If you have ever wondered how it is possible to afford to travel after having kids you are not alone. Travel is expensive and kids are expensive. That combination can make family travel seem out of reach. But, if you plan and prepare, family travel on a budget is entirely possible. Not only is it possible, but it is totally worth the time and money.
Family travel memories are priceless!
Family Travel On A Budget – 11 Tips to Make Family Vacations More Affordable
Over the years (some years when money was extremely tight), we’ve always figured out how to make family travel on a budget possible. It helps that Chad and I are both extremely frugal! In this post I’ll share with you all the ways we’ve learned to save money to make family vacations more affordable.
Table Of Contents
- Make Family Travel A Priority
- Book Your Trip In the Off Season
- Be Flexible On Your Travel Dates and Destination
- Do Your Research
- Travel With Another Family
- Watch Fares Even After You Have Booked Your Trip
- Pack Light To Avoid Checked Bag Fees
- Avoid Going Out To Eat Every Meal
- Set a Dollar Limit on Souvenirs
- Don’t Ever Buy Tickets at the Ticket Window
- Seek Out Fun Free Things to do
1. Make Family Travel A Priority
The first step to making family travel on a budget possible is to make family travel your top priority.
If you are reading this blog post right now, there is a good chance you have already taken that first step!
Travel has always been one of our favorite things to do. But, even before Eli, we had to save and budget to make any type of travel possible. We figured out how to take the most awesome trips on the smallest possible budget. Then, when Eli was born and money was even tighter, we found even more creative ways for our family to travel on a budget.
Family Travel On A Budget – Money Saving Booking and Planning Tips
After making family travel a top priority and setting aside money for a family vacation fund, the next step is to start planning your trip.
You can easily go online and find a vacation package that includes a hotel, flight, and rental car. In fact, you could have your entire family vacation booked in 10 minutes. But, the convenience of booking an all-inclusive vacation comes at a HUGE cost.
If you are trying to stay within a budget, you will have to go about booking your vacation in a completely different, more strategic way.
The way I book our family vacations takes a lot more time. But, it saves us so much money. Seriously, thousands of dollars! The money we save allows us to take more family vacations each year.
So, here are the steps you need to take in order to book the perfect family vacation on a budget-
Disclosure- Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.
2. Book Your Trip In The Off Season
Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring break are the ideal travel times for the majority of families. The kids are out of school and parents have time off from work. Therefore, everyone travels during these times making travel at these times busy and extremely expensive.
Booking your family vacation in the off-season will save you so much money! We’ve found the best times to travel is late September through early November, the first two weeks of December, and April and May.
Yes, you will most likely have to take your child out of school for a few days. But if the money you save makes it possible to take a family vacation, it is well worth it.
3. Be Flexible on Your Travel Dates and Destination
Instead of deciding “I’m booking a vacation to Kauai, Hawaii or Keystone, Colorado ski resort”; first start with the idea of a beach vacation or ski vacation and then research to find the most affordable destination. You might find a great deal in the offseason in Kauai, Hawaii, or Keystone, Colorado. But you might also find that you can book an awesome beach vacation for a great deal in Florida or a ski vacation in Utah.
It is well worth your time to research different destinations to find a more affordable price.
For years Kayak.com has been my go-to website to search for flights. It’s really great when you are doing research on where and when to travel. Simply put in a destination and dates and Kayak lists all possible flights and prices. I also like that you can search + or – 3 days at the beginning or end of your flight (or both). It is really helpful to find the cheapest day to travel.
4. Do Your Research
After figuring out where you want to go and when, take some time to research the different flight, lodging, and transportation options before you book anything. Look for ways to save money on each option.
Do you really need to rent a car or can you save money by using public transportation, rideshare, and walking?
If you do rent a car, will you have to pay for parking where you are staying?
Is it worth it to have a layover or an early or late flight to save money?
How much time are you going to spend in your hotel? If you’re just sleeping there, do you really need to book a five-star hotel?
I’ve used Priceline for years to find hotel deals. If you aren’t too picky about which hotel, Priceline offers great “express deals” where you find a hotel based on location and star level and find out which hotel you booked after you pay.
I also like to use Priceline to search for rental car deals.
For vacation rentals, I always book through VRBO. It is possible to find great deals on vacation rentals in the off-season, especially if you are booking last-minute.
5. Travel with Another Family
Inviting others to travel with you is always a great money-saving option. It is much cheaper to book a 3 bedroom condo through VRBO and split the cost with another family than to book a 2 bedroom for just your family. When we travel with another family we look for lodging options where the parents each get their own room and the kids can bunk up in the third bedroom.
