The biggest barrier a lot of people have to traveling at all, let alone with children, is the cost, and rightly so. Between flights, food and accommodations it can seem like you’ve spent all your savings before you even get to your destination! But there are ways to keep the costs down and have a great vacation without breaking the bank. Here are some tips to make travel more affordable:
- Start early: Kids under 2 travel on your lap for free (domestically) or for a small fee (typically around 10% of the cost of the flight internationally). Take advantage of these 2 years to get in lots of family trips without having to pay for an extra fare!
- Travel Off Season: There are tons of benefits to traveling during the shoulder seasons (typically April-June and September-November). Flights and accommodations aren't as expensive, you'll skip the oppressive mid-summer heat, and you will find far fewer tourists crowding the popular attractions.
- Shop Around: This goes for every aspect of travel whether it’s the plane fares, accommodations or car rental check out lots of different options.
- Flying into or out of a nearby airport (think Buffalo instead of Toronto, or Gatwick instead of Heathrow) can save you money. Making a stop or two instead of flying direct can also save you bundles. Remember that the it’s the journey not just the destination.
- Be flexible with your dates: certain days of the week tend to be more expensive. If you are flexible with what days you depart and return from your vacation, you may find your flights are significantly less expensive
- Check out vacation rentals or hotels that are slightly further away from the city centre for more affordable options. In New York City we opted to stay in Queens – it was significantly cheaper than staying in Manhattan and the subway ride to the centre of the city was less than 20 minutes. Check out our article on hotels vs vacation rentals for which option might fit your needs best.
- Car Rentals: Renting a car can give you the flexibility to stay in a different or more affordable area and travel to different cities during your vacation. If you can drive manual you will find that cars are significantly less expensive than automatic and renting away from the airport will save you expensive airport taxes. Try and get the smallest car you think you will need – especially in Europe where roads can be narrow and parking spots can be hard to come by. Renting a car is our favorite way to travel!
- Grocery Shop: Whether you have a kitchen in your accommodations or just a small bar fridge, there are ways to cut down on food costs. Research grocery stores and convenience stores located close to your accommodations. Stock up on snacks and breakfast foods like yogurt, cereal, granola bars, cheese and crackers, and fresh fruit. By trying to eat out only once a day, you can dramatically reduce how much money you spend on food – and for a family this is an expense that can add up quickly!
- Look for Deals: Before you leave, check out deal websites like groupon and wagjag in the city you are headed to. You might find an activity you were interested in doing at a reduced price. In Hawaii, we used groupon to find a deal for indoor mini-putting and one slice of pizza for 3 dollars each (!!!) – it was the perfect activity to pass a rainy day.
- Research FREE activities: Many cities have free guided walking tours, days when you can get into museums and art galleries at no charge, and lesser known hikes with no entrance fees. Doing a little bit of research on the sites you really want to see and being flexible on the days and times you go can help you save money.
- Live Like the Locals: If you travel internationally, you may find that local brands of diapers and wipes are significantly cheaper than name brands imported from North America. The same goes for food and toiletries. Branch out and purchase items that you aren’t used to – you will often find items that work just as well for significantly less. When looking for a restaurant, ask for recommendations and stick to places off the main strip - they will be cheaper and are usually more authentic!
- Start Saving at Home: Travel is a priority for us which means we try and cut costs at home in order to save for holidays. Here are a few ways we try to save at home:
- We cut our cable over 6 years ago and have never looked back.
- We use a bank with no fees
- We frequently call our internet provider and cell phone provider to see how we can lower our bills.
- We try to plan our meals in order to reduce food waste and have leftovers to bring for lunch. We also invested in a French press to make our own coffee for work.
- We buy used when possible – we use our facebook community groups, kijiji, and consignment stores to source used items whenever possible. We purchased our car used almost 7 years ago and have resisted the urge to buy a newer/bigger car since having our baby.
- While some people find travel specific credit cards are a great way to save for a vacation, we have a credit card that gives us points toward groceries, which is an expense that will never go away. We get points when shopping not only at specific grocery stores but also at the pharmacy and specific gas stations. We try to pay for everything, especially large items, with our credit card and pay off the balance every month. This helps build up rewards more quickly.
Travel can be expensive but hopefully these tips will help you cut down on the costs and get you to your destination sooner!
We are always looking to travel more frugally! How do you save for travel? What is the best way you cut down on costs both at home and at your destination? Leave us a comment below!