The world is becoming smaller and parents are looking to expose their children to the rest of the world at earlier ages. Overall, that’s a good thing! And while the benefits of travel are plentiful, there’s no denying the costs, literally. Still, there are tricks and tools that you can employ to make sure that budget travel doesn’t become prohibitive in the new decade.
Here are some of the tips I’ve picked up in my 11 years of traveling with my kids.
- Timing is important. When you book your holiday destinations early, it will not only give you time to save up, but you will also be able to secure a better deal. Timing is everything, and off-season or mid-week travel is generally cheaper than booking something near or around major holidays.
- If you can, avoid travel around school holidays. This will typically work in your favor, as you might just have a more peaceful holiday, without thousands of other tourists.
- Try to maintain some date flexibility – instead of traveling on a Friday and coming back on a Sunday, see if you can pull off a midweek flight.
- Use sites like FlightHub to find deals on flights
- Get creative with routing: While most people prefer direct flights, consider taking a stopover. If you are traveling with kids, you may welcome the break, and will be more likely to save money on a flight with a layover.
- Use miles. Make your travel pay for itself by joining a loyalty program and accumulating miles. Some people also sign up for airline credit cards so you can earn miles while you shop.
- When it comes to baggage, try to keep it light or if you know you’ve got a lot of stuff, pick an airline that won’t nickel and dime you on every pound. Nothing kills a vacation buzz like having to pay a hefty overweight fee.
- Travel when your kids are young! I know this seems counter-intuitive, but kids under 2 fly free and most hotels don’t charge for an infant or toddler to share your room!
- Stay in apartments over hotels. You will likely get more space for a better price and you don’t have to pay exorbitant hotel prices for room service. You can cook for yourself and save a ton of money on food.
- Even if you are staying in a hotel, stock up on family essentials like water, milk and snacks in your room so that you’re not paying a hotel premium for those. And never, ever hit up the mini bar unless you want to pay $10 for a bar of candy!
- Be strategic about looking for holiday deals. Use sites like Expedia and Hotels.com that allow you to specify price and star rating. Look for holiday packages and hotels offering free nights for a minimum number of nights stayed.
- Consider alternative means of transportation. Flights are often the fastest but driving or taking the train might be more economical. They might also end up being more fun and give you more of a chance to interact with your route.
- Work with travel agents: In our DIY-online world, we often overlook travel agents. But agents often have relationships with hotels, and can get better deals. They can akso offer things like additional perks like breakfast and upgrades. There’s also a convenience factor of having someone take care of your bookings, etc.
- Stay with friends and family! Visiting places where you have friends and relatives who will happily host you can significantly reduce the cost of a trip.
- Airport transfers booked by hotels often have a surcharge. If it’s safely available to you, try to book your own transfers to and from the hotel.
- If you want to visit another country, the destination you choose could dramatically impact how much spending money you have left over. Consider somewhere with a currency of lesser value, or venture out from the traditionally crowded tourist destinations.
- Don’t fall for rookie travel mistakes like using data roaming in an international destination. Enquire before hand what your cellular plan covers, and if it’s not in your favor get a local SIM card or stick to wi-fi zones. Same with credit cards – some charge exorbitant fees for international use. Make sure you know in advance.
- Consider cruises. A cruise can be another cost-effective way to travel in luxury. It’s also an attractive option for those who want to experience the journey from beginning to end. Plus, there are packages available for individuals, couples, friends or families, and it can be the adventure of a lifetime. Check out QuirkyCruise for a roundup of small and midsize cruise options.
- Using public transportation, walking or even biking will also help save you some serious dough.
- Visit free attractions such as museums, natural wonders, beaches and galleries to get a taste of culture while on a budget.
- Seek out passes: In many cities around the world, transportation and major attractions are covered in passes such as rail passes, etc. Search online for passes in every destination you want to go to.
- It’s unrealistic to think you won’t shop on vacation so give everyone a budget before hand so there’s no buyer’s remorse later.
- Depending on how much money you have at risk, getting travel insurance is typically a good idea. If you are locked into several non-refundable agreements on your trip, or are likely to get sick or are traveling with people who are (kids!), travel insurance can help you recover money you would otherwise lose if your plans change due to unforeseen circumstances.
There you have it! Everything I’ve learned about saving money on family travel in 23 succinct points. I think travel is the best education and I wish you and your family glorious, safe and wallet-friendly travels for the rest of your lives!