Does it seem like when you added kids to the mix suddenly your travel budget went through the roof? Even when the additional people in your crew are only a couple of feet tall, suddenly getaways and vacations become super expensive. Learn from the mistakes of other newbie parents and first-time family travelers and get budget-savvy fast. There are numerous ways to save money, from choosing the right SUV for you to maximizing the freebie perks at numerous hotels. Here are a few ways to save big and help ensure your family vacation doesn’t turn into a Griswold disaster:
1. Choose hotels with good free breakfasts. A free continental breakfast can mean a lot of things, from a few stale muffins left on a counter to a full-fledged feast. Every hotel can be different, even within well-known chains. If you want to save big on one (or even two if you’re an early-riser!) meal each day, pick hotels based on their free breakfasts. Best Western is known for having hot options at every single hotel no matter the brand, but they aren’t the only option. If it’s not clear on the hotel’s website, call and check. Going out to eat is one of the biggest money sucks on a vacation.
2. Also consider the amenities at the hotel. Do your kids love pools, and would that satisfy them for a chunk of the day? Do a little research and pick a hotel with a decent pool. Some even come with waterslides and other fun perks designed just for kids. It’ll save you a trip to a local pool or from kids begging to go to waterparks. Plus, it can be fun for everyone especially if there’s an adult-only pool or hot tub nearby.
3. Check out free happenings at museums and more. Most cities have a generous amount of free days, particularly at museums and historic sites. You can plan your vacation around these days without worrying if a meltdown or boredom will kill the outing. If it turns out the kids hate the museum or they’re just cranky in general, you don’t lose out on any cash when you hit up free days.
4. Pick authentic local restaurants and food carts. There’s no better way to explore a city and culture than by trying out their genuine cuisine. This isn’t done at big fancy restaurants or at chains. When you do go out to eat, choose a local hole in the wall to save money and guarantee better grub. The same goes for planning a picnic. Head to a local grocer and you’ll save big compared to many big box stores. There may also be farmers markets where the samples are generous and you can get a real taste of the local flavor.
5. Travel during the off-season. Many destinations have off seasons where hotels, adventures, and outings are cheaper. Even better, there are less crowds which can reduce anxiety. You’ll save on nearly every aspect of your trip and often get the opportunity to intermingle more with the locals.
6. Maximize the time when the kids are under two years old. Up until the age of two, kids can fly for free as long as they stay on your lap. This isn’t necessarily the most comfortable option for parents, but you can save big. You’ll also be able to take advantage of getting on the plane first, so there are some bonuses. Those first two years will fly by, so you may as well make the most of it.
7. Rent out your home while you’re gone. If you can, consider renting your home out on a site like Airbnb while you’re away. Depending on your home and location, you may be able to get a temporary rental to pay for your vacation. Some people prefer to also hire a property manager so they don’t have to worry about a thing. The general rate for a property manager is 20-25 percent of the rental income.
8. Drive more and fly less. The more people you have traveling, the cheaper it’ll be to take a car. After all, you’ll be paying per seat on a plane, train, or bus. However, you’ll still want plenty of space and comfort. It might be prudent to rent a car rather than use your own. You’ll avoid additional wear and tear, and you won’t have to worry about breakdowns.
Frugal travel can be done with a family, but it’ll take some research and practice. The sooner you get started, the sooner you can start saving. Get creative and don’t be afraid to try out some new strategies. One of the biggest mistakes new parents make is sticking with old approaches that worked when they were single, traveling as a couple, or traveling with friends. It’s equally important to make sure everyone in the travel group has input on what to do. When everyone is invested, everyone will have a better time. Plus, you’ll be able to create new traditions and memories while teaching the little ones the importance of frugality. It’s a learned skill and one that is never too early to start.