Traveling as a family has often been seen as a luxury. While being able to travel is definitely a blessing the myth that you have to be rich to travel as a family is false. Will you have to make some sacrifices? Most likely! Will you have to get creative and be flexible? Yes, but it’s possible. Here are 6 tips to plan an affordable family vacation.
How to Find Cheap Flights
Don’t Set Your Heart on a Specific Destination
Have an open mind for the location of your next vacation. Instead of having your heart set on a particular place keep a running list of destinations your family wants to visit and when you see a deal for one of those places book it! For instance Australia has been on my list for some time now but with plane tickets averaging $1800 from the US I was in no rush to go. In April 2016 United Airlines had a flight deal for $580 RT to Sydney for travel from September to November from multiple cities including ATL, SFO, LAX, DET, ORD. Five hundred and eighty dollars round trip, yes you read that correctly! For a family of 4 you are basically flying for the price of 1.
Christmas Eve 2014 the Etihad Airways error fare of $187RT to Abu Dhabi broke the internet. I’d be naïve to neglect the fact that parents with school aged kids have restrictions on when they can travel but don’t be discouraged these deals come up for travel year round. An example of this is the $400 deal of Delta from most Delta hubs to Amsterdam the summer of 2017.
Believe me there is ALWAYS a deal to somewhere and you can find them by following these websites that provide flight deals. Don’t sit on these deals, they typically last for no more than 48hrs. Act fast and plan later! Remember you have 24hrs after booking to cancel any flight departing from the US to get a full refund. This will give you some time to make sure you can get the days off work or that the cost of accommodations and activities fall in your budget.
If your situation isn’t flexible enough for flight deals Skyscanner is great website for searching flights. There are many search options including searching the cheapest flight anywhere in the world from your home airport to specific dates you can travel or searching a specific destination and finding the cheapest time to travel there. They also have a mobile app you can download here if you’re on a mobile device.
Consider Flying Into A Neighboring Country (Added February 2017)
When we traveled to Thailand we actually got a flight to Singapore. For the same dates we had off Thailand would cost us $1,100 per ticket. Flying into Singapore on Qatar Airways was only $450 and a flight from Singapore to Phuket cost us only $29 on Air Asia. Yes we had to have an additional layover which I usually try to avoid when flying with the kids but for a savings of $500 per person this was a no brainer. The flight was Singapore to Phuket was only 1hr and 30mins.This same practice can be used throughout Asia and Europe. Most times it is extremely cheap to fly within these continents once you get to them. In Europe you can even travel by train which is also very inexpensive.
Fly a Budget Airline
Budget airlines get a bad rap but they can save you significant costs on flights. When looking at flights to Costa Rica Spirit Airlines was $295 cheaper per person. I’d much rather save that money on the flight to be able to spend it on activities than fly an airline that will give me a “free” soda and peanuts. Spirit Airlines offers penny fares where you will just pay the taxes like we did on our flight to Orlando. We just purchased four round trip tickets on Spirit for $410 total from Fort Lauderdale to Denver while the other airlines were $350-$600 per person. Read the rules accordingly and you’ll never pay a baggage fee, here are 6 ways to maximize savings when flying Spirit.
Using Credit Cards and Miles to Cover Flight Costs
We used the sign-up bonus from our Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card to pay for our flights to Thailand. This completely eliminating that cost so we only had to worry about our time there. For more information on using credit card sign-up bonuses and frequent flier miles check out this post I wrote.
Did you know you can earn miles without even flying? Yes you can earn miles on purchases you probably make every day like from Target and Amazon. Here are 12 ways to earn miles without flying.
How to Save Money on Accommodations When Traveling
Ditch a traditional hotel and opt for a vacation home or Airbnb or Vrbo. Why? For starters your kids will have more space to play and be out of your hair while you guys are relaxing in the morning or late evening. Budget wise it can be a huge cost savings on many fronts. Through my travels I have found Airbnb’s to be significantly cheaper than hotels.
When I traveled to Italy last year with a group of 15 family/friends we each paid $384 total for an 8 night stay. Our Airbnb in Venice had 6 bedrooms, 8 beds, 2 pull out couches, 4 full bathrooms and 2 half baths, along with a kitchen and common areas. If we had stayed in a hotel we would have needed 8 rooms which for the month of August were priced at an average of $200/night for 3 star accommodations. For one room my family alone would have ended up paying over $1600 but instead we paid less than half of that. In Colombia we paid $50/night for a 2 bedroom, one bathroom apartment. Try Airbnb now and receive a $40 credit towards your first stay. Nervous about Airbnb, here are 8 tips for a great Airbnb experience.
