Traveling can be expensive. Lodging, food, sightseeing, absorbing the nightlife, souvenirs, and of course, the cost of getting there and back again, whether that means airplane tickets, fuel or rental car expense. That’s a lot of expense for someone traveling alone, or even couples. Add kids to the mix, and your budget is just about busted.
Traveling with children can be a whole other ballgame. Setting the monetary aspect completely aside, getting away with children in tow presents new obstacles to overcome. Instead of just needing to find a good time at work to get away, you now have to consider school and extra-curricular activity schedules as well.
However, traveling economically with children can be accomplished, provided you plan your trip out and cut costs where it’s viable. No one is recommending saving a few bucks by staying at the local fleabag motel. Instead, families should follow these strategies to ensure their dollar goes as far as possible.
Set a Budget
The most effective tip is perhaps the most obvious – budget! When traveling with kids, it’s imperative that you budget for the trip, and stick to that budget. It’s no time for sticker shock when you are at the gates of the local kid’s amusement park with an enthusiastic youngster ready for a day of play. Making lodging reservations well ahead of time, budget for meals and have a rough itinerary of where each day will take you. Additionally, pay attention to any climate-related “extras” you might need to buy like a heavier coat, snowshoes, or a new bikini. If you’re travelling somewhere much colder than you’re used to, you might consider budgeting for a winter wardrobe.
Part of the fun of traveling can be experiencing a new part of the world by the seat of your pants, but some of that risk needs to be mitigated with kids along for the ride.
With the exception of your getting-there expenses, try to keep to the same rough budget you’d be on at home.
Travel When They’re Young
Though it may seem counterintuitive, traveling when kids are young can be a great strategy in keeping travel inexpensive.
The reasoning? Kids under two travel cheaper. If your destination is going to carry you farther than a car ride, kids fly free until two years of age. Usually, kids under 12 stay free.
Of course, some parents want their kids to be old enough to remember special family trips; that’s a balance that each family needs to weigh for themselves. Even if a young child doesn’t remember all the details of a family trip, there’s still a feeling of closeness as a family that can be beneficial.
Eating out can be one of the biggest travel expenses. One of the best ways to cut the cost of traveling is one of the best ways to cut costs around home. Look for lodging options that offer full kitchens or kitchenettes.
One of the best ways to experience a destination is to enjoy their cuisine, but having the ability to eat in for some of your meals can help keep costs down.
All-inclusive resorts may get sneered at by hardcore travelers, but they can be a godsend for families with kids. They make budgeting easier for sure, but they also usually offer activities for adults and kids alike, making them a great travel destination.
Cut Costs on Lodging
Perhaps the biggest expense of any travel is the lodging. Therefore, finding ways to save on where you’ll stay while traveling can really help your budget.
Hotels can be convenient for those without children, but families may actually find other accommodations to be cheaper per-night, and fit their lifestyle better. Online hospitality services like Airbnb or VRBO offer lodging all over the world, and many times at a competitive rate.
If it’s an option for your travel destination, camping can also be a good way to slash lodging costs. It may take a bit more planning in relation to other budget line items like meals, but not having to pay exorbitant rental rates can give you greater overall financial flexibility.
Pay Attention to Exchange Rates
Another way to stretch your budget to the maximum on foreign destinations is to pay the exchange rates heed and travel when they are most favorable.
For example, the same Rocky Mountain-themed travel can look much different financially for Americans opting to check out the Canadian Rockies thanks to the currently favorable exchange rate.
Taking advantage can involve some long-range planning, but can pay off big time for families looking to stretch their money.
Travel costs can also be mitigated quite a bit by traveling in the offseason, sometimes called “shoulder” season. Many lodging options decrease by as much as half during off-peak periods, making traveling with kids quite a bit cheaper.
Traveling with children offers its own special challenges and rewards. Being creative financially and looking for savings where you can find them go a long way towards making family travel a worthwhile endeavor.