Sharing the cost of a car rental with friends is also a great way to save money. Although you will have to pay more for a van or SUV, you will still save money by splitting the cost of the rental.
You can also split the cost of groceries when traveling with friends. That can be a huge money-saver!
6. Watch Fares Even After You Have Booked Your Trip
When you book a rental car through an online travel booking company like Priceline, make sure you don’t have to pay for your rental car until you pick it up. Prices for rental cars fluctuate a lot so if you happened to book your car when the price was high, keep checking back to see if the price goes down. If it does, book the car at a cheaper price and then cancel your original reservation.
I have had excellent luck saving money on rental cars this way. Don’t stop checking! On one trip to Honolulu, Hawaii, I found the biggest price drop on the day we arrived.
With the changes airlines have made since the COVID pandemic, many flights are now refundable. As long as your flight is refundable you can keep looking for a cheaper price and buy a new flight and cancel your old one if the prices go down.
Yes, this requires a lot of time but it can save you lots of money.
It is easier if you have the Priceline or airline app on your phone and you can save the search in the app.
7. Pack Light To Avoid Checked Bag Fees
I hate to spend money on checking bags so if at all possible we will pack everything we need into a carry-on bag.
It is easy to travel with just a carry-on when traveling to a warm destination. But carry-on only wouldn’t work for a ski trip where you need to take coats, gloves, and boots. In that case, I would suggest consolidating the family’s necessities into one or two big suitcases to save on baggage fees. Just make sure to keep the bag under the checked bag weight limit.
You’ll want to check with the airline to see what the checked bag weight limit is. I always assumed it was 50 pounds but the last time we flew SPIRIT airlines, we found that their checked bag weight limit is only 40 pounds.
Family Travel On A Budget – Tips For Saving Money While On Vacation
After spending so much time finding the best deal for your family vacation you don’t blow your family travel budget while you are on your vacation!
Here are some things that will help you stick to your budget and save money while you are on vacation.
8. Avoid Going Out To Eat Every Meal
Dining out at different restaurants is one of the things I love to do on vacation. Restaurants really add to your family vacation experience!
That being said, you don’t want to blow your travel budget by eating out at restaurants for every meal.
The easiest way to avoid eating out every meal is to stay in a vacation rental with a kitchen. If you have a kitchen you can stock your rental with breakfast and lunch food and even plan a few dinners to cook at home. This saves you tons of money!
Or, you can stay in a hotel that offers free breakfast and has an in-room fridge. Although without a kitchen you will most likely go out to dinner every night, you can take advantage of the free breakfast and have lunch options in the fridge.
It is also helpful to always have snacks and drinks on hand when traveling with kids so you aren’t stopping at the nearest restaurant to avoid a melt-down.
We have used a full-size cooler as a checked bag on several trips (to bring home fish we caught in Alaska and Mexico) and it ended up being really useful to have a cooler loaded with food and drinks when we were out and about.
*Take advantage of happy hour! If you go out early (and with kids that is usually the easiest thing to do anyway) you can get discounted food and drinks at many restaurants for happy hour.
9. Set A Dollar Limit On Souvenirs
I still remember how special souvenirs were to me when I was little so want Eli to be able to come back from vacation with a special souvenir. But, it is important to set limits and not go crazy buying souvenirs.
We always give Eli five or ten dollars at the beginning of a vacation to spend on whatever he wants. He then doesn’t beg for the first thing he sees. He’ll wait until he finds something that he really wants to spend his vacation money on.
We also make it clear that whatever he buys has to fit in his backpack.
If you love to spend money on souvenirs, give yourself a budget before the vacation starts to avoid spending too much!
Memories are the most important thing you can take home from your vacation.
10. Don’t Ever Buy Tickets at The Ticket Window
I cringe when I see people buying their ski tickets at the window. Tickets are always WAY more expensive if you go to the ticket window. That goes for any big attraction. There are so many ways to find discounted tickets before you arrive at your destination.
Again, yes, it is easier to just walk up to the window at Disneyland and pay full price for your whole family. But, taking the time to research and find discounted tickets is a great way to save money.
11. Seek Out Fun Free Things To Do
Don’t fill every vacation day with expensive attractions. There are awesome free things to do anywhere you go on your family vacation. You just need to find them. It could be a day at a public beach, the free sledding hill near a ski resort, street art or murals, a fun park, or just swimming at the hotel pool.
I hope these family travel budget tips come in helpful when you are planning your next family vacation.
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