How to Cut Costs on Dining Out When Traveling
Another benefit of renting an Airbnb or vacation home is there is usually a kitchen and cooking supplies. You can save money on food by purchasing groceries your first day and making breakfast every morning. In addition to saving money I find this makes it easier to get out the house and start your day. If you are early risers you don’t have to struggle to find a restaurant that is open at the crack of dawn and while one parent is cooking the other can get the kids ready. If you have picky eaters in your family this is also great as your favorite hometown breakfast items may not be available in the country you are visiting.
With that being said an alternative to grocery shopping when you get to your destination and if you really want to save money is bringing some things with you. When we went to Colombia I brought oatmeal and complete pancake mix in ziplock bags and packed them in my carry on back pack. If you aren’t staying for an extended period time this helps with saving money as if you buy a full box at your destination you might not finish it, wasting money. If you already have these items at home because they are a regular on your grocery list you really aren’t spending any more money than you would have if you were home.
Don’t stop at breakfast! If your itinerary for the day allows you to easily make it back to your place for lunch and dinner you can save more by skipping on eating out for those meals too. If you can’t make it back for lunch, pack sandwiches and eat at a park. The kids can play or nap and you can rest for as little or long as you want to. Always pack an abundance of snacks for you and the kids. This not only prevents unnecessary breaks but you don’t have to buy an overpriced granola bar. Again you can buy these once at your destination or bring them with you.
Now don’t get me wrong I love trying the local food in every destination I travel to. However, I don’t need to have it 3 meals a day for my entire vacation. Have one of each meal at a restaurant spread out throughout your stay or whatever your budget allows.
How to Save on Money on Attractions When Traveling
Research to see if the city you are visiting has a multiple attraction pass. When we visited Chicago I bought the Go Chicago Card which granted us unlimited access to multiple Chicago Attractions for one price and it definitely saved us a ton of money. See if the city you are headed to has one by visiting Smart Destinations. CityPass also has a lot of great deals. Click here to see if the city you’re visiting is offering deals.
Before you buy anything direct from the company’s site check websites like Groupon or Living Social to see if you can get a discount as many of these attraction passes can be found on site like these. In addition to Groupon and Living Social whenever you are about to buy something that says enter promo code here you can probably find one online. Take the time to do a quick Google search any you’ll most likely get a 5-20% savings.
How to Save on Transportation When Traveling
Immerse yourself in the local life of the city and take public transportation. Renting a car or Ubering everywhere can be costly. See if the place you are visiting has an unlimited public transit pass for the bus and/or subway system. If you live in a big city you may be used to taking public transportation on a daily basis anyway. If you are baby wearing you don’t have to worry about elevators but if you are traveling alone with a stroller see if the train stations have elevators or determine if you can manage carrying the stroller up the stairs. In Puerto Rico a taxi to the Bacardi Factory cost $50 but the local bus and ferry totaled $2.50 round trip.
Travel Where Your Dollar Will Stretch
When we traveled to China (pre-kids), we felt like a King and Queen. Everything was so cheap, from $7 1hr massages to $5 3-course meals at high end restaurants and $20/night for 5 star rentals we were living the life and at little cost to us. There are plenty of places you can travel to for $50-$100/day and they are quite beautiful. Some options are Thailand, Cuba, and Costa Rica.
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Philistar Bonyo-Ba says
Love this!! I’ve been keeping travels out of mind since having baby…this was great insight to start at it again! Very informative post 👌🏾👌🏾
I love this and completely agree. I’ll have to add airfarespot.com and travel pirates to my list! Another good way to save is to travel to places where the currency exchange is in your favor. And sometimes I use tour bus companies as taxi’s.
The Traveling Child says
Oh please share the details on using tour bus companies as taxis!
Annika Mang says
I absolutely love all these tips! Especially for us moms that don’t want to give up the travel bug.
Great tips! As someone who travels on budget, these are very useful. Thanks for sharing
I’ve been looking into using Airbnb so it’s great to hear from someone who has actually used them!!
