – really, our car had never been so full, the children sat squeezed between folding boxes and bags, which slowly emptied during our journey. We imported almost everything that was durable into Norway – with the exception of alcohol, whose import into Norway is supposedly very strictly controlled. We were simply waved through at the border, which we acknowledged with teeth grinding; but the prices for the World Wonderman’s evening canned beer turned out not to be sooo bad in the supermarket.

Do not eat: and do it consistently. In three weeks in Norway we only went to a McDonalds once and bought ice cream for the children. With the equivalent of 4 Euro for a small piece of apple pie in a standing snack it was not so difficult.

Self-sufficiency: That was really fun! Even today we like to think back to the delicious raspberries, blueberries and cloudberries we collected on many campsites and in the woods. A bland breakfast porridge with freshly picked berries becomes a delicacy, the wonder of the world man even cooked us his own berry jam! What we unfortunately didn’t succeed in doing was fishing – if you’re more lucky with fishing than the World Wonderman, who tried it really hard, you can save even more.

It’s served!

Norway Spartipp number five: Do it yourself

…in terms of leisure activities. City tours with café visits and shopping should be scattered sparingly, for the visit of the aquarium in Bergen we have paid the equivalent of 70 euros (swallow).

Fortunately, Norway’s grandiose nature makes it easy to explore at no extra cost. Of course you have to be careful: The view over the 150 m high (resp. deep) Vöringsfossen can be got for example from one side for an entrance fee of 40 NOK, from the other side (much more spectacular!) for free. The parking lot at Preikestolen costs 100 NOK, that’s a cheek – but it has to be if you want to look 600 m straight down. And to rent a small motorboat to have a closer look at the Hardangerfjord, we had a budget of 600 NOK…

Here for free: View from above on the Voringsfossen

But most things in the great outdoors can be done for free in Norway: hiking, fishing in the river (if you are under 16!), collecting cloudberries, bathing in the fjord, looking down from crassly high rocks … and these are the things we still remember today.

Norway with children is a wonderful destination – and no more expensive than a “classic” summer holiday with flight and hotel.

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Christina Cherry
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