Neha Saini says
We use to go for trips with whole family twice a year. Sometimes, it become tough to manage the trips cause of expenses. But I love enjoying these trips cause this is the only time when we all use to be together. your tips are really great. Next time, we would follow these so that we don;t need to cancel our plans due to budget.
Jane Martinito says
Awesome article! I have some plans on travelling this coming September with my family. Your article helped me to choose the better option. 🙂
I’m so ready to start traveling with our son!! Whenever it happens, I know it will definitely have to be budget friendly, so I love these tips ❤️ Thanks for sharing them!!
E. L. Lane says
Hi! As part of my Blogger Recognition Award, I need to nominate some other blogs, and I’ve nominated you! Click on the link to my post about the award, then copy & paste it into a post on your blog. Just amend the content to make it relevant to you and the person who nominated you (me!) and away you go 🙂
I just found your blog via IG today, and can I tell you how much I absolutely love your family!? I don’t really get into bloggers or product contests often, but your blog is inspiring and has me very excited at the prospect of showing my daughter the world! Thank you! I look forward to following your continued journeys and investing in adventure and travel this year with my own family.
Monet Hambrick says
Sorry for my late reply but that you so much for your kind words. That really means a lot to me!
How do you communicate with the people on all of the different countries? Are there any easy tips or tricks for this?
We always try to learn a few phrases in the native language of the country as a sign of respect. In many of the countries we’ve visited while English isn’t the national language many people speak it. We also have a few translator apps where we can speak to our phones in English and it will then repeat what we said in the language of the country so whoever we are speaking to can understand us. Then they do the same and it translates it to English for us. Hope this helps!
Asia W. says
I am loving your family an your blog. could u tell me the names of the language translation apps you have. what one do u think is the best an easiest to use? Also can u tell me how airbnb works? is it kinda like a Bed an Breakfast set up? where u will actually sray at someone’s house while they are there too? or is it like maybe a 2nd home they rent out that they don’t live at?
Thank you! That helps a lot! May I ask what apps you use to translate?
Wow! Great tips! With a 9 year old and a 6 month old, I feel as if my traveling time has come to a pause for a while but with these tips maybe traveling won’t be on pause for much longer! Thank you!
Thank you Marissa. That is exactly why I started this blog, I want other families to know travel with kids is not impossible if you’re willing to stalk flight deal websites lol and make a few sacrifices like not eating out every day on vacation. You’re so welcome and I am glad you found the tips helpful!
Could u tell me the names of the language translation apps you have. what one do u think is the best an easiest to use? Also can u tell me how airbnb works? is it kinda like a Bed an Breakfast set up? where u will actually sray at someone’s house while they are there too? or is it like maybe a 2nd home they rent out that they don’t live at?
Monet Hambrick says
So sorry for my delayed response Asia. Airbnb varies- you can rent a private room in someone’s home while they are staying there as well or they have options to rent the entire home- either because the family will stay somewhere else during that time or they only use it for Airbnb.
Here is an article on the best translation apps http://www.travelandleisure.com/articles/best-translation-apps-travelers.
Glad Infound this blog! My husband and I are big travelers and often do it for races we do. My son is 20 months and has been to Hawaii, Brazil, St. Croix, Florida 4x, Wisconsin 2x, and a few more local long weekend trips. This next year we have PR, Hawaii, Florida, California, Brazil and Mexico. I think we’ve gotten better at the traveling with him, but now we’ll be embarking on buying a seat for him! Ugh. But I think it will be good. I’m looking forward to reading through your blog for some tips and what to us for his seat (if anything) to strap him in. Keep traveling, I think it’s the most amazing experience we can give them and ourselves.
I have been waiting to visit Brazil for so long, just waiting on a flight deal- I want to do Argentina to Iguaza Falls to Rio. Yes, once they need a seat urgh lol but it can still be done- we haven’t used the car seat too often on the plane unless domestic travel because then it’s such a pain to carry it all throughout our city hopping. We haven’t used CARES but I know it’s popular- I personally don’t like that nothing goes in between there legs so I feel like they can just slide through. Still looking for a good alternative.
Leela devi says
Really, these are the best places for enjoying with family and friends. Pictures are very inspirational and can inspire anyone to visit there. You can find related info here:
Airbnb Property Management Sydney says
Best traveling tips! Thanks for putting up